Two mitzvot of Purim are the sending of two food items to another Jew (ideally via a messenger) and the giving of food or money to two poor Jews. A few questions arise:

1) What is the connection between the sending of two food items and the holiday of Purim?

2) Considering the advantage of giving charity secretly (so that the recipient won't know the benefactor's identity), why aren't gifts to the poor given via a messenger, instead of the sending of food items to a friend?

3) Why are two types of food given to one person, but one charitable gift is given to two poor people?

4) Why must we give food to a friend, but for the poor we can choose between food and money?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that Purim is physically and spiritually unique. During the time of Mordechai and Ester there was a decree made in the physical realm to annihilate every person identified as a Jew, and the subsequent salvation included all Jews. On a spiritual plane the Jews decided to complete the process begun at Mount Sinai…

Similarly, our tradition says that on a spiritual plane the Jews decided to complete the process begun at Mount Sinai. After their deliverance from Haman and his evil plans, they unanimously accepted the Torah and its laws of their own free will, not under duress, as was the case at Mt. Sinai (see commentaries on Exodus 19:17).

The purpose of giving the Torah is to create a dwelling place for G‑d in this earthly domain. An important prerequisite for the giving of the Torah was the unity of the Jewish People. Since Purim was the completion of the process which began at Sinai, the mitzvot of Purim hint at these three revolutionary events:

  1. Making a dwelling place for G‑d in this dimension
  2. Jewish unity and
  3. things happening from our own initiative

In this light, the Rebbe examines the mitzvot of Purim. Making a dwelling place for G‑d occurs in two ways: perfecting our relationship with Him through our involvement in Torah and mitzvot, and by encouraging others to follow suit.

Torah and mitzvot, which connect us to G‑d, are compared to food and drink, which connect our souls to our bodies. Love and awe of G‑d, which accompany our divine service, are compared to gold and silver, which are used to buy food and drink.

With the sending of food items, when each Jew gives to another person (understood as other, i.e. G‑d) gifts of food (i.e. mitzvot), there must be two foods in each gift to prove that we are not performing these good deeds easily and naturally but rather are breaking out of our limitations to achieve the higher standard - for the sake of Heaven. Just as mitzvot cannot be elevated on their own, but must be "accompanied" with love and awe, so also the sending of food items must also be through a messenger. On the other hand, money alone can't suffice, because love and fear are not by themselves valued gifts to G‑d. It is our actions that count. The body and the soul…must be influenced to serve G‑d…

The mitzva of giving gifts to the poor hints at our obligation to encourage the "poor" in knowledge of G‑d to come closer to Judaism. For some, encouragement comes through seeing peers performing a mitzva and wanting to join in. For others, intellectual explanations may inspire them. In the same way that there is not just one way to help another Jew become more aware, so too gifts to the poor can be either food or money. Our responsibility is to give only one gift to each because our task is to take them out of poverty, to start them on their Jewish journey. However, there are two parts to every Jew, the body and the soul. Both of these elements must be used to serve G‑d. Therefore the mitzva of giving to the poor must be to two needy Jews.

Happy Purim!