Q: Can I fulfill the missva of matanot la’evyonim (gifts to the poor) on Purim by providingfree food from my bakery or catering business to distribute to needy people? And can I consider the value of this food towards my ma’aser kesafim?

A: The missva of matanot la’evyonim can be fulfilled through giving either food or money.[1]You can give the food to an agent or organization before Purim to distribute on Purim day.[2]

If the food is distributed before Purim – as opposed to on Purim day itself – you would not fulfill the missva of matanot la’evyonim according to most opinions. However, the minimal requirement of matanot la’evyonim is fulfilled through giving to two poor people. Therefore, many people give multiple charity gifts before Purim, and rely on the gifts they give to individuals on Purim itself for the actual fulfillment of matanot la’evyonim.[3]

Money of ma’aser kesafim (10 percent of profits customarily given to charity) cannot be used to fulfill an obligatory missva. Therefore, the minimum amount required to fulfill matanot la’evyonim may not be counted   towards fulfillment of ma’aser kesafim. However, gifts for matanot la’evyonim that are above and beyond the minimum amount required, may be counted towards ma’aser kesafim.[4]It is proper, though, to apportion a significant sum of one’s own money for matanot la’evyonim to bring joy to the poor.[5]

This article is intended for learning purposes only; a competent rabbi should be consulted for practical halachic guidance regarding actual cases, in which issues of dina d’malchuta may also need to be considered.

Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, shelita, a noted dayan. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, please call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.

[1]Rambam, Hilchot Megillah 2:17; Mishnah Berurah 694:2

[2]Kaf Hachaim 694:15

[3]Bi’ur Halacha 694:1 s.v. li’shenei aniyim

[4]Mishnah Beruruah 694:3; Yehaveh Da’at I:87

[5]Rambam, Hilchot Megillah 2:17; Mishnah Berurah 694:3