binding to righteousness

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-tefillinIn the volume, Sefer haMiddot, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught that one should give charity (tzedakah) before praying as well as bind oneself to the righteous (tzaddikim) of the generation. In other words, there is a connection between giving charity and cleaving to the righteous, and an interconnection between the performance and reception of righteousness.

On the one hand, we have deeds of righteousness to perform. On the other hand, we need the support of those who have demonstrated the ways of righteousness through their lives and receive from them. One way to do this is to sit and speak with them, if they are alive and physically present. In the case of the righteous in Scripture, we can read about them and intentionally seek to mold our ways with theirs. In the case of Yeshua, there is the act of cleaving to him in prayer through praise, meditation, and speaking words of devotion. The ways in which we “receive” from Yeshua can often seem like esoteric concepts. In reality, the practical application of the righteousness we learn from him makes the whole system concrete and mysterious all at once.


Righteousness is both an extremely practical middah as well as a lofty concept. More often than not, these two layers of righteousness are treated independent of one another. This can give the impression that righteousness is either practical or conceptual, but rarely both. I would like to suggest that if righteousness is not both practical and conceptual it is deficient. This assertion is supported by Rebbe Nachman’s exhortation regarding tzedakah and the tzaddikim. When we perform the mitzvah of tzedakah we are tangibly caring for another, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Yeshua teaches that when we welcome a stranger, we are essentially inviting him in (Matthew 25:40-46). In this way, giving charity is an act that binds us to the ultimate Tzaddik, Yeshua. Similarly, Yeshua tells us that he will not recognize us if what we do in his name is not coupled with tangible manifestations of mitzvot (Matthew 7:21-23). As the Besorah of Yochanan teaches us, Yeshua is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him (Yochanan 14:6). It is through binding ourselves to his righteousness that we find the way to our righteousness. It is in performing deeds of righteousness that we demonstrate the intimate connection with him. This happens when we keep him as the center of our lives whether through giving food to the hungry, bringing a smile to the sad, cleaving to him in prayer, etc.

So as we press on in the middah of tzedakah, we ought to find ourselves more compassionate to others, more connected to Yeshua, and more like him in all that we do. I pray that this come to pass for us all.

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