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:

We will now explain the mystical meaning of the verse, "There is one who gives generously yet ends with more" (Proverbs 11:24) which our Sages applied to the mitzvah of charity. (Yalkut Shimoni ad loc.) Indeed, we will also relate [this verse] to the same subject, for yesod is called the "righteous one" [in Hebrew, "tzadik"], inasmuch as it gives "charity" ["tzedaka"] to Nukva, who is a priori termed "righteousness" [in Hebrew, "tzedek"], but thereby becomes "charity" ["tzedaka"].

The word for "charity", "tzedaka", is composed of the word for "righteousness" ("tzedek", spelled tzadik-dalet-kuf) plus an additional hei. Since the hei at the end of a word is a sign of the feminine gender, "tzedaka" may be considered the feminine form of "tzedek". Thus, yesod transforms Nukva into a female.

Joseph is associated with yesod by virtue of his sexual purity….

Now, [the verse speaks of] the tzadik [i.e. yesod] as "giving generously". The literal meaning of this word [in Hebrew, "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] tzedaka [that a person distributes spread salvation throughout the world].

You should not think that these states of chesed are diminished by [passing through] Zeir 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. Zeir Anpin grows through this process, as we have explained elsewhere. This is the meaning of the phrase, "yet ends with more".

Zeir 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 Zeir 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.

It could be that this is why yesod is called "Joseph".

As we have explained numerous times, Joseph is associated with yesod by virtue of his sexual purity. Here, we note that the word "Joseph" (in Hebrew, "yosef") means "he will add", alluding to the increase Joseph - i.e. holy coupling with Nukva - causes in Zeir Anpin.

So will it be with someone who gives charity. [He will not suffer financially from this, but] on the contrary, he will become wealthier, and possess more than he did beforehand.

The mystical meaning of tzedaka and prayer is that since [because of mankind's sins] the yud-hei has been separated from the vav-hei, we must give tzedaka or pray in order to unify G‑d's Name with His Shechina, with fear and love, in the name of all Israel. Misdeeds are possible only because the intellect is divorced from the emotions…

Misdeeds are possible only because the intellect is divorced from the emotions (and their expression). Intellectually, a person can understand that it is not right for him to do evil. But as long as this understanding is not given the opportunity (usually through contemplation and meditation) to affect the way he feels about things, it remains abstract and sterile.

The yud-hei of G‑d's name Havayah signify, as we have explained previously, the sefirot of chochma and bina, respectively, the two principal components of the intellect. The vav-hei signifies the emotions (considered collectively) and their means of expression (thought, speech, and action).

By renewing our connection to G‑d in prayer or performing acts of loving-kindness, we show that our intellect is indeed affecting our emotions and actions, thus healing the breach between the two halves of G‑d's Name.

As we know, the first two letters of the name Havayah are a name of G‑d in their own right, the name Y-ah. The final hei of the name Havayah, which descends to express the intellect and emotions of the first three letters into the lower worlds, is termed the Shechina, the "Divine Presence".

The purpose of giving charity before prayer is to unify the [first two letters of the name Havayah] yud-hei, which is separated from the [final two letters,] vav-hei.

Before performing a good deed or giving charity, it is necessary to say, "[I am doing this] in order to unify the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and His Shechina, in love and fear [of G‑d], in the name of all Israel." [In this way,] he will connect the yud-hei with the vav-hei.

The one giving charity should intend to unite the [letters of the] name Havayah in the following way:

By giving charity, we facilitate the union of the partzufim; this then allows divine beneficence to flow unrestricted.

The coin he gives to the poor person manifests the yud of the name Havayah.

The coin is the concentrated point of divine beneficence, similar to the yud, the smallest of the letters, which signifies the seminal drop of insight (chochma).

The five fingers of the hand of the giver manifest the [first] hei of the name Havayah.

The numerical value of the hei is 5.

His extended arm manifests the vav of the name Havayah.

Since the arm is visually similar to the form of the vav, essentially a straight line.

The five fingers of the hand of the recipient manifest the final hei of the name Havayah.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "and the act of charity will be peace." (Isaiah 32:17)

Giving charity makes peace between the estranged letters of the name Havayah.

The mystical meaning of charity is as follows:

When you give a coin, consider the word for "coin" [in Hebrew, "perutah"] to be made up of two letter-groups: pei-reish-tet and vav-hei. The origin of strict judgment is from the 288 Sparks [of Tohu that fell]; when the kolel [one, signifying the word as a whole] is added, we have the numerical value of pei-reish-tet.

Pei-reish-tet = 80 + 200 + 9 = 289.

Evil, suffering, and all varieties of occultation of the divine presence result cosmologically from the collapse of the world of Tohu, in which the sparks of holiness of this world became embedded in the gross materiality (relative or actual) of the subsequently created worlds. The general number of these sparks is 288.

These [sparks] are existentially ensconced within the final hei [of the name Havayah].

The final hei, malchut, is the sefira of any world that descends into the next lower world in order to bring it into being and sustain it. It thus embodies the principle of descent.

When we join the [final] hei with the vav, the individual aspects of the judgments are sweetened; this occurs by giving charity.

The letter-group pei-reish-tet spells the word for "individual aspect" (in Hebrew, "perat").

The numerical value of the word "tzedaka" [plus the kolel] is the same as the combined numerical values of the names Elo-him, Ado-nai, the number 45, and 4 [for the four] letters of the name [Havayah].

Tzedaka: tzadik-dalet-kuf-hei = 90 + 4 + 100 + 5 = 199.

Elo-him: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86.

Ado-nai: alef-dalet-nun-yud = 1 + 4 + 50 + 10 = 65.

86 + 65 + 45 + 4 = 200.

The meaning of this is that the names Elo-him and Ado-nai [which both signify strict judgment] are sweetened by tzedaka, performed with the name MaH. When you give charity, intend that thereby the kuf will become a hei

Generally, MaH, the name Havayah spelled out such that its numerical value is 45, signifies selflessness. Thus, we see here the importance of giving tzedaka selflessly.

We will now explain the mystical meaning of the phrase: "You shall surely open your hand to your brother, your poor, and your destitute of your land." (Deut. 15:11)

"You shall surely open your hand to your brother…" - this refers to yesod;

"…in your land." - this refers to Nukva, i.e. [the union of] both [Zeir Anpin and Nukva] together, for through tzedaka, tzedek [yesod] and tzedaka [malchut] unite, as is known.

As we know, "the land" is an appellation for malchut, the lowest sefira.

Another aspect of tzedaka: The letter kuf alludes to Cain [as above], "the nest of impurity", the spreading of the [venom of the primordial] snake.

Specifically, this refers to the "leg" of the kuf [as above].

When you give charity, intend that thereby the kuf will become a hei, as the extension of the leg of the kuf is withdrawn upward, producing the form of the hei. [When this occurs,] it prevents the forces of evil from latching on [and deriving sustenance this way].

I heard [this latter idea] from Rabbi Eliyahu Falcon, in my teacher's [the Ari's] name.

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.