Can You Give a NFT as Mishloach Manos?
One of the mitzvos of Purim is giving mishloach manos, a gift of at least two different things to a friend.
With technology constantly evolving, I wonder whether you can give a NFT (Non-Fungible Token) as
mishloach manos. A consensus seems to be emerging because all the rabbis I asked responded in the
same way: “What’s a NFT?” That’s a good question.
A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is digital ownership of a digital object, such as a graphic image or a video
(typically the object is digital although it can be physical). While other people may have the image or
video, if you have the NFT then you own the original. Some NFT’s have sold for millions of dollars,
although most are worth much less. So, the question is, if you give someone a NFT as one of the two items in mishloach manos, do you fulfill the mitzvah? After all, you are giving him something with value,
perhaps worth millions of dollars.
Famously, two authorities debate the nature of the mitzvah of mishloach manos. Rav Yisrael Isserlein
(15th cen., Austria; Terumas Ha-Deshen 111) says that the mitzvah is to ensure that everyone has food for the Purim meals. In contrast, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz (16th cen., Israel; Manos Ha-Levi 9:16) says that the purpose of the mitzvah is to increase peace and unity among the Jewish people. There are many practical implications to the differences between the two views. If the intended recipient declines the gift, the sender still increased friendship just by sending it but did not add to the recipient’s meal. For example, according to the Manos Ha-Levi, he fulfills the mitzvah but according to the Terumas Ha-Deshen, he does not. Perhaps most importantly, if you send clothing as a gift, according to the Manos Ha-Levi you fulfill the mitzvah but according to the Terumas Ha-Deshen you do not (this was the actual question posed to him). Therefore, according to the Terumas Ha-Deshen, you cannot fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manos by sending a NFT because it is not food.
However, there is room to suggest that we do not follow the Terumas Ha-Deshen. Rav Yisrael Welz (20th
cen., Israel; Divrei Yisrael 1:123) addresses whether you can send someone Torah insights for mishloach manos. Rav Welz points out that Rav Moshe Isserles (Rema, 16th cen., Poland; Gloss to Shulchan Aruch,
Orach Chaim 695:4) rules that if the recipient declines mishloach manos, the recipient still fulfills the
mitzvah. As Rav Moshe Sofer (Chasam Sofer, 19th cen., Hungary; Responsa Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim
196) notes, this means Rema follows Manos Ha-Levi and presumably holds that you do not need to give
specifically food for the mitzvah.
Based on this and other similar rulings, Rav Simcha Rabinowitz (cont., Israel; Piskei Teshuvos 695:17)
says that you should give at least one mishloach manos with two kinds of foods to fulfill the mitzvah
according to all opinions. Beyond that, you can give non-food items following the Manos Ha-Levi. And
this, he says, is common practice.
However, a NFT has no intrinsic value. It isn’t even worth the paper it is printed on because it isn’t printed on paper — it’s purely digital. A NFT’s only value is the possibility of resale. Even if you paid $10 million for a NFT, if no one is willing to buy it from you, it could be worthless. Perhaps this is similar to a loan that may or may not be paid in the future.
Does a NFT have monetary value if it is based entirely on auction price? You might not be able to resell it
at all. However, it is not clear that mishloach manos needs to have monetary value. What if you give
someone an item that is worth less than a perutah, the minimum monetary value of significance? Do we
consider it as if you give nothing? Rav Yosef Te’omim (18th cen., Germany; Rosh Yosef, Megillah 7a) says
that there is not set shi’ur (measure) for mishloah manos. Rather, you have to give something that
would honor a friend in your time and place. Similarly, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky (Kovetz Halakhos,
Purim, ch. 15 n. 8) is quoted as saying that we do not care how much an item is worth. We only care
whether you would serve it to a friend whom you are hosting. Therefore, even if a NFT may have no
monetary value, it does not matter. If it is a worthy gift to honor a friend, then it should suffice for
Giving Two Gifts Together
Rav Ya’akov Chaim Sofer (20th cen., Israel; Kaf Ha-Chaim 695:36) quotes authorities who say that you
must give the two items of mishloach manos at the same time, so it is one act of giving. Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (21st cen., Israel; Ashrei Ha-Ish, vol. 3 47:4) is quoted as ruling likewise. Although Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (20th cen., Israel; Mikra’ei Kodesh, Chanukah U-Furim, ch. 37) quotes Rabbeinu Chananel as saying that this is not necessary. However, common practice seems to follow the view that the two items are given at one time. Because you have to give two different types of items, giving two NFTs does not suffice — they are the same type.
If so, it is hard to envision how a NFT can be given together with something else. Because it is purchased
electronically, it cannot be transferred in (for example) a bag with another gift. Perhaps the technology
exists or will exist soon in which a NFT can be transferred together with another, physical gift. Until that
time, it seems from this preliminary discussion that it would be advisable to give only physically gifts that can be given together with other types.