How much do you have to give for Matanot La’evyonim?
Thanks very much.
Although the basic halachah is that one must give a perutah to each of two poor people – a very small amount – it is proper to give a worthy gift that is capable of bringing a degree of joy to the poor person.
The Ritva writes that one must give the equivalent sum of one perutah, and the giving of two perutos to two evyonim is thus be sufficient to fulfill the mitzvah. This opinion is henceforth ruled by a number of authorities (Mekor Chaim695:2; Eishel Avraham 694; Mishnah Berurah 694:2), and this is the basic halachah.
The value of a perutah fluctuates according to the market price of silver, and this should be updated. Either way, it isn’t very much, and has recently fluctuated around the 15 Agurot level (less than 5 cents).
On account of its small worth, some have questioned whether this donation suffices to fulfill the mitzvah, whose purpose is to bring joy to the poor.
Some authorities write that one should give a donation that would suffice for the purchase of a small meal of three beitzim (Zera Yaakov, cited in Shaarei Teshuvah 694), and some translate this into modern terms as a light meal of a roll and a drink. Although he writes that the basic halachah follows the ruling Ritva, Pekudas Elazar (694) writes that after seeing the ruling of Zera Yaakov, he began to follow it himself.
Another opinion requires the donation to be a “significant gift,” which will bring joy to the poor recipient. This opinion is stated by Maharsha (Megillah 7a), and has been cited in the name of Rav Elyashiv shlita.