In the final paragraph of the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Arukh (697:1), we find three opinions regarding the observance of what is known as Purim Katan – the 14th and 15th of Adar Rishon (in a leap year, when an extra month is added to the calendar). Although we observe Purim in Adar Sheni, certain observances apply on the 14th and 15th days of Adar Rishon. According to the first view cited by the Shulchan Arukh, on Purim Katan we omit tachanun and the Psalm of “Ya’ankha Hashem be-yom tzara” (Tehillim 20) from the prayer service, and eulogies and fasting are forbidden. The second view, by contrast, permits eulogies and fasting. The Rama, after noting that the accepted practice follows the first opinion, proceeds to cite a third view, which maintains that there is an obligation of mishteh ve-simcha – feasting and rejoicing – on Purim Katan. This is the view of the Ran, in Masekhet Megilla (3b in the Rif). The Rama writes that although common practice has not accepted this view, “nevertheless, one should indulge a bit in eating.”
The Ketav Sofer (Parashat Tetzaveh) advances the remarkable claim that those who follow the Rama’s ruling, and feast on Purim Katan, must also give matanot la-evyonim (gifts to the poor) on Purim Katan. He reaches this conclusion on the basis of the Rambam’s famous comments in Hilkhot Megilla (2:17) that it is preferable to enhance one’s performance of matanot la-evyonim on Purim than to enhance his feasting. The Rambam explains, “…for there is no greater or more glorious joy than to gladden the hearts of the poor, orphans, widows and foreigners.” Naturally, then, if one wishes to follow the stringent view requiring feasting on Purim Katan, it stands to reason that he must apply this stringency also to matanot la-evyonim, which takes precedence over feasting.
Rav Asher Weiss dismisses this theory, noting the Mishna’s explicit ruling in Masekhet Megilla (6b) that the obligations of Megilla reading and matanot la-evyonim do not apply on Purim Katan. In fact, the Ran, who wrote that feasting is required on Purim Katan, reached this conclusion on the basis of the Gemara, which inferred from the Mishna’s statement that eulogies and fasting are forbidden on Purim Katan. The Ran contended that this prohibition is a function of the obligation to feast on Purim, and so if this prohibition applies on Purim Katan, then the feasting obligation likewise applies. It thus emerges that the very Mishna which serves as the source for this position states explicitly that matanot la-evyonim is not required on Purim Katan. Quite clearly, then, notwithstanding the Rambam’s timeless exhortation to spend more on matanot la-evyonim than on the Purim feast, this is not relevant to Purim Katan, when the obligation of matanot la-evyonim does not apply, even according to the view that the feasting obligation does.
Interestingly, Rav Weiss notes, the Ketav Sofer himself takes the opposite view elsewhere in his writings. In one of his published responsa (Y.D. 136), the Ketav Sofer observes that the Rambam makes no mention of an obligation to feast on Purim Katan (see Hilkhot Megilla 2:13), and he explains that the Rambam took this position because of the aforementioned Mishna. Once the Mishna established that the obligation of matanot la-evyonim does not apply on Purim Katan, the Rambam reached the conclusion that the obligation to feast, which he views as a lower level obligation than matanot la-evyonim, cannot possibly apply. Thus, the Ketav Sofer himself acknowledged that there is no requirement to give matanot la-evyonim on Purim Katan.