Do All Who Ask Really Get Matanot La’evyonim?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

by R. Daniel Mann

Question: What is the operative result of the concept of kol haposhet yad notnim lo (= kpynl – whoever extends his hand to receive is given)?

Answer: There is little discussion in the poskim on kpynl but two sources in Chazal touch on it. The Tosefta (Megilla 1:5, cited in Bava Metzia 78b), in discussing that money earmarked for Purim should be used for it, says that we are not medakdek (exact) in the matter; it does not explain what that means practically. The Yerushalmi (Megilla 1:4) says we are not medakdek on the mitzvot (Ritva, Bava Metzia ibid. – money) of Purim. It adds, “but rather kol haposhet yad notnim lo.” The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 694:3) codifies these words in the siman that discusses matanot la’evyonim (=mtlevy). 

Rashi (Bava Metzia 78b) says that the case discussed there is a gabbai tzedaka who collected money to be used by the city’s poor for seudat Purim. If the Yerushalmi and Shulchan Aruch also refer to that, it is unclear if kpynl is a halacha of mtlevy. Specifically, the sources imply that the public collection was in addition to people’s personal practice of mtlevy. The fund was a form of public tzedaka, which we find for example regarding making sure the poor have wine for the seder (Pesachim 99b) or ma’ot chitim. Accordingly, the gabbai of these funds is instructed to give to whoever requests it.

What need is there for a special collection for the Purim seuda of the poor if that is the main purpose of mtlevy (see Mishna Berura 694:2); wouldn’t all the townspeople’s mtlevy suffice for one meal for them? There are a few possibilities. 1) According to many, a mere peruta suffices for mtlevy (see ibid.), so that the poor might not have received from mtlevy enough for a nice meal; 2) The poor person has the right for a fancy meal that even average mtlevy will not cover (Bava Metzia 78b may imply this; see Ramban ad loc.); 3) For various reasons, some evyonim will not receive, so the gabbai ensures all have enough.

Some understand kpynl as relating to mtlevy. The Ramban (ibid.) says that in light of kpynl, there is a minhag (mentioned by the Shulchan Aruch ibid.) to give on Purim even to non-Jews. The Beit Yosef (OC 694) cites objectors, since mtlevy is supposed to go to Jews (all agree that tzedaka money may go to non-Jews – see Gittin 61a). This (from Shulchan Aruch’s author) implies that kpynl can be relied on to fulfill mtlevy. The Ritva (Bava Metzia ibid.) explains that we need not be exact and ensure that the intended recipients of mtlevy (the poor) receive because the spirit of the day is to funnel happiness into giving, with one’s intention to include the poor, but that anyone who claims to fit suffices. (There is significant machloket on who is included in the intended evyon). According to this approach, kpynl is a leniency – one does not have to be certain the recipients are as needy as designed (Mikraei Kodesh (Harari) 11:3). Dirshu (594:16) claims there is a machloket between Rav Elyashiv (stringent) and Rav Chaim Kanievsky whether this is true. There is also an approach that willingness to embarrass oneself and request defines one as an evyon (see Moadim U’zmanim VI:106).

Some view kpynl as a stringency – one may not refuse to give Purim provisions to any poor person who asks for it (see Kol Meiheical VI, p. 328). But what if one already fulfilled the allotment of two evyonim? Possibly, while at that point it is only recommended to look for more poor recipients (Mishna Berura 694:3), it could be obligatory upon request. Alternatively, it is not mtlevy but a mitzva of tzedaka. It is never simple to refuse to give tzedaka (Devarim 15:7), but presumably this stringency means that even in cases one does not have to give (as much) (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:1; ibid. 251:10), one should do so on Purim (the degree is unclear). 

To summarize, kpynl is either: a leniency that one may give mtlevy to anyone who claims to qualify, instructions for Purim to gabbaei tzedaka or individual tzedaka givers, or an extension of the minimum matanot la’evyonim obligation.

לעילוי נשמת יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter