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

"זוֹרֵעַ צְדָקָה שֶׂכֶר אֱמֶת" (בְּמִשְׁלֵי י"א).

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

פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁשְּׂכַר זְרִיעַת הַצְּדָקָה הִיא מִדַּת אֱמֶת.

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 וַיִּסָּכְרוּ in the verse, “And the wellsprings of the deep were sealed.”2

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.

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

וּכְתִיב: "תִּתֵּן אֱמֶת לְיַעֲקֹב",

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:

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.

וּ"שְׁבָחָא דְּקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא מְסַדֵּר נְבִיָּא כוּ'", כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ.

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

פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הוּא הַנּוֹתֵן מִדַּת אֱמֶת לְיַעֲקֹב.

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?

וְצָרִיךְ לְהָבִין, וְכִי אֵין אֱמֶת בְּיַעֲקֹב חַס וְשָׁלוֹם עַד שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא יִתֵּן לוֹ מִלְמַעְלָה?

However, it is well known that the attribute of Jacob is the attribute of compassion.5

אַךְ הִנֵּה מוּדַעַת זֹאת, דְּמִדַּת יַעֲקֹב הִיא מִדַּת רַחֲמָנוּת,

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:

And the service of G-d through compassion

וַעֲבוֹדַת ה' בְּמִדַּת רַחֲמָנוּת

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

הִיא הַבָּאָה מֵהִתְעוֹרְרוּת רַחֲמִים רַבִּים בְּלֵב הָאָדָם עַל נִיצוֹץ אֱלֹקוּת שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ,

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.

הָרְחוֹקָה מֵאוֹר פְּנֵי ה' כַּאֲשֶׁר הוֹלֵךְ בְּחֹשֶׁךְ הַבְלֵי עוֹלָם,

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.

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

וְהִתְעוֹרְרוּת רַחֲמָנוּת זוֹ הִיא בָּאָה מֵהַתְּבוּנָה וְהַדַּעַת בִּגְדוּלַּת ה',

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

אֵיךְ שֶׁאֲפִילוּ הָעוֹלָמוֹת הָעֶלְיוֹנִים לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה עַד אֵין קֵץ כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיבֵי קַמֵּיהּ,

for all their [G-d-given] bounty and vitality derives from a mere ray and radiance of a single letter of His blessed Name,

כִּי כָּל שִׁפְעָם וְחַיּוּתָם אֵינוֹ רַק מִזִּיו וְהֶאָרָה מֵאוֹת אֶחָד מִשְּׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

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

כַּמַּאֲמָר: "בְּיוּ"ד נִבְרָא עוֹלָם־הַבָּא כוּ'".

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.

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

וְהִנֵּה, בְּזִיו וְהֶאָרָה זוֹ, שֶׁהוּא הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַחַיּוּת מִשְּׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ לְהַחֲיוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

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

הוּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ הֶבְדֵּל וְהֶפְרֵשׁ בֵּין עֶלְיוֹנִים לְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

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

שֶׁ"עוֹלָם הַזֶּה נִבְרָא בְּה' וְכוּ'",

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 hey 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 ray and radiance of the Divine Name; they do not relate to G-d’s Essence.

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

Also, all the variety of details within each world

וְכֵן כָּל שִׁינּוּיֵי הַפְּרָטִים שֶׁבְּכָל עוֹלָם וְעוֹלָם

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

הוּא לְפִי שִׁינּוּיֵי צֵירוּפֵי הָאוֹתִיּוֹת,

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

וְכֵן שִׁינּוּיֵי הַזְּמַנִּים בְּעָבָר הֹוֶה וְעָתִיד,

and all the variety of events throughout the changing times—

וְשִׁינּוּיֵי כָּל הַקּוֹרוֹת בְּחִילּוּפֵי הַזְּמַנִּים

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

הַכֹּל מִשִּׁינּוּיֵי צֵירוּפֵי הָאוֹתִיּוֹת,

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

שֶׁהֵן הֵן הַמְשָׁכַת הַחַיּוּת מִמִּדּוֹתָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ שְׁמוֹ

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

(כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים חֵלֶק ב' פֶּרֶק י"א).

All the abovementioned 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.

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

אֲבָל לְגַבֵּי מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ כְּתִיב: "אֲנִי ה' לֹא שָׁנִיתִי",

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

בֵּין בִּבְחִינַת שִׁינּוּיֵי הַהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת מֵרוּם הַמַּעֲלוֹת עַד לְמַטָּה מַטָּה,

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,”

שֶׁכְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ מָצוּי בָּעֶלְיוֹנִים – כָּךְ הוּא מַמָּשׁ בְּשָׁוֶה בַּתַּחְתּוֹנִים

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

(וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים חֵלֶק א' פֶּרֶק נ"א),

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.

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

וּבֵין בִּבְחִינַת שִׁינּוּיֵי הַזְּמַן,

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

שֶׁכְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיָה הוּא לְבַדּוֹ הוּא, יָחִיד וּמְיוּחָד, לִפְנֵי שֵׁשֶׁת יְמֵי בְרֵאשִׁית – כָּךְ הוּא עַתָּה אַחַר הַבְּרִיאָה,

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

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

וְהַיְינוּ, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁהַכֹּל כְּאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ לְגַבֵּי מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ,

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,

וּכְמוֹ אוֹת אֶחָד מִדִּבּוּרוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם אוֹ אֲפִילוּ מִמַּחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ לְגַבֵּי כְּלָלוּת מַהוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַשִּׂכְלִית וְעַצְמוּתָהּ,

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:

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,

עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, לְשַׁכֵּךְ אֶת הָאֹזֶן,

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

וּבֶאֱמֶת "אֵין עֲרוֹךְ אֵלֶיךָ" כְּתִיב,

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 whatsoever to the Creator.

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

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר (בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים חֵלֶק ב' פֶּרֶק ט') עַיֵּין שָׁם.

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

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "הַמֶּלֶךְ הַמְרוֹמָם לְבַדּוֹ מֵאָז",

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

פֵּירוּשׁ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁ"מֵּאָז" קוֹדֶם הַבְּרִיאָה הָיָה הוּא לְבַדּוֹ הוּא,

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

כָּךְ עַתָּה הוּא "מְרוֹמָם כוּ'" וּ"מִתְנַשֵּׂא מִימוֹת עוֹלָם",

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

פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁהוּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִבְּחִינַת זְמַן הַנִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם "יְמוֹת עוֹלָם",

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,

וְהַיְינוּ לְפִי שֶׁחַיּוּת כָּל "יְמוֹת עוֹלָם" הוּא רַק מִבְּחִינַת "הַמֶּלֶךְ כוּ'",

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,

as is explained elsewhere.13

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁמְּבוֹאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

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

It follows that there is extremely great cause to feel compassion for the spark, which is a part of G-d Above,”14 that dwells in the dark and gloomy body—the “hide of the snake.”15

וְאֵי לָזֹאת, הָרַחֲמָנוּת גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד מְאֹד עַל הַנִּיצוֹץ הַשּׁוֹכֵן בַּגּוּף הֶחָשׁוּךְ וְהָאָפֵל, מַשְׁכָּא דְחִוְיָא,

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,

הֶעָלוּל לְקַבֵּל טוּמְאָה וּלְהִתְגָּאֵל בְּכָל הַתַּאֲווֹת רַחֲמָנָא לִצְּלָן,

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

לוּלֵי שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מָגֵן לוֹ

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

וְנוֹתֵן לוֹ עוֹז וְתַעֲצוּמוֹת לִלְחוֹם עִם הַגּוּף וְתַאֲוֹתָיו וּלְנַצְּחָן,

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.

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

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "אֲדוֹן עוּזֵּנוּ כוּ' מָגֵן יִשְׁעֵנוּ כוּ'".

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.