Now the essence of penitence is in the heart,

וְהִנֵּה, עִיקַּר הַתְּשׁוּבָה הוּא בַּלֵּב,

for through regret from the depth of the heart, one arouses the [corresponding] depth (i.e., the ultimate degree) of this supreme light.

כִּי עַל־יְדֵי הַחֲרָטָה מֵעוּמְקָא דְלִבָּא מְעוֹרֵר עוֹמֶק אוֹר הָעֶלְיוֹן הַזֶּה.

I.e., a man’s earnest penitence calls forth the above-described superior spiritual light which rectifies whatever he had been lacking in his fulfillment of the Torah and its mitzvot.

But in order to call forth [this light] so that it will radiate in the higher and lower worlds,

אַךְ כְּדֵי לְהַמְשִׁיכוֹ לְהָאִיר בָּעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים

there must be an actual arousal from below in the form of action,

צָרִיךְ "אִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא" מַמָּשׁ בִּבְחִינַת מַעֲשֶׂה,

viz., the practice of charity and kindness without limit and measure.

דְּהַיְינוּ, מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה וָחֶסֶד בְּלִי גְבוּל וּמִדָּה,

For just as a man dispenses rav chesed, an infinite abundance of kindness

דִּכְמוֹ שֶׁהָאָדָם מַשְׁפִּיעַ רַב חֶסֶד,

[the first two letters of חֶסֶד] meaning “he pities” [and the last letter when spelled out meaning, in Aramaic,] “he who has not,”

פֵּירוּשׁ חָ"ס דְּלֵי"ת,

implying [that he dispenses his kindness] to the utterly destitute individual who does not have (deleit lei) anything of his own,

דְּהַיְינוּ לְדַל וְאֶבְיוֹן "דְּלֵית לֵיהּ מִגַּרְמֵיהּ כְּלוּם",

without setting a limit or measure to his giving and diffusion—

וְאֵינוֹ נוֹתֵן גְּבוּל וּמִדָּה לִנְתִינָתוֹ וְהַשְׁפָּעָתוֹ,

so, too, the Holy One, blessed be He, diffuses His light and benign influence in the spirit of the superior chesed, known as rav chesed,

כָּךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַשְׁפִּיעַ אוֹרוֹ וְטוּבוֹ בִּבְחִינַת חֶסֶד עִילָּאָה, הַנִּקְרָא "רַב חֶסֶד",

that radiates infinitely, without limit or measure, within the upper and lower worlds,

הַמֵּאִיר בִּבְחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף בְּלִי גְבוּל וּמִדָּה תּוֹךְ הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

for in relation to Him, blessed be He, all are in a state of deleit (“having nothing”),

שֶׁכּוּלָּם הֵם בִּבְחִינַת דְּלֵי"ת אֶצְלוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

inasmuch as they have nothing at all of their own,

דְּלֵית לְהוֹן מִגַּרְמֵיהוֹן כְּלוּם,

and all before Him are considered as nothing.

וְ"כוֹלָּא קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא חֲשִׁיבֵי",

Since all of creation is of no account in the eyes of G-d, anything received from His hand is not deserved but a gratuitous gift, as, indeed, is the very fact that mortal endeavors are able to draw down Divine light.

At any rate, boundless tzedakah and kindness draw down the degree of Divine radiance that transcends all worlds.

All the blemishes that a man caused above, in the upper and the lower worlds, through his sins, are thereby rectified.

וְעַל־יְדֵי זֶה נִתְקְנוּ כָּל הַפְּגָמִים שֶׁפָּגַם הָאָדָם בַּעֲוֹנוֹתָיו לְמַעְלָה בָּעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים.

Thus, the measured performance of tzedakah and chesed draws down chesed olam, which is a worldlike (hence, a finite) degree of Divine benevolence, while the boundless performance of tzedakah and chesed draws down rav chesed, an infinite degree of Divine benevolence.

This is the meaning of the verse, “G-d prefers tzedakah and justice36 over offerings,”37

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "עֲשֹׂה צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט נִבְחָר לַה' מִזָּבַח",

because the sacrifices are defined in terms of quantity, dimension, and limitation,

לְפִי שֶׁהַקָּרְבָּנוֹת הֵן בִּבְחִינַת שִׁיעוּר וּמִדָּה וּגְבוּל,

while charity can be dispensed without limit, for the purpose of rectifying one’s sins.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בִּצְדָקָה שֶׁיּוּכַל לְפַזֵּר בְּלִי גְבוּל לְתַקֵּן עֲוֹנוֹתָיו.

Although (like the sacrifices) tzedakah also effects atonement, it may be offered (unlike the sacrifices) without limit. It is therefore able to draw down Divine illumination that is correspondingly infinite and thereby secure a superior order of atonement.

As for the ruling that “He who is unstinting [in his charitable giving] should not expend more than one-fifth [of his earnings],”38

וּמַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ: "הַמְבַזְבֵּז אַל יְבַזְבֵּז יוֹתֵר מֵחוֹמֶשׁ",

this applies only to one who has not sinned,

הַיְינוּ דַוְקָא בְּמִי שֶׁלֹּא חָטָא,

or who has rectified his sins by means of self-mortification and fasts,

אוֹ שֶׁתִּקֵּן חֲטָאָיו בְּסִיגּוּפִים וְתַעֲנִיּוֹת

as indeed, all the blemishes Above should be rectified.

כָּרָאוּי, לְתַקֵּן כָּל הַפְּגָמִים לְמַעְלָה.

Since such an individual need not give tzedakah to rectify his sins, he should not give more than a fifth.

But as to one who still needs to remedy his soul,

אֲבָל מִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לְתַקֵּן נַפְשׁוֹ עֲדַיִין,

the healing of the soul is obviously no less a priority than the healing of the body,

פְּשִׁיטָא דְּלָא גָרְעָה רְפוּאַת הַנֶּפֶשׁ מֵרְפוּאַת הַגּוּף,

where money does not count.

שֶׁאֵין כֶּסֶף נֶחְשָׁב –

As Scripture states, “Whatever a man has, he will give on behalf of his soul.”39

"וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לָאִישׁ יִתֵּן בְּעַד נַפְשׁוֹ" כְּתִיב.

The simple meaning of the verse is that a person will forego all his wealth in order to save his life. However, since the word “soul” is used rather than “life,” we may also understand this to mean that a person will give everything he has in order to save and rectify his soul.