Purim is a day of celebration and joy for our miraculous salvation. This joy should lead us mainly to be thankful to HaShem, for having rescued us from the hand of our enemies. We declare our gratitude to HaShem explicitly in the prayer “‘al haNisim, which we add to the Amida and Birkat HaMazon the day of Purim.
We celebrate our joy during Purim by fulfilling 3 Mitsvot. One is the mishte, the banquet of Purim. The other one is mishloah manot, gifts we send to friends, and the third is matanot laebiyonim, gifts to the poor.
Let’s start by explaining these last two Mitsvot
MISHLOAH MANOT: During the day of Purim, Sunday March 12th, we should send two or more gifts to one or more friends. These “gifts” are very specific. We do not send to each other clothing or jewelry or flowers for Purim, but food and drinks. Ideally food and drinks to be used during the Purim’s banquet. So when I enjoy my Purim’s meal , and I have at my table foods or drinks that were sent by my friends, I feel that my friends thought about me. And this feeling obviously increases my joy, promotes friendship between families and strengthen our unity as a people. That’s why these gifts should not be sent anonymously. It is also a good idea to send mishloah manot to those with whom we might have had some altercation or misunderstandings, showing now our desire for reconciliation.In certain circumstances, mishloah manot could be a discreet way to make matanot laebiyonim, i.e., send food to those in need, that would not feel comfortable asking or even receiving “charity” from others. We should include at least two different types of food, usually a drink and a baked product. Mishloah manot should not be performed before Purim or during the night of Purim, i.e., Saturday March 11 at night. The Manot should be delivered during Purim day, Sunday March 12th.
MATANOT LAEBYONIM: Matanot laebiyonim or “presents to people in need” also consists of foods that are given to those who might not have the means to celebrate and enjoy the banquet of Purim. We should give two servings of food to two or more poor people. This Mitsva can also be fulfilled by giving to two or more people in need, the monetary equivalent of two meals for each one of them. Unlike misloah manot, where the intention is to promote friendship and unity, and therefore, the recipient must know who the person who sent the gifts is, for the gifts to the poor, anonymity is a virtue . Because the intention is to help someone who needs assistance to enjoy a good meal and celebrate Purim with joy. In my community Ohel David uShlomo, many people fulfill this Mitsva by giving the monetary equivalent of two meals to a Hesed organization, like Sephardic Bikur Holim, a sub-kitchen or any organization that will distribute food to the poor during the day of Purim. When our means are limited, our Hakhamim indicated that we should be more generous in giving to the poor, than spending for our own Purim feast. The rabbis also said “en medaqdeqim bema’ot Purim”, which means that while in general, when giving Tsedaqa, we must be vigilant about the credibility and reputation of the recipient of our charity, during Purim, we give Tsedaqa “indiscriminately”, in other words, to whoever reaches out for our help. Inviting poor and needy people to partake in our Purim banquet is considered a great Mitsva. The rabbis say: “There is no greater happiness [for a Yehudi that the joy one feels] by gladdening the hearts and spirits of the poor, orphans and widows.”