“He who sows tzedakah has a ‘reward’ of truth” (Proverbs 11).1
"זוֹרֵעַ צְדָקָה שֶׂכֶר אֱמֶת" (בְּמִשְׁלֵי י"א).
This means that the attribute of truth is the (G‑d-given) reward for sowing tzedakah.
פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁשְּׂכַר זְרִיעַת הַצְּדָקָה הִיא מִדַּת אֱמֶת.
The term “this means” is generally used to forestall an alternative interpretation. Here, too, by this term, the Alter Rebbe stresses that we are to understand the Hebrew word secher to mean “reward” rather than its being understood to mean “closing off and restraining” (water or whatever, in order to concentrate it). The latter interpretation is that of Rashi; a parallel term is the word וַיִּסָּכְרוּ in the verse, “And the wellsprings of the deep were sealed.”2
Furthermore, even the Targum and other commentaries who do read secher to mean “payment of a reward” can be understood to mean that the individual who sows charity receives a true reward, i.e., an everlasting reward, rather than a reward that consists of truth.
The Alter Rebbe therefore specifies: “This means” that the reward granted from above for sowing tzedakah is the attribute of truth.
It is also written, “You give truth unto Jacob,”3 which would appear to indicate once again that the attribute of truth is granted from Above.
וּכְתִיב: "תִּתֵּן אֱמֶת לְיַעֲקֹב",
According to the commentaries of Rashi and Targum, however, this verse does not describe a state of affairs. Rather, it petitions that G‑d give truth (“Give truth unto Jacob”), that He fulfill for Jacob’s children the truthful promises that He had made to Jacob. Hence, this verse does not prove that the attribute of truth is a gift granted from Above.
The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to specify that this verse is to be understood in the same light as the verse quoted at the outset of this epistle, as follows:
And [here] the prophet [Micah] speaks the praises of the Holy One, blessed be He, as is written in the holy Zohar.4 I.e., rather than petitioning G‑d, this verse extols Him for fulfilling his promise of granting the attribute of truth to Jacob.
וּ"שְׁבָחָא דְּקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא מְסַדֵּר נְבִיָּא כוּ'", כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ.
This means that it is the Holy One, blessed be He, Who gives the attribute of truth unto Jacob.
פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הוּא הַנּוֹתֵן מִדַּת אֱמֶת לְיַעֲקֹב.
Now this needs to be understood: Does Jacob have no truth, heaven forfend, until the Holy One, blessed be He, gives it to him from above?
וְצָרִיךְ לְהָבִין, וְכִי אֵין אֱמֶת בְּיַעֲקֹב חַס וְשָׁלוֹם עַד שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא יִתֵּן לוֹ מִלְמַעְלָה?
However, it is well known that the attribute of Jacob is the attribute of compassion.5
אַךְ הִנֵּה מוּדַעַת זֹאת, דְּמִדַּת יַעֲקֹב הִיא מִדַּת רַחֲמָנוּת,
Abraham epitomizes chesed, the attribute of kindness; Isaac epitomizes gevurah, the attribute of severity; the predominant attribute of Jacob is tiferet, or rachamim, compassion. The inward aspect of the soul’s Divine service when motivated by chesed is—the love of G‑d; the inward aspect of the soul’s Divine service when motivated by gevurah is—the awe of G‑d; so, too, Divine service when motivated by compassion has its distinctive inward aspect:
And the service of G‑d through compassion
וַעֲבוֹדַת ה' בְּמִדַּת רַחֲמָנוּת
derives from the arousal, in a man’s heart, of profound compassion for the Divine spark in his soul,
הִיא הַבָּאָה מֵהִתְעוֹרְרוּת רַחֲמִים רַבִּים בְּלֵב הָאָדָם עַל נִיצוֹץ אֱלֹקוּת שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ,
which is distant from the light of G‑d’s Countenance whenever [the man] goes about in the darkness of the vanities of the world.
הָרְחוֹקָה מֵאוֹר פְּנֵי ה' כַּאֲשֶׁר הוֹלֵךְ בְּחֹשֶׁךְ הַבְלֵי עוֹלָם,
When a man finds himself straying forlorn in a state of spiritual darkness, he can thus awaken within himself a feeling of compassion for the soul-spark within him that he himself has banished from the light of its Divine Source.
This arousal of compassion itself derives from (and is proportionate to) [a man’s] understanding and deep cognition of the greatness of G‑d:
וְהִתְעוֹרְרוּת רַחֲמָנוּת זוֹ הִיא בָּאָה מֵהַתְּבוּנָה וְהַדַּעַת בִּגְדוּלַּת ה',
[He reflects upon] how even the most infinitely sublime worlds are considered as truly naught before Him,
אֵיךְ שֶׁאֲפִילוּ הָעוֹלָמוֹת הָעֶלְיוֹנִים לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה עַד אֵין קֵץ כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיבֵי קַמֵּיהּ,
for all their [G‑d-given] bounty and vitality derives from a mere ray and radiance of a single letter of His blessed Name,
כִּי כָּל שִׁפְעָם וְחַיּוּתָם אֵינוֹ רַק מִזִּיו וְהֶאָרָה מֵאוֹת אֶחָד מִשְּׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,
as it is written, “The World to Come was created [merely] by the letter yud [of the Divine Name].”6
כַּמַּאֲמָר: "בְּיוּ"ד נִבְרָא עוֹלָם־הַבָּא כוּ'".
The spiritual worlds, all of which are included in the term “World to Come,” were thus all created by means of the single letter yud of the Divine Name.
1. Verse 18, where the letters sin and chaf of שֶׂכֶר are each vocalized with a segol.
4. III, 131b.
5. Note by the Rebbe: “Cf. [Tanya], Part I, ch. 45.”
6.Menachot 29b; Jerusalem Talmud, Chagigah 2:1