by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits. During the days and weeks before Purim, the mail is full of letters requesting matanas l’evyonim. In this issue we will discuss which people one has to give to, how much to give, when to give and other relevant halachos pertaining to this mitzvah.
The posuk in the Megilah is the source of the mitzvah to give matanas l’evyonim on Purim. This means that one has to give “matanas” to two people, which in essence means that one has to give one matana to each of two poor people. The more that one gives to poor people on Purim the more fortunate he is. One should give more money to the poor on Purim than he spends for mishloach manos or the seuda. One who gladdens the hearts of these unfortunate people is comparable to the shechina’s presence.
One of the basic reasons for the mitzvah of giving matanas l’evyonim is in order to make poor people happy on this day when everyone else is happy.
Aside from the minimum requirement of the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim, one should go a step further and give to anyone who sticks out a hand on Purim. However, it should be pointed out that this only refers to poor people who are collecting for themselves and not to groups or people who are collecting for other people. The poskim say that one may even give to a non-Jew because of darchei sholom. Although others say that the custom is not to give to non-Jews, but one who has the custom to do so may continue with it.
What’s Considered Money?
Check- The poskim maintain that giving a check to a poor person fulfills the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim. Some say one should make sure that either the bank is opened or he can get something with the check i.e. food. Others say that there is no reason for the bank to be opened in order to fulfill the mitzvah, but he should be able to buy something. Some poskim say that one is permitted to give a post-dated check as well. However, the custom is not to give a post dated check for the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim. Some poskim say the same would apply to one who gives a check but does not have the funds to cover the check. However, if one will have funds when the poor person cashes the check then it is permitted. One may use a credit card for matanas l’evyonim if it will be processed by Purim.
Money which can not be spent in the country it is given in can not be used for the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim.
Food- The opinion of many poskim is that one does not have to give money in order to fulfill the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim, and one is permitted to give anything which the poor person will benefit from.
One who gives a seuda to his friend and his friend gives him a seuda to his friend then they were both yotzei matanas l’evyonim.
Who Are Obligated?
Women – women are obligated in this mitzvah. Although some say a married woman is yotzei the obligation when her husband gives, one should not rely on this, and instead she should ask her husband for money and give on her own. A man can give to a poor woman and a woman can give to a poor man. Additionally when giving money for one’s wife he should tell the gabbai to be koneh the money for his wife and give it for her.
Poor Person- A poor person is obligated to give matanas l’evyonim from the money which he receives.
Children- A child should be trained in this mitzvah and his father should either give him money to give to the poor, or the father should tell the child that he is giving on his behalf.
How Much to Give
The opinion of the Ritva is that one may give a pruta (a minimal amount) for matanas l’evyonim. Others say that one should give the amount that the poor person will be able to buy a seuda with. Others say it should be a chasuva amount. The opinion of Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l is that one should give one dollar. However, this opinion was expressed many years ago, and today one can not buy much with that amount. One should give the amount of money that one can buy a bagel with cream cheese, and a coffee. Horav Elyashiv Shlita is quoted as saying that one can give fifty shekalim (in Eretz Yisroel). It is praiseworthy to give small amounts of money to many poor people instead of a lot of money to fewer people.
From Masser Money
Since the mitzvah of giving matanas l’evyonim is an obligation, one may not give the ikkur obligation of matanas l’evyonim from one’s masser money. However, if one will be giving to more than one poor person then he may use his masser money for the other recipients.
Eating Before Sending Matanas L’evyonim
There are some poskim that say one should not eat (a substantial amount of food, tasting is permitted) before performing the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim. However, most poskim say that one is permitted to eat before the mitzvah is performed. The reason for this leniency is because one will not forget to send the matanas l’evyonim. Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l said one can give matanas l’evyonim before the reading of the megilah (by day). Others give it before davening.
Mishloach Manos First or Matanas L’evyonim?
Many say that one should give matanas l’evyonim before giving mishloach manos. Others maintain that mishloach manos should be given before matanas l’evyonim since mishloach manos is stated first in the posuk. One who does not have enough money for both mitzvahs should give matanas l’evyonim.
Sending before Purim
Many times ones sends a check in the mail before Purim and it reaches the poor person after Purim. The poskim say that in order for one to fulfill the mitzvah properly one should make sure that the poor person receives the money on Purim because of a concern that the poor person will use the money before Purim. One who will be sending to many poor people can send the money even if it reaches the poor person before Purim. If the poor person has the money one was yotzei and there is no difference if the poor person actually used the money of the seuda or not.
Classifying a Poor Person
The opinion of some is that an “evyon” is different than a poor person and one only has an obligation to give an “evyon” on Purim. A poor person is someone who has embarrassment to ask for money, and an “evyon” does not have embarrassment. The accepted opinion is that any poor person may be given money on Purim. Some say a poor person in this regard, means one who does not have a steady salary and cannot support his family. Others say that one since it is not common to find a person who does not have money for a seuda, one can give for hachnasas kallah, health etc. A son who is being supported by his parents is not a poor person and one cannot give him matanas l’evyonim. There is a discussion in the poskim whether a husband and wife can qualify as two separate people in regard to matanas l’evyonim.
Using a Messenger
There is no need for one to hand the money to the poor person by himself, rather he may use a messenger for this purpose. The Aruch Ha’shulchan says one can appoint a messenger before Purim to give for him on Purim.
Giving Money to Poor People in Eretz Yisroel
Recently it has become the custom to give to poor people in Eretz Yisroel. What happens is that whatever pledges are given in America someone in Eretz Yisroel lays out the money until he is reimbursed. According to the view of the Aruch Ha’shulchan mentioned above it would seem that one is not yotzei since the messenger was not made on Purim. Nonetheless, the custom is to be lenient.
Money to Rabbbeim
The Aruch Ha’shulchan maintains that one should give money on Purim to all people who are involved in klei kodesh. When giving money to Rabbeim etc one is not yotzei the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim. One can use masser money for this purpose.
If the poor person said that he is mochel the money, the giver was not yotzei the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim.
Day or Night
The main time to give matanas l’evyonim is on the day of Purim and not the night before, one who gave it at night was yotzei according to some poskim. If one will be giving to more than one person then one may give the matanas l’evyonim at night as well. When groups come collecting at night after the Purim seuda there is no mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim at that time. Giving to them is still a mitzvah of tzedaka. One should give the matanas l’evyonim before shekiah on Purim day.
Different Time Zones
When money is distributed by people in America for poor people in Eretz Yisroel it is very often done when it is early morning in Eretz Yisroel and at night in America. It is unclear why this is permitted. It could be that the permissibility of this would depend on the question if one is allowed to give matanas l’evyonim before Purim. If an American who observes Purim on the fourteenth gives money to a Jew in Eretz Yisroel who observes Purim on the fifteenth, he has fulfilled his obligation if the poor person still has the money in his possession on the fifteenth.
Forgiving a Debt
If a poor person owes money, one is not yotzei the mitzvah of matanas l’evyonim if he is mochel the debt and does not give him other money for Purim.
Knowing Who Gave the Money
In many cases when one gives money to a poor person on Purim it is done through the mail. The poskim address the question if the poor person has to know who sent him the money.
The opinion of the poskim is that the poor person does not need to know who is giving the money and the giver is yotzei in any case.
“However, if one will be giving to more than one poor person then he may use his masser money for the other recipients.”
If the mitzvah is to give two poor people then shouldn’t one need to give TWO people from money that isn’t ma’aser?
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