On this basis, [we can appreciate the verse,] “Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and her captives, through tzedakah.” The Jews are called Zion by virtue of their involvement in Torah study, Divine service, and deeds of kindness, these reflecting the Torah and its mitzvos in their totality. This causes them to be distinguished, and tziyun, the Hebrew for “Zion” means a “sign.” Even as they find themselves in exile, [they remain distinguished]; they are not — G‑d forbid — lost among the nations. ([To cite a parallel in the realm of halachah, when] a physical object has a “sign,” the sign enables it to be returned to its own­ers [should it be lost]).

Moreover, through the Jews’ observance of the Torah and its mitzvos during the time of exile, they ascend to a higher [spiritual] level, [attaining] an even higher rung than during the time of the Beis HaMikdash. There are two dimensions of this superiority:

a) (As [explained] in sec. 5), the service in the time of exile reveals the intensity and the infinite dimension of the spiritual light, that even the greatest darkness possible (the darkness of exile, [and in particular,] the doubled and redoubled darkness in the era of ikvesa diMeshicha) [the time when Mashiach’s approaching footsteps can be heard] cannot bring about concealment for it. When speaking in general terms, this alludes to the light that is above the keilim, (the light that is apart1). [This light can be described as] infinite, but it is, nevertheless, categorized as light.

b) The transformation of darkness into light reveals [G‑d’s] essence which transcends the categories of light and darkness (as above).

The verse, [“Zion shall be redeemed...,”] is the final and concluding2 verse of the Haftorah Chazon Yeshayahu. [Yeshayahu (as reflected by his name) is associated with yeshuah,3 salvation. This also includes the true salvation, i.e., the Complete Redemp­tion which will never be followed by exile.4 This is intimated by the continuation of the verse,5 “who received visions... in the days... of Yichezkiyahu,”6 [for it is said,]7 “G‑d sought to make [Yi]chezkiyahu Mashiach.”]

This verse speaks of the ascent that will take place during the Future Redemption, and more specifically — [that which is achieved] through the second [dimension of] the ascent [which involves the transformation of the darkness itself into light], the primary aspect and ultimate purpose of exile.

On this basis, we can understand why the verse uses [both expressions,] “redeemed” and “those who return to her” [as noted in sec. 3]: For the ascent involves both the body that will be redeemed from exile (“redeemed”), and the soul that will re­turn from the place of exile (“those who return to her”). Similarly, we can comprehend why redemption comes about through “justice,” while the return comes through charity. For the ascent to be experienced by the body (redemption) is a function of justice. Since the body was in actual exile and it brought about the transformation of darkness into light, the advantage and the ascent that will accrue to it through this service, is due the body by right; [granting it is an act of] “justice.” For the soul which merely was in the place of exile ([as implied by the term] “those who return”) to be elevated to this level is (not due it by right, rather it comes) as an act of charity.

In addition, it is possible to say that in one particular, there is a superior aspect to the ascent of the soul over the ascent of the body. Since the ascent of the body is an expression of judgment (i.e., its ascent is in accord with the scales of intellect and logic), it is within the bounds of measure and limitation. The ascent of the soul, by contrast, comes as an expression of charity and is thus above all measure and limitation.

“A verse is not to be taken out of its plain context.”8 On the contrary, it is through studying the plain intent that the essence of the Torah is revealed. For the plain intent relates to the world of Asiyah,9 [the world] in which the Divine intent of having a dwelling place in the lowest realms is fulfilled. We may also say that this is the (inner) reason why the Torah study of school-children, “breath that is devoid of sin,10” concerns specifically the plain meaning of the Torah.

The same also applies with regard to the matter at hand, the verse “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her captives, through righteousness.” The aspect of primary importance is the plain and simple meaning of the verse — the actual redemption and exodus from exile in the True and Complete Redemption led by our Righteous Mashiach; may this take place very speedily, in our times.