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.

והנה מודעת זאת שיש למעלה גם כן מדת הגבורה והצמצום

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

לצמצם ולהסתיר אורו יתברך, לבל יתגלה לתחתונים

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

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

אך הכל תלוי באתערותא דלתתא

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

שאם האדם מתנהג בחסידות, להשפיע חיים וחסד כו׳

For if a man conducts himself with kindness, by bestowing life and Chesed..., through acts of charity that sustain the unfortunate,

כך מעורר למעלה

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

כמו שאמרו רז״ל: במדה שאדם מודד בה, מודדין לו

For, as our Sages, of blessed memory, said,1 “With the measure a man metes, it shall be measured to him.” When an individual acts in a kindly manner towards his fellow, he will be treated with kindness from Above.

אלא דלכאורה זו אינה מן המדה, כי אם להשפיע לו חיי העולם הבא לבד, כנגד מה שהוא משפיע חיי עולם הזה

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,

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.

אבל לא להשפיע לו חיי הארת אור ה׳ נוסח אחר: אין סוף ברוך הוא ממש

but not that he be granted the life that comes from the illumination of the actual light of G‑d,2

שיאיר ויגיה חשכו בעבודה שבלב, זו תפלה

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

שהיא בחינת ומדרגת תשובה עילאה, כנודע

For the latter is a grade and level of “higher-level repentance” (teshuvah ilaah), as is well known,3 and as such is far superior to his actions,

שהרי היא למעלה מעלה מכל חיי עולם הבא

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

כמו שאמרו רז״ל: יפה שעה אחת בתשובה ומעשים טובים כו׳

As our Sages, of blessed memory, taught:4 “Better one hour of repentance and good deeds [in this world than all the life of the World to Come],”

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר באריכות, דעולם הבא אינו אלא זיו והארה וכו׳

as explained elsewhere5 at length — that the World to Come is but a gleam and reflection [of the Divine Presence].

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.