ו זורע צדקה שכר אמת (במשלי י״א)

“He who sows tzedakah has a ‘reward’ of truth” (Proverbs 11).1

פירוש: ששכר זריעת הצדקה היא מדת אמת

This means that the attribute of truth is the (G‑d-given) reward for sowing tzedakah.

The term “this means” is generally used to forestall an alternative interpretation. Here, too, by this term the Alter Rebbe stresses that we are to understand the Hebrew word secher to mean “reward” rather than its being understood to mean “closing off and restraining” (water or whatever, in order to concentrate it). The latter interpretation is that of Rashi; a parallel term is the word ויסכרו in the verse,2 “And the wellsprings of the deep were sealed.”

Furthermore, even the Targum and other commentaries who do read secher to mean “payment of a reward,” can be understood to mean that the individual who sows charity receives a true reward, i.e., an everlasting reward, rather than a reward that consists of truth.

The Alter Rebbe therefore specifies: “This means” that the reward granted from above for sowing tzedakah is — the attribute of truth.

וכתיב: תתן אמת ליעקב

It is also written,3 “You give truth unto Jacob,” which would appear to indicate once again that the attribute of truth is granted from Above.

According to the commentaries of Rashi and Targum, however, this verse does not describe a state of affairs. Rather, it petitions that G‑d give truth (“Give truth unto Jacob”), that He fulfill for Jacob’s children the truthful promises that He had made to Jacob. Hence this verse does not prove that the attribute of truth is a gift granted from Above.

The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to specify that this verse is to be understood in the same light as the verse quoted at the outset of this epistle, as follows:

ושבחא דקודשא בריך הוא מסדר נביא כו׳, כמו שכתוב בזוהר הקדוש

And [here] the prophet [Micah] speaks the praises of the Holy One, blessed be He, as is written in the holy Zohar.4 I.e., rather than petitioning G‑d, this verse extols Him for fulfilling his promise of granting the attribute of truth to Jacob.

פירוש: שהקדוש ברוך הוא, הוא הנותן מדת אמת ליעקב

This means that it is the Holy One, blessed be He, Who gives the attribute of truth unto Jacob.

וצריך להבין: וכי אין אמת ליעקב, חס ושלום, עד שהקדוש ברוך הוא יתן לו מלמעלה

Now this needs to be understood: Does Jacob have no truth, heaven forfend, until the Holy One, blessed be He, gives it to him from above?

אך הנה מודעת זאת דמדת יעקב היא מדת רחמנות

However, it is well known5 that the attribute of Jacob is the attribute of compassion.

Abraham epitomizes Chesed, the attribute of kindness; Isaac epitomizes Gevurah, the attribute of severity; the predominant attribute of Jacob is Tiferet, or Rachamim, compassion. The inward aspect of the soul’s divine service when motivated by Chesed is — the love of G‑d; the inward aspect of the soul’s divine service when motivated by Gevurah is — the awe of G‑d; so, too, divine service when motivated by compassion has its distinctive inward aspect:

ועבודת ה׳ במדת רחמנות

And the service of G‑d through compassion

היא הבאה מהתעוררות רחמים רבים בלב האדם על ניצוץ אלקות שבנפשו

derives from the arousal, in a man’s heart, of profound compassion for the Divine spark in his soul,

הרחוקה מאור פני ה׳, כאשר הולך בחשך הבלי עולם

which is distant from the light of G‑d’s Countenance whenever [the man] goes about in the darkness of the vanities of the world.

When a man finds himself straying forlorn in a state of spiritual darkness, he can thus awaken within himself a feeling of compassion for the soul-spark within him that he himself has banished from the light of its Divine Source.

והתעוררות רחמנות זו היא באה מהתבונה והדעת בגדולת ה׳

This arousal of compassion itself derives from (and is proportionate to) [a man’s] understanding and deep cognition of the greatness of G‑d:

איך שאפילו העולמות העליונים, למעלה מעלה עד אין קץ, כלא ממש חשיבי קמיה

[he reflects upon] how even the most infinitely sublime worlds are considered as truly naught before Him.

כי כל שפעם וחיותם אינו רק מזיו והארה מאות אחד משמו יתברך

For all their [G‑d-given] bounty and vitality derives from a mere gleam or reflection of a single letter of His blessed Name,

כמאמר: ביו״ד נברא עולם הבא כו׳

as it is written,6 “The World to Come was created [merely] by the letter yud [of the Divine Name].”

The spiritual worlds, all of which are included in the term “World to Come,” were thus all created by means of the single letter yud of the Divine Name.

והנה בזיו והארה זו, שהוא התפשטות החיות משמו יתברך להחיות עליונים ותחתונים

Now it is in this radiation and reflection, which is an extension of the life-giving energy [that flows] from [G‑d’s] blessed Name to animate the higher and lower beings,

הוא שיש הבדל והפרש בין עליונים לתחתונים

that there is a distinction and difference with respect to higher and lower beings,

שעולם הזה נברא בה׳ וכו׳

so that “this world was created through the letter hei,” and so on, while the higher worlds were created through the letter yud.

As explained in the previous epistle, this lowly corporeal world receives its vitality only from the “matter” or “body” of the letters of Supernal speech, which in turn derives from the letter hei of the Divine Name. The higher worlds, however, receive their vitality from the “form” or “soul” of these letters, and this derives from the level of Chochmah, represented by the yud of the Divine Name. However, these different modes in which the life-giving influence of the Divine Name is diffused to the upper and lower worlds respectively, relate only to the radiation and reflection of the Divine Name; they do not relate to G‑d’s Essence.

(Moreover, any name is a mere reflection of the essence of the entity named. A person’s name, for example, is not his essence: it merely reflects it; it is merely a means of relating to another person. In the same way, the Divine Name is merely a reflection of the essence of the Divine.)

Until now the Alter Rebbe has spoken in general terms of the differences between the higher and lower worlds.

וכן כל שינויי הפרטים שבכל עולם ועולם

Also, all the variety of details within each world

הוא לפי שינויי צירופי האותיות

is determined by differences in the combinations of the letters through which they were created.

וכן שינויי הזמנים בעבר, הוה ועתיד

So, too, the distinctions between the temporal dimensions of past, present and future,

ושינויי כל הקורות בחילופי הזמנים

and all the variety of events throughout the changing times, —

הכל משינויי צירופי האותיות

all of these, too, are determined by differences in the combinations of the letters.

שהן הן המשכת החיות ממדותיו, יתברך שמו

For [these combinations of letters] are the conduits of the life-giving force that proceeds from attributes of [G‑d] (Blessed be His Name),

(כמו שכתוב בלקוטי אמרים חלק ב׳, פרק י״א)

(7as explained in Likkutei Amarim, Part II, ch. 11).

All the above-mentioned differences are to be found only in the flow of vitality which emanates from G‑d’s attributes and which then descends through the letters of His creative speech.

אבל לגבי מהותו ועצמותו יתברך, כתיב: אני ה׳ לא שניתי

But as for His blessed Being and Essence, it is written:8 “I, G‑d, have not changed” as a result of creation —

בין בבחינת שינויי ההשתלשלות, מרום המעלות עד למטה מטה

neither (a) in terms of changes in the progression from the uppermost of levels to the nethermost,

שכמו שהוא יתברך מצוי בעליונים, כך הוא ממש בשוה בתחתונים

for just as He is present in the higher worlds, so [is He present] in precisely the same measure in the nether worlds, since from His perspective there is absolutely no difference between them: all are equally distant from Him, “for no thought can apprehend Him at all, even in the higher worlds,”

(וכמו שכתוב בלקוטי אמרים חלק א׳, פרק נ״א)

(9as is explained in Likkutei Amarim, Part I, ch. 51),

The higher and lower worlds differ only in relation to the stream of life-giving energy that flows forth from Him: this vitality is more revealed in the higher worlds than in the lower.

ובין בבחינת שינויי הזמן

nor (b) in terms of temporal changes [is there any difference from G‑d’s perspective];

שכמו שהיה הוא לבדו הוא, יחיד ומיוחד, לפני ששת ימי בראשית, כך הוא עתה אחר הבריאה

for just as He was alone, one and unique, before the Six Days of Creation, so He is now after Creation.

But how can G‑d’s absolute unity remain unaltered, despite the advent of a whole created universe?

והיינו: משום שהכל כאין ואפס ממש, לגבי מהותו ועצמותו

This is so because everything is absolutely as nothing and naught in relation to His being and essence,

וכמו אות אחד מדבורו של אדם, או אפילו ממחשבתו, לגבי כללות מהות הנפש השכלית ועצמותה

just as a single letter of a man’s speech, or even of his thought, [is of absolutely no consequence] in relation to the entire being and essence of the rational soul,

I.e., this is true not only of a letter of speech but also of thought, even though the soul-garment of thought is more abstract and subtle than speech and is thus closer to the soul.

It is the intellect of the rational soul that causes the emergence of the emotions; this, in turn, leads to thought and speech. Thus, in comparison to the essence of the soul itself, which transcends even intellect by far, one letter of speech or even of thought is of absolutely no consequence.

However, the above analogy is merely offered:

על דרך משל, לשכך את האזן

metaphorically speaking, to appease the ear, in order to give finite mortals some inkling of the insignificance of creation in the eyes of the Creator,

ובאמת אין ערוך אליך, כתיב

while in fact, as it is written,10 “There is no comparison unto You.”

Unlike the single letter of thought or speech that bears some degree of comparison to the soul, albeit an infinitesimal one, creation stands in no proportion whatever to the Creator.

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר (בלקוטי אמרים חלק ב׳, פרק ט׳,) עיין שם

This is explained elsewhere (11in Likkutei Amarim, Part II, ch. 9); see there.

וזהו שאומרים: המלך המרומם לבדו מאז

This underlies what we say in the daily prayers:12 “The King Who is exalted, alone from aforetime.”

פירוש: כמו מאז, קודם הבריאה, היה הוא לבדו הוא

This means that just as aforetime, before the creation, He was alone, and apart from Him nothing existed,

כך עתה הוא מרומם כו׳ ומתנשא מימות עולם

so now, too, He is exalted and elevated beyond “the days of the world.”

פירוש: שהוא רם ונשא למעלה מעלה מבחינת זמן, הנקרא בשם ימות עולם

This means that He is exalted and elevated, transcending the dimension of time, which is known as “the days of the world.”

והיינו: לפי שחיות כל ימות עולם הוא רק מבחינת המלך כו'

This is so because the life-force of all “the days of the world,” the life-force of the dimension of time, derives solely from the spiritual level known as “the King,” i.e., from the Sefirah of Malchut,

The axis of past, present and future — the element of time — relates only to the Sefirah of Malchut; concerning this level we may differentiate between the phrases, “He reigned,” “He reigns,” and “He shall reign.” However, the Sefirot and attributes that are above Malchut transcend the element of time,

וכמו שמבואר במקום אחר

as is explained elsewhere.13

Since G‑d utterly transcends creation, which is absolutely of no consequence in relation to His Essence:

ואי לזאת, הרחמנות גדולה מאד מאד על הניצוץ השוכן בגוף החשוך והאפל, משכא דחויא

It follows that there is extremely great cause to feel compassion for the spark, which is14 “a part of G‑d Above,” that dwells in the dark and gloomy body — the15 “hide of the snake.”

העלול לקבל טומאה ולהתגאל בכל התאוות, רחמנא ליצלן

For [the body] is liable to contract impurity by indulging in prohibited things that derive from the three utterly impure kelipot, and to become defiled by various lusts (May the Merciful One spare us) involving things which, though permitted, derive from kelipat nogah,

לולי שהקדוש ברוך הוא מגן לו

if not for G‑d’s serving the man as a shield,

ונותן לו עוז ותעצומות ללחום עם הגוף ותאותיו ולנצחן

and giving him strength and might to wage war with the body and its passions and to triumph over them.

Even when the body does not actually lust after physical pleasures, the very fact that it is so inclined points to its lowly state — and it is within such a body that the Divine spark is obliged to spend its days.

וזהו שאומרים: אדון עוזנו כו׳ מגן ישענו כו׳

And this is the meaning of [the continuation of the prayer],16 “Master of our strength, Shield of our salvation.”

After extolling G‑d as “the King who is exalted, alone from aforetime,” and beseeching Him in His “abundant mercies to have compassion on us,” we continue with the above-quoted phrases. With these words we affirm that G‑d provides us with an encompassing light and power, far transcending man’s own puny powers, that enables us to triumph over the body and its passions.

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