“And He garbed himself with tzedakah1 as with a coat of mail, and a helmet of salvation upon his head.”2

"וַיִּלְבַּשׁ צְדָקָה כַּשִּׁרְיוֹן, וְכוֹבַע יְשׁוּעָה בְּרֹאשׁוֹ".

This verse in fact speaks of G‑d’s promised actions in defense of His people. Nevertheless, the deeds of Jews that mirror G‑d’s deeds serve as a vessel which can receive (or as a means which can bring about) G‑d’s reciprocal action.3 Hence, when Jews act in a righteous and charitable manner, in the spirit of the term tzedakah, such conduct attracts and calls forth Divine activity on their behalf. In particular, a Jew’s Divine service that resembles G‑d’s own acts of tzedakah contains within it a protective “coat of mail” for his body and a “helmet of salvation” for his head.

[On this verse,] our Sages, of blessed memory, commented: “Just as with chain mail, all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail, so it is with charity: all the individual coins [given to charity] add up to a great amount.”4

וְדָרְשׁוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "מַה שִּׁרְיוֹן זֶה כָּל קְלִיפָּה וּקְלִיפָּה מִצְטָרֶפֶת לְשִׁרְיוֹן גָּדוֹל, אַף צְדָקָה כָּל פְּרוּטָה וּפְרוּטָה מִצְטָרֶפֶת לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן גָּדוֹל".

The Alter Rebbe now anticipates a question: What is gained by this analogy? Surely it is just as obvious that “all the individual coins [given to charity] add up to a great amount” as it is that “all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail.”

This means—and this is the additional point being made here—that just as the mail is made of scales covering gaps, and these shield one against any arrow entering through the gaps, so it is with the act of charity.

פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁהַשִּׁרְיוֹן עָשׂוּי קַשְׂקַשִּׂים עַל נְקָבִים, וְהֵם מְגִינִּים שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּנֵס חֵץ בַּנְּקָבִים, וְכָכָה הוּא מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה:

I.e., as will presently be explained, the spiritual dynamic of charity comprises (a) an element that corresponds to the chinks in a coat of mail and (b) an element that corresponds to the protective scales (the coins) that cover those gaps.

The meaning of this [is as follows]: Charity is greater than all the commandments,

וּבֵיאוּר הָעִנְיָן, כִּי גְדוֹלָה צְדָקָה מִכָּל הַמִּצְוֹת,

for [their performance] produces “garments” for the soul.

שֶׁמֵּהֶן נַעֲשִׂים לְבוּשִׁים לְהַנְּשָׁמָה,

The performance of the commandments provides the “garments” that enable the soul to withstand the intense degree of Divine revelation to which it will be exposed in Gan Eden, instead of being nullified by it.

[These garments] are drawn forth from the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof,

הַנִּמְשָׁכִים מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

Deriving from a source which is infinite,5 they enable the soul to cope with the infinite degree of revelation which it will encounter in Gan Eden.

from the level of sovev kol almin.

מִבְּחִינַת "סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין"

Unlike the mode of life-giving Divine illumination called memalei kol almin (lit., “filling all worlds”), which becomes integrated and manifest within the creatures it animates, the mode of Divine illumination called sovev kol almin (lit., “encompassing all worlds”) is not limited to the finite spiritual capacity of created beings; it transcends and affects them from afar, so to speak.

(6The meaning of memalei kol almin and sovev kol almin has been explained in Likkutei Amarim;7 see there.)

(כִּמְּבוֹאָר הַפֵּירוּשׁ "מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין" וְ"סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין" בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים, עַיֵּין שָׁם)

[These garments are brought into being] by an “arousal from below,” i.e., the [fulfillment of the] commands of G‑d and the will of the Supreme Being.

בְּאִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא, הִיא מִצְוַת ה' וְרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

Since the commandments emanate from G‑d’s supreme will from the level of sovev kol almin, they serve as the source for the abovementioned garments.

The essence of this efflux from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is a garment and encompassing light for the ten sefirot of [the Four Worlds:] Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah,

וְעִיקַּר הַמְשָׁכָה זוֹ מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הוּא לְבוּשׁ וְ"אוֹר מַקִּיף" לְי' סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה,

which evolve from cause to cause and from rung to rung…,

הַמִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוֹת מֵעִילָּה לְעִילָּה וּמִמַּדְרֵגָה לְמַדְרֵגָה כוּ',

[these sefirot] being referred to as memalei kol almin.

הַנִּקְרָאוֹת בְּשֵׁם "מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין".

The Alter Rebbe now answers the following question: Since the sefirot themselves are the Divinity of the Four Worlds, why do they need the infinite Ein Sof-light as a garment?

This means that the Ein Sof-light vests itself and radiates in an indwelling manner within the entire evolving chain of the ten sefirot of [the Worlds of] Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah;

פֵּירוּשׁ, כִּי אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מִתְלַבֵּשׁ וּמֵאִיר בְּתוֹךְ כָּל הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת הָעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה,

[moreover,] it gives rise to the ten sefirot of [the World of] Atzilut, which evolve into [the Worlds of] Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah,

וְהוּא הַמַּאֲצִיל הָעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת, הַמִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוֹת לִבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה,

The sefirot of Atzilut thus serve as the Divine illumination for the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. This is made possible—

by means of an immense contraction (tzimtzum), which is explained in Etz Chaim.

עַל־יְדֵי צִמְצוּם עָצוּם הַמְבוֹאָר בְּעֵץ חַיִּים,

This contraction involves not only a quantitative lessening of spiritual illumination but more importantly a qualitative diminution; the hitherto infinite light is contracted to so great a degree that it can emanate and illuminate in a finite manner.

[The resultant light] is referred to as an indwelling light (or pnimi)a light that vests itself in an inward manner within created beings, inasmuch as it is contracted to match the spiritual capacity of the particular created being in which it is clothed.

וְנִקְרָא "אוֹר פְּנִימִי",

Now, by the fulfillment of the commandments, the abovementioned encompassing light is elicited and radiates within the ten sefirot of [the Worlds of] Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, thereby uniting with the indwelling light.

וְעַל־יְדֵי קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת נִמְשָׁךְ "אוֹר מַקִּיף" הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, וּמֵאִיר תּוֹךְ הָעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה, וּמִתְיַיחֵד עִם הָ"אוֹר פְּנִימִי",

When this occurs, the infinite and transcendent light (or makif) permeates the indwelling light (or pnimi) of Seder Hishtalshelut—the self-obscuring and chainlike descent of the Divine life-force through which increasingly material worlds come into being.

This is referred to as the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, the epithet “holy” (kadosh) signifying His separateness from the world, hence the level of sovev kol almin,

וְנִקְרָא "יִחוּד קוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא

and His Shechinah, the indwelling light which is so called because the Divine Presence descends and dwells (שכן) within the created worlds, as is explained elsewhere.8

וּשְׁכִינְתֵּיהּ", כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר,

It is explained in another context that the performance of mitzvot results in this union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah. This is why we say לְשֵׁם יִחוּד (“For the sake of the union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah”) before we perform certain mitzvot: for it is they that fuse the light of sovev kol almin, known as “the Holy One, blessed be He,” with the light of memalei kol almin, known as the Shechinah. Thus, the main radiance of Divine light drawn down through the performance of commandments is effected within the evolution of the sefirot of the Four Worlds.

And from a reflection of a reflection of the abovementioned encompassing light, by means of a powerful contraction,

וּמֵהֶאָרָה דְהֶאָרָה מֵ"אוֹר מַקִּיף" הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, עַל־יְדֵי צִמְצוּם רַב,

a garment is made in the Lower and Upper Gardens of Eden for the [soul-levels called] nefesh-ruach-neshamah of man,

נַעֲשֶׂה לְבוּשׁ לִבְחִינוֹת נֶפֶשׁ־רוּחַ־נְשָׁמָה שֶׁל הָאָדָם בְּגַן עֵדֶן הַתַּחְתּוֹן וְהָעֶלְיוֹן,

enabling them to derive pleasure and attain some apprehension and illumination from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light which is diffused in the Garden of Eden, as is explained elsewhere.9

שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ לֵיהָנוֹת וּלְהַשִּׂיג אֵיזֶה הַשָּׂגָה וְהֶאָרָה מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, כְּמוֹ שֶׁמְּבוֹאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

For, unaided, the finite soul would never be able to apprehend this infinite radiance.

This is the meaning of the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory:10 “In this world, there is no reward for [the fulfillment of] the commandments.”

וְזֶה שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה "שְׂכַר מִצְוָה בְּהַאי עָלְמָא לֵיכָּא",

They do not say that “in this world, there is no reward granted…,” rather that “there exists no reward in this world….”

For in this world, which is physical and in a state of limitation, a state of great and most extreme contraction,

כִּי בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי וּבַעַל גְּבוּל וְצִמְצוּם רַב וְעָצוּם מְאֹד מְאֹד,

it is impossible that any reflection of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light should become invested,

אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ שׁוּם הֶאָרָה מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

except by means of the ten sefirot, which, in the sacred Zohar, are referred to as the “Body”11:

כִּי אִם עַל־יְדֵי י' סְפִירוֹת, הַנִּקְרָאִים "גּוּפָא" בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ:

The Alter Rebbe will soon explain that just as body and soul are incomparable, so are the sefirot infinitely distant from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light.

As a reward for performance of the commandments, one is enabled to draw down the infinite degree of light, but this light cannot possibly descend within this world, which is bounded. Thus, “In this world, there is no reward for [the fulfillment of] the commandments.” No such revelation can possibly be clothed in this world, for whatever illuminates and clothes itself in this world derives merely from the level of the ten sefirot, which the Zohar terms the “Body.” Thus, for example:

“[The sefirah of] chesed (‘kindness’) is [called] the [supernal] ‘right arm’; [gevurah (‘severity’) is [called] the ‘left arm,’]” and so on.

"חֶסֶד דְּרוֹעָא יְמִינָא כוּ'".

For just as there is no comparison between the physical body and the soul,

לְפִי, שֶׁכְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵין עֲרוֹךְ לוֹ לְהַגּוּף הַגַּשְׁמִי לְגַבֵּי הַנְּשָׁמָה,

so is there no comparison whatsoever between the ten sefirot of Atzilut and the Supreme Emanator, the [infinite] Ein Sof.

כָּךְ אֵין עֲרוֹךְ כְּלָל לְי' סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת לְגַבֵּי הַמַּאֲצִיל הָעֶלְיוֹן אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

For in relation to the Ein Sof, even the supreme chochmah (“wisdom”), which is the first of the sefirot, is on the plane of material action,

כִּי אֲפִילוּ חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, שֶׁהִיא רֵאשִׁיתָן, הִיא בִּבְחִינַת עֲשִׂיָּה גוּפָנִית לְגַבֵּי אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

as is explained in Likkutei Amarim.12

כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים.

Therefore, through the practice of charity and deeds of kindness, whose fruits man enjoys partially in this world,13

וְאֵי לָזֹאת, בְּמַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, שֶׁ"אָדָם אוֹכֵל מִפֵּירוֹתֵיהֶן בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה",

Since some minute quantity of the reward for the fulfillment of these commandments is enjoyed within this world, it follows that a microscopic ray of the infinite light of sovev kol almin does descend into this world. This is possible, because:

there appear, metaphorically speaking, gaps in the supernal garment that envelop the “Body,” [which is] the vessels of the ten sefirot.

יֵשׁ נְקָבִים, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, בַּלְּבוּשׁ הָעֶלְיוֹן הַמַּקִּיף עַל "גּוּפָא", הֵם הַכֵּלִים דְּי' סְפִירוֹת,

Through these [gaps], light and abundance are irradiated and diffused,

לְהָאִיר מֵהֶם וּלְהַשְׁפִּיעַ אוֹר וְשֶׁפַע

so that from [the sefirah of] “chesed, [which is] the right arm,” [there results] longevity in this physical world;

מֵ"חֶסֶד דְּרוֹעָא יְמִינָא" אוֹרֶךְ יָמִים בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי,

and from “the left arm,” which is the sefirah of gevurah, [there result] wealth and honor,

וְעוֹשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד מִ"דְּרוֹעָא שְׂמָאלָא",

and likewise with beauty, that emanates from the sefirah of tiferet,

וְכֵן בְּתִפְאֶרֶת,

and majesty (hod), splendor (hadar), and gladness (chedvah), etc., from the respective sefirot of hod, yesod, etc.14

וְהוֹד וְהָדָר וְחֶדְוָה וְכוּ';

However, in order to prevent the forces of evil from drawing, on high, from the light and abundance which evolves and descends netherward, as far down as this physical world,

אַךְ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִנְקוּ הַחִיצוֹנִים לְמַעְלָה מֵאוֹר וְשֶׁפַע הַמִּשְׁתַּלְשֵׁל וְיוֹרֵד לְמַטָּה מַּטָּה עַד עוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי,

When this spiritual energy descends to such a lowly level, it is possible for the kelipot and sitra achara to derive nurture from it as well. In order to forestall this,

and likewise, here below, in order to shield man and to guard him and save him from all physical and spiritual harm, which could conceivably result if the kelipot and sitra achara were to derive nurture from this source,

וְכֵן לְמַטָּה לְהָגֵין עַל הָאָדָם וּלְשָׁמְרוֹ וּלְהַצִּילוֹ מִכָּל דָּבָר רַע בְּגַשְׁמִיּוּת וּבְרוּחֲנִיּוּת,

the encompassing light is reflected back, and, figuratively speaking, fills the breach,

לָזֹאת, חוֹזֵר וּמֵאִיר אוֹר הַמַּקִּיף וְסוֹתֵם הַנֶּקֶב, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל,

Once the encompassing light has (so to speak) shone down into this world through the chink produced by man’s charitable deeds, it is then reflected back in order to fill the very same breach. This deprives the forces of evil of any possible nurture via the same avenue,

for this [encompassing light] belongs to the category of Infinitude and sovev kol almin, as mentioned above—and this infinitely transcendent degree of light (called or makif) is a source from which the forces of evil are unable to derive any sustenance.

כִּי הוּא מִבְּחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף וְסוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

We thus see why tzedakah, producing its own provident “gaps” and its own protective “scales,” is likened to a coat of mail. Moreover:

And this is [what underlies] the [above-quoted] teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory: “[Just as with chain mail, all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail, so it is with charity: all the individual coins] add up to a great amount.” The word “great” is used advisedly,

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "מִצְטָרֶפֶת לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן גָּדוֹל" דַּיְיקָא,

in the spirit of the verse, “Great is Havayah and exceedingly glorified”15—without end, limit, or restriction (16heaven forfend).

"כִּי גָדוֹל ה' וּמְהוּלָּל מְאֹד", בְּלִי סוֹף וְתַכְלִית וּגְבוּל [חַס וְשָׁלוֹם]:

Thus, by means of the coins given to charity, one draws down spiritual light from the level denoted by the phrase, “Great is Havayah.” The Four-Letter Divine Name alludes to the ten sefirot, for the letter yud represents the level of chochmah; the first letter hey represents the level of binah; vav represents the six middot, the spiritual emotions; and the final hey represents malchut.17 These sefirot are sustained by the Ein Sof and partake of its infinite greatness.

But what causes the descent to this physical world of the light and abundance from [a source as lofty as] the ten sefirot [of the World of Atzilut], which are referred to as the Body?

אַךְ מִי הוּא הַגּוֹרֵם לִירִידַת הָאוֹר וְהַשֶּׁפַע לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי מִי' סְפִירוֹת הַנִּקְרָאִים "גּוּפָא",

It is the abovementioned union of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shechinah, the infinite degree of radiance permeating the sefirot and the subsequent worlds—and this union is brought about by the performance of the mitzvot,

הוּא הַיִּחוּד הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

for it is an additional radiance and effluence from the light of the Ein Sof, the Supreme Emanator [of the ten sefirot],

שֶׁהִיא תּוֹסֶפֶת הֶאָרָה וְהַשְׁפָּעָה מִבְּחִינַת אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף הַמַּאֲצִיל הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

in a measure exceeding the radiance and effluence at the beginning of the emanation in the World of Atzilut and subsequent evolution….

בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת עַל הַהֶאָרָה וְהַהַשְׁפָּעָה שֶׁבִּתְחִילַּת הָאֲצִילוּת וְהַהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת וְכוּ'.

Inasmuch as the additional measure of infinite radiance and effluence far transcends Atzilut so much so that in comparison to it, the World of Atzilut and our grossly corporeal World of Asiyah are equally distant; it enables the radiation of Atzilut to find its way into this world.

And the additional radiance and effluence is first bestowed upon [the sefirah of chochmah, which is] the first of the ten sefirot.

וְרֵאשִׁית תּוֹסֶפֶת הַהֶאָרָה וְהַהַשְׁפָּעָה, הִיא לְרֵאשִׁית הַי' סְפִירוֹת.

This is the meaning of [the above-quoted phrase], “…and a helmet of salvation (יְשׁוּעָה) upon his head,”

וְזֶה הוּא "וְכוֹבַע יְשׁוּעָה בְּרֹאשׁוֹ" –

for יְשׁוּעָה shares a root with וַיִּשַׁע, which is the verb in the phrase, “And G‑d turned toward Abel and his gift.”18

"יְשׁוּעָה" הוּא מִלְּשׁוֹן "וַיִּשַׁע ה' אֶל הֶבֶל וְאֶל מִנְחָתוֹ",

The word yeshuah thus means “turning toward” and (by extension) “drawing down.”

This alludes to the drawing down of the light and abundance of the shin-ayin nehorin, the “three hundred and seventy lights” spoken of in the holy Zohar.19

וְהוּא יְרִידַת הָאוֹר וְהַשֶּׁפַע דְּש"ע נְהוֹרִין שֶׁבַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ,

This light is much loftier than the ten sefirot of Atzilut: The letter shin, whose numerical value is 300, alludes to the three intellectual faculties of ChaBaD insofar as they exist at the spiritual level termed “hundreds”; the letter ayin, whose numerical value is 70, hints at the seven emotive attributes, each of which incorporates ten elements. This lofty illumination of the “helmet of salvation” is drawn down upon the “head,” i.e., the beginning, of the ten sefirot.

As it is written, “May G‑d make His Face (i.e., His inner being) shine upon you”20upon His people in this lowly world.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "יָאֵר ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ",

[It is also written]: “May He make His Face (i.e., His inner being) shine with us forever.”21

"יָאֵר פָּנָיו אִתָּנוּ סֶלָה" –

[That which ensures that this Divine light be] “with us” is the practice of charitable deeds.

"אִתָּנוּ" הוּא עַל־יְדֵי מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה.

And this is the meaning of the phrase, “He who sows tzedakot (‘charities’) brings forth yeshuot (‘salvations’)22; i.e., the distribution of charity results in the salvation brought about by the light of the abovementioned shin-ayin nehorin.

וְזֶה הוּא "זוֹרֵעַ צְדָקוֹת מַצְמִיחַ יְשׁוּעוֹת".

So may G‑d make His Face shine upon you,23

וְכָכָה יָאֵר ה' פָּנָיו אֲלֵיהֶם,

and “your tzedakah shall endure forever.”24

"צִדְקָתָם עוֹמֶדֶת לָעַד",

That which is revealed now as a result of an act of tzedakah is merely the “fruit”; the essence of the reward is revealed only at the Time to Come, at the time of the Revival of the Dead, and until that time, it remains concealed. Only then will the light of sovev kol almin truly permeate and clothe itself within this world, as explained below, in Epistle 32.

May your horn (i.e., power) be exalted by the salvation (yeshuah) of the One “Who causes the horn of salvation to sprout”25 —by a sprouting of the tzedakah [which G‑d does for His people], from the “helmet of salvation” mentioned above,

וְקַרְנָם תָּרוּם בִּישׁוּעַת "מַצְמִיחַ קֶרֶן יְשׁוּעָה", "צֶמַח צְדָקָה" מֵהַ"כּוֹבַע יְשׁוּעָה" הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

as is the wish of one who seeks Him.26

כְּנֶפֶשׁ תִּדְרְשֶׁנּוּ: