הַמִּצְוֹת נִמְשָׁכוֹת עַל יְדֵי הַמַּקִּיף שֶׁבַּמִּצְוֹת עַצְמָם. מִצְוַת צְדָקָה, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, הִיא מִצְוָה כּוֹלֶלֶת, אֲשֶׁר כָּל הַמִּצְוֹת נִקְרָאוֹת בְּשֵׁם צְדָקָה. וּמֵהַאי טַעְמָא נָכוֹן בִּמְאֹד לָתֵת קוֹדֶם כָּל מִצְוָה פְּרוּטָה לִצְדָקָה, שֶׁהוּא הַמְשָׁכַת הַמַּקִּיף בַּפְּנִימִי. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם הַוֵי מַקִּיף הַקָּרוֹב, מַה שֶׁאֵין כֵּן תּוֹרָה שֶׁהִיא מַקִּיף הָרָחוֹק וּפְעוּלָתוֹ נַעֲלָה יוֹתֵר.

[The spiritual influence evoked by] the mitzvos is drawn down by means of the transcendent light generated by the mitzvos themselves. For example, the mitzvah of tzedakah is a comprehensive mitzvah, as is evidenced by the fact that all the mitzvos are called “tzedakah.1 For this reason, it is most appropriate to contribute a coin for charity before performing any mitzvah, for it draws the transcendent light (makkif) into the light that can be internalized (pnimi). Still, this transcendent light is “close,” whereas the Torah is a “distant” transcendent light, whose effects are more elevated.2

To Fill In the Background

The teachings of Chassidus distinguish between oros pnimiyim (“lights that can be internalized”) and oros makkifim (“lights that are transcendent” — lit.,encompassing”3 ). The former lights are spiritual forces that we can consciously grasp; the latter lights, by contrast, transcend our consciousness. Drawing them down and integrating them in our lives raises us to new levels of awareness that we could not attain alone.

More particularly, there are two levels of oros makkifim, those that are “close” and those that are “distant.” To explain the difference between the two, Chassidus4 gives the analogy of “garments” and “a home.” Both encompass a person. Garments, however, are fitted to a person’s dimensions and are measured out accordingly, whereas a house is entirely above and beyond the measure of the people living in it. Moreover, it encompasses several individuals simultaneously. Similarly, the lights that are “close” represent influences that can be considered transcendent only relative to the level of a given person or situation, but they can be measured. Those that are termed “distant” are truly transcendent, extending not only beyond the grasp of a particular individual, but beyond the reach of the entire realm of comprehension.

The above teaching is thus indicating that by giving tzedakah and studying Torah, we can expand our spiritual horizons to limits that we could not reach on our own initiative. There is, however, a difference between the two activities. The level to which giving tzedakah elevates us, while radically higher than our own, is still measurable. Studying Torah, by contrast, enables our finite minds to “grasp” G‑d’s infinite thought,5 thus raising us to an immeasurably higher level of awareness.