Tzedakah, as we shall presently appreciate, sensitizes the Jew who practices it so that the superrational degree of chochmah in his neshamah is able to light up the innermost recesses of his heart.

As mentioned in the introduction to Kuntres Acharon, the Rebbe observes that this is one of several essays that would appear to belong more logically in Iggeret Hakodesh. The Rebbe also notes that the subjects discussed in this essay are elaborated upon in Likkutei Torah, beginning of Parashat Re’eh, and in the maamar beginning Amar R. Yehoshua ben Levi, Bechol Yom…, which Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak delivered in 5688 (1928).

It is written, “And charity like a mighty river” (1Amos, end of ch. 52).

"וּצְדָקָה כְּנַחַל אֵיתָן" (בְּעָמוֹס סוֹף סִימָן ה').

The verse begins by saying that justice should become manifest like water that gushes into revelation from the hidden depths of the earth; it goes on to say that tzedakah (“charity”) should likewise reveal and maintain its intensity like the surging current of a mighty river (Heb.: nachal eitan).

The meaning in spiritual terms is


that [tzedakah] resembles a mighty river which issues from the state of eitan.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁ"נַּחַל אֵיתָן" הוּא הַמְשָׁכָה הַנִּמְשֶׁכֶת מִבְּחִינַת "אֵיתָן",

“River” suggests a downward flow, in this case emanating from chochmah, which is termed eitan.

This word, as is known,3 has three meanings: “vigor,” “toughness,”4 and “antiquity.”5 All three meanings relate to the soul’s element of chochmah and are reflected in the tripartite written form of the letter yud (commonly representing chochmah), which comprises the basic point of the letter and its upper and lower tips.

This level of eitan (chochmah) flows down into the intellectually expansive “river” called binah.

In this state, it is known in Kabbalistic terms as “the point in its chamber,”6

שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת "נְקוּדָּה בְּהֵיכָלָא"

This phrase can refer either (a), as above, to the seminal point of chochmah being drawn into the broad chamber of binah, or (b) to the essential self-nullification of the soul that derives spontaneously from chochmah (which transcends the loving self-nullification that is consciously produced by the meditation exercised by binah) being drawn into the innermost point of the heart—the “chamber” for the issue from chochmah.

and as “two comrades [who are inseparable].”7

וּ"תְרֵין רֵיעִין וְכוּ'",

The continued existence of all creation depends upon the constant union in Atzilut of the supernal sefirot of chochmah and binah.

The letters that spell the [Hebrew] word eitan [each] indicate the future tense.

וְאוֹתִיּוֹת "אֵיתָן" מְשַׁמְּשׁוֹת לֶעָתִיד,

At a deeper level, this term thus hints at future revelation: in the Time to Come, there will be a revelation of the spiritual degree called eitan.

This means, “I am destined to reveal myself”8; that which is presently in a state of concealment is destined to become manifest in the Time to Come,

פֵּירוּשׁ: אֲנָא עָתִיד לְאִתְגַּלְיָא,

as it is written, “Behold, My servant will prosper…”9i.e., in the future.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "הִנֵּה יַשְׂכִּיל עַבְדִּי וְגוֹ'",

This means that at that time—with the arrival of Mashiach, about whom the verse states “My servant will prosper”—the [infinite] Ein Sof-light and the Divine Unity will be revealed within the innermost point of one’s heart,

וְהַיְינוּ שֶׁיִּתְגַּלֶּה אָז אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא וְיִחוּדוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ תּוֹךְ פְּנִימִיּת נְקוּדַּת הַלֵּב,

by the calling forth of the “mighty river,” which is a radiance of the supernal wisdom that will illuminate the inwardness of the heart,

עַל־יְדֵי הַמְשָׁכַת "נַחַל אֵיתָן", הוּא הֶאָרַת חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, שֶׁיָּאִיר בִּפְנִימִיּוּת הַלֵּב,

so that one will be nullified utterly in the Divine Unity, from the depths of one’s heart,

לִיבָּטֵל בְּיִחוּדוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּתַכְלִית מֵעוּמְקָא דְלִבָּא,

after it has been cleared of the [obscuring] orlah of physical lusts, and so on.

אַחֲרֵי הֲסָרַת הָעָרְלָה מִתַּאֲווֹת הַגַּשְׁמִיּוֹת וְכוּ'.

When the metaphorical orlah (lit., “foreskin”) will then be removed (as in the verse,10 “And you shall excise the orlah of your heart,” and likewise,11 “The L-rd your G‑d will circumcise your heart”), nothing will hide the innermost core of the heart. It will then be possible for the heart to experience the utter self-nullification of the neshamah to G‑d that derives from the revelation of chochmah in the soul.

This essential soul-level reflects all three abovementioned connotations of eitan—the resolute “vigor” of the soul’s essence, its unswerving “toughness,” and the hoary “antiquity” of this bequest to the Jewish people from the Patriarchs of old.

At present as well, during the exile of this folk,12

וְהִנֵּה, עַתָּה בְּגָלוּת הַחֵל הַזֶּה,

counsel is offered [herewith] as to how to bring a glimmer of the illumination of the light of G‑d from the state of eitan into the innermost point of the heart, as in the Time to Come.

יֵשׁ גַּם כֵּן עֵצָה יְעוּצָה לְהָאִיר קְצָת אוֹר ה' מִבְּחִינַת "אֵיתָן" לְתוֹךְ נְקוּדַּת פְּנִימִיּוּת הַלֵּב כְּעֵין לֶעָתִיד,

This is [attained] by arousing the abounding Divine mercies for the G‑dly spark within one’s soul.

וְהַיְינוּ, עַל־יְדֵי שֶׁמְּעוֹרֵר עַל נִיצוֹץ אֱלֹקוּת שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ בְּחִינַת רַחֲמִים רַבִּים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים.

For in truth, so long as a man does not merit the revelation of the light of G‑d from the state of eitan in the innermost core of his heart,

כִּי בֶּאֱמֶת, כָּל זְמַן שֶׁאֵין הָאָדָם זוֹכֶה שֶׁיִּתְגַּלֶּה אוֹר ה' מִבְּחִינַת "אֵיתָן" בִּנְקוּדַּת פְּנִימִית לְבָבוֹ,

so that he becomes nullified in the Divine unity, until the very expiry of the soul,

לִיבָּטֵל בְּיִחוּדוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ מֵעוּמְקָא דְלִבָּא עַד כְּלוֹת הַנֶּפֶשׁ מַמָּשׁ

then the spark within his soul is indeed to be pitied.

אֲזַי בֶּאֱמֶת, יֵשׁ רַחֲמָנוּת גְּדוֹלָה עַל הַנִּיצוֹץ שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ.

For that spark is drawn from the state of the supernal wisdom itself,

כִּי הַנִּיצוֹץ נִמְשָׁךְ מִבְּחִינַת חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה מַמָּשׁ,

and when it cannot illuminate from its own state—from the state of chochmah that is utterly nullified to G‑d—into the innermost core of the heart,

וּכְשֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהָאִיר מִבְּחִינָתוֹ לְתוֹךְ פְּנִימִיּוּת הַלֵּב,

which is the proper place for the revelation of this illumination,

שֶׁשָּׁם מְקוֹם גִּילּוּי הֶאָרָה זוֹ –

then it is really and truly in exile.

הֲרֵי זֶה בִּבְחִינַת גָּלוּת מַמָּשׁ.

For what is exile if not the shackling of one’s gifts?

Through the plentiful supernal mercies, however, that are drawn down upon the soul, it goes out of exile and imprisonment,

וְעַל־יְדֵי רַחֲמִים רַבִּים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים, יוֹצֵא מֵהַגָּלוּת וְהַשִּׁבְיָה

and illuminates the innermost core of the heart with this great love,

וּמֵאִיר לְתוֹךְ נְקוּדָּה פְּנִימִיּוּת הַלֵּב בְּחִינַת אַהֲבָה רַבָּה זוֹ,

as is known from the verse, “For…Jacob who redeemed Abraham,”13

כַּנּוֹדָע מִמַּה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: "לְיַעֲקֹב אֲשֶׁר פָּדָה אֶת אַבְרָהָם",

as expounded in Likkutei Amarim, ch. 45.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים פֶּרֶק מ"ה.

The Midrash14 teaches that Abraham was saved in the future merit of Jacob, who was destined to descend from him.

In spiritual terms:15 When Abraham’s characteristic attribute, kindness and love, remains latent within a Jew, it is revealed and redeemed by Jacob’s characteristic attribute—mercy.

Since we are speaking here of supernal mercy, there must first be a sufficiently vigorous “arousal from below” that will cause it to descend to this lowly world. The required arousal initiated from below must therefore spring from the palpable realities of this lowly world. In plain words, as the Alter Rebbe will now conclude, this is the practice of tzedakah.

It is known16 that an arousal from above is specifically dependent on an arousal from below,

וּמוּדַעַת זֹאת, כִּי, אִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְעֵילָּא – בְּאִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא דַּוְקָא תַּלְיָא מִלְּתָא,

meaning [that the abundant mercies from above are secured] by an arousal of great mercies in the hearts of “the compassionate…and the kindly,” as Jews are characterized in the Gemara,17

דְּהַיְינוּ עַל־יְדֵי הִתְעוֹרְרוּת רַחֲמִים רַבִּים בְּלֵב רַחֲמָנִים וְגוֹמְלֵי חֲסָדִים,

so that they bestow physical gifts of gold and silver, and the like.

לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ לְמַטָּה הַשְׁפָּעָה גַשְׁמִיִּית: זָהָב וָכֶסֶף וְכוּ'.

Thus, the effect of tzedakah is actually the effect of the “mighty river” (nachal eitan).

וְלָכֵן, פְּעוּלַּת הַצְּדָקָה, הִיא פְּעוּלַּת "נַחַל אֵיתָן" מַמָּשׁ.

For the “arousal from below” expressed by the practice of tzedakah draws forth the loving self-nullification of the vigorous essence (the “eitan”) of the soul so that it becomes revealed—through the “river” of binah—within the innermost core of man’s heart.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to write that one’s tzedakah should be given unstintingly, without regard for limitations. Just as a person in jeopardy spends without limit in order to save his life, so, too, should one hold one’s own G‑dly soul in high regard and give tzedakah boundlessly.

All know the verse,18 “Skin for skin,”19 i.e., a person will protect one limb at the expense of another, “but all that a man possesses, he will give for his soul”—he will give away everything in order to save his life. The Alter Rebbe adds a word to the quoted verse so that it ends, “…for his G‑dly soul.” One should be willing to forgo everything for the sake of his G‑dly soul,

וְהִנֵּה, מוּדַעַת זֹאת מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: כִּי "עוֹר בְּעַד עוֹר וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לָאִישׁ יִתֵּן בְּעַד נַפְשׁוֹ" הָאֱלֹקִית,

in order to illumine it with the light of life—the Infinite One, blessed be He.20

לְהָאִירָהּ בְּאוֹר הַחַיִּים אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא: