By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a
A. Who is obligated in the Mitzvah?
Even a needy person himself is obligated in this mitzvah according to most Halachic Authorities.
Unmarried men (bachurim) are obligated but there are those that say that bachurim that don’t have their own money are not obligated. In practice however, it would seem appropriate for their father to give them some money in order to fulfill this mitzvah.
Married men are obligated even when guests in their parents house for Purim.
Boys under Bar Mitzvah (katan) are not obligated according to some Halachic opinions and there are those that hold it is enough that they are shluchim (“messengers”) of their father to give his money to the needy. There are those Poskim however, that obligate the father under the law of chinuch (education) to give the katan money so that he can fulfill the mitzvah accordingly himself. And in fact, it is good practice for Yirei Shamayim to do so.
Women are obligated according to most Poskim to give themselves. However, with regards to a married woman who does not have money of her own, according to some Halachic opinions, it is enough that her husband gives to two needy people with her in mind in order for her to fulfill the mitzvah . The best way though, is for her husband to give his wife her own money to fulfill the mitzvah. And in the same way, one can give money to his young daughters as well as to his older unmarried daughters.
B. To whom should one give the money?
There are those Halachic opinions that hold that the recipient of the money must be specifically “needy” (“evyon”) – i.e. that such a person “desires everything” and is not embarrassed to ask for his needs. There are those that hold that it is enough that the recipient is simply considered poor (“ani”) – the definition being that this person does not have the basic necessities of the average person, or, someone who is deeply in debt.
In practice though one does not have to search specifically for a person defined as “needy” (“evyon”), but it is enough to give to a “poor” person.
Note: With regards to Torah Institutions (Kollelim, Yeshivahs etc), even though it is a big mitzvah to give to them, it would appear that they would not qualify as recipients for the mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyomin.
C. Everyone who asks should be given:
“Kol Haposhet yad, notnim lo” – One should not be scrupulous as to whom one gives regular Tzeddaka money to on Purim (not Matanos L’Evyomin). Rather, one should give to whoever asks.
There are those Poskim that hold that it is in fact a halachic obligation to give to each and every person that asks, while others hold that there is no halachic obligation to give to everyone that ask. However, with regards to those that one DOES give to, one should not be scrupulous about the recipient’s status on Purim (like the Halacha dictates ordinarily during the year).
Some Poskim however hold that one does in fact fulfill one’s obligation of Matanos L’Evyomin even when giving regular Tzeddaka on Purim.
Note: With regards to young children who go around collecting money on Purim, as is the case in Israel, there is no Halachic obligation to give them.
D. How much should one give?
There are many Halachic opinions as to how much money to give. We will list them in ascending order:
1. less than a “p’rutah”.
2. A “p’rutah”.
3. Enough to buy a kazayis of bread.
4. Enough to buy a fig-size of bread.
5. Enough to buy 3 eggs (168 grams).
6. Enough for a Seudah.
7. A significant amount according to the importance of the recipient.
In practice, even though one would fulfill his obligation with a “p’rutah”, however, due to the importance of the mitzvah of Matanos L’evyonim, it is appropriate to give according to an amount for a Seudah (at least 25 shekels in Israel). One can however give less with regards to the money he gives to his children to distribute.
Note: The funds which one apportions for Matanos L’Evyonim should be more than one apportions on Mishloach Manos.
E. The Way in Which the money should be given:
- It is possible to give the money via check but it must be redeemable on Purim itself.
- One can give via a Credit Card.
- One can give money via a messenger for someone else, even if the money will not get to the recipient on Purim itself. However, one should call the recipient on Purim and notify him that money is on the way for him.
- One should not give Matanos L’Evyonim from Maaser money or from money that one has committed to give in the future. However, after one has fulfilled his Halachic obligation to give to 2 needy people according the amount described above, any extra money ones gives may in fact come from Maaser money.
- With regards to money from “Zeicher Machatzis Hashekel” that is owed to the poor, it is possible to fulfill one’s Halachic obligation of Matanos L’Evyonim with it.
F. The Time to give Matanos L’Evyonim :
The mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim is ONLY during the day. Yet with regards to the day, there are many Halachic opinions as to when to give. Some Halachic opinions hold the earlier the better. Some hold before Tefillas Shacharis while others hold after Tefillas Shacharis. Some hold before reading the Megillah, whiles others hold after the Megillah. However, no opinions hold after the Seudah.
In practice one should give after the Megillah reading and be careful to fulfill the mitzvah before eating any thing as is prescribed by the Poskim with regards to not eating before the Mitzvah.
As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Halachic Authority.