אחרי דרישת שלומם כמשפט לאוהבי שמו

Having first duly inquired after the welfare of those who love [G‑d’s] Name,

This pastoral letter was written by the Alter Rebbe to rouse those of his followers who had pledged an annual contribution to Kollel Chabad. This fund supported their fellow chassidim who had settled in the Land of Israel, where they now studied Torah and engaged in divine service. The Alter Rebbe here urges that instead of waiting until the end of the year, his followers should give part of the promised sum weekly or at least monthly. For apart from the quality of alacrity, the eager promptness that ought to be displayed during the performance of mitzvot in general and the mitzvah of tzedakah (“charity”) in particular, there is an additional quality involved, as will soon be explained.

The Alter Rebbe begins this epistle by greeting his fellow Jews as “lovers of G‑d’s Name.”1 This appellation especially suits those helping their brethren who serve G‑d in the Holy Land. For upon this land2 “G‑d’s gaze is fixed constantly,” and this verse uses G‑d’s ineffable Name Havayah, indicating that the Land is directly illuminated and animated by the sublime level of Divinity indicated by that singular and unique Name.

אל המתנדבים בעם, לעשות צדקת ה׳ עם ארצו הקדושה

those among the people who willingly volunteer to practice the righteous charitability of G‑d towards His Holy Land

לתת מדי שנה בשנה חוק הקצוב, מעות ארצנו הקדושה, תבנה ותכונן במהרה בימינו

by giving every year a set sum of money for [the inhabitants of] our Holy Land (May it be rebuilt and established speedily, in our days!),

אליהם תטוף מלתי, ותזל כטל אמרתי

“may my word [call]”3 to them and “my speech trickle like dew”4

לזרז לזריזים

in order to bestir those who are [naturally] swift, for5 “One hurries only the swift,”

ולחזק ידים רפות

and to strengthen weak hands,6 for their unquestioned willingness7 is hampered only by their poverty,

במתן דמים, מעות ארץ ישראל, מדי שבת בשבתו, ולפחות מדי חדש בחדשו, מערכו הקצוב לערך שנה

so that they should contribute moneys for the Land of Israel every week, or at least every month,8 from the amount assigned for the year, proportionately,

וכל כסף הקדשים אשר עלה על לב איש להתנדב בלי נדר לפרנסת אחינו, יושבי ארצנו הקדושה, מדי שנה בשנה

as well as all the9 “dedicated money” that each individual was inspired to donate annually (without a vow) for the support of our brethren who live in the Holy Land.

It would seem that in these last few lines the Alter Rebbe means to add the following: Not only are the amounts that were always given in previous years to be given henceforth on a weekly or monthly basis, but additional amounts are to be divided likewise.

כי הנה, מלבד הידוע לכל גודל מעלת הזריזות בכל המצות, הנאמר ונשנה בדברי רז״ל: לעולם יקדים אדם לדבר מצוה כו׳

For, first of all, everyone knows the great virtue of alacrity with respect to all commandments, which is spoken of repeatedly in the words of our Sages, of blessed memory. [For example:]10 “At all times should one be prompt in [fulfilling] a commandment.”

וזריזותיה דאברהם אבינו, עליו השלום, היא העומדת לעד לנו ולבנינו עד עולם

So, too, it is [the merit of]11 “the eager promptness of our father Abraham” (peace upon him), who hastened to the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac,12 that stands by us and our children, for ever.

כי העקדה עצמה אינה נחשבה כל כך לנסיון גדול, לערך מעלת אברהם אבינו, עליו השלום

For the Akedah itself, which G‑d constantly recalls, is not really regarded as so great a test in relation to the stature of our father Abraham, peace upon him,

בשגם כי ה׳ דיבר בו: קח נא את בנך כו׳

especially considering that G‑d Himself said to him,13 “Please take your son, [and bring him as an offering].”

והרי כמה וכמה קדושים שמסרו נפשם על קדושת ה׳, גם כי לא דיבר ה׳ בם

After all, there have been numerous saintly individuals who gave their lives for the sanctification of G‑d, even though He did not speak to them.

How, then, can this be considered such a great test for Abraham, when G‑d Himself commanded him to offer his son?

רק שאברהם אבינו, עליו השלום, עשה זאת בזריזות נפלאה

The point is that our father Abraham (peace upon him) did this with wondrous alacrity, for, as the verse testifies,14 “Abraham rose very early and [himself15] saddled his donkey,”

להראות שמחתו וחפצו למלאות רצון קונו, ולעשות נחת רוח ליוצרו

in order to demonstrate — to others as well — his joy and eager desire to fulfill the will of his Master and to bring gratification to his Maker.

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of blessed memory, explains in a discourse dated the 12th of Tammuz 5709,16 that the divine service of penitents should involve affecting others as well. Now the challenge of the Akedah required that Abraham, the epitome of love and kindness, reverse his essential nature, in which the attribute of Chesed predominated, and act with all the severity of the attribute of Gevurah. (Hence G‑d avers,17 “I now know that you fear G‑d.”) In this diametrical reversal Abraham resembled a penitent. And, like a penitent, he sought to share with others his delight at fulfilling G‑d’s will.

וממנו למדו רז״ל לקיום כל המצות בכלל, ובפרט מעשה הצדקה העולה על כולנה

Indeed, it was from [the example of Abraham], and with the power that he vested within all his descendants, that our Sages (of blessed memory)18 learned [that alacrity is required] in the fulfillment of all the commandments in general, and in particular with respect to the act of charity which is superior to them all,19

המגינה ומצלה בפירותיה בעולם הזה מכל מיני פורעניות המתרגשות

in that it protects and saves one — by its20 “fruits [that are repaid] in this world”21 — from all kinds of calamities that may come about,

כדכתיב: וצדקה תציל ממות, וכל שכן משאר מיני יסורים הקלים ממות

as it is written,22 “And tzedakah saves from death,” and how much more so, from other kinds of suffering that are milder than death.

כל שכן שטוב לנו, גם בעולם הזה, להקדימה כל מה דאפשר

It is thus certainly to our benefit, even in this world, to be as expeditious as possible in [the giving of charity], even more so than in the fulfillment of other commandments, whose reward may not be as palpable in this world,

שהרי אדם נידון בכל יום

for, after all,23 “A man is judged every day,” so that it is quite possible that he is in need of the merit of today’s tzedakah to protect him from today’s judgment.