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Matanot Aniyim Today


If someone has a tree or a few trees in their yard, do they need to leave the matanot aniyim (gifts for the poor) on the trees and hang up a sign outside? Or should the home owner harvest some of the fruits and give them out, or their value, to poor people? While there might be poor people in the neighborhood, they may not know the halacha and they might not come at all. Does this exempt one of the obligation to give these gifts in the first place?


Rabbi Yaakov Epstein

1. Matanot aniyim fall into two categories: (1) leket, shichecha, pe’ah, peret, and olelot and (2) ma’aser ani. For all of the gifts in the first category, the onus is on the poor person to take them, while the owner of the fruit is obligated to leave them and not take them for himself. When it comes to ma’aser ani, on the other hand, there is an obligation to set it aside and yet another obligation to give it to a poor person.

2. From the gemara in Chullin it seems that if poor people do not come to take their gifts, there is no obligation to leave the fruit for them. In this case, the owner of the fruit can take them for himself and then separate terumot and ma’aserot from these fruits.

3. We are supposed to take ma’aser ani in years three and six of the shemita cycle and give it to the poor. If there are no poor people in the vicinity, we need to give the value of the fruit to the poor, since by the time a poor person comes the fruit could rot.

4. Torah VeHa’aretz Institute’s Beit HaOtzar has an arrangement with a tzedaka committee that loans money to poor people. When separating ma’aser ani at home, the ma’aser that is supposed to be given to a poor person is returned to the owner of the fruit, while its value is transferred by Beit HaOtzar to the poor.