Sending Mishloach Manot Anonymously

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo]

Question: Is it preferable to send Mishloach Manot anonymously or with one’s name?
Answer: There are two main reasons given for the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot. Some write that it is in order to ensure that every Jew will be able to rejoice on Purim. By sending good items to eat, we enable everyone to enjoy the Purim Seudah – even those who do not have enough money to provide for themselves. Others write that we send Mishloach Manot in order to increase love and friendship among Jews. By expressing love for one another, we counter Haman's claim that we are a scattered and separated Nation. This is the explanation given by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, author of Lecha Dodi, in his book "Manot Ha-Levi" (Esther 9:19). Seen in this light, one may argue that the message of love and friendship is better conveyed when the recipient knows who sent the gift (see Shut Chatam Sofer #196).
Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef wrote: There are those who say that one who anonymously sends Mishloach Manot to his friends does not fulfill the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot, and he must send them again (Kol Sinai, Halichot Olam, p. 54).
It is therefore clear that a person who sends Mishloach Manot with his name on it to one friend, has already fulfilled his obligation, may thereafter send others anonymously. But in truth, there is reason to argue that sending them anonymously is preferable, so that a person who cannot afford to send a large gift does not suffer any embarrassment. In any event, one should not overdo the size of Mishloach Manot, and there are many Rabbinic decrees meant to minimize the expenses of Mitzvot so that people will not be placed in a difficult situation (Moed Katan 27a and end of Mishnah Ta’anit). The Rambam also wrote: "It is preferable for a person to be liberal with his gifts to the poor than to be lavish in his festive meal or in his giving portions to his friend, because there is no greater and more splendid happiness than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the converts. For one who gladdens the heart of the unfortunate is similar to the Divine Presence, as it says (Yeshayahu 57:15): To revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Hilchot Megillah 2:17).
It is also obvious, however, that one should not exaggerate in the other direction. As the Mishnah Berurah wrote: The Chayei Adam proves from the Jerusalem Talmud that if one sends a small amount to a wealthy person, he does not fulfill the obligation of Mishloach Manot. Other authorities however do not mention this issue, but it is proper to be cautious about it from the outset (Biur Halachah d.h. Chayav 695:4). It therefore appears that it is best to lessen the scale of the Mishloach Manot, since the essence is the love and the friendship and not the financial value. As we stated, even though according to the basic law it is permissible to send anonymously, if the sender makes his identity known he has the ability to increase love among the Jewish People.