In this parasha, we are told:

When there will be a poor man from among your brothers in one of the gates of your land, which G‑d, your G‑d, is giving you, do not constrict your heart or close your hand before your poor brother. Rather, open, open your hand to him or loan him as much as he needs of what he is lacking. (Deut. 15:7-8)

The mystical significance of charity [in Hebrew, "tzedaka"] is as follows:

"Tzedaka" is spelled tzadik-dalet-kuf-hei.

The yud in the letter tzadik is faced in the opposite direction that the [yud] of the nun [of the tzadik], and this indicates that Zeir Anpin and Nukva are back-to-back.

In the script used for writing Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot, the letters of the alphabet have precise forms as dictated by Jewish law. The Arizal's system is basically the same as that of Rabbi Yosef Karo (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 36) with seven exceptions. One of these is the form of the letter tzadik, which is formed by writing a slightly bent-over nun and then attaching a yud on the right. According to Rabbi Karo, this yud is to be written "facing" the nun, that is, in its normal orientation. (Most letters in the Hebrew alphabet appear to be "facing" left.) According to the Arizal, however, the yud is to be written "facing" right.

The hei is seen as a perfectly balanced letter….

As we know, the least favorable position of the partzufim is "back to back", in which the flow of divine beneficence is severely limited. One of the ramifications of this situation is material poverty in the physical world.

The dalet [the second letter of the word "tzedaka"] indicates that Nukva is impoverished, inasmuch as the word "dalet" means "poor".

The adjective "dal", in Hebrew, means "poor". Thus, dalet can be seen as a feminine form of this word. Since Zeir Anpin and Nukva are back-to-back, Nukva does not receive the full flow of divine beneficence it needs.

Even though the [third letter,] kuf, does indicate a certain low-grade coupling, its "leg" is long, indicating that [the divine beneficence it channels unfortunately] extends to the realm of evil.

The kuf is formed of a slightly truncated kaf and a lowered zayin. These two letters are facing the normal way, indicating that altogether the kuf does indicate a measure of "coupling", but the lowered zayin, the "leg" of the kuf, extends below the line, indicating a flow into the lower realms of reality, i.e. evil.

In order to freshen [literally "perfume", meaning to rectify, or "sweeten"] this situation, we must give charity, which fills in [the missing elements of the first three letters] as the letter hei, which depicts the true coupling, this being the mystical significance of the letter hei, as explained in the Zohar (II:104a).

The hei is seen as a perfectly balanced letter, in which the leg does not extend below the line as it does in the kuf, and there is a coupling between its two parts, unlike the dalet, which lacks a second "half" to couple with. As we will see, the hei is the rectified form of the kuf and the dalet.

Now, the kuf signifies Cain, i.e. the spreading of the impurity [of evil], while the hei signifies Abel.

The name "Cain" in Hebrew begins with a kuf, while the name "Abel", in Hebrew "Hevel", begins with a hei.

The one giving the charity should also intend to unite the letters of the name Havayah….

The one giving the charity should also 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 the divine beneficence to flow unrestrictedly.

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

Through prayer, we join our divine consciousness with our emotions….

The first two letters of the name Havayah indicate chochma and bina, i.e. the intellect. The second two letters indicate the emotions and their expression. Before prayer, the intellect is divorced from emotion and expression, and through prayer, we join our divine consciousness with our emotions and means of expression, so that they, too, should be G‑d-oriented.

The surest way to ensure that this is successful is by performing an act of charity or other good deed before prayer. This indicates that our intentions are good, and that we are giving concrete expression to our desire that all our emotions and deeds follow these good intentions.

Before performing the good deed or giving the charity, however, 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 Holy One, blessed be He", is usually an appellation for Zeir Anpin, indicated by the vav of the name Havayah, while the Shechina is an appellation for Nukva, indicated by the final hei of the name Havayah.

In this context, however, it appears that "The Holy One, blessed be He" denotes the yud-hei and the Shechina denotes the vav-hei. Or, perhaps, the union of the vav and final hei leads to the larger, more general union of the yud-hei and the vav-hei.

Another mystical meaning of tzedaka: When you give the coin, intend that word [for "coin", in Hebrew, "peruta"], means "289 vav-hei".

When you join the vav with the hei, the 289 states of severity are sweetened….

The word we are translating here as "coin" is "peruta", which is actually a coin of a specific value, i.e. the minimal value that is considered money in Jewish law. If one gives less than this amount, it is not considered as if he gave anything, he has not fulfilled the commandment to give charity, and he has not accomplished any of the mystical unions described here. The value of the peruta is that of 25 mg of pure silver; the value of this in present-day money fluctuates according to the value of the currency.

The word "peruta" is spelled pei-reish-vav-tet-hei. This may be split into pei-reish-tet and vav-hei. The numerical value of pei-reish-tet is 80 + 200 + 9 = 289.

The origin of the states of severity [reflected in poverty] is the 288 Sparks [of Tohu that fell into the Lower Worlds when the vessels of Tohu shattered]. Together with the kolel, this becomes 289. The states of severity are [manifest through] malchut [i.e. Nukva], the final hei of the name Havayah.

When you join the vav with the hei, the 289 states of severity are sweetened [i.e. rectified]; this is accomplished through tzedaka.

Joining the vav and the hei ensures that the hei, the means of G‑d's (and our) expression, is driven by the vav, the rectified emotions, rather than being a vehicle for the forces of evil.

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 Arizal's] name.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Torah, Shaar HaMitzvot, and Ta'amei 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.