Tomorrow night begins Purim, a holiday on which the Jewish people celebrate our survival and rejoice that our ancestors were redeemed from the evil tyrant Haman. It is also a holiday on which we are commanded to share our good fortune with those in need. The mitzvah of sending gifts to the poor is based on Megillat Esther 9:22.
Gifts can be given directly, e.g., bringing food and clothing to a homeless shelter, or indirectly, through an organized charity. It is important to keep in mind that whatever additional tzedakah we give throughout the year, donations must still be given on Purim itself. How important is this mitzvah? As Maimonides writes in his Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Megillah 2:17): “It is better for a person to increase gifts to the poor than to increase his feast or the mishloah manot to his neighbors. There is no joy greater or more rewarding than to gladden the heart of the poor, orphans, widows, and strangers. For by gladdening the hearts of the downtrodden, we are following the example of the Divine.”