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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 4 Elul
Now the essence of penitence is in the heart, for through regret from the depth of the heart one arouses the [corresponding] depth [i.e., the ultimate degree] of this Supreme light. [I.e., a man's earnest penitence calls forth the above-described superior spiritual light which rectifies whatever he had been lacking in his fulfillment of the Torah and its mitzvot.]
But in order to call forth [this light] so that it will radiate in the higher and lower worlds, there must be an actual arousal from below in the form of action, viz., the practice of charity and kindness without limit and measure.
For just as a man dispenses rav Chesed, [an infinite abundance of kindness] [the first two letters of Chesed] meaning "he pities" [and the last letter when spelled out meaning, in Aramaic,] "him who has not," implying [that he dispenses his kindness] to the utterly destitute individual who does not have (deleit lei) anything of his own, without setting a limit or measure to his giving and diffusion - so, too, the Holy One, blessed be He, diffuses His light and benign influence in the spirit of the superior Chesed, known as rav Chesed, that radiates infinitely, without limit or measure, within the upper and lower worlds.
For in relation to Him, blessed be He, all are in a state of deleit [having nothing], inasmuch as they have nothing at all of their own, and all before Him are considered as nothing.
[Since all of creation is of no account in the eyes of G-d, anything received from His hand is not deserved, but a gratuitous gift; as, indeed, is the very fact that mortal endeavors are able to draw down Divine light. At any rate, boundless tzedakah and kindness draw down the degree of Divine radiance that transcends all worlds.]
All the blemishes that a man caused above, in the upper and the lower worlds, through his sins, are thereby rectified. [Thus, the measured performance of tzedakah and Chesed draws down Chesed olam, which is a worldlike (hence, a finite) degree of Divine benevolence, while the boundless performance of tzedakah and Chesed draws down rav Chesed, an infinite degree of Divine benevolence.]
And this is the meaning of the verse,  "G-d prefers tzedakah and justice  over offerings," because the sacrifices are defined in terms of quantity, dimension and limitation, while charity can be dispensed without limit, for the purpose of rectifying one's sins.
[Although (like the sacrifices) tzedakah also effects atonement, it may be offered (unlike the sacrifices) without limit. It is therefore able to draw down Divine illumination that is correspondingly infinite, and thereby secure a superior order of atonement.]
As for the ruling that  "He who is unstinting [in his charitable giving] should not expend more than one fifth [of his earnings]," this applies only to one who has not sinned, or who has rectified his sins by means of self-mortification and fasts, as indeed all the blemishes Above should be rectified. [Since such an individual need not give tzedakah to rectify his sins, he should not give more than a fifth.]
But as to him who still needs to remedy his soul, the healing of the soul is obviously no less a priority than the healing of the body, where money does not count. As Scripture states,  "Whatever a man has he will give on behalf of his soul."
[The simple meaning of the verse is that a person will forego all his wealth in order to save his life. However, since the word "soul" is used rather than "life", we may also understand this to mean that a person will give everything he has in order to save and rectify his soul.]
- (Back to text) Mishlei 21:3.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: In light of this explanation, what is the relevance here of justice?
Paradoxically, it could be explained that it is specifically this word that explains why tzedakah is preferred over offerings. For the kind of tzedakah that can be done equally by all - the regular, unqualified commandment of tzedakah which is one of the pillars upon which the world stands would appear to belong to [the finite category known as] Chesed olam, as stated explicitly above. How, then, can it be found preferable to offerings? The verse therefore specifies that the subject at hand is the kind of tzedakah that is closely accompanied by justice, i.e., the tzedakah whose goal is the just rectification of ones sins.
This concept is related to that in Torah Or (p. 63b), but it is not exactly the same. As to the difference in order between 'tzedakah and justice' and 'justice and tzedakah', see Avot deRabbi Natan, beginning of ch. 33, and Or HaTorah, Parshat Vayei ra, p. 99a.
- (Back to text) Ketubbot 50a.
- (Back to text) Iyov 2:4.
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