The mystical meaning of tzedaka and prayer is that since [because of mankind's sins] the yud-hei has been separated from the vav-hei, we must give tzedaka or pray in order to unify G‑d's Name with His Shechinah, with fear and love, in the name of all Israel. Misdeeds are possible only because the intellect is divorced from the emotions…

Misdeeds are possible only because the intellect is divorced from the emotions [and their expression]. Intellectually, a person can understand that it is not right for him to do evil. But as long as this understanding is not given the opportunity (usually through contemplation and meditation) to affect the way he feels about things, it remains abstract and sterile.

The yud-hei of G‑d's name Havayah signify, as we have explained previously, the sefirot of chochma and bina, respectively, the two principal components of the intellect. The vav-hei signifies the emotions (considered collectively) and their means of expression (thought, speech, and action).

By renewing our connection to G‑d in prayer or performing acts of loving-kindness, we show that our intellect is indeed affecting our emotions and actions, thus healing the breach between the two halves of G‑d's Name. The purpose of giving charity before prayer is to unify the yud-hei which is separated from the vav-hei

As we know, the first two letters of the name Havayah are a name of G‑d in their own right, the name Y-ah. The final hei of the name Havayah, which descends to express the intellect and emotions of the first three letters into the lower worlds, is termed the Shechinah, the "Divine Presence".

The purpose of giving charity before prayer is to unify the [first two letters of the name Havayah] yud-hei, which is separated from the [final two letters] vav-hei.

Before performing a good deed or giving charity, it is necessary to say, "[I am doing this] in order to unify the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and His Shechinah, in love and fear [of G‑d] in the name of all Israel." [In this way] he will connect the yud-hei with the vav-hei.

The one giving charity should intend to unite the [letters of the] name Havayah in the following way:

By giving charity, we facilitate the union of the partzufim; this then allows divine beneficence to flow unrestricted.

The coin he gives to the poor person manifests the yud of the name Havayah.

The coin is the concentrated point of divine beneficence, similar to the yud, the smallest of the letters, which signifies the seminal drop of insight [i.e. chochma].

The five fingers of the hand of the giver manifest the [first] hei of the name Havayah.

The numerical value of the hei is 5.

His extended arm manifests the vav of the name Havayah.

Since the arm is visually similar to the form of the vav, essentially a straight line.

The five fingers of the hand of the recipient manifest the final hei of the name Havayah.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "and the act of charity will be peace." (Isaiah 32:17)

Giving charity makes peace between the estranged letters of the name Havayah.

The mystical meaning of charity is as follows:

When you give a coin, consider the word for "coin" [in Hebrew, "perutah"] to be made up of two letter-groups: pei-reish-tet and vav-hei. The origin of strict judgment is from the 288 Sparks [of Tohu that fell]; when the kolel [one, signifying the word as a whole] is added, we have the numerical value of pei-reish-tet.

Pei-reish-tet = 80 + 200 + 9 = 289.

Evil, suffering, and all varieties of occultation of the divine presence result cosmologically from the collapse of the world of Tohu, in which the sparks of holiness of this world became embedded in the gross materiality (relative or actual) of the subsequently created worlds. The general number of these sparks is 288.

These [sparks] are existentially ensconced within the final hei [of the name Havayah].

The final hei, malchut, is the sefira of any world that descends into the next lower world in order to bring it into being and sustain it. It thus embodies the principle of descent.

When we join the [final] hei with the vav, the individual aspects of the judgments are sweetened; this occurs by giving charity.

The letter-group pei-reish-tet spells the word for "individual aspect" [in Hebrew, "perat"].

The numerical value of the word "tzedaka" [plus the kolel] is the same as the combined numerical values of the names Elokim, Ado-nai, the number 45, and 4 [for the four] letters of the name [Havayah].

Tzedaka: tzadik-dalet-kuf-hei = 90 + 4 + 100 + 5 = 199.

Elokim: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86.

Ado-nai: alef-dalet-nun-yud = 1 + 4 + 50 + 10 = 65.

86 + 65 + 45 + 4 = 200.

The meaning of this is that the names Elokim and Ado-nai [which both signify strict judgment] are sweetened by tzedaka, performed with the name MaH. When you give charity, intend that thereby the kuf will become a hei

Generally, MaH, the name Havayah spelled out such that its numerical value is 45, signifies selflessness. Thus, we see here the importance of giving tzedaka selflessly.

We will now explain the mystical meaning of the phrase: "You shall surely open your hand to your brother, your poor, and your destitute of your land." (Deut. 15:11)

"You shall surely open your hand to your brother…" - this refers to yesod;

"…in your land." - this refers to Nukva, i.e., [the union of] both [Zeir Anpin and Nukva] together, for through tzedaka, tzedek [yesod] and tzedaka [malchut] unite, as is known.

As we know, "the land" is an appellation for malchut, the lowest sefira.

Another aspect of tzedaka: The letter kuf alludes to Cain [as above], "the nest of impurity", the spreading of the [venom of the primordial] snake.

Specifically, this refers to the "leg" of the kuf [as above].

When you give charity, intend that thereby the kuf will become a hei, as the extension of the leg of the kuf is withdrawn upward, producing the form of the hei. [When this occurs,] it prevents the forces of evil from latching on [and deriving sustenance this way].

I heard [this latter idea] from Rabbi Eliyahu Falcon, in my teacher's [the Ari's] name.

Rabbi Chaim Vital, who recorded the teachings of the Arizal, tells us: The Ari would give charity with great joy…and sometimes he would not even look to see if there would be any money left for himself…

As for philanthropy and generosity, I observed that my master [the Ari] was not particular that his own clothes be terribly fancy, that he only ate a very little, and that - with regards to his wife's expenses - he would dispense [funds] according to her wish. My master would give charity with great joy and good-heartedness, open-handedly, and sometimes he would not even look to see if there would be any money left for himself or not.

My master said that every commandment is associated with one of the twenty-two letters [of the Hebrew alphabet], and that when someone performs a commandment, the letter associated with that commandment shines on his forehead, replacing the letter shining on his forehead from the previous commandment he performed. [The letter remains on his forehead] only as long as he is performing the commandment [with which it is associated]; afterwards it is absorbed within [him]... But if he performs the commandment of charity, the letter associated with it does not disappear as fast as the letters associated with other commandments, but rather continues to shine on his forehead the whole week. This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "His righteousness [tzedaka] endures forever" (Psalms 111:3, 112:3, 9).

Regarding buying things that are used for performing the Torah's commandments, such as a lulav and etrog, I saw that my master would give the merchants all they asked for the first time [they named a price], and did not try to bargain with them. Sometimes he placed his wallet before them and told them to take what they want. He told me that one should not bargain over the prices one pays to do mitzvot. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says the same thing in the Zohar.

[Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Torah, Shaar HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard." available at Kabbala Online Shop]

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.