On Purim, we are commanded: “To observe them as days of feasting and joy, of sending gifts (mishlo’aĥ manot) to one another, and presents to the poor (matanot la-evyonim)” (Esther 9:22).
The mitzva to rejoice on Purim is quite unique, as it finds expression even in the physical aspects of life. Just as Haman’s decree targeted our soul and body alike, so too our joy over our salvation should be both spiritual and physical. Therefore, in addition to the mitzva of reading the Megilla, which gives expression to man’s spiritual side, there is a mitzva to prepare a festive and joyous meal (se’uda). During this meal, an emphasis is placed on drinking wine to the point where one loses his mental capacity to a certain degree. This expresses the notion that the Jewish people are holy and that even in a state of diminished mental capacity, they remain connected and close to God.
This joy must be accompanied by a heightened sense of love and unity among Jews. This is true joy, as it expresses a broadening of life and its spread through the love of all people. However, one who eats and drinks for their own sake is considered narrow and limited, preoccupied only with gratifying his own desires; such a person will never attain genuine joy. Thus, we are commanded to send gifts of food, mishlo’aĥ manot, to one another.
We should not content ourselves with increasing love among friends; rather, we must also care about the destitute, who are unable to rejoice fully. Therefore, we are commanded to give gifts to the poor, matanot la-evyonim, so that they too can take part in the joy of Purim. Anyone who disregards the pain of the destitute – even if he thinks that he is enjoying himself with his friends – is in reality engaged in debauchery, ignoring the realities of life. He flees thoughts about the suffering in this world so that he can have some fleeting happiness. But the harsh reality will not disappear when he drinks wine and becomes intoxicated. Therefore, deep down, he knows that he does not deserve to be happy, and he will remain miserable. However, if one makes sure to bring joy to the poor and unfortunate, his life has value, and he can truly and rightfully rejoice. This is why we were commanded to give gifts to the poor on Purim.