LESSONS IN TANYA: Monday, September 10, 2012

Elul 23, 5772 · September 10, 2012
Today's Tanya Lesson
Iggeret HaKodesh, end of Epistle 16

והנה זהו על פי שורת הדין גמור

Now, the above follows the exact requirements of the law.

אבל באמת, גם אם הוא ענין דלא שייך כל כך האי טעמא

In fact, however, even in a case where such reasoning does not so fully apply,

I.e., even when (a) one is called upon to share not luxuries but one's own slice of bread, or even when (b) the poor are not crying out for food and clothing, but for other essentials,

ראוי לכל אדם שלא לדקדק להעמיד על הדין

it is not proper that any man insist on the letter of the law;

רק לדחוק חייו, וליכנס לפני ולפנים משורת הדין

rather, he should impose austerity on his own life and go far beyond the [demands of the] letter of the law.

ולדאוג לעצמו ממאמר רז״ל, שכל המדקדק בכך, סוף בא לידי כך, חס ושלום

Moreover, one should be concerned,1 for his own sake, with the teaching of our Sages,2 of blessed memory, that — even in a situation where "that which is yours takes precedence over that which belongs to others" — he who is exacting in this matter, and does not go beyond the letter of the law, "will eventually be brought to this matter": he himself will ultimately need charity, heaven forfend.

וגם כי כולנו צריכים לרחמי שמים בכל עת

And after all, all of us need the mercies of heaven at all times,3

באתערותא דלתתא דוקא, בכל עת ובכל שעה

[which are elicited] only through an arousal from below, at all times and at every moment,

לעורר רחמינו על הצריכים לרחמים

by arousing our compassion for those who are in need of compassion.

וכל המאמץ לבבו וכובש רחמיו, יהיה מאיזה טעם שיהיה, גורם כך למעלה לכבוש וכו׳, חס ושלום

But whoever hardens his heart and suppresses his compassion, for whatever reason, causes the same above — the suppression of [Divine compassion], heaven forfend.

All this however, affects only the future. [The Rebbe, however, notes:] "And the present as well, causing one to give until the recipient is equal 'with you.'" [Cf. footnote 7, above.] There is, however, an aspect of tzedakah that also affects the past, [and the Rebbe adds:] "causing one to give to an even greater degree than what he keeps for himself, since this is" to secure the rectification and atonement of his past sins.

ומה גם כי אדם אין צדיק בארץ, אשר יעשה טוב תמיד ולא יחטא

After all, furthermore,4 "There is not a righteous person upon earth who does good" — always — "and does not sin,"

וצדקה מכפרת, ומגינה מן הפורענות וכו׳

and tzedakah atones,5 and protects against misfortune and the like.6

ולזאת היא רפואת הגוף ונפש ממש

[Charity] is thus an actual cure for body and soul,7

אשר עור בעד עור, וכל אשר לאיש יתן בעד נפשו

with respect to which [it is written],8"Skin for skin — a limb for a limb, and all that a man has he will give for his soul," i.e., to save his life.

Setting a limit to the amount one distributes for charity is thus just as unthinkable as limiting the sum one would spend in order to be cured and to stay alive.

בשגם אנו מאמינים בני מאמינים כי הצדקה אינה רק הלואה להקב״ה

How much more does this apply, when we are9 "believers, the descendants of believers," in the fact that charity is nothing other than a loan to the Holy One, blessed be He,10

כדכתיב: מלוה ה׳ חונן דל, וגמולו ישלם לו בכפליים בעולם הזה

as it is written,11 "He who is gracious unto the poor, lends unto G‑d, and He will repay him his good deed" — twofold, in this world.

דשכר כל המצוות ליכא בעולם הזה, לבד מצדקה, לפי שהיא טוב לבריות, כדאיתא בקדושין, סוף פרק קמא

For the performance of none of the commandments is rewarded in this world — except for charity,12 because it is beneficial to creatures,13 as is written at the end of the first chapter of Kiddushin.14

וגם יש לחוש לעונש, חס ושלום, כשחבריו נמנים לדבר מצוה, והוא לא נמנה עמהם

Also, one should be concerned about punishment,15 heaven forfend, when one's companions associate for the sake of a mitzvah and he does not join them,16

This would be the case if one were to absent oneself when the other members of one's community were joining forces for the sake of the charitable cause under discussion, viz., the Kollel Chabad Fund.

כנודע ממאמר רז״ל

as is known from the words of our Sages,17 of blessed memory, who teach that standing aside in such circumstances is an instance of18 "an absence for which one cannot [again] be counted."

ולשומעים יונעם, ותבא עליהם ברכת טוב בכל מילי דמיטב

May life be pleasant for those who give heed, and may blessings of all kinds of goodness rest upon them.19

הטיבה ה׳ לטובים וישרים

"Act benevolently, O G‑d, toward the good and the upright,"20

כנפשם ונפש הדורש שלומם מכל לב ונפש

as is their wish and as is the wish of [the writer], who seeks their welfare with all his heart and soul.

1. Note of the Rebbe: "Concerned: (a) for the future, (b) for his own livelihood." [See footnote 12, below.]
2. The wording in the Gemara (Bava Metzia 33a) is that "He who acts (and Rashi paraphrases, 'is exacting') for himself in this matter will eventually be brought to this matter," heaven forfend. See also Dikdukei Sofrim.
3. The Rebbe adds, "...with regard to: (a) the present, (b) for his children and health as well." [I.e., for the remaining two items in the trilogy of חיי, בני ומזוני; cf. Moed Katan 28a.]
4. Kohelet 7:20.
5. See Devarim Rabbah 5:3.
6. See Vayikra Rabbah, beginning of sec. 27.
7. See Tanchuma, Mishpatim, sec. 15.
8. Iyov 11:14. See also Iggeret HaTeshuvah, end of ch. 3.
9. Shabbat 97a.
10. See Bava Batra 10a, and commentaries there of Rashi and of the Chiddushei Aggadot of the Maharal.
11. Mishlei 19:17.
12. Note of the Rebbe: "The absence of reward in this world for other mitzvot would not seem to be relevant here, unlike the positive statement that follows it, regarding the reward for tzedakah. Its mention could be understood as alluding to yet another reason for giving tzedakah: nothing exists in this world by virtue of which one may be assured of sustenance, other than the giving of tzedakah (where, as the Alter Rebbe writes, one's contribution is rewarded 'twofold')."

Note of the Rebbe: "Though there seems to be no evident reason for citing the reason here, perhaps the Alter Rebbe is thereby hinting that even if the needy individual is unworthy of being included in the category of 'your brother,' he is still worthy of your contribution inasmuch as he is nevertheless in the category of [G‑d's] 'creatures'. (See Tanya, ch. 32.)"

This observation happily completes a series of lessons, in which the Alter Rebbe has been teaching us to overcome three possible restrictive interpretations of the above-quoted verse, וחי אחיך עמך — '...so that your brother may live with you' (Vayikra 25:36): (a) though the verse obliges us to give 'so that your brother may live,' one should not provide him only with the bare essentials; (b) 'your brother' should not be interpreted so narrowly as to exclude mere 'creatures'; (a) 'with you' should bring the recipient to a state of more than mere equality with the donor."

14. 40a.
15. The Rebbe adds, "...and not only about not receiving the reward."
16. Note of the Rebbe: "Thus, even if one has already given as much tzedakah as he ought to, so that all the above considerations have been attended to, he must nevertheless give again when his companions join to perform a charitable mitzvah together. This is an original teaching first appearing in the above letter."
17. Chagigah 9b; Berachot 26a.
18. Kohelet 1:15.
19. Cf. Mishlei 24:25.
20. Cf. Tehillim 125:4.

By Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of Chabad Chassidism (Free Translation)    More articles...  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
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