Can one fulfill his mitzvah of Mishloach Manot by giving a meat dish to a vegetarian?
This issue is hotly debated in the halacha. If the goal of the mishloach manot is to provide food for the Seudat Purim, some opine that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah with such a gift. Others say the goal of the food is to increase feelings of brotherhood and comraderie between Jews. If so, it is argued, the very gesture of giving the package will generate those warm feelings, thus fulfilling the mitzvah.
The logic of these positions is by no means “air-tight”, and is itself subject to debate. Let’s re-examine the two positions above:
The Food is for the Seudah, so meat to a veggie falls short:
Does the fulfillment of the mitzvah depend on the recipient actually consuming the food given on Purim? Most certainly not; otherwise, the giver would retroactively not have fulfilled the mitzvah unless he verified that it was consumed at the seudah! Similarly, one who gives a ready-to-eat meat dish to a vegetarian fulfills his mitzvah, since he has provided a food fit for such a seudah. The vegetarian practice of the recipient does not detract from the status of the gift.
The goal of Mishloach Manot is to increase feelings of brotherhood and comraderie between Jews
One of my third grade students prompted me to re-examine the “warm gesture” theory suggested above – ie that the goal of Mishloach Manot is to increase feelings of brotherhood and comraderie between Jews – fulfilled by the very gift itself. “Not so”, the student objected. “A vegetarian may be greatly offended if the person giving him the food did not take into account that he doesn’t eat meat. ” How would such a mishloach manot bring Jews together?