In The News: FAQs Pre-Purim and Purim Day With Rabbi Leventhal

Date: February 19 2019
Publication: Self Published
Author: Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal
1. People think the Mitzva of Matanot L'evyonim is as simple as 'money-in-money-out'. The truth is that it is more intricate. What does it actually entail?  

The most common misconception is that any Tzedaka qualifies for Matanot L'evyonim. According to most poskim, this is false. The mitzvot of Purim day are designed to make the poor - עניים - rejoice, so the organizations that one should give to is those assisting those in poverty.

 2. Elaborate on the differences between עני? אביון? עניי עירך?עניי ארץ ישראל

Both an עני  and an אביון  are considered poor. While this is material for a much longer discussion, most poskim describe an אביון as being in a more desperate state. One classic difference is that an אביון is in such a difficult state that they are not embarrassed to ask while anעני would hesitate to ask from others.

The poor of one’s own city, עניי עירך, take precedence over the poor of other cities. This is based on the word באחד שעריך, “in your gates”, in the posuk of tzedaka. We learn that the poor of Eretz Yisrael, have a precedence as well from the word בארציך in that same posuk.

3. Smart Chesed, the trademark of Lema'an Achai, takes the long view. Matanot L'evyonim personifies the opposite with immediate satisfaction for recipient. How do you reconcile this?

Excellent question. While Lema'an Achai does boast giving a hand-up, we also state emphatically, that while teaching a man to fish, you must support him, lest he starve. Our Matanot L'evyonim is a strong expression of the winning combination of overseeing a person's long term goal of becoming independent, while not ignoring his pressing material needs.

4. With Purim around the corner, do you have any tips for fulfilling the Matanot L'evyonim Mitzva to its fullest? 

Always remember: Your Rabbi is human. Your Gabbaim are human. And the poor person receiving the Matanot L'evyonim is human. Your Rabbi and Gabbaim can best prepare for the Purim onslaught when given the money in advance. The עני, given a large lump sum at one time, may limit his/her joy to a 2-3 hour period on Purim Day.

Give in a dignified manner and donate in a timely fashion. Give a week or two before Purim to maximize efficiency and to benefit the עני not only Purim Day, but well beyond as well.

5. What inspiration should we gain all year around from our connection to the poor on Purim Day?

The most obvious and potent year-round inspiration is that your charity money can transform lives. My most inspiring moment on Purim, which occurs multiple times every year, is when I get a call from a family, very often a single mother, who no longer needs our support. They request that these funds be used for someone who will hopefully gain independence over the next year. The credit for this inspiration is you, the donor, who allows us to guide our families to independence.

6. Final Thoughts?  

Money, which is often deemed the root of all evil, when channeled properly, can literally change the lives of others for the better. 

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