However, the following must be understood: Since the Divine illumination must inevitably result from G-d’s attribute of kindness and His tzedakah, why is man’s service necessary at all?

The Alter Rebbe answers this question by explaining that parallel to the above attribute, there also exists a Divine attribute of severity and contraction that seeks to limit and screen the diffusion of the G-dly light. It is man’s practice of kindness and tzedakah that ensures that the attribute of severity and gevurah will not hinder the flow of Divine radiance that is to be revealed to him during prayer.

Now, it is well known that Above, there is also an attribute of gevurah and tzimtzum

וְהִנֵּה, מוּדַעַת זֹאת, שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְמַעְלָה גַּם כֵּן מִדַּת הַגְּבוּרָה וְהַצִּמְצוּם,

that serves to contract and conceal the Divine light so that it will not become revealed to the lower worlds.

לְצַמְצֵם וּלְהַסְתִּיר אוֹרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ לְבַל יִתְגַּלֶּה לַתַּחְתּוֹנִים.

How is it, then, that this illumination is nevertheless revealed below?

However, everything depends on [man’s] arousal from below,

אַךְ הַכֹּל תָּלוּי בְּ"אִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא",

for if a man conducts himself with kindness, by bestowing life and chesed…, through acts of charity that sustain the unfortunate,

שֶׁאִם הָאָדָם מִתְנַהֵג בַּחֲסִידוּת לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ חַיִּים וָחֶסֶד כוּ'

he arouses its equivalent Above so that Divine kindness and illumination are bestowed upon him as well.

כָּךְ מְעוֹרֵר לְמַעְלָה,

For, as our Sages, of blessed memory, said, “With the measure a man metes, it shall be measured to him.”12 When an individual acts in a kindly manner toward his fellow, he will be treated with kindness from Above.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "בְּמִדָּה שֶׁאָדָם מוֹדֵד – בָּהּ מוֹדְדִין לוֹ".

It would appear, however, that this [Divine response] is not of the same measure. [Such an individual would appear to deserve] only that the life of the World to Come be granted to him, corresponding to his bestowal of life in this world,

אֶלָּא דְּלִכְאוֹרָה זוֹ אֵינָהּ מִן הַמִּדָּה, כִּי אִם לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ לוֹ חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם־הַבָּא לְבַד כְּנֶגֶד מַה שֶּׁהוּא מַשְׁפִּיעַ חַיֵּי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה,

The appropriate reward for man’s bestowal of physical life in his world should surely be a corresponding bestowal of spiritual life in a higher world, the World to Come.

but not that he be granted the life that comes from the illumination of the actual light of G-d,13

אֲבָל לֹא לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ לוֹ חַיֵּי הֶאָרַת אוֹר ה' [נוסח אחר: אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא] מַמָּשׁ,

to illumine and enlighten his darkness in “the service of the heart, meaning prayer,”

שֶׁיָּאִיר וְיַגִּיהַּ חָשְׁכּוֹ בַּ"עֲבוֹדָה שֶׁבַּלֵּב זוֹ תְּפִלָּה",

for the latter is a grade and level of “higher-level repentance” (teshuvah ilaah), as is well known,14 and as such is far superior to his actions,

שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת וּמַדְרֵגַת תְּשׁוּבָה עִילָּאָה כַּנּוֹדָע

inasmuch as it far surpasses all the life of the World to Come.

שֶׁהֲרֵי הִיא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִכָּל חַיֵּי עוֹלָם־הַבָּא,

As our Sages, of blessed memory, taught: “Better one hour of repentance and good deeds [in this world than all the life of the World to Come],”15

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "יָפָה שָׁעָה אַחַת בִּתְשׁוּבָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים כוּ'",

as explained elsewhere16 at length—that the World to Come is but a gleam and reflection [of the Divine Presence].

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר בַּאֲרִיכוּת, דְּעוֹלָם־הַבָּא אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא זִיו וְהֶאָרָה וְכוּ':

This leaves us with an apparent disproportion—that the practice of tzedakah before one’s prayers should result in the vastly superior revelation of teshuvah ilaah during prayer.