Tzedakah, as we shall presently appreciate, sensitizes the Jew who practises it so that the superrational degree of Chochmah in his Neshamah is able to light up the innermost recesses of his heart.
As mentioned in the introduction to Kuntres Acharon, the Rebbe observes that this is one of several Essays that would appear to belong more logically in Iggeret HaKodesh. The Rebbe also notes that the subjects discussed in this essay are elaborated upon in Likkutei Torah, beginning of Parshat Re’eh, and in the maamar beginning Amar R. Yehoshua ben Levi, BeChol Yom..., which the Previous Rebbe delivered in 5688 (1928).
וצדקה כנחל איתן בעמוס, (סוף סימן ה׳)
It is written, “...and charity like a mighty river” (Amos, end of ch. 5).
The verse begins by saying that justice should become manifest like water that gushes into revelation from the hidden depths of the earth; it goes on to say that tzedakah (“charity”) should likewise reveal and maintain its intensity like the surging current of a mighty river (Heb.: nachal eitan).
The meaning in spiritual terms is,
כמו שנחל איתן הוא המשכה הנמשכת מבחינת איתן
that [tzedakah] resembles a mighty river which issues from the state of eitan.
“River” suggests a downward flow, in this case emanating from Chochmah, which is termed eitan.
For this word, as is known, has three meanings: “vigor”, “toughness”, and “antiquity”. All three meanings relate to the soul’s element of Chochmah, and are reflected in the tripartite written form of the letter yud (commonly representing Chochmah), which comprises the basic point of the letter and its upper and lower tips.
This level of eitan (Chochmah) flows down into the intellectually expansive “river” called Binah.
שהיא בחינת נקודה בהיכלא
In this state it is known in Kabbalistic terms as “the point in its chamber,”
This phrase can refer either (a), as above, to the seminal point of Chochmah being drawn into the broad chamber of Binah, or (b) to the essential self-nullification of the soul that derives spontaneously from Chochmah (which transcends the loving self-nullification that is consciously produced by the meditation exercised by Binah) being drawn into the innermost point of the heart — the “chamber” for the issue from Chochmah.
ותרין רעין וכו׳
and as “two comrades [who are inseparable].”
The continued existence of all creation depends upon the constant union in Atzilut of the Supernal Sefirot of Chochmah and Binah.
ואותיות איתן משמשות לעתיד
The letters that spell the [Hebrew] word eitan [each] indicate the future tense.
At a deeper level, this term thus hints at future revelation: in the Time to Come there will be a revelation of the spiritual degree called eitan.
פירוש: אנא עתיד לאתגליא
This means, “I am destined to reveal myself”; that which is presently in a state of concealment is destined to become manifest in the Time to Come;
כמו שכתוב: הנה ישכיל עבדי וגו׳
as it is written, “Behold, My servant will prosper...” — i.e., in the future.
והיינו, שיתגלה אז אור אין סוף ברוך הוא ויחודו יתברך תוך פנימיות נקודת הלב
This means that at that time — with the arrival of Mashiach, about whom the verse states “My servant will prosper” — the [infinite] Ein Sof-light and the Divine Unity will be revealed within the innermost point of one’s heart,
על ידי המשכת נחל איתן, הוא הארת חכמה עילאה שיאיר בפנימיות הלב
by the calling forth of the “mighty river,” which is a radiance of the Supernal Wisdom that will illuminate the inwardness of the heart,
ליבטל ביחודו יתברך בתכלית, מעומקא דלבא
so that one will be nullified utterly in the Divine Unity, from the depths of one’s heart,
אחרי הסרת הערלה מתאוות הגשמיות וכו׳
after it has been cleared of the [obscuring] orlah of physical lusts, and so on.
When the metaphorical orlah (lit., “foreskin”) will then be removed (as in the verse, “And you shall excise the orlah of your heart,” and likewise, “The L‑rd your G‑d will circumcise your heart”), nothing will hide the innermost core of the heart. It will then be possible for the heart to experience the utter self-nullification of the Neshamah to G‑d, that derives from the revelation of Chochmah in the soul.
This essential soul-level reflects all three above-mentioned connotations of eitan — the resolute “vigor” of the soul’s essence, its unswerving “toughness”, and the hoary “antiquity” of this bequest to the Jewish people from the Patriarchs of old.
והנה עתה, בגלות החל הזה
At present as well, during the exile of this folk,
יש גם כן עצה יעוצה, להאיר קצת אור ה׳ מבחינת איתן לתוך נקודת פנימיות הלב, כעין לעתיד
counsel is offered [herewith] as to how to bring a glimmer of the illumination of the light of G‑d from the state of eitan into the innermost point of the heart, as in the Time to Come.
והיינו, על ידי שמעורר על ניצוץ אלקות שבנפשו, בחינת רחמים רבים העליונים
This is [attained] by arousing the abounding Divine mercies for the G‑dly spark within one’s soul.
כי באמת, כל זמן שאין האדם זוכה שיתגלה אור ה׳ מבחינת איתן בנקודת פנימיות לבבו
For in truth, so long as a man does not merit the revelation of the light of G‑d from the state of eitan in the innermost core of his heart,
ליבטל ביחודו יתברך מעומקא דלבא, עד כלות הנפש ממש
so that he becomes nullified in the Divine unity, until the very expiry of the soul,
אזי באמת יש רחמנות גדולה על הניצוץ שבנפשו
then the spark within his soul is indeed to be pitied.
כי הניצוץ נמשך מבחינת חכמה עילאה ממש
For that spark is drawn from the state of the Supernal Wisdom itself,
וכשאינו יכול להאיר מבחינתו לתוך פנימיות הלב
and when it cannot illuminate from its own state — from the state of Chochmah that is utterly nullified to G‑d — into the innermost core of the heart,
ששם מקום גילוי הארה זו
which is the proper place for the revelation of this illumination,
הרי זה בבחינת גלות ממש
then it is really and truly in exile.
For what is exile if not the shackling of one’s gifts?
ועל ידי רחמים רבים העליונים, יוצא מהגלות והשביה
Through the plentiful Supernal mercies, however, that are drawn down upon the soul, it goes out of exile and imprisonment,
ומאיר לתוך נקודת פנימיות הלב בחינת אהבה רבה זו
and illuminates the innermost core of the heart with this great love,
כנודע ממה שכתוב: ליעקב אשר פדה את אברהם
as is known from the verse, “For...Jacob who redeemed Abraham,”
וכמו שכתוב בלקוטי אמרים, פרק מ״ה
as expounded in Likkutei Amarim, ch. 45.
The Midrash teaches that Abraham was saved in the future merit of Jacob, who was destined to descend from him.
In spiritual terms: When Abraham’s characteristic attribute, kindness and love, remains latent within a Jew, it is revealed and redeemed by Jacob’s characteristic attribute — mercy.
Since we are speaking here of Supernal Mercy, there must first be a sufficiently vigorous “arousal from below” that will cause it to descend to this lowly world. The required arousal initiated from below must therefore spring from the palpable realities of this lowly world. In plain words, as the Alter Rebbe will now conclude, this is the practice of tzedakah.
ומודעת זאת כי אתערותא דלעילא, באתערותא דלתתא דוקא תליא מלתא
It is known that an arousal from above is specifically dependent on an arousal from below,
דהיינו, על ידי התעוררות רחמים רבים בלב רחמנים וגומלי חסדים
meaning [that the abundant mercies from above are secured] by an arousal of great mercies in the hearts of “the compassionate...and the kindly,” as Jews are characterized in the Gemara,
להשפיע השפעה גשמיית, זהב וכסף וכו׳
so that they bestow physical gifts of gold and silver, and the like.
ולכן פעולת הצדקה היא פעולת נחל איתן ממש
Thus the effect of tzedakah is actually the effect of the “mighty river” (nachal eitan).
For the “arousal from below” expressed by the practice of tzedakah draws forth the loving self-nullification of the vigorous essence (the “eitan”) of the soul, so that it becomes revealed — through the “river” of Binah — within the innermost core of man’s heart.
The Alter Rebbe now goes on to write that one’s tzedakah should be given unstintingly, without regard for limitations. Just as a person in jeopardy spends without limit in order to save his life, so, too, should one hold one’s own G‑dly soul in high regard, and give tzedakah boundlessly.
והנה מודעת זאת מה שכתוב: עור בעד עור, וכל אשר לאיש יתן בעד נפשו האלקית
All know the verse, “Skin for skin,” i.e., a person will protect one limb at the expense of another, “but all that a man possesses he will give for his soul” — he will give away everything in order to save his life. The Alter Rebbe adds a word to the quoted verse, so that it ends, “...for his G‑dly soul.” One should be willing to forego everything for the sake of his G‑dly soul,
להאירה באור החיים, אין סוף ברוך הוא
in order to illumine it with the light of life — the Infinite One, blessed be He.