This is a reasoned message of encouragement in which the Alter Rebbe urges his chassidim not to reduce their fixed annual commitment to charity for the Holy Land, even though their circumstances may have altered. He reminds them once again (as above in Epistle XXI), that what counts is not only the total of one’s contributions over a particular period, but also the multiplicity of benevolent action. The potent repercussions of this oft-repeated activity resound all the way up to the World of Atzilut, where they impregnate the Sefirah of Malchut — the mother, so to speak, of all created worlds.

מודעת זאת מה שאמרו רז״ל: כל הרגיל לבא לבית הכנסת, ויום אחד לא בא, הקדוש ברוך הוא שואל עליו, שנאמר: מי בכם ירא ה׳ וכו׳

It is well known that our Sages, of blessed memory, said that1 whoever is accustomed to come to the synagogue, and one day did not come, the Holy One, blessed be He, inquires after him; for it is written,2 “Who among you fears G‑d, [who listens to the voice of His (prophetic) servant; who walked in the darkness, and for whom no light shone]?”

The Gemara understands this verse as referring to a person who went to “a place of darkness”; his path on this occasion did not lead to the performance of a mitzvah, and this was why he did not attend synagogue. In contrast, the commentaries on the Tanach understand the quoted phrase as referring to a person who finds himself in a situation of darkness and travail. And even such an individual should not refrain from attending, but should (as the verse concludes) “trust in the Divine Name, and rely on His G‑d.”

In this spirit, the present letter argues that even in a difficult situation, at a time of “darkness”, a Jew should not think of reducing his accustomed charitable contributions; rather, he should “trust in the Divine Name, and rely on His G‑d.”

To return now to the opening teaching — that whoever is accustomed to come to the synagogue, and one day did not come, G‑d inquires after him. This does not apply only to the communal prayer of which the Gemara speaks; rather:

וכן בכל המצות, ובפרט מצות הצדקה, ששקולה כנגד כל המצות

The same applies to all the commandments, and especially to the precept of charity, which is3 “balanced against all the commandments.” Thus, if the above teaching applies to prayer, it surely applies to charity: If a person retreats from his customary charitability, “G‑d inquires after him.”

הגם שהיא בלי נדר, חס ושלום

Though [one’s regular giving] is not bound by a vow, heaven forfend, for one should of course see to it that an accustomed mitzvah should not become subject to the legal force of a vow,4

אף על פי כן, כל החיל אשר נגע יראת ה׳ בלבם, לא יאתה לנפשם האלקית לתת מגרעות בקדש

nevertheless, it is not becoming to the divine soul of all the men of valor whose hearts the fear of G‑d has touched,5 that they should reduce that which is holy, for by restricting their charitable contributions they reduce the downflow of Divine energy from the sublime source which is called Kodesh (lit., “holy”) into the Sefirah of Malchut,

מאשר כבר הורגלו מדי שנה להפריש ממאודם

relative to what they were accustomed to set aside, annually, from their wealth,6

להחיות רוח שפלים ונדכאים, דלית להון מגרמיהון

to revive the spirit of the humble and downcast who have nothing of their own, viz., the impoverished settlers of the Holy Land —

היא בחינת סוכת דוד הנופלת וכו׳

which [during the time of exile] is referred to as7 “the fallen sukkah of David...,” as also is its supernal source, the Sefirah of Malchut in the World of Atzilut,8

לקומם ולרומם וכו׳

to raise and exalt [it]...

למהוי אחד באחד וכו׳

“so that oneness be united with Oneness.”9

In the context of souls in this world, this means that tzedakah unites one Jew with his fellow. In the supernal context of Sefirot, it refers to the desired connection between (a) the “lower level of unity” (Yichuda Tataah) which comes into being when the Sefirah of Malchut becomes a source of creation to lower worlds, and (b) the “higher level of unity” (Yichuda Ilaah) involving the six higher emotive Sefirot, which transcend direct contact with the created worlds. This is the union of Kudsha Brich Hu and His Shechinah, which is also called Malchut of Atzilut.

והכל לפי רוב המעשה וכו׳

And10 “everything is [judged] according to the multiplicity of action....”

As discussed above in Epistle XXI, it is preferable to divide a sum set aside for tzedakah into many individual acts of giving. Maimonides explains11 that this refines the soul. Chassidut adds that each act of giving effects a union (yichud) in the worlds above.

Accordingly, the Alter Rebbe had explained in the above Epistle that one’s annual contribution for the needy of Eretz Yisrael should be given weekly or at least monthly. It could therefore be that here he is warning against reducing one’s contribution one year and compensating for it the following year, because in this way the present year would be lacking the “multiplicity of action.” (It is clear that the Alter Rebbe is not speaking here of a situation in which a person simply thinks of not giving because of his difficult circumstances, because he has already said in Epistle XVI that even if one needs to borrow for food, he should still give tzedakah.)

ולפי החשבון

and according to the account (cheshbon).

As the Alter Rebbe will soon point out, the level of Divinity from which one elicits “G‑d’s greatness” is determined by the magnitude of the total amount — whether it is in hundreds or thousands, or whatever. (Multiples of a hundred, for example, relate to the level known as Keter.) Reducing one’s regular gift thus proportionately reduces both his “great amount” and its cosmic effect.

כמאמר רז״ל: כל פרוטה ופרוטה מצטרפת לחשבון גדול וכו׳

Thus our Sages, of blessed memory, said,12 “All the individual coins [given to charity] add up to a great amount (cheshbon gadol),”

על דרך מאמר רז״ל: אימתי גדול הוי׳, כשהוא בעיר אלקינו וכו׳

and as taught by our Sages, of blessed memory,13 “When is ‘Havayah great’? — When He is ‘in the city of our G‑d’ Malchut, at which]14

I.e., G‑d’s greatness is revealed when the Divine Name Havayah is vested in the Sefirah of Malchut, and illuminates it. Malchut, the realm of speech, is known as “the city of our G‑d,” for just as a city is composed of many dwellings which in turn are composed of many bricks, so too is the realm of speech built up of many letters and combinations of letters. In Sefer Yetzirah,15 letters are termed “stones”, for they are the basic bricks which join to form the ongoing Divine creative utterances which are the source of all worlds and all created beings.16 They thus reveal the greatness of G‑d’s glory.

The Alter Rebbe now continues to speak of the “city of our G‑d,” which is the Sefirah of Malchut:

היא בחינת ומקום החשבון

This is the spiritual state and the place of reckoning (cheshbon),17

For reckoning is possible only with entities which are finite and divisible, and Malchut is the source of all finite and divisible created beings.

כמו שכתוב: עיניך ברכות בחשבון

as it is written,18 “Your eyes are wells in Cheshbon.”

Since a well (or a pool) is a receptor for water that flows down into it, “well” serves as a term for Malchut, i.e., the “feminine” Sefirah which receives the downflow of Divine life-force from the higher Sefirot. The word “Cheshbon” is a Biblical place name, but on the non-literal level of derush it is here understood in its dictionary meaning of “recokning”. The allusion to this verse thus reinforces the identity of the concept of “reckoning” with the Sefirah of Malchut.

The Alter Rebbe now returns to clarify the meaning of his earlier statement that giving a “great amount” (cheshbon gadol) of tzedakah manifests the “greatness of Havayah” in the “city of our G‑d.”

והמכוון, כנודע, כי באתערותא דלתתא, המשכת חיים חן וחסד במעשה הצדקה, ברצון הטוב וסבר פנים יפות, אתערותא דלעילא

As is known, the meaning [of the above statement] is that as a result of an arousal from [man] below — the provision of [the means for] life, grace and kindness by an act of charity with goodwill and a friendly countenance — there is elicited an arousal from above,

יאר ה׳ פניו, הוא הארת והמשכת חן וחסד ורצון עליון

[so that]19 “G‑d will make His Countenance shine forth,” with a radiation and downflow of grace, kindness and Supreme favor

מחיי החיים, אין סוף ברוך הוא, אשר לגדולתו אין חקר והשגה כלל

from the Fountainhead of Life, the blessed Ein Sof,20 “Whose greatness is unfathomable” and utterly incomprehensible (and thus not manifest),

אל בחינת מלכותך מלכות כל עולמים, עלמא דאתגליא

to the level [of Divinity, viz., Malchut, at which]21 “Your kingdom is the kingdom of all worlds,” [i.e.,] the “World of Manifestation.”

המחיה כל הברואים שבכל ההיכלות עליונים ותחתונים, שהן בבחינת מספר וחשבון

This [Sefirah of Malchut] animates all the created beings that are in all the upper and lower Heichalot, which are all subject to counting and reckoning (cheshbon),

כמו שכתוב: אלף אלפים ישמשוניה

as it is written,22 “A thousand thousands (i.e., a finite number of angels) minister unto Him.”

To revert now to our above key phrase, cheshbon gadol (“a great reckoning”): Giving tzedakah with goodwill and a friendly countenance marries the infinite power of gadol Havayah (“G‑d is great”) with the finite framework of cheshbon (“reckoning”) — the Sefirah of Malchut, which is the source of all finite created beings.

וזהו חשבון גדול, שעל ידי רוב מעשה הצדקה, שלום

This, then, is the meaning of the “great amount,” for numerous acts of charity bring about peace, as it is written,23 “And [the reward for] the act of tzedakah will be peace,” as explained above in Epistle 12.

כי פירוש שלום, הוא דבר המחבר ומתווך ב׳ קצוות הפכיים

For “peace” implies the joining and conciliation of two opposite extremes.

שהן קצה השמים לעילא, בחינת ולגדולתו אין חקר

[In our context] these are the extremity of the superior heaven, alluded to in the phrase, “And His greatness is unfathomable,” referring to G‑d’s incomprehensible infinitude,

וקצה השמים לתתא

and the extremity of the inferior heaven, referring to Malchut, the lowest of the Ten Sefirot,

המתלבש בבריאה יצירה עשיה, בחינת גבול ומספר

which becomes vested in [the Worlds of] Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, [i.e.,] in a category of finitude and number.

ודי למבין

This will suffice for the discerning.