Giving Matanos Laevyonim Before Purim

Ask the Rov: Can I start giving matanos laevyonim before Purim?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

Matanos laevyonim is to be given to two evyonim on Purim. One can either give money or food — not clothing or utensils — yet the preference is money.1

Some Acharonim write that since it is called a “gift,” the recipient should know who gave the gift.2 Yet the halacha is that the recipient need not know the donor, and indeed, there is a great advantage in giving tzedaka in this manner.3

When sending money to an evyon before Purim (see issue 294), the main thing is that the evyon receives it by Purim for his Purim meal. If he gets it too early, there is concern that he might use the money before Purim, but if the money will only reach him on Purim, there is no concern.4 Still, some write that one should not send matanos laevyonim before 11 Adar, the earliest date for reading the megilah.5

There is a debate as to whether it is preferable to give many poor people a minimum amount of matanos la’evyonim or to give just a few people a significant amount of matanos la’evyonim.6

The mitzva of matanos laevyonim requires one to gift something out of pocket. Thus, one cannot fulfill the obligation by forgiving a loan, since he isn’t “giving” anything right now — the loan money is already “spent” and he is merely exempting the borrower from his obligation to repay it.7

If the evyon comes on Purim with the money in hand to repay the loan, some say that telling him at that point to keep the money is sufficient, and we don’t require the evyon to hand the money back to the lender and then have the lender hand it back. (As the Gemara calls such superfluous actions, “shifting donkey packs from one side to the other”).8

Paying a poor person’s bill in the grocery store (or other loan) is also insufficient, since the evyon must actually receive something to rejoice with on Purim.9

Writing a check out to the evyon does fulfill the mitzva. Although a check is not actual money and is merely a directive to the bank to withdraw funds, and moreover the bank could even be currently closed after business hours, the check still has intrinsic value and could often be used in a store to purchase against it.10

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

Click here to donate to Crown Heights Matonos Laevyonim to be distributed on Purim day.

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