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I was under the impression that the Purim mitzvah of matanot l'evyonim, giving gifts to the poor, had to be done directly -- find two or more poor people and give to them. This answer on a related question says:

There are lots of tzedakah funds who collect for poor people that collect from donors outside the country. You might want to find one of those.

Does an indirect gift like this fulfill the mitzvah? If so, do we have to give early enough to ensure that they will distribute the funds in time, or is my giving the gift (in time) sufficient and I can rely on the tzedakah fund to eventually distribute it? Do I need to tell the tzedakah fund that this is for Purim?

Sources please.

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Most people I know fulfill the Mitzvah through a messenger or an organization. There are many such organizations, some of which are all-volunteer (meaning that your dollar goes farther). The only issues I've heard of for fulfillment are whether the money needs to leave your hand and enter the recipient's on Purim itself, and whether the money is fungible. I've heard yes on all counts. No source available, hence the comment. –  Seth J Feb 22 '13 at 15:52
    
By the way, when I wrote that, I linked to a page specifically dedicated to Matanos LaEvyonim, not just any tzedakah fund. –  b a Feb 23 '13 at 0:11
    
@ba oh, I'm sorry! Thanks for pointing that out. –  Monica Cellio Feb 24 '13 at 23:00

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Aruch HaShulchan 694:2 says that it is clear to him that it does not have to be given directly to the poor man, and can be given through a messenger (Shaliach) on Purim day.

Nitei Gavriel Purim 68:6 mentions in the name of the Yad Aharon 694, Chug Eretz 15, and others that if money is given to a messenger (Shaliach) before Purim to give to the poor man on Purim you are fulfilling your obligation.

So it seems like a messenger is definitely permitted. Perhaps in many cases people do not know a bona fide poor person and therefore even prefer a messenger. The messenger would have a responsibility to give the money to the poor person on Purim, this way the giver is fulfilling their obligation. If the Tzedaka fund does not know it is for Purim they may not give it out on Purim, so it is advisable to make sure that the Tzedaka fund is aware, and will distribute it on Purim.

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+1. And besides "people do not know a bona fide poor person and therefore even prefer a messenger", there's also the general preference of anonymous tz'daka. –  msh210 Feb 22 '13 at 16:30
    
My father has suggested that the preference for using a messenger for your mishloach manos is so people can't tell what's mishloach manos to those who aren't needy, and what's matanos l'evyonim to those who are. (As tzedaka is generally best done anonymously, you'd use a messenger for the latter.) –  Shalom Feb 22 '13 at 18:37
    
Good points about preferring anonymity. I wasn't thinking so much of "hey Shmuel, give this to Rueven for me" but rather "hey, tzedakah organization, here's a donation" -- would that actually work? From Gershon's answer it sounds like it would so long as the receiving organization is prepared to disperse the funds specifically on Purim. Am I understanding that correctly? –  Monica Cellio Feb 22 '13 at 18:53

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