Like the preceding Epistle, the present one too centers on the theme of tzedakah.

If it is to be performed properly, tzedakah ought to be given unstintingly, and not only after all one’s own needs and desires have been satisfied. Ideally, it should be given in the spirit of an aphorism that was current among the chassidim of the Alter Rebbe:1 “Inside my slice of bread there is your share too; G‑d is providing for you through me.”

A man should thus feel obligated to share with others and provide for their needs to the very same degree that he provides for his own wife and children. Performing tzedakah in this manner can only be achieved when one distributes one’s earnings in an utterly selfless manner, doing so entirely for G‑d’s sake. Then, even when one provides for his own family’s needs he will do so because they are Jewish souls who are part of G‑d Above,2 and as such he bears a responsibility towards them.

When one acts in this way, he will realize that all needy folk are also Jewish souls and part of G‑d Above; he must therefore concern himself with their needs as well. Though the Torah rules that providing for one’s own wife and children takes precedence over providing for the needs of others, the essential sense of obligation remains the same.

אהוביי אחיי ורעיי אשר כנפשי

My beloved ones,3 my brethren and friends, who are unto me like my soul:

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe explains in one of his talks, that when the Alter Rebbe seeks to imbue his followers with the love of their fellow Jews he addresses them as “my beloved friends,” for by befriending a fellow Jew one becomes a “beloved friend” of the Alter Rebbe.

Accordingly, it may be said that by heeding the Alter Rebbe’s instructions with regard to tzedakah one becomes one of the Alter Rebbe’s “beloved brethren.”

באתי כמזכיר ומעורר ישנים בתרדמת הבלי הבלים

I come [herewith] as one who reminds and awakens those who sleep the slumber of “vanities of vanities,”

Physical things at any time are deemed hevel: being airy and insubstantial, they have no true existence. When they serve no loftier purpose than themselves, they may be given the double epithet used above — havlei havalim,4 airy and foolish trivialities.

ולפקוח עיני העורים

and to open the eyes of the blind.

When the soul finds itself within the body and allows itself to be led by it, it resembles a sighted person whose eyes are bound, and who, intelligent though he may be, is then led about like an imbecile. If the soul, a part of G‑d Above, descends within a body but cannot restrict it from fulfilling its desires, it is considered to be blinded by the body, as the Tzemach Tzedek writes in Or HaTorah, at the conclusion of Parshat Behar.5 The “blindness” caused by the body must be healed, so that the soul may once again behold the truth.

יביטו לראות, להיות כל ישעם וחפצם ומגמתם, לכל בהם חיי רוחם

6Let them look and see to it that all their striving, longing and aiming, in7 everything on which the life of their spirit depends,8 should be bound up

במקור מים חיים, חיי החיים

in9 “the [Divine] Source of the living waters,” the10 “Fountainhead of all life,”

כל ימי חייהם, מנפש ועד בשר

throughout all the days of their lives, with respect11 to the soul as well as to the flesh.

Not only during prayer or Torah study or while performing mitzvot is a Jew to be bound to G‑d, but even while going about his mundane affairs he should be attached to Him as well.

דהיינו, כל מילי דעלמא ועסקי פרנסה לא יהיה כאלו דעבדין לגרמייהו

I.e., in all mundane matters and in the means by which one earns one’s livelihood, one should not be like those who do everything for their own sake, acting only out of their desire to satisfy themselves and their families, rather than for G‑d’s sake.

ולא יהיה בית ישראל ככל הגוים

Let not the House of Israel be like all the gentiles,12

דזנין ומפרנסין ומוקרין לנשייהו ובנייהו מאהבה

who13 feed, provide for and esteem their wives and children out of [self-] love.

I.e., since one loves himself he also loves his wife and children, who are a part of him. Rather, his love should be holy in its selflessness.

כי מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ, כתיב

For it is written:14 “Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth?”

דהיינו שגם בעניני ארץ לא יפרידו מאחד האמת, חס ושלום

This means that even in mundane (“earthly”) matters they will not, heaven forfend, separate15 [them] from G‑d’s true Unity,

The concept of the Unity of G‑d signifies that apart from Him nothing truly exists.

להעיד עדות שקר, חס ושלום, בקריאת שמע ערב ובוקר, בעינים סגורות

to bear false witness, heaven forfend, while reciting the Shema every evening and morning with closed eyes,

ה׳ אחד, בד׳ רוחות ובשמים ממעל ובארץ מתחת

[saying,]16 “G‑d is One” — in the four directions, and in the heavens above and on earth below,17 thus attesting to G‑d’s Unity even in the mundane realm,

ובפקוח עיני העורים

while as the eyes of the blind are opened, and here the Alter Rebbe addresses those whose eyes are blinded by corporeal matters:

התעיף עיניך בו ואיננו, חס ושלום

“Can you close your eyes upon Him, as if He is no more?”18 (heaven forfend).

This means to say that immediately upon opening his eyes after reciting the Shema, such a person can view the world as if it were a self-sufficient entity, separate and distinct from its Creator; accordingly, moreover, he conducts his affairs in a selfish manner rather than for the sake of heaven.

אך בזאת יאות לנו

Rather, this [approach] shall be befitting us —

להיות כל עסקינו במילי דעלמא לא לגרמייהו

that19 all our involvement with mundane affairs should be [conducted] not for its own sake,

כי אם להחיות נפשות, חלקי אלוה

but in order to animate souls, (i.e., to provide sustenance for fellow Jews, whose souls are veritably, so to speak,) portions of G‑d,

ולמלאות מחסוריהם בחסד חנם

and to supply what they lack, out of gratuitous kindness.

שבזה אנו מדמין הצורה ליוצרה, ה׳ אחד

In this way we make the form (the soul) resemble Him Who formed it, viz., “G‑d [Who] is One”;

אשר חסד אל כל היום, חסד של אמת

for20 “the Chesed of G‑d endures throughout the day,” i.e., at all times — a21 true Chesed, without thought of reward,

להחיות העולם ומלואו בכל רגע ורגע

that animates the universe and all that fills it, at every single moment.

In imitation of G‑d, Who thus dispenses kindness and ani-mates all created beings, man too should act kindly toward others and sustain those in need. Indeed, this should be his ultimate purpose when engaging in his work or in commerce: to be able to provide sustenance for the souls of his fellow Jews.

According to the above, however, one should provide for the needs of others to the very same degree that he provides for his own family. Why, then, should the needs of one’s own family take precedence over the needs of others? The Alter Rebbe answers this by saying:

רק שאשתו ובניו של אדם קודמין לכל, על פי התורה

It is only that according to the Torah22 a man’s wife and children take precedence over all others,

The Alter Rebbe wrote this Epistle in connection with the tzaddikim, R. Mendele Vitebsker and R. Avraham Kalisker, as well as their colleagues and disciples, who at the time of writing had already left the diaspora and were living in the Holy Land. The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to say:

חוץ מצדיקים שבדור, שהן קודמין לבניו

except23 for the tzaddikim of the generation, who take precedence over one’s children;

וצדיקים שבארץ ישראל קודמין לצדיקים שבחוץ לארץ

moreover, the tzaddikim in the Land of Israel take precedence over the tzaddikim in the diaspora,

לבד מזאת שלא הניחו כמותם בחוץ לארץ

apart from the fact that they did not leave anyone in the diaspora comparable to themselves.

ודי למבין

This will suffice for the discerning.