Who obligated to distribute matanot le-evyonim – wife and husband separately, or husband donate for the whole family?
According to several halachic opinions the obligation of matanos la-evyonim applies to both husband and wife, separately.
The husband, however, can give an extra set of matanos on behalf of his wife, and there is no need for her to give the money personally.
The Shulachan Aruch writes (695:4) that both men and women are obligated in giving matanos la-evyonim (Shulchan Aruch 695:4; see Peri Chadash, who writes that women are not obligated).
This statement implies that even married women are obligated. However, the Magen Avraham (694:13) writes (concerning mishloach manos) that “I have not seen people being careful in this matter. It is possible that the ruling applies only to a widow, and not to a married woman, for whom the husband sends to several people.” The Magen Avraham concludes that one should be stringent, and a married woman should send her ‘own’ manos, rather than relying on her husband’s sending on her behalf.
The Aruch Hashulchan (695:18) likewise writes that a woman is obligated in all the mitzvos of Purim, stating further that even if she is married, she is not exempted by her husband’s giving. However, he writes elsewhere (694:2) that “a man and his wife fulfill their mitzvah with a single gift, for they are as a single body.” It is possible to resolve the seeming contradiction by distinguishing between a husband who gives on behalf of his wife, and informs her of this (by which the wife performs the mitzvah), and a husband who gives without specific intention for his wife (with which a woman does not perform the mitzvah).
Authorities add that even if a married woman is obligated to give matanos of her own, her husband can give the matanos on her behalf, and there is no need for the wife to actually take prior possession of the money.
The reason for this is that with regard to sacrifices, we find that a man can bring his wife’s sacrifices (seeRambam, Shegagos 10:6). We thus derive that the same principle applies to gifts to the poor (see Iggeres Ha-Purim, Chap. 4, quoting from Rav Nissim Karelitz;Shaarei Yemei Ha-Purim p. 130).