Just as the Alter Rebbe opened the first Epistle in this series1 with a blessing — occasioned by the good news that most of the chassidic congregations had completed their annual study of the Talmud — so, too, this final Epistle begins with a blessing.

Evidently, this blessing too was occasioned by good news — that the Alter Rebbe’s chassidim had organized the collection of charity for the Holy Land faithfully and efficiently, with a lively gabbai tzedakah appointed in each town or congregation to rouse his brethren to action. The Alter Rebbe therefore extends his blessings both to the donors and to the gabbaim, explaining meanwhile in mystical terms why generosity is at its best when it is spontaneously aroused by one’s own spiritual endeavors.

The Rebbe indicates in a letter, that the first and final Epistles of Iggeret HaKodesh are also connected, in that both of them laud the service of prayer when it is undertaken with proper intent.

The first speaks of “devout concentration during prayer from the depths of the heart...to the extent of pressing out the soul.” As explained there, this fortifies the mind that meditates upon G‑d’s greatness, while fanning man’s love and awe of G‑d. This final Epistle speaks of “an arousal of the love of G‑d when reading the Shema, cleaving to Him and surrendering one’s soul at Echad, and [loving G‑d] ‘with all [his] wealth,’ in the literal sense.”

When this inspiration crystallizes into practical expression in this material world here below, the resultant tzedakah is of the finest, for it is born of one’s own labors in the service of prayer.

ברך ה׳ חילם, ופועל ידם ירצה

May2 G‑d bless your3 effort and favor the work of your hands,

The above blessing, which Moses gave the Tribe of Levi, is understood by our Sages4 to refer to the service in the Holy Temple. As to the period of exile, when the Beit HaMikdash has not yet been rebuilt, Avot deRabbi Natan states5 that tzedakah and acts of lovingkindness bring about the same atonement as was effected by the Temple service. This may well explain why the Alter Rebbe chooses this particular verse as the text of the blessing that he offered to those who give tzedakah.

לרצון להם לפני ה׳ תמיד

so that you may be accepted before G‑d at all times.6

With this addition the Alter Rebbe apparently implies that though his readers’ tzedakah amounts to no more than a fifth of their earnings, this fifth nevertheless elevates the whole of their income to G‑d, as explained above in Tanya, ch. 34. In this way, not only the effort expended in earning the funds set aside for tzedakah, but with it the entire “work of their hands,” becomes “accepted before G‑d at all times.”

כה יתן וכה יוסיף ה׳, לאמץ לבם בגבורים

So may G‑d ever continue to grant you [His blessings], to fortify your hearts amongst the valiant.7

This sentence would tend to connect this Epistle with the good news the Alter Rebbe received from his chassidim with regard to the giving of tzedakah. Hence his blessings that G‑d should further strengthen them in a practice whose performance requires one to be valiant, in the spirit of the teaching,8 “Who is valiant? — He who conquers his evil inclination”; i.e., he who gives even more than he desires to give.

ונדיב על נדיבות יקום

And he that is generous stands over generous things,9

This paraphrase evidently means that the public-spirited catalyst who motivates others to give is even more praiseworthy than those who actually give.

להיות גדול המעשה, בכל עיר ומנין

to be “great” by causing others to act, in every city and congregation, for10 “He who causes another to act is greater than the doer.”

ותחשב לו לצדקה

This will be accounted as his act of tzedakah.

ועל העושה נאמר: צדקתו עומדת לעד

And of him who does [the deed], it is said,11 “His tzedakah stands forever.”

עומדת, לשון נקבה: שמקבל התעוררות לבו הטהור מגדול המעשה

[The verb] omedet (“stands”) is of feminine gender, which suggests a recipient, because [this donor] receives the [charitable] arousal of his pure heart from him who is “great, by causing others to act.”

Had he been roused to give tzedakah of his own accord, he would have been considered a true “giver”.

אף על פי כן, עומדת לעד

Nevertheless, [his tzedakah] “stands forever.”

פירוש: שכל הצדקה והחסד שישראל עושין בעולם הזה, מנדבת לבם הטהור

This means: All the acts of charity and kindness that Jews perform in this world, out of the generosity of their pure hearts,

הן הנה חיות וקיימות בעולם הזה הגשמי עד זמן התחייה

are alive and they endure in this physical world until the time of the Resurrection.

שאז זמן גילוי אלקות ואור אין סוף ברוך הוא, מבחינת סובב כל עלמין, בעולם הזה

For that will be the time of the manifestation of Divinity and of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, from the level of sovev kol almin, in this world,

This degree of spiritual illumination, which transcends (lit., “encompasses”) all created worlds, will be fully revealed in this world at the time of the Resurrection.

וכמו שכתוב באריכות במכתב דאשתקד

as explained at length in last year’s letter.12

וצריך להיות כלי ומכון, להתלבש בו אור אין סוף ברוך הוא

But there needs to be a vessel and an abode wherein the [infinite] Ein Sof-light can vest itself,

כמו הגוף לנשמה, על דרך משל

just as the body is [a vessel] to the soul, metaphorically speaking.

כמו שכתוב: הלא כה דברי כאש

Thus it is written:13 “For My word is like fire”;

מה אש אינה מאירה בעולם הזה, אלא כשנאחזת ומתלבשת בפתילה כו׳

just as fire does not radiate in this world except when it is attached to and vests itself in a wick..., so, too, if Divinity is to illuminate this world, it too must be able to to attach itself to something in this world which, like a wick, will be wholly subjugated to the Divine flame and consumed by it,

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

as explained elsewhere.14

והגוף והכלי לאורו יתברך, היא מדת החסד ונדיבת הלב

The body and the vessel for G‑d’s light is the attribute of kindness and the generosity of the heart,

ליתן ולהשפיע חיות, למאן דלית ליה כו׳

whereby one gives and effuses vitality to him who has nothing [of his own].

Generosity with a smile, empathy with the pauper, — this is the vessel for G‑d’s infinite light.

כמו שכתוב בתיקונים: וכמה גופין תקינת לון

Thus it is stated in the Tikkunim,15 “And You have prepared many bodies for [the illuminations of the Sefirot],

ואתקריאו בתיקונא דא: חסד, דרועא ימינא

and they are described in the following manner: Chesed — the right arm,”

Just as Chesed is the Supernal “right arm,” so too is man’s corresponding attribute of kindness the appropriate vessel for revelations and benefactions from that source.

וכל הגוף נכלל בימין

Moreover, the entire body is included in the right side, which is its mainstay.

וכך אמר הפייט: לבושו צדקה

Thus too wrote the liturgical poet:16 “His garment is tzedakah.”17

Tzedakah, unqualified, is the garment which garbs and screens the entire Supernal “Body”, thereby enabling mortals here below to receive the infinite revelation of Divinity.

וזהו שאמרו רז״ל: אין צדקה משתלמת אלא לפי חסד שבה

This is the meaning of what our Sages, of blessed memory, said:18 “Charity is recompensed only according to the kindness within it,

שנאמר: זרעו לכם לצדקה, קצרו לפי חסד

as it is written,19 ‘Sow for yourselves for tzedakah, reap according to the kindness.’”

Why is tzedakah is alluded to as “sowing” and its reward as “reaping”?

שהקציר הוא גילוי הזריעה הטמונה בארץ

For a harvest is the manifestation of the seed hidden in the soil.

וכך הוא הצדקה והחסד שישראל עושין בזמן הגלות: היא טמונה ונסתרת עד זמן התחיה, שיתלבש ויאיר אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בעולם הזה הגשמי

It is likewise with the charity and kindness that Jews perform in the time of exile: it [too] is hidden and concealed until the time of the Resurrection, when the [infinite] Ein Sof-light will vest itself and radiate in this physical world.

This ultimate vestiture and revelation thus resembles the harvest of tzedakah.

Moreover, as the Alter Rebbe now explains, G‑d’s vestiture and revelation at the time of the Resurrection resembles and even surpasses His vestiture and revelation within the vessels of the Sefirot in the World of Atzilut.

ואיהו וגרמוהי חד הם, בחינת הכלים דעשר ספירות דאצילות

For “He is one with His causations”,20 i.e., with the kelim (lit., “vessels”) of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut: they are utterly fused with the infinite light that is revealed in them, as explained above in Epistle XX.21

וכל שכן וקל וחומר, אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, הסובב כל עלמין מלמעלה מעלה מבחינת אצילות

Thus, how much more so, with regard to the [infinite] Ein Sof-light which encompasses all worlds (sovev kol almin) from far higher than the level of Atzilut.

If the vessel that receives the lower degree of illumination that permeates Atzilut is wholly one with the light that shines into it, then the vessel that receives an infinitely higher degree of illumination must surely be wholly one with it — absorbing and integrating this illumination within itself. This latter vessel is tzedakah.

ולפיכך נקראת צדקה, לשון נקבה

This is why [charity] is called tzedakah, [a noun] of feminine gender,

צדקתו עומדת לעד

[in the above-quoted phrase,] “his tzedakah stands forever.”

Correspondingly, the verb here translated “stands” (or “endures”) is omedet, also in the feminine form — which, it will be recalled, puts tzedakah in the light of a recipient.

שמקבלת הארה מאור אין סוף, הסובב כל עלמין, המתלבש בתוכה בעולם הזה הגשמי, בזמן התחיה

For it receives a radiation from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that encompasses all worlds, which vests itself in it (and is revealed in it) in this physical world at the time of the Resurrection.

Not only is the feminine gender used because (as explained earlier) a donor may receive his motivation from another, but also because tzedakah itself is a feminine recipient: it is man’s vessel or receptor for the transcendent light of G‑d.

אבל: צדק לפניו יהלך, הוא לשון זכר

However, the verse,22Tzedek shall go before him,” is in the masculine gender, both the noun (tzedek) and its matching verb (yehaleich).

היא מדת החסד המתעוררת בלב האדם מעצמו

This refers to the attribute of kindness that is aroused in a man’s heart of his own accord, not through another’s inspiration,

על ידי התעוררות אהבת ה׳ בקריאת שמע, ולדבקה בו ולמסור נפשו באחד

through an arousal of the love of G‑d when reading the Shema,23 cleaving to Him and surrendering his soul at Echad, i.e., as he completes that verse, “...G‑d is One”;

ובכל מאדך כפשוטו וכו׳

[loving G‑d] “with all your wealth,” in the literal sense24...

I.e., the individual’s love and surrender to G‑d inspire him to give tzedakah.

ובאתערותא דלתתא

And as a result of [this] arousal from below —

וכמים הפנים לפנים, כן לב אדם העליון כו׳

for25 as waters reflect face to face, so is the heart of the Supernal Man [that is “upon the throne”] —

אתערותא דלעילא

there is an arousal from above.

הוא המשכת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, הסובב כל עלמין, למטה מטה בעולם הזה הגשמי בבחינת גילוי, בזמן התחיה

This is [expressed as] a manifest downward flow of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that encompasses (i.e., transcends) all worlds, down to the nethermost level of this physical world, at the time of the Resurrection,

כמבואר במכתב דאשתקד באריכות

as explained at length in last year’s letter.26

Charity inspired by a person’s avodah during prayer is thus called tzedek, a noun of masculine gender, suggesting emanation and provision — for it gives forth and elicits the transcendent light of sovev kol almin. Moreover, as the Alter Rebbe will soon explain, this kind of unsolicited charity draws down the innermost essence of this light. When, however, one’s giving has to wait for another man’s inspiration, such tzedakah remains a recipient, a mere receptor or vessel for a mere glimmer of the light of sovev kol almin.

וזהו: לפניו יהלך

And this is the [mystical] meaning of [two of the words from the above-quoted verse],27[Tzedek] shall go before him.”

The verb yehaleich, here translated “shall go,” in fact appears in this verse in the causative mode: “shall cause to go”; i.e., “shall lead.”

The word lefanav, here translated “before him,” stems from the root panim, meaning “face” or “countenance”.

שמוליך וממשיך פנים העליונים מלמעלה מהאצילות, עד עולם העשיה

Hence: Tzedek leads and elicits the Supernal Countenance, the most essential and inward aspect of the Divine light, drawing it from higher than [the World of] Atzilut, down to the World of Asiyah.

* * *

וכעת עת לקצר, וכל טוב מהם לא יבצר

But let’s close; quite enough I’ve prepared you, and may no kind of blessing be spared you.

הטיבה ה׳ לטובים, ולישרים בלבותם

“Do good, O G‑d, to the good, and to those who are upright in their heart”28bless those who donate generously to tzedakah, and also those whose generous intentions are forced to remain unrealized.

כנפש תדרשנו

Such is the prayerful wish of him who seeks [your welfare].29

Addendum

The Rebbe once explained in a talk that the Alter Rebbe’s statement in the above Epistle, that the spiritual effects of tzedakah are drawn down into this physical world at the present time as well, is truly novel. Generally, Chassidut explains that the performance of mitzvot draws the Divine light downward into the World of Atzilut. The parable offered (see Sefer HaMaamarim 5627, p. 433; Sefer HaMaamarim 5629, p. 209) thus describes the reward for mitzvot as being kept in Atzilut within a chest, so to speak, whose key is in the possession of the individual who performed the mitzvah.

This flow of Divine light is incapable of descending into this world — “There is no reward in this world for a mitzvah30 — for this finite and material world cannot receive the reward that comes from the transcendent level of Divinity called sovev kol almin.

Here, however, the Alter Rebbe states explicitly that “all the acts of charity and kindness that Jews perform in this world, out of the generosity of their pure hearts, are alive and they endure in this physical world until the time of the Resurrection.” Moreover, the Alter Rebbe specifies “in this physical world,” as opposed to the spiritual source of this world. In addition, when he states that the acts of charity “are alive,” how does this term apply in our context?

The Rebbe explains this by citing the following exegesis of the Maggid of Mezritch31 on the verse,32 “You shall observe my statutes and commandments that one is to do and live in them.”

The operative commandments draw down spiritual life-force only when a mitzvah has been actually performed. To consider the tzitzit, for example: Only when a person has used its threads in the performance of the commandment, are all the sublime levels of Divinity drawn downward into the physical world; only then are this person’s thoughts, speech and action (relative to the tzitzit) united; only then do all the laws of tzitzit and all the appropriate Torah passages apply.

The same is true with regard to all the other operative commandments as well. The Maggid concludes that this is the meaning (at the non-literal level of derush) of vechai bahem — “you shall live in them”: every individual Jew draws down spiritual life into the mitzvot he performs.

The above teaching of the Maggid gave the Tzemach Tzedek a fresh insight into a statement with which the Sages extrapolate Moses’ entreaty to be allowed to enter the Holy Land:33 “Let me enter the Land so that all of [the mitzvot] will be fulfilled through me.” The request was not “...so that I will be able to perform the mitzvot,” but rather, “...so that all of [the mitzvot] will be fulfilled and animated through me.” For the commandments are alive and they endure only when a Jew actually performs them.

In this light, the Rebbe concludes, we can understand the above teaching of the Alter Rebbe, that “all the acts of charity and kindness that Jews perform in this world, out of the generosity of their pure hearts, are alive and they endure in this physical world until the time of the Resurrection.”