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Parashat Re'eh

by Rabbi Yitzchok Luria

Apples from the Orchard

  

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Spiritual and Selfless

“When there will be a poor person amongst you…do not tighten your heart and do not close up your hand in front of your poor brother. Rather, open your hand to him…”
This is the commandment to give charity (Tzedakah). Rabbi Chaim Vital, who recorded the teachings of the Arizal, tells us:

Ta’amei HaMitzvot, parashat Re’eh
As for philanthropy and generosity, I observed that my master was not particular that his own clothes be terribly fancy, that he only ate a very little, and that— regarding his wife’s expenses—he would dispense funds according to her wish. In contrast, my master would give charity with great joy and good-heartedness, openhandedly, and sometimes he would not even look to see if there would be any money left for himself or not.

My master said that every commandment is associated with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and that when someone performs a commandment, the letter associated with that commandment shines on his forehead, replacing the letter shining on his forehead from the previous commandment he performed. The letter remains on his forehead only as long as he is performing the commandment with which it is associated; afterwards it is absorbed within him. But if he performs the commandment of charity, the letter associated with it does not disappear as fast as the letters associated with other  commandments, but rather continues to shine on his forehead the whole week. This is the mystical meaning of the verse, “His righteousness (tzedakah) endures forever.”


Regarding buying things that are used for performing the Torah’s commandments, such as a Lulav and Etrog, I saw that my master would give the merchants all they asked for the first time they named a price, and did not try to bargain with them. Sometimes he placed his wallet before them and told them to take what they want. He told me that one should not bargain over the prices one pays to do Mitzvot. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says the same thing in the Zohar.

We will now explain the mystical meaning of the verse, “There is one who gives generously yet ends with more,” which our sages applied to the Mitzvah of charity. Indeed, we will also relate this verse to the same subject, for yesod is called the “righteous one” (Tzadik), inasmuch as it gives “charity” (tzedakah) to Nukva, who is a priori termed “righteousness” (tzedek), but thereby becomes “charity” (tzedakah). The word for “charity,” tzedakah, is composed of the word for “righteousness” (tzedek, tzadik-daletkuf) plus an additional hei. Since the hei at the end of a word is a sign of the feminine gender, tzedakah may be considered the feminine form of tzedek. Thus, yesod transforms Nukva into a female.

Now, the verse speaks of the tzadik, i.e., yesod, as “giving generously.” The literal meaning of this word (mefazeir) is “spreading,” implying that it crumbles the supernal states of chesed into small crumbs, which scatter from the pulverizing blows. This is in order to give these crumbs to Nukva, and the crumbs spread throughout Nukva similar to how the coins of tzedakah a person distributes spread salvation throughout the world.

You should not think that these states of chesed are diminished by passing through Z’eir Anpin nor that they lack anything by being given to tzedek, i.e., Nukva. On the contrary, the result of this process is not a lack but “ends with more.” For these pulverizing blows magnify all the states of chesed, and their light increases infinitely. Z’eir Anpin grows through this process, as we have explained elsewhere. This is the meaning of the phrase, “yet ends with more.” Z’eir Anpin must process its abstract experience of chesed, “breaking it down” or concretizing it into terms and contexts that are meaningful to the objective-oriented partzuf of Nukva in order for the latter to assimilate it. Lest one think that Z’eir Anpin suffers from its “marriage” to Nukva (for which it must “trouble itself” to contextualize its inherent abstractness, which would seem to be a regrettable descent), we are told here that it in fact matures and develops from the process. The descent into reality rebounds as a greater ability to achieve abstraction.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Torah
Torah » Kabbalah
Torah » The Bible

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Tzedakah
"Tzedakah," commonly translated as charity, literally means righteousness, or the right thing to do. Giving to those in need is one of the most important of G-d's commandments.
Mitzvot
Plural form of Mitzvah. Commandments of G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Etrog
A citron; a greenish-yellow citrus fruit. We are required to take an Etrog on the holiday of Sukkot and shake it together with a palm branch, a myrtle and a willow.
Lulav
A palm branch. One of the Four Species we are required to take on the holiday of Sukkot. We shake it together with a citron, myrtle, and willow.
Joseph
Firstborn son of Rachel and Jacob. Because he was Jacob's favorite son, his brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery He ended up in Egypt where he became viceroy of the land, and eventually brought his entire family to Egypt. Died in 1451 BCE.
Arizal
Rabbi Isaac Luria, the 15th Century founder of Modern Kabbalah.
Tzadik
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.