Matanot L’evyonim-Gifts to the Poor
After the Jews were saved from the decree of Haman, they agreed “to observe [the days of Purim] with…donations to the needy” (Esther 9:22).
Giving to the poor is a mitzvah all year round. However, the mitzvah to do so on Purim is separate even from the general mitzvah of tzedakah (charity).
To fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot L’evyonim one must give charity to two individual poor people.
One should give each poor person enough money to provide for a meal. One may also give someone the equivalent in food.
Matanot L’evyonim should be given early enough on Purim so that the poor can benefit on the holiday. If, however, one does not have someone to give to on Purim, one should hold onto that money (separately) to give when the opportunity arrives. The money may not be given or spent elsewhere.