Rabbi Meir Orlian
Mr. Cohen met Rabbi Dayan a week after Purim. “We had a very interesting monetary question over Purim,” he said, and proceeded to relate the story:
Mrs. Cohen asked her son Aharon to bring mishloach manos to the Halperins. He rang their doorbell, but there was no response. “The Halperins left half an hour ago,” a neighbor said. “They won’t be back until after Purim.”
“Thanks for telling me,” Aharon said. He left the mishloach manos outside the Halperins' door.
When Aharon returned home, his mother asked, “Did the Halperins say anything?”
“They weren’t home,” replied Aharon. “A neighbor said that they had already left and wouldn’t be back until after Purim.”
“So where is the mishloach manos?” asked his mother.
“I left it outside their door,” replied Aharon.
“I just remembered that we also wanted to give mishloach manos to the Speigels,” said Mrs. Cohen. “Since the Halperins won’t return until after Purim anyway, take it from them and bring it to the Spiegels instead.”
Just then Aharon’s father walked in. “Are there any more mishloach manos to bring?” he asked his wife.
“Aharon just brought mishloach manos over to the Halperins and left it outside their door,” replied Mrs. Cohen. “A neighbor said that they already left for the day, so I told Aharon to take it to the Spiegels.”
“I’m not sure Aharon can take the mishloach manos from the Halperins,” replied Mr. Cohen. “Once he left it for the Halperins, it might be theirs already!”
“Do you really think so?” Mrs. Cohen asked her husband. “I assumed it’s not theirs until they receive it!”
• • •
“That’s the story,” Mr. Cohen said to Rabbi Dayan. “The question is: Were we allowed to take the mishloach manos from the Halperins and give it to the Spiegels instead?”
“The answer varies,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “It depends on where the mishloach manos was left and what your wife’s intention was.”
“What difference does it make where it was left?” asked Mr. Cohen.
“A secure, private property acquires for its owner, even without his awareness,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “Thus, if the mishloach manos was left in an enclosed yard or porch, it could already belong to the Halperins and you might not be able to give it to someone else. However, if it was left in an apartment house hallway or on a doorstep open to the public domain, they would not yet have acquired it” (C.M. 200:1; 268:3).
“What role does my wife’s intention play?” asked Mr. Cohen.
“Since Aharon brought the mishloach manos at her instruction, her intention is significant,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If she did not want him to leave the mishloach manos after the Halperins had gone, the gift is not valid, even if left in a secure place, so you could take it. Both factors are needed for them to acquire the mishloach manos: a secure area and the intention to leave it for them” (C.M. 182:1-2).
“Are there other considerations?”
“Regarding intention, it can make a difference whether the family was out for a short time, the rest of Purim or longer,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “If the Halperins were not home at the moment, but would return on Purim, it’s possible that your wife would have wanted Aharon to leave the mishloach manos for them. Others might intend to leave it for the family when they return home, even if at night. In this case, they would already have acquired it, provided that the area was secure.”
“Does it make a difference whether my son was bar mitzvah?” asked Mr. Cohen.
“No,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Either way, the sender’s intention counts.
“One thing is clear, though,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “If the mishloach manos was placed in a secure area with intention to leave it for when the Halperins would return home, and only later was there a change of heart, you would not be allowed to take it back; their property already acquired it for them.”