In this week's Torah reading, we are commanded to give charity:

"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…." (Deut. 15:7-8)

Rabbi Chaim Vital, who recorded the teachings of the Arizal, tells us:

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, regarding his wife's expenses, he would dispense funds according to her wish. My master would give charity with great joy and good-heartedness, open-handedly, and sometimes he would not even look to see if there would be any money left for himself or not.

Every commandment is associated with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet….

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]. However, 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 [in Hebrew, 'tzedaka'] endures forever" (Psalms 111:3, 112:3, 9)

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.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Torah and Shaar Hamitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.