I lost track now of the comment someone posted recently referencing the machlokes between the Rambam and Tur regarding shlichus. Whether the intent was to get me to find a way to do a post on it, I don’t know, but as coincidence would have it, the topic resurfaced. The machlokes in a nutshell: a husband appoints a shliach to deliver a get to his wife and goes insane before the get is actually delivered. Is the get valid? The Rambam (Geirushin ch 2) holds that min haTorah it is valid. Once the shliach is appointed and given charge of the get, he stands in the husband’s place and the “real” husband is no longer in the picture (the get is, however, pasul mderabbanan). The Tur disagrees and holds that such a get is invalid min haTorah. The shliach is not a surrogate husband or a replacement husband; the shliach’s actions are merely attributed to the original husband as if he had performed them. Since the original husband cannot divorce his wife while insane, the actions of the shliach done on his behalf are of no consequence. (See Ketzos 188:2 for more on this topic.)
What does this have to do with Purim? Apparently there is a shortage of chumros in the world, so someone reasoned as follows: since it is prohibited to start a meal when a mitzvah performance is pending, perhaps one is not permitted to start one's seudas Purim until the mitzvah of mishloach manos and matanot la'evyonim have been fulfilled. The fact that such an idea is not mentioned in earlier poskim is not a problem - it was simply so obvious (so the argument goes) that mentioning it would be redundant. (The obvious catch is that seudas Purim is itself a pending mitzvah – why should mishloach manos come first? Let’s leave that aside for now.)
But how long must one wait before eating? Is it OK to hand off one’s mishloach manos to a shliach and then sit down to eat, or must one wait until the recipient actually takes delivery?
Had you asked me that question (and I was willing to take the chumra seriously) I would have said it depends on whether one holds like the Terumas haDeshen or the Manos haLevi that we discussed yesterday. If the purpose of mishloach manos is to foster friendship (like the Manos haLevi suggests), then the act of giving alone seems to suffice even if it never reaches the recipient (the Rama even writes that one fulfills the mitzvah of mishloach manos if the recipient is mochel). However, if the purpose of mishloach manos is to enhance a neighbor’s seudas Purim (like the TH”D suggests), then until the recipient gets the food the goal has not yet been accomplished.
Looking to find something more lomdish to say, a talmid chacham wrote to R’ Binyan Zilber (Shu”T Az Nidberu 6:65) that this issue depends on the machlokes Rambam and the Tur. According to the Rambam, the shliach becomes a surrogate for the giver, removing the giver from the picture. The shliach therefore cannot eat Purim seudah until he completes delivery, but the sender definitely can. However, according to the Tur, the shliach is merely acting on behalf of the sender, but is not the sender’s substitute. Until the manos are actually given, the sender is not allowed to eat. R’ Binyam Zilber was not convinced… maybe more on this later after some thinking time.