Question: If one sends sweets to one’s friend as Mishloach Manot and the recipient does not partake of these sweets since he is a diabetic and abstains from eating foods containing sugar, has the sender fulfilled his obligation of Mishloach Manot?
Answer: Let us introduce this topic by saying that there is a disagreement among the Poskim regarding whether or not one can send uncooked foods, such as raw meat or chicken, as Mishloach Manot. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”lrules that one does indeed fulfill his obligation in this way since the recipient can cook the meat and it will then be edible. Thus, there is no obligation to send specifically foods that are immediately ready for consumption as Mishloach Manot.
Regarding our question, Hagaon Harav Yosef Cohen zt”l (who was a member of the rabbinical court alongside Maran zt”l) writes that he is unsure regarding this matter, for although we rule that one does indeed fulfill his obligation of Mishloach Manot by sending raw meat, nevertheless, the meat is still worthy for use by the recipient who can cook it and prepare delicacies for the Purim feast with it. However, regarding foods containing sugar which were sent to someone who we know cannot eat them, although the foods are intrinsically worthy to be used as Mishloach Manot, there is nevertheless room to claim that one does not fulfill his obligation of Mishloach Manot by sending them.
Similarly, Hagaon Harav Yehoshua Newirth zt”l (author of the Sefer Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata) rules that one does not fulfill his obligation with such Mishloach Manot that the recipient cannot partake of, for the entire basis for the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot is for friends to gladden one another by joyously partaking of the food gifts during the Purim feast; in our scenario, on the other hand, the recipient cannot eat them at all.
Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l is quoted as saying that one does indeed fulfill his obligation with such Mishloach Manot. His proof to this is that if one sends dairy food items to one’s friend as Mishloach Manot, he clearly fulfills his obligation even when he knows that the recipient has eaten meat during his Purim feast which will prevent him from partaking of the foods until past nightfall; even so, there is no doubt that he has fulfilled his obligation. We can deduce from here that anytime one sends food items that are edible, regardless of whether or not that specific recipient can partake of them, one does indeed fulfill his obligation, as long as they are considered food items edible by most people.
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l points out that there is an apparent distinction between these two cases, for whereas regarding dairy food items, the recipient will eventually be able to partake of them (it is just a matter of time) and he thus feels joy upon receiving such food gifts and camaraderie is indeed increased, regarding Mishloach Manot containing foods that the recipient will never be able to eat, this is not the case and there is no great joy felt by the recipient.
Nevertheless, Maran zt”l concludes that since this Mishloach Manot serves as a tribute and symbol of love and friendship in addition to the fact that the recipient’s family members will indeed be able to partake of the sweets and that the prevalent custom is to send different kinds of sweets and goodies as a show of fondness, in our situation, one does indeed fulfill his obligation even if the recipient cannot partake of the foods himself.
If one sends Mishloach Manot containing gluten to someone who is gluten-intolerant or celiac, this shares the same law as one who sends Mishloach Manot containing sweets to a diabetic.
However, if there is concern that the recipient may be unhappy to receive such gifts, for instance, sending this type of Mishloach Manot to a youngster who cannot have sweets and by sending this to him, this reminds him of his situation, one should indeed refrain from sending such items to such an individual. One should make an effort to send a Mishloach Manot package befitting the recipient so that he may enjoy it during his Purim feast.
Reminder: This coming Shabbat morning, Shabbat Zachor, Parashat Zachor will be read from the Sefer Torah in the synagogue and according to many, hearing this Torah reading is a positive Torah commandment.