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Why Tzedaka?
by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
The first Mivtza that we are going to discuss is Mivtza Tzedaka. Even though it was not the first Mivtza that the Rebbe initiated, this Mivtza is presented first because of its practical application. Every single Jew - men, women, children, rich and poor - can and should give Tzedaka.

In addition, this is one Mivtza that we always saw the Rebbe perform personally.

Whether it was "Sunday-Dollars", giving Tzedaka coins to children, or giving out dollars after sichos or at the end of Farbrengens, the Rebbe was constantly distributing money to be given to Tzedakah in order to encourage the performance of this special mitzvah.

The Rebbe started the Tzedaka campaign in the winter of 1974. It was one of a series of MIvtzoim that the Rebbe initiated that year.

The Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos Vol. 2 pg. 410) states that there is a common misconception regarding the translation of the word Tzedaka. The standard translation is "charity", while the literal translation is "righteousnesses".

The Rebbe explains that the connotation of the word charity is that the one giving it is to be applauded for giving away his own money to another person. However, in reality this is really not the truth regarding tzedaka, as all money belongs to Hashem and he gave it to us to be used for the right things. That attitude is expressed in the word righteousness, which tells us that Tzedaka is a righteous act. It is to be given with the understanding that the money given was destined to go that person receiving it. Hashem gave it to another Jew in order to give him the opportunity to do a Mitzvah.

There are many different levels in giving Tzedaka and many special segulos associated with it. There are many well-known sayings of Chazal about Tzedaka, such as (shulchan Aruch Yorah Deah siman 247):

1) "Whoever has mercy on poor people, Hashem has mercy on him”, and "Tzedaka saves from death!"

It is interesting to not that there are also no limit on the performance of the mitzvah of Tzedaka. Even though Chazal say, "One should not give more than a fifth of his earningsto Tzedaka", it does not contradict the above statement of the Gemara. This guideline refers to someone who does not need to do Teshuvah or fix his deeds and ways, but for someone who is in need of spiritual healing, there are no limits on the amount of tzedaka that is appropriate for him to give. Just as there is no limit on the teshuva that must be done, so too the mitzvah of Tzedaka has no limit. A person would not think of limiting the amount he spends on his physical health, so how much more so would this apply to one’s spiritual health (Alter Rebbe in Tanya Iggers Hakodesh 10).

The Rebbe gave us specific guidelines for implementing this mivtza. Firstly, every person should increase in giving Tzedaka. Then, every child should have a Tzedaka-box in their room. Every car and Mikve should have a Tzedaka box. There should be aTzedaka-box attached to the wall of each home. One should be careful to give Tzedaka before Davening. The Rebbe also instructed that women should give tzedaka beforelighting Shabbos candles.

In the “Hayom Yom” of the 9th of Tammuz, the Rebbe writes: “The greatest guaranteed assurance (of Divine assistance) for parents in need of special help and deliverance for their children, is through their support of those that study Torah”.

Moshiach is also a very important component of the mitzvah of Tzedaka. Chazal (Bava Basra 10a) state: "It has been taught: Rabbi Yehuda says: Great is charity, in that it brings the redemption nearer, as it says, ‘Thus says the L-rd, Keep your judgment and do righteousness [tzedakah], for My salvation is near to come and My righteousness to be revealed.”

What is the reason that charity is singled out as unique from all the Mitzvos?

The Alter Rebbe (Tanya cahpter 37) explains:

The advantage of the mitzvos of action lies in their elevating effect on the body and soul. That is how we can understand why our Sages so greatly praised the virtue of charity, declaring it equal to all the other mitzvot together. In all of the Talmud Yerushalmi charity is called simply “The Commandment,” because charity is the core ofall the mitzvot of action and surpasses them all.

The reason for this is that the purpose of all these mitzvot is only to elevate one’s animal soul to holiness, since it is this soul that performs them.

From all of the mitzvos of action, there is no other mitzvah in which the animal soul is clothed to the same extent as in the mitzvah of Tzedakah. For in all other mitzvot only one faculty of the animal soul is clothed. For example, when a person wears tefillin or holds the esrog, his hand is involved in the action. Even this one faculty is clothed in the mitzvah only while the mitzvah is being performed. In the case of Tzedaka, however,which one gives from money that he worked very hard to earn,surely all the strength of his animal soul is involved in the effort of that work, or in any other occupation by which he earned this money which he then distributes for Tzedaka. Therefore, when he gives to this money to charity, money which he earn by apply in all the strength of his animal soul, his entire animal soul ascends to Hashem. This is why the mitzvah of tzedaka is superior over other mitzvot.

But this seems to imply that if one does not invest all his strength into earning his livelihood, his charity lacks this quality. Yet, as the Alter Rebbe explains,
even he who does not earn his livelihood through hard effort, still achieves this great accomplishment through the mitzvah of Tzedaka. Since he could have purchased with this money that he gave for charity, nourishment for the life of his animal soul, he is actually giving his soul’s life to Hashem in the form of charity. Thus, charity comprises and therefore elevates more energy of the animal soul than any other mitzvah.

This is why our Sages have said that charity hastens the Geulah of Moshiach:

For with one act of charity one elevates so much of the animal soul; more of its faculties and powers, in fact, than he might elevate through many other active mitzvot combined. As we know, the Era of Moshiach is a result of our efforts in purifying and elevating the animal soul; Tzedaka, which causes this elevation in such great measure, thus hastens the final Geulah, may is come speedily in our days!


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