The Other Charity


Editor’s note: Several times a year, usually in the weeks before Rosh Hashanah and Passover, the Rebbe would pen a public letter, addressed to “Our brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of Israel, everywhere,” which would be printed in many copies and distributed in Jewish communities across the globe, published in newspapers, and the like. What follows is a freely-translated excerpt from the very first “public letter” written by the Rebbe, dated Elul 18, 5710 (August 31, 1950), several months after the passing of his father-in-law, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn.

…Man, like all creatures (including the supernal angels [1] ), possesses both a body and a soul. And just as there are those who are poor in body and bodily needs, so, too, are there paupers in spirit and spiritual needs. Thus, the mitzvah of charity includes both physical charity and spiritual charity. In the words of our sages:

“[It is written:] ‘If you see a naked person, you should cover him.’ [2] What is the meaning of this? If you see a person who is naked of the words of Torah, take him into your home, teach him to read the Shema and pray, teach him… and enjoin him regarding the mitzvot….” [3]

Regarding material charity, the law is that the material pauper is also obligated [to give], for even the most impoverished person can find a way to help his fellow pauper. [4] The same applies to spiritual charity. There is no man or woman in Israel who cannot, in some way, influence his or her fellow Jews and bring them closer to the fear of Heaven, the Torah and the mitzvot.

“According to the camel’s capacity, so is the load.” [5]

It is the duty of those who are richer in material wealth, and those who are richer spiritually—learned Jews, Torah scholars and yeshivah students—to give generously of their greater wealth and knowledge to rescue, heal and fortify the bodies and souls of their brothers and sisters… [6]

[1] . As Maimonides writes (Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah, 2:3; Guide for the Perplexed, part I, ch. 49), angels have no physical form; they do, however, have a spiritual “body” which gives form and expression to their transcendent “soul.” See Etz Chaim, portal 50, ch. 8; Pardes, portal 24, chs. 11 and 15; Nachmanides (quoted in Torah Ohr, 4b, and Likkutei Torah, Berachah, 98a); Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh, section 20.

[2] . Isaiah 58:7.

[3] . Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Rabbah, ch. 27.

[4] . Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, 248:1.

[5] . Talmud, Ketubot 67a.

[6] . Igrot Kodesh, vol. III, pp. 463-464.



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