SALT - Monday, 13 Adar 5780 - March 8, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            One of the obligations we must fulfill on Purim is matanot la-evyonim – giving charitable gifts to the poor, as the Megilla explicitly states (9:22).
 
            Rav Yair Bachrach (author of Chavot Yair), in his Mekor Chayim (694), writes that the use of the term “evyonim” in this verse in reference to the needy is instructive with regard to the precise requirements of the matanot la-evyonim obligation.  The Gemara in Masekhet Bava Metzia (111b) establishes that the different terms used by the Torah for “poor” are not precisely synonymous, and refer to different levels of poverty.  Specifically, an “ani” is a pauper who requires financial assistance, but whose state of deprivation has yet to compel him to beg, whereas an “evyon” is somebody facing such dire straits that he goes around asking for help.  Accordingly, Rav Bachrach writes that since the special charity obligation on Purim is formulated by the Megila with term “matanot la-evyonim,” one must ensure to give charity specifically to evyonim – people suffering extreme poverty.
 
            Significantly, however, the Rambam (Hilkhot Megila 2:16-17), as well as the Tur and Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 694), use the term “matanot la-aniyim,” and do not specify that one must give specifically to those who fall under the category of “evyon.”  The Arukh Ha-shulchan (694:3) explains that the Megila uses the word “evyonim,” rather than “aniyim,” not to require giving charity specifically to “evyonim,” but rather to clarify that one fulfills the requirement even by giving to “evyonim.”  One might have assumed, the Arukh Ha-shulchan writes, that one should give only to those who are too ashamed to ask for charity, and not to those who have reached the point where they must beg.  The Megila therefore formulated the mitzva as a requirement to give to “evyonim” – not because it is fulfilled only by giving to evyonim, but to make it clear that one fulfills the obligation even by giving to evyonim.  Interestingly, the Arukh Ha-shulchan comments that it is indeed a greater mitzva to lend assistance to aniyim – those who are still too ashamed to request help – then to help evyonim who ask for money, even though the evyonim need the help more desperately.  The evyonim – despite their more extreme state of poverty – have an advantage in the sense that they have already overcome their natural inhibitions and approach people for help, whereas the aniyim do not.  Therefore, in the view of the Aruch Ha-shulchan, it is considered a greater mitzva to give to those in need who are still reluctant to ask for help, than to give to those in more dire straits who have already resorted to begging.