On the Jewish holiday of Purim there are four important mitzvot that each person is meant to perform. One is to give food gifts to each other, the other is to have a festive meal and the third is to listen to the reading of the Megillah in the evening and morning.
The fourth one is called Gifts to the Poor/ Matanot Lievyonim.
Isn’t that interesting? It is not called charity to the poor or alms to the poor, it is called gifts to the poor
What’s the difference between them? A world of difference…
If you came home on your wedding anniversary with a gift envelope for your wife that says ‘charity’, you had better duck for cover, no matter how generous the amount in the envelope was. I wouldn’t advise you to try the experiment, rather suffice with imagining it…
If however the envelope was labeled ‘matana’ (gift), and the amount fit her expectations, you will achieve the desired results. Try it – the gift one – you will no doubt be happy with the results.
Why the difference?
Charity has a connotation of helping an unfortunate person. There is a certain implicit message that I, Menachem Mendel Bluming the giver, am the gracious savior of the luckless poor person who is receiving my largesse. A hint of condescension. That’s not the feeling that should exist between friends, certainly not spouses.
Gifts are entirely different. Gifts are also given between equals. Spouses give gifts to each other. Parents give children gifts and vice versa. Business associates give gifts.
A ‘matana’ gift is not a ‘handout’ or a charitable allocation.
How should one feel when they give a destitute person a gift of money?
On Purim, you should feel that by giving tzedakah to the poor, you are giving a gift, a matana to an equal.
Why is the destitute person less worthy or important than me?!
Happy Purim! Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming and Rabbi Kantor