Gifts to the Poor: Matanot l’Evyonim

February 13, 2014

“Acharon, Acharon Chaviv!”

The Last mentioned is the most beloved!

In the Megillah (9:22), where the Mitzvot of Purim are listed, this one is listed last. However, as mentioned above in connection with the “Seudah,” the Festive Meal, of Purim, providing monetary support for the poor is probably the most important of all the Mitzvot of Purim. Yet it tends to be minimized. Proper observance of Purim would require the spending of at least as much on this Mitzvah of Purim as on any of its other Mitzvot.

There is a prophetic precept to give at least two gifts to two poor people on Purim; that is, one gift to each. And even a poor person who himself has to ask for Charity, is required to do so. This obligation is fulfilled through any type of gift; whether of money, of food or drink, or even of clothing. One should, however, try to give a substantial gift. For if one gives a gift of money it should be sufficient for the recipient to buy bread weighing at least three eggs. At the very least, however, one must give a pruta or its equivalent value to each of two poor persons.

These gifts should be given by day. It is proper to give the gifts to the poor after the Reading-of-the-Megillah. If one sets aside a tithe, ten percent, from his income for Charity, these gifts should not be included in that amount. If, however, he gives some slight sum from his own funds and wants to add his tithe, he may do so.

If one has set aside money for gifts to the poor on Purim, he may not change their intended purpose and give them to another Charity.

A person cannot free himself, through his gifts to the poor on Purim, from the general obligation of ‘Tzedakah’ (Charity) which the Torah places upon him. And even a poor person is obligated to fulfill the Mitzvah at least once a year, aside from what he gives to the poor on Purim.

The gifts should be given in sufficient time for the poor to utilize them during Purim – and for their Purim meals. The poor person may do as he wishes with the gifts, however.

The special gifts for the poor which one is required to give for Purim, should not be given earlier, lest the poor partake of them before Purim; in which case the giver will not have fulfilled his obligation (though in any event the general Mitzvah of Tzedakah would apply before Purim.)

One is not strict with the poor on Purim in determining whether they are needy or not. Whoever puts out his hand is to be given a gift. If one fails to find poor persons in his place, he sets the intended gifts aside till he encounters poor people. Women are also obligated to give gifts to the poor on Purim.