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Gifts in Aveilus

Dear Rabbi,
I am in the year of my dear father may his memory be blessed passing away. Someone asked me to contribute a few shekels for a present for someone at work, i immediately agreed, but afterwards realized I shouldn’t be giving presents to people, so the person doing the collecting gave me the money back. The recipient already came to thank me. What should I have done? In the future is it permissible to contribute in this fashion, what about buying things for adult children and grandchildren?

Answer:

For a collective gift, which is given by a significant number of people, there is room to be lenient in giving a contribution, in particular after the sheloshim are up.

For children/grandchildren, sometimes gifts are a “basic” part of the grandfather-grandchild relationship, and in such cases there is some room for leniency after the sheloshim is up. Nonetheless, the gifts should be avoided where possible.

The same applies to children, though for adult children, who understand the concept of aveilus, there is less room for leniency.

Sources:
The prohibition of giving gifts in aveilus is on account of the issue of she’elas shalom (the prohibition of saying Shalom), or, alternatively, on account of the joy it generates (she’elas shalom, according to several authorities, is not prohibited for the entire year, whereas many prohibit giving gifts during the entire year, suggesting a different rationale; see Divrei Sofrim, Aveilus, siman 385, Birur Halachah, s.v. ve’assur lishloach).
According to both possibilities, if the gift is a collective gift, which is being given by the “worlplace,” and not a personal gift, there is room to be lenient in making a contribution, because of the “distance” between the personal giver and the receiver of the gift.
In general, the Taz (Orach Chaim 696:3) writes that because the custom today is not to be particular about she’elas shalom after shloshim yom, it would also be permitted to give gifts.
[The ruling is not entirely clear, and some have asked (see Eliyah Rabbah) that the Rema never states that today’s custom is to be lenient concerning she’elas shalom, but only that the custom in some places is to be lenient.]

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. 21) quotes this ruling, though he brings it from Magen Avraham (who explains differently), which makes his opinion a little unclear (seeDivrei Sofrim, aveilus, Eimek Davar 47); he adds, however, that the gift should not be something that causes simchah. The same ruling is given by Derech Chaim.

Therefore, under circumstances where the gift is “required” as part of a relationship, for instance from husband to wife, there is room for leniency (see a similar ruling in Nitei Gavriel, Aveilus Vol. 2, Chap. 14, no. 13). The grandfather-grandchild relationship is of course not the same as husband-wife, and it is therefore better to avoid giving gifts, explaining that this is due to the aveilus; yet, where “required,” there remains room for leniency.

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