Parshas Reeh: The Value of Giving Tzedakah
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כִּי־יִֽהְיֶה֩ בְךָ֨ אֶבְי֜וֹן מֵֽאַחַ֤ד אַחֶ֨יךָ֙ בְּאַחַ֣ד שְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ בְּאַ֨רְצְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֣ן לָ֑ךְ לֹ֧א תְאַמֵּ֣ץ אֶת־לְבָֽבְךָ֗ וְלֹ֤א תִקְפֹּץ֙ אֶת־יָ֣דְךָ֔ מֵֽאָחִ֖יךָ הָֽאֶבְיֽוֹן: כִּֽי־פָתֹ֧חַ תִּפְתַּ֛ח אֶת־יָֽדְךָ֖ ל֑וֹ וְהַֽעֲבֵט֙ תַּֽעֲבִיטֶ֔נּוּ דֵּ֚י מַחְסֹר֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֶחְסַ֖ר לֽוֹ:
If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities, in your land the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking. (Devarim 15:7-8)
The passuk emphasizes that we are not to close our "hands" from our needy brothers and then further instructs us to open our "hands" in their time of need. What is the Torah trying to teach us by stressing the word hand? There are many Mitzvos that we perform with our hands and yet we do not find that the Torah specifically instructs us to do them with our hands? What is unique about the Mitzvah of Tzedakah that it is so closely identified with the hands?
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh sees in these pesukim a reference to the coming of Mashiach. Mashiach is the אֶבְי֜וֹן מֵֽאַחַ֤ד אַחֶ֨יךָ֙, a needy person, from one of your brothers, who desperately longs to come and redeem us.
ובדרך רמז ירמוז להעיר הערה גדולה על א' המיוחד שבאומה שאליו אנו מקוים ומצפים מתי יבא והוא מלך ישראל משיחנו אשר הוא אביון, וכבר נמשל לעני כאומרו (זכרי' ט' ) עני ורוכב על חמור, ורמז הדבר אשר יסובבנו להיות אביון ואמר בך פירוש בסיבתך כי עונותינו האריכו קיצנו, גם רמז בתיבת בך כי הוא אביון בנו שמתאוה מתי יבא לגאלנו, וצא ולמד ממה שאמרו רבותינו ז''ל במעשה רבי יהושע בן לוי שכשראהו מלך המשיח שאלו על ישראל שבעולם ואמר לו ריב''ל כי הם יושבים ומצפים ביאתו וכששמע כן געה החסיד בבכיה רבה מתשוקתו לבא לגאלם, ולזה רמז באומרו מאחד אחיך שהוא המיוחד שבאחיך, על דרך שפירשו רבות... ויצו ה' לכל איש ישראל שלא יאמץ את לבבו וגו' אלא יתחזק בכל עוז ותעצומות למלאות חשק האחד המיוחד, כי באמצעות מעשה בני אדם ובפרט במצות הצדקה דכתיב (ישעי' נ''ד ) בצדקה תכונני, וגמר אומר מאחיך האביון פירוש מסיבת אחיך האביון הידוע שיעריך אדם בדעתו שהמעשה הוא לתכלית דבר זה של משיח ה' שמו חיים:
"A moral/ethical approach to the whole paragraph sees in the words מאחד אחיך, "one of your brethren," an allusion to the one who is special amongst your brethren, the one to whose coming we all look forward to with longing, i.e. the Messiah. The Messiah has been portrayed as a poor man when the prophet (Zachariah 9,9) describes him as riding on a donkey. The Torah also hints at the cause of his poverty when it says בך, "because of you," meaning that if the redemption would be orchestrated by God because the Israelites had attained spiritual maturity the Messiah would arrive in advance of G'd's final date for the redemption and he would be able to ride in style to show that the Israelites had qualified for redemption by their own efforts. As it is, by describing him as בך, Moses portrays him as a destitute person who waits anxiously for a handout. The story is told that when Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi once encountered the Messiah, the latter asked him what the Israelites were doing at that time. The Rabbi replied that they were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. Upon hearing this the Messiah let out a long wail showing his anxious desire to reveal himself and to redeem the Jewish people. The Torah alludes to this when writing מאחד אחיך, "amongst one of your brethren," meaning "amongst the unique one of your brethren, the Messiah... God commands all of Israel לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפץ את אחיך האביון "not to be stubborn but to do everything to help your brother, the destitute one," i.e. the Messiah to realise his ambition. The single most potent מצוה which will hasten the arrival of the Messiah is charity as we have been taught in (Isaiah 54,14): בצדקה תכונני, "you shall be established through righteousness." The paragraph concludes with the words מאחיך האביון, "from your brother who is destitute," referring to the cause of why your brother the Messiah is destitute, unable to realize his mission."
In summation: Mashiach is a poor man riding on a donkey who desperately wants to come redeem the Jewish people. The cause of his poverty? The very nation he seeks to redeem! If only the Jewish People would give him the handout he longs for, that is to say, if we would only attain spiritual maturity, Mashiach would immediately come even ahead of schedule. And what is the Mitzvah that will highlight our attainment of spiritual maturity? Tzedakah.
The Ohr HaChaim is not without precedent for this incredible interpretation of the pesukim.
Just a couple of peuskim later the pasuk says:
כִּ֛י לֹֽא־יֶחְדַּ֥ל אֶבְי֖וֹן מִקֶּ֣רֶב הָאָ֑רֶץ עַל־כֵּ֞ן אָֽנֹכִ֤י מְצַוְּךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר פָּ֠תֹ֠חַ תִּפְתַּ֨ח אֶת־יָֽדְךָ֜ לְאָחִ֧יךָ לַּֽעֲנִיֶּ֛ךָ וּלְאֶבְיֹֽנְךָ֖ בְּאַרְצֶֽךָ:
"For there will never cease to be needy within the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor one, and to your needy one in your land." (Devarim 15:11) The Torah assures us that we will always have poor people in Klal Yisrael.
However, the passuk in Zechariah says:
ולא יהיה כנעני עוד בבית ה׳ צבאות
“And on that day there shall no longer be a merchant [kena’ani] in the house of the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 14:21)
The Gemara in Pesachim (50a) explains that the word "כנען "is an abbreviation "כאן עני" here is a poor person. The passuk says, that in the times of Mashiach, "אין כאן עני" there will no longer be poor people.
Putting these two pesukim together we can deduce that as long as Mashiach has not yet arrived there will always be destitute people in Klal Yisrael. Upon the arrival of Mashiach that will cease to be the case. This is in line with the Ohr HaChaim above, who says that it is through the Mitzvah of giving Tzedakah that we will bring Mashiach. Once Mashiach comes the Mitzvah will no longer be necessary and therefore there will no longer be a condition of poverty in the world.
The Gemara in Shabbos (139a) confirms this idea and explains the passuk in Yeshaya, צִיּ֖וֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּ֣ט תִּפָּדֶ֑ה וְשָׁבֶ֖יהָ בִּצְדָקָֽה, Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her penitent through righteousness (Yeshaya 1:27), to mean that Yerushalayim will only be redeemed through the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.
The Gemara in Bava Basra (10a) says, "גדולה צדקה שמקרבת את הגאולה" Great is (the Mitzvah of) Tzedakah because it hastens the redemeption.
The Rambam writes in Hilchos Matanos Aniyim (10:1)
משנה תורה, הלכות מתנות עניים י׳:א׳
חַיָּבִין אָנוּ לְהִזָּהֵר בְּמִצְוַת צְדָקָה יוֹתֵר מִכָּל מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה. שֶׁהַצְּדָקָה סִימָן לַצַּדִּיק זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח יט) "כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו" (בראשית יח יט) "לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה". וְאֵין כִּסֵּא יִשְׂרָאֵל מִתְכּוֹנֵן וְדַת הָאֱמֶת עוֹמֶדֶת אֶלָּא בִּצְדָקָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נד יד) "בִּצְדָקָה תִּכּוֹנָנִי". וְאֵין יִשְׂרָאֵל נִגְאָלִין אֶלָּא בִּצְדָקָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה א כז) "צִיּוֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה וְשָׁבֶיהָ בִּצְדָקָה":
"We must be especially careful to observe the mitzvah of tzedakah, more so than any other positive mitzvah, for tzedakah is a sign of the righteous [tzadik] lineage of Abraham, our father, as it is said, (Genesis 18:19) For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity [to keep the way of the LORD] by doing what is just [tzedakah].175See Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 79a. The throne of Israel is established and the religion of truth stands only on tzedakah, as it is said, (Isaiah 54:14) You shall be established through righteousness [tzedek]. And Israel will only be redeemed through tzedakah, as it is said, (Isaiah 1:27) Zion shall be saved in the judgment; her repentant ones, in the retribution [tzedakah]. See Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 139a.
The question is, what is so special about the Mitzvah of Tzedakah that it identified as the Mitzvah that brings Mashiach?
Giving Tzedakah in Kabbalah
The Arizal explains that when Adam and Chava sinned it had an impact on the name of God. Before the sin the name of God, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, the Tetragrammaton, was intact. After the sin the first two letters (Yud-Hey) were separated from the last two letters (Vav-Hey).
The passuk says "And it be on that day (when Mashiach comes) that God will be one and His name will be one." (Zechariah 14:9) As our world is currently constituted, the name of God is still separated into two halves. As a result of the fragmentation of God's name, since the day of the original sin, God's presence has not been transparent in our world. When we will reunite the two halves of God's name, his presence will be clearly manifest in our world, ushering in the era of Mashiach.
The Arizal writes that giving Tzedaka unites the two halves of God's name. The first half of God's name (Yud-Hey) represents the two primary intellectual faculties of a person, namely Chachmah and Binah. The second half of God's name represents the intellect in action and therefore is associated with the two primary emotions of a person, namely Ahavah and Yirah (love and fear). When a person gives Tzedakah he is taking what he knows to be true (Yud-Hey) and bringing it into the world of action (Vav-Hey).
In fact, the Arizal writes that before performing a Mitzvah and specifically the Mitzvah of giving Tzedaka, a person should proclaim "[I am doing this] in order to unify the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and His Shechinah, in love and fear [of G‑d] in the name of all Israel." The Arizal explains, "[In this way] he will connect the yud-hei with the vav-hei."
At this point we still do not understand why it is specifically Tzedakah that bridges the gap and hastens the redemption. Every Mitzvah we perform takes the intellect and actualizes it thus uniting God's name!
The Arizal continues and explains that when giving Tzedakah a person should have in mind the following idea. The Tetragrammaton actually embodies the very act of giving Tzedakah. The Yud, as the concentrated point of Divine beneficence, represents the coin that is being given to the poor person. The second letter, the Hey (Gematria of five), represents the hand (five fingers) of the giver. The third letter, the Vav, represents the extension of the arm of the giver to the poor person and the final Hey represents the hand of the receiver. With this in mind, we can now understand why it is that Tzedakah, above all other Mitzvos, uniquely unifies Hashem's name. Giving Tzedakah, more than any other Mitzvah, is the act that expresses the complete name of God.
This is the meaning of the passuk in Yeshaya (32:8) “and the act of charity will be peace." When we give Tzedakah we bring peace to the world by unifying the name of God.
The Arizal continues in the theme of unification and quotes our passuk from this week's Parsha. "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." (Devarim 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 [malchus] unite, as is known. ("the land" is an appellation for malchus, the lowest sefira).
To put it simply, Zeir Anpin refers to the emotional middos (Chesed, Gevura, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod and Yesod) and is the revealed aspect of God in creation. Nukva is the feminine aspect of the Zeir Anpin, the concealed aspect of God in this world and is identified with the Shechinah (the divine, hidden, indwelling of God's presence in this world). Our job is to unite the revealed aspect of God with the concealed aspect of God in this world. Tzedek is identified with the attribute of Yesod (foundation) while Tzedakah is identified with the attribute of Malchus (Kingship). Our passuk is alluding to this concept. In giving Tzedaka we unite both the Zeir Anpin and the Nukva of Yesod ("You shall surely open your hand to your brother…") with the attribute of Malchus ("the land").
When the revealed aspects of God in creation are unified with the hidden aspects of God in this world, that will bring Mashiach. Because Tzedakah combines Yesod and Malchus it is uniquely suited to bring Mashiach.
Finally the Arizal says, "Another aspect of tzedaka: The letter kuf alludes to Cain, "the nest of impurity", the spreading of the [venom of the primordial] snake. Specifically, this refers to the "leg" of the kuf. 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."
In order to understand this last statement of the Arizal, we must delve deeply into the inner meaning of the letter Kuf.
The Letter Kuf
In Kaballah the design of the letter Kuf (ק) is a Reish (ר) and a Zayin (ז).
The Kuf symbolizes the duality of both Kedusha (holiness) and Kelipa (in holiness). The three lines of the Kuf represent the three garments of the soul - thought, speech and action. When used for Kedusha, the thoughts, speech and actions of a person express the Godly soul. When used for Kelipa, a person's thoughts are impure, their speech is profane and their actions are sinful, expressing the animal soul. As we will explain, while the Kuf represents an opportunity for Kedusha, in our current non rectified state it is more of an expression of Kelipa.
When we examine the letter Kuf it must be done within the context of the letter Hei (ה). The Kuf is similar to the Hei but it differs in several important ways. Firstly the Zayin of the Kuf falls below the baseline, indicating inappropriate (low) activities (as opposed to the Hei which remains above the line). The Hei is formed from a Daled which has a Yud in its right hand corner which indicates a Godly aspect to the letter Hei, while the Kuf is made up of a Reish which lacks the Yud and therefore indicates a lack of holiness. The Zohar calls the Kuf and Reish letters of falsehood and unholiness. Together they spell the word קר, which indicates a coldness in our service of God and רק which indicates an emptiness in our lives. (This is how Chazal knew that when Yosef HaTzaddik was thrown into the pit that was רק, it wasn't simply empty but filled with the potential for death - snakes and scorpions filled the pit).
The Zohar teaches that when God created the world, each letter of the Aleph Beis beseeched God that the world should be created through it. For various reasons God rejected the various letters. When the Shin (ש) made his plea, despite the fact that the Shin is a very holy letter, it was ultimately rejected because when a Kuf and a Reish are attached to the Shin it spells שקר, deceitfulness. The mere association with the Kuf and the Reish invalidated it from being used by God to create the world.
The letter Kuf is identified with the death that was brought into the world from the trickery of the Nachash Hakadmoni, the primordial snake. The Mishna in Avos (5:22) says, "Five years is the age for the study of Scripture. Ten, for the study of Mishnah. Thirteen, for the obligation to observe the mitzvot. Fifteen, for the study of Talmud. Eighteen, for marriage. Twenty, to pursue [a livelihood]. Thirty, for strength, Forty, for understanding. Fifty, for counsel. Sixty, for sagacity. Seventy, for elderliness. Eighty, for power. Ninety, to stoop. A hundred-year-old is as one who has died and passed away and has been negated from the world." How could the Mishna say that someone who is alive and well at the age of 100 has died and passed away and has been negated from the world?!? The Kuf, which is the Gematria of 100, symbolizes death. Even if a person is alive and well at 100 years old, they are living through an age that symbolizes death.
As per the Arizal above, the descent of the letter Zayin within the letter Kuf symbolizes the descent of the world that resulted from the original sin of Chava. Chava is responsible for bringing death into the world (Bereishis Rabbah 17:8). This is why women were given three Mitzvos which are uniquely designed to rectify the imperfection of death. The Mitzvah of separating Challah alludes to the original creation of Humanity as we were separated from the earth (Chava was separated from Adam). The Mitzvah of Niddah relates to death as the spilling of blood. By abstaining from intimacy during this time, a woman brings life into the world only when blood is not being spilled. Finally, women have a Mitzvah of Hadlakas HaNeir which rectifies the light that was extinguished when death was brought into the world, as the passuk says, "God's candle is man's soul." (Mishlei 20:27) With these three Mitzvos, Chava is raised above life itself and is given the opportunity to rectify death. This can be seen in the Gematria of Chava over Adam. Adam is the Gematria of 18 (The Aleph is the first letter in the Aleph-Beis, Daled is the fourth letter and Mem is the thirteenth letter - 1+4+13=18) and is thus identified with life (chai = 18). Chava is the Gematria of 19 and is therefore one level of above life itself. The Kuf, with it's descent into death, is the 19th letter of the Aleph Beis. Chava (19) who caused the descent of the Zayin within the Kuf (the 19th letter) is uniquely capable of rectifying the Zayin and elevating it, transforming it into the letter Hei (ה). This explains why only after the sin does the Torah tells us that Chava was so named because she was Eim kol Chai, the mother of all life (Rashi citing the Medrash indicates that she was named prior to the sin). As the mother of all life (19) Chava is above life (18) in a sense. Chava has thus been tasked with rectifying the death that she brought into the world.
The second explanation of the Arizal was that Yesod and Malchus must be united in order to bring Mashiach. This correlates beautifully with our understanding of the feminine role in rectifying the original sin. In Kabbalah the sun is considered "male" while the moon is considered "female." This is because the sun gives off light (masculine) and the moon receives and reflects the light (feminine). In the Jewish calendar we have a nineteen year lunar (female) calendar which relates to Chava, the first woman, whose Gematria is 19. The Sun is identified with Adam HaRishon who embodies the Sefira of Yesod. The Gematria of Yesod is 80 (8 multiplied by 10) and Adam is the Gematria of 18 (8 plus ten). Adam is strongly identified with the letter Tzaddik (צ) because he is created in the image of God (צלם means image). Chava is identified with the sefira of Malchus which, like the moon, receives and reflects the light of the other sefiros. When Adam (Yesod) and Chava (Malchus) unite harmoniously this will bring Mashiach.
As we would expect, there is both a masculine and a feminine way of creating harmony between Yesod and Malchus. The masculine unity is created in an outward/forward fashion. Yesod shines its light on Malchus to find it's connection in the world of Malchus. This is the meaning of the word Tzaddik (צדיק). The Tzaddik is a צדי, a hunter, of the feminine Kuf, the Divine sparks that have fallen into the lowest worlds. When the צדי gathers up all the sparks of the Kuf, he "earns" the letter Kuf and becomes a complete צדיק. The Kuf has tranformed from Kelippah to Kedusha. In this masculine way, Yesod and Malchus are united. (Eisav is described as a ציד - Yitzchak was under the impression that he was hunting the sparks that had fallen into the lower world of the Kuf. Only Rivka, who had spent enough time with Lavan to recognize falsehood, saw that Eisav was only ציד בפיו, a hunter in his mouth. He spoke like a צדיק but in truth he was something else entirely.)
Ultimately, redemption has always come through the feminine unity of Yesod and Malchus. The Gemara in Sotah (11b) says that it was in the merit of righteous women that we were redeemed from Mitzrayim. All subsequent redemption have always had a woman leading the way (Esther, Yael etc...) as the passuk in Michah (5:17) says, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders." The Arizal explains this to mean that all future redemptions will follow the pattern of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Just as righteous women were the cause of our redemption from Mitzrayim, so too in future redemptions will we be freed through righteous women.
This is what Shlomo HaMelech meant when he said in Mishlei (12:4) that in the Era of the Redemption, "a woman of valor [will be] the crown of her husband" In the ultimate redemption it will be the women that take the Yesod and crown the female Malchus which brings Mashiach. Interestingly, Shlomo HaMelech uses the word עֲטֶ֣רֶת for the word crown but another name for a crown is a זר, which is made up of a Zayin and a Reish, the same letters that form the Kuf. (As we said above, Kuf can represent Kelipa or Kedusha. In the stage of the ultimate redemption the Zayin and Reish spell out a crown. Prior to the ultimate redemption the Zayin and Reish indicate the word זר, as in strange. The primary example of this would be Avodah Zara (זר). The fact that the זר can be read in both ways is the רז, which means the secret, of these letters. (The Gemara in Shabbos (88a) tells us that when Klal Yisrael received the Torah they said Naaseh ViNishma, we will do and we will listen, and the malachim adorned them with two crowns (זר). A Bas Kol came out of Shomayim and said "Who revealed the secret (רז) of the Malachim to my children? See the Gemara in Yoma 72b for a further discussion about the relationship between crowns and Avodah Zara.)
In the ultimate redemption the feminine Malchus will lead the way but for this to occur, the Kuf (Chava), with her three Mitzvos HaBayis, must come before the Tzaddik. In the Aleph-Beis the Tzaddik is the letter that comes immediately before the Kuf (masculine redemption) but ultimately the Kuf will precede the Tzaddik which spells out קץ, the end, a clear reference to the end of days and the coming of Mashiach.
Cain and Hevel and the Letter Kuf
The Arizal referenced the sin of Cain killing Hevel as being the cause for the fallen Zayin within the Kuf. Hevel was the prime expression of the unification of Yesod (Adam) and Malchus (Chava). As we mentioned above, the Gematria of Adam is 18 while the Gematria of Chava is 19. Add them together and you get 37 which is the exact Gematria of Hevel.
Hevel is identified by the Hei that is the first letter of his name while Cain is identified by the Kuf which is the first letter of his name. In murdering Hevel, Cain took the Hei and continued the sin of the Nachash Hakadmoni and Chava, bringing Hashem even lower into the world (the Kuf of Kelipah which Kayin embodied). While Chava brought death into the world, it was Cain who brought murder into the world. While Chava's sin created the concept of death, it was Cain's sin that actually brought about the first death. The connection between Chava, the Nachash and Cain is so deep that one Medrash (Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer 21) goes so far as to say that Cain is actually not the progeny of Adam HaRishon but of the Nachash Hakadmoni and Chava! When the passuk says, "Now Adam knew his wife Chava" it is suggesting that Adam knew that Chava was impregnated with the seed of the Nachash. When Chava bore Cain she said, "I have gained a male child with the Lord." Why didn't she simply say she had a child with Adam? The Medrash suggests that it was because she was referencing the Nachash of the Lord. Interestingly, the Meam Loez (4:8) suggests that Cain killed Hevel by biting him like a snake (other Medrashim make other suggestions as to how Cain killed Hevel) again clearly indicating a strong connection between Cain and the Nachash. From these Medrashim and from the Arizal, we can clearly see that Cain is the heir to the Nachash Hakadmoni and Chava.
As the Arizal said, for the Kuf of Cain to be rectified, the Zayin needs to elevate above the line and become the Hei. Precisely because Cain is the one who brought the Zayin (of the Kuf below the line) it must be Cain who rectifies this sin. This explains a puzzling aspect of the story of Cain and Hevel. After Cain killed Hevel he was concerned that he would be killed. God assured Cain that no harm would befall him for seven generations and promised that whoever killed him would be cursed. Hashem placed a sign on Cain so that everyone would know not to kill him. What was that sign? Rashi explains that Hashem inscribed a letter of His name on Cain's forehead (Bereishis 4:15) so that everyone would know not to kill Cain. Why was Hashem assuring Cain that he wouldn't be killed? Why specifically that mark? Some suggest that Cain did a full Teshuva and that's why he was worthy of being assured that no harm would come to him. In this sense, the mark of God is a sign to the world that God accepted Cain's Teshuva and no one should exact retribution. Others say that Cain did not do a full Teshuva. In this sense, God is telling Cain that he will be kept alive so that he can rectify the sin that he committed. As we said, the sin of Cain was a continuation of the sin of the Nachash and Chava. The Arizal said that the result of the original sin of was that the name of Hashem was split (A Yud-Hei and a Vav-Hei). Perhaps we can suggest that with the sin of Cain it was further split and now an additional letter was broken off. This is why Hashem marked Cain with one letter of His name written on to forehead. It was the mark that indicated that he was tasked with reuniting the name of God.
How does Cain rectify his sin? How does he restore the name of Hashem? He must elevate the Zayin of the Kuf so that it becomes a Hei. This explains why Hashem gave Cain seven generations to rectify his sin (the Gematria of Zayin is seven) before he was finally killed by Lemech. Incidentally (not really), the first iron sword (A Klei Zayin) was made in the seventh generation by the son of Lemech, Tuval Cain. Regarding the Messianic age the passuk in Yeshaya (2:4) says, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up a sword against other nations…" In light of what we have been saying we can suggest that in the seventh thousand year, when Mashiach comes, the swords (Zayin) will have been elevated to a Hei and will therefore no longer be necessary in the world. If the Zayin is used to wage war it follows that the rectification of the Zayin into a Hei will result in world peace.
After all is said and done, the act of giving Tzedakah is the Mitzvah that elevates the Kuf into a Hei. As the Arizal above said, the Kuf of the word Tzedakah alludes to Cain. The Hei in Tzedakah alludes to Hevel. Cain, whose Korban was rejected, believed there was no Tzedek in the world. Without Tzedek nothing matters. Even killing your own brother and wiping out the opportunity for trillions of people to be born is justified. By giving Tzedakah we recognize that there is Tzedek in this world. If someone shows up to our door and they need and we have… Well that is perfect Tzedek! By giving Tzedakah we bring the concept (chochmah and bina) of Tzedek into action in our world and rectify the notion of death. This is the deeper meaning of the pasuk in Mishlei (10:2) that says Tzedakah tatzil mimaves, giving Tzedakah can save someone from death. Not just from a specific death but from the very notion of death in general.
This explains the Gemara in Shabbos (156b) that relates the following story.
שבת קנ״ו ב:ד׳
ומדר"ע נמי אין מזל לישראל דר"ע הויא ליה ברתא אמרי ליה כלדאי ההוא יומא דעיילה לבי גננא טריק לה חיויא ומיתא הוה דאיגא אמילתא טובא ההוא יומא שקלתה למכבנתא דצתא בגודא איתרמי איתיב בעיניה דחיויא לצפרא כי קא שקלה לה הוה קא סריך ואתי חיויא בתרה
אמר לה אבוה מאי עבדת אמרה ליה בפניא אתא עניא קרא אבבא והוו טרידי כולי עלמא בסעודתא וליכא דשמעיה קאימנא שקלתי לריסתנאי דיהבית לי יהבתיה ניהליה אמר לה מצוה עבדת נפק ר"ע ודרש וצדקה תציל ממות ולא ממיתה משונה אלא ממיתה עצמה
"And from that which transpired to Rabbi Akiva as well it can be derived that there is no constellation for the Jewish people, as Rabbi Akiva had a daughter, and Chaldean astrologers told him that on the same day that she enters the wedding canopy, a snake will bite her and she will die. She was very worried about this. On that day, her wedding day, she took the ornamental pin from her hair and stuck it into a hole in the wall for safekeeping, and it happened that it entered directly into the eye of the snake. In the morning, when she took the pin, the snake was pulled and came out with it.
Her father Rabbi Akiva said to her: What did you do to merit being saved from the snake? She told him: In the evening a poor person came and knocked on the door, and everyone was preoccupied with the feast and nobody heard him. I stood and took the portion that you had given me and gave it to him. Rabbi Akiva said to her: You performed a mitzva, and you were saved in its merit. Rabbi Akiva went out and taught based on this incident that even though it is written: “And charity will save from death” (Mishlei 10:2), it does not mean that it will save a person only from an unusual death, but even from death itself."
What is the added Chiddush of Rav Akiva? Rav Akiva is expressing that his daughter, because of the Tzedakah she gave, was not merely saved from an unusual death but from death itself. In other words, one might have thought that because she was destined to die she would die despite her Tzedakah and that the Mitzvah would only protect her from an unusual death. But we see from this story that Tzedakah actually protected her from death itself. The question is, if she was indeed destined to die, how does the Mitzvah of Tzedakah prevent death? From what we have learned the answer is clear. The death that came into this world through Chava and the Nachash and Cain is rectified by giving Tzedakah. Rav Akiva's daughter, because it was her wedding day, was perfectly positioned to rectify the inappropriate relationship that Chava had with the Nachash. In giving Tzedakah she kills the snake and rectifies death itself thus sparing her life. It is therefore understandable that giving Tzedakah would not just protect her from an unusual death but would spare her from death itself.
This explains why we have a Mitzvah to recite one hundred (the Gematria of kuf) brachos every day.
The sources for this Mitzvah are varied.
The Gemara (Menachos 43b) learns from the Pasuk (Devarim 10:12) "וְעַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה' אֱלֹקיךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה" and says that we shouldn't read it as "מה" (what) but instead "me'ah" (100). (see Rashi there). Tosfos suggests that it is because the passuk itself contains 100 letters. The Baal HaTurim (Devarim 10:12) suggests that Mah in At-Bash gematria is 100.
The Medrash in Bamidbar Rabba (18), as well as the Tur (Orach Chaim 46 quoting Rav Natronai Gaon) explains that in the time of Dovid HaMelech 100 people died every day due to a terrible plague. Realizing that the plague had a spiritual cause, Dovid HaMelech instituted a "measure for measure" response: the saying of 100 blessings each day. Once implemented, the plague stopped.
The Reishis Chachmah (Shaar HaKedusha17) based on the Zohar writes that the letters of Tzaddik are a hint to saying: 90 (צ) amens, 4 (ד) Kedushas, 10 (י) Kadishim and 100 (ק) Brachos.
The Baal HaTurim (Shemos 38:27) writes that the institution of reciting 100 brachos every day corresponds to the 100 sockets of the Mishkan.
While these pehsatim are all quite unique they all seamlessly flow together. We are tasked with leading the life for which Hashem created us. "What" (100) was the mission that Hashem gave us? To unite his name in this world and bring the world to it's ultimate rectification. The Tzaddik, in his very essence (his name), leads us to fulfill this task by recognizing Hashem throughout our day with Amen's, Kedushas, Kadishim and 100 Brachos. Dovid HaMelech understood that wherever there is death there is a failure to unite Hashem's name in this world. To Dovid it was obvious that the antidote would be 100 Brachos which is the rectification of the Kuf which symbolizes death.
Unifying Hashem's name in our world, the world of the descent of the Kuf, is symbolized in the foundation sockets of the Mishkan. Firstly, it is the foundation of Yiddishkeit. Secondly, the foundation is the lowest part of the Mishkan. It symbolizes the descent of the Kuf of death into our world. Perhaps this explains why whereas all of the other materials of the Mishkan were donated according to how much a person desired to give, the silver foundation sockets of the Mishkan were made from the half Shekel of silver that every Jew was obligated to donate as the passuk says, “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less.” (Shemos 30:15) Every single Jew, rich or poor, is tasked with unifying Hashem's name in this world. It is how we bring redemption and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash.
God of Rav Meir: Answer Me
When people are faced with a challenging situation (or lost an object) there is a minhag to give Tzedakah and say, “I pledge this money in the merit of the soul of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness .”
They then say:
רבי בנימין, הכל בחזקת סומין, עד שהקדוש ברוך הוא מאיר את עיניהם. מן הכא, "ויפקח אלוקים את עיניה ותרא באר מים, ותלך ותמלא את החמת".
אלקא דמאיר ענני, אלקא דמאיר ענני, אלקא דמאיר ענני.
בזכות הצדקה שאני נודב לכבוד התנא רבי מאיר בעל הנס, זכותו יגן עלינו, אמצא את אבידתי.
Rav Binyamin said: All are in the presumed status of blind people, until The Holy One, Blessed Be He, enlightens their eyes.
"And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink."(Bereishis 21:19)
(This a reference to the story of Hagar who cried out to Hashem when Yishmael was dying of thirst. Hashem opened her eyes and she saw a well of water from which she was able to save Yishamel's life. The concept is that the well was always there, but Hagar did not see it. Only after praying did God open her eyes and she saw what was already there.)
God of Rav Meir answer me. God of Rav Meir answer me. God of Rav Meir answer me.
In the merit of the Tzedakah that I am giving in honor of the Tanna, Rav Meir Baal HaNess, may his merit protect us, I should find my lost object."
This minhag is sourced in the writings of the Baal Shem Tov as well as in the Chasam Sofer (Likkutim 27) and others.
The Chida explains why in times of great trouble we call out to the God of Rav Meir (Chida, Pesach Einayim, Avodah Zarah 18a-18b.) based on the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (18a-18b):
When the Romans found Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon engaging in teaching Torah in public, they barbarically executed him and condemned one of his daughters to a life of shame in a brothel. Beruriah, another daughter of Rabbi Chanina, appealed to her husband, Rabbi Meir, to save her sister.
She said to her husband: “It is a disrespectful matter for me that my sister is sitting in a brothel; you must do something to save her.” Rabbi Meir took a vessel full of dinars and went. He said to himself: “If no transgression was committed with her, a miracle will be performed for her; if she committed a transgression, no miracle will be performed for her.” Rabbi Meir went and dressed as a Roman knight, and said to her: “Accede to my wishes (i.e., engage in intercourse with me).” She said to him: “I am menstruating [dashtana] and cannot.” He said to her: “I will wait.” She said to him: “There are many women in the brothel, and there are many women here who are more beautiful than I.” He said to himself: “I can conclude from her responses that she did not commit a transgression, as she presumably said this to all who come.”
Rabbi Meir went over to her guard, and said to him: “Give her to me.” The guard said to him: “I fear that if I do so, I will be punished by the government.” Rabbi Meir said to him: “Take this vessel full of dinars; give half to the government as a bribe, and half will be for you.” The guard said to him: ‘But when the money is finished, what shall I do?” Rabbi Meir said to him: “Say: ‘G‑d of Meir, answer me!’ And you will be saved.” The guard said to him: “And who can say that this is the case, that I will be saved by this utterance?” Rabbi Meir said to him: “You will now see.”
There were these carnivorous dogs that would devour people; Rabbi Meir took a clod of earth, threw it at them, and when they came to devour him, he said: “God of Meir, answer me!” The dogs then left him alone. After seeing this, the guard gave the daughter of Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon to Rabbi Meir.
Ultimately, the matter was heard in the king’s court, and the guard, who was brought and taken to be hanged, called out: “God of Meir, answer me!” They then lowered him down, as they were unable to hang him. They said to him: “What is this?” He said to them: “This was the incident that occurred.” And he proceeded to relate the entire story to them.
It is clear from the Gemara that somehow envoking the God of Rav Meir spared a person from death.
The Minchas Elazar (Divrei Torah, Mahadura Kama 9) gives an alternative explanation as to why we mention Rav Meir in times of great danger. In general, the halacha assumes that the majority of sick people will recover while those that are terminally ill will pass away. For example, the Mishna in Gittin 28a says that if someone who is elderly or sick sends a shliach to deliver a Get to his wife, the Get is valid as we presume that the husband is still alive. Rava explains that if the husband was extremely elderly or terminally ill we must assume that the husband passed away (since that is what occurs in the majority of cases) and the Get is not valid.
The Gemara in Yevamos 119a discusses a case where a man went overseas with rival wife and died while he away. The question the Gemara entertains is, does the first wife have the capacity to do Yibum or to marry another man? Can we assume that the rival wife became pregnant and had a child therefore allowing her to marry whomever she wishes? The Gemara assumes that in the majority of cases the rival wife will have gotten pregnant pregnant and conceived a child thus freeing the other wife to marry again. Why then does the Mishna prohibit the original wife from marrying another man? The Gemara suggests that our Mishna is following the opinion of Rav Meir who is concerned for the minority of cases where the rival wife did not get pregnant and conceive a child.
If Rav Meir is always concerned with the minority of cases it follows that in the case of a terminally ill man on his deathbed who sends a Get through a shliach, the Get would in fact be valid as we would not consider the husband dead.
The Minchas Elazar concludes that if someone is in a situation of grave danger, where in the majority of cases death is the likely outcome, it makes sense to invoke the name of Rav Meir who is concerned for the minority of cases where death does not occur.
With these two explanations of the Chida and the Minchas Elazar in mind we can explain why we give Tzedakah along with invoking the God of Rav Meir.
Rav Meir was the personification of the Tzaddik who fought against death. Be it in the form of saving his sister in law from the Romans or by being concerned for the minority of cases where death does not occur. While we are not on the level of Rav Meir we are given the Mitzvah that is designed to defeat death, namely Tzedakah. The salvation has already been set in motion but we have not yet been given eyes to see. By seeing the world through the lens of Rav Meir and by giving Tzedakah we make the world a place where salvation appears before us.
The Gemara in Eruvin (13b) tells us that “it is revealed and known before God that in the generation of Rabbi Meir, there was no one of the Sages who [was] his equal. Why then didn’t the Sages establish the halachah in accordance with his opinion? It is because his colleagues were unable to ascertain the profundity of his opinion.” The great Chasidic Master Rav Pinchas Koretzer explains that when Moshiach comes, the Torah scholars will finally appreciate the depth of wisdom in Rabbi Meir's rulings, and the halachah will be decided in accordance with his opinion.
The passuk in Yeshaya (25:8) says, "He has concealed death forever, and the Lord God shall wipe the tears off every face, and the shame of His people He shall remove from upon the entire earth, for the Lord has spoken." In the era of Olam Haba we will no longer experience death. When discussing the first Luchos, the Torah says, "The Luchos were G-d's handiwork, and the writing was G-d's writing, engraved on the Luchot." (Shemos 32:16) The word "engraved" in Hebrew reads "charut." The Gemara discusses the word engraved. "Engraved on the Luchos." Rabbi Elazar says, why does it say "engraved?" If the first Luchot were not broken, Torah would never be forgotten by Yisrael. [Text that is engraved can not be erased.] R. Acha Bar Ya'akov says, no nation would be able to rule over Yisrael, as the verse says "charut." Do not read "charut" [engraved]; read "cheirut" [freedom]. The Medrash in Shemos Rabbah (32:17) quotes the opinion of Rav Nechemiah who says that at the time of the giving of the first luchos we were freed from the Malach HaMaves. According to Rav Nechemiah, at the time of the giving of the first luchos we had reached the level of Olam Haba where death itself will be vanquished.
Rav Meir was on such a lofty level that his soul already saw the halacha as it would one day be in Olam Haba. In the world of Rav Meir death is on its way towards being rectified. It is far from a certainty. While we do not yet pasken like Rav Meir we can tap into that energy by giving Tzedakah with the intent to rectify the concept of death in our world.
Shaking the Hand of Mashiach
In the beginning of this article we asked two questions. Why does the Torah emphasize the word "hand" with regards to the giving of Tzedakah and why is it that Tzedakah is so fundamental towards bringing Moshiach.
We have explained that death was brought into this world through the fragmentation of God's name which was caused by the sins of Chavah, the Nachash and Cain. The two Hei's in God's name are an allusion to the "hands" of the one that donates Tzedakah and the one who receives it. Through the reunion of the hands we reunite Hashem's name. The Gemara in Nedarim (64b) says ani chashuv kmeis, a poor person is accounted for as dead. In our world it is destined that there should always be poor people. It is not always easy to give Tzedakah. It is even more difficult to take Tzedakah. Those that stick out their hands to give Tzedakah and those who so generously take it from them are quite literally bringing Mashiach. In so doing they are rectifying the notion of death which is the feeling of being impoverished. It began with the Nachash and Chava and was continued in the sin of Cain. Every time we see someone who needs our Tzedakah let us remember the justice of this situation. They need. We are blessed to have. Let us remember an impoverished Mashiach who longingly awaits our development so that he may come and redeem us. May we be zocheh to shake his hand with the hands that are defined by the Tzedakah we give speedily in our days.