There is a long standing custom to give to the less fortunate before Pesach to help them with their Yom Tov expenses. We can see a hint to this in the Torah. Regarding Pesach, the Torah says: “Chag hamatzos”, but the word matzos is spelled without a vov (חג המצת).

מצת is an acronym for “tzedakah tazil me’maves” (charity saves one from death) and it is the tzaddik in the middle, representing tzedakah, that separates the mem and sof, which spells mais (the body of one who has passed away).

Once, Reb Naftoli of Ropshitz spoke to his community on Shabbos HaGadol. He said according to the Rambam on the Laws of Pesach, each and every Jew needs to eat matzah and drink four cups of wine on the night of the Seder, even if the person is very poor. In the laws of stealing, the Rambam writes that a person must not steal, even less than a perutah (like a penny).

So Reb Naftoli of Ropshitz asked, “How can these two laws co-exist?” He answered that the rich could solve this contradiction by giving ma’os chittim to the poor.

When he got home, his wife asked him, “So, how did your Shabbos HaGadol speech go? Did the community take to what you were saying?” Reb Naftoli answered, “Half of them did…the poor are willing to accept.”