Tuesday, February 19, 2013

PURIM: Presents to the needy

Yesterday we explained that during the day of Purim--Sunday February 24th , 2013--we give or send two presents or more to one or more friends (see here).

There is another Miṣva in Purim called matanot la-ebiyonim or "Presents to needy people". These presents consist of food, given to those who cannot afford to celebrate and enjoy a nice Purim banquet.  The custom is to give two portions of food to two or more poor people. Or as it is usually done today, give to two needy people the monetary equivalent of two meals each. 

matanot la-ebiyonim is also fulfilled by giving the monetary equivalent of two meals to a charity that distributes food. 

If we don't find the needy people during the day of Purim, we should put aside the charity money during Purim daytime to be delivered later.  

Unlike  mishloaḥ manot, where the intention is to strengthen our friendship and unity, and therefore, knowing who is the source of the presents is of the essence, in the case of presents for the poor anonymity is a virtue. Because the intention is to help someone to have a nice meal and celebrate with happiness. 

If our means are limited, our Rabbis indicated that we must be more generous in giving to the poor and needy than in spending for our own Purim banquet. 

The Rabbis also said: en medaqdeqim bema'ot Purim, which means that in general we should be very attentive about the credibility and reputation of the recipient of our charity, but during Purim, we should give freely to whoever extends his or her hand, asking for help.

Inviting needy people to one's  Purim banquet is considered a great merit.  The rabbis said "There is no greater happiness than lifting up the hearts and spirits of the poor, orphans and widows".   

READ and BAKE  "Purim Foods around the World"   Hamentashen are old hat. Try some lesser-known Purim treats. by Yvette Alt Miller, from aish.com