In the previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe explained how it is “very near to you,” i.e., how it is very easy and accessible to every Jew to serve G‑d with love and awe. He stated that this can be accomplished either by creating a love and fear of G‑d through meditation on G‑d’s greatness, or by arousing the “hidden love” (which also comprises a fear of G‑d) inherent in every Jew.

In the coming chapters, the Alter Rebbe will discuss means of overcoming possible obstacles in the path of one’s service to G‑d. In the first instance, he shows how one may overcome the sadness, and dullness of heart, whereby the heart becomes insensitive to feelings of love and fear of G‑d.

ברם כגון דא צריך לאודועי כלל גדול

But this must be made known as a cardinal principle:

כי כמו שנצחון לנצח דבר גשמי, כגון שני אנשים המתאבקים זה עם זה להפיל זה את זה

It is with the service of G‑d just as it is with a victory over a physical opponent; for instance, two people who wrestle with each other, each striving to fell the other.

הנה אם האחד הוא בעצלות וכבדות ינוצח בקל ויפול, גם אם הוא גבור יותר מחבירו

If one of them is lazy and sluggish he will easily be defeated and will fall, even if he be stronger than the other, since his laziness and sluggishness prevent him from revealing his strength.

ככה ממש בנצחון היצר

Similarly with the conquest of one’s evil nature.

Despite the fact that the good nature is stronger than the evil, for as explained in previous chapters, “Even a little of the light of holiness dispels much darkness of the kelipah,” yet here too the previous rule applies; and thus:

אי אפשר לנצחו בעצלות וכבדות, הנמשכות מעצבות וטמטום הלב כאבן

It is impossible to conquer the evil nature with laziness and sluggishness, which stem from sadness and a stone-like dullness of the heart,

כי אם בזריזות, הנמשכת משמחה ופתיחת הלב, וטהרתו מכל נדנוד דאגה ועצב בעולם

but rather with alacrity, which derives from joy and an open i.e., responsive heart that is unblemished by any trace of worry and sadness in the world.

ומה שכתוב: בכל עצב יהיה מותר, פירושו: שיהיה איזה יתרון ומעלה מזה

As for the verse,1 “In every sadness there will be profit,” which means that some profit and advantage would be derived from it,

הנה אדרבה, מלשון זה משמע שהעצב מצד עצמו אין בו מעלה, רק שיגיע ויבא ממנו איזה יתרון

the wording (“there will be profit”) implies that, on the contrary, the sadness itself has no virtue, except that some profit will ultimately be derived from it.

והיינו השמחה האמיתית בה‘ אלקיו הבאה אחר העצב האמיתי, לעתים מזומנים, על עונותיו במר נפשו ולב נשבר

This profit is the true joy in G‑d which follows the true i.e., justified sadness over one’s sins, with bitterness of soul and a broken heart, which must come at specific, suitable times.

Hence the “profit” of sadness is the joy that follows it.

שעל ידי זה נשברה רוח הטומאה וסטרא אחרא ומחיצה של ברזל המפסקת בינו לאביו שבשמים

Why should this sadness lead the worshiper to joy? For thereby (through one’s sadness) the spirit of impurity and of the sitra achra is broken, and so too the “iron wall” that separates him from his Father in heaven,

כמו שכתוב בזהר על פסוק: רוח נשברה לב נשבר וגו’

as the Zohar comments2 on the verse, 3 “A broken spirit, a broken heart, [You will not despise].”

The Zohar interprets the verse as follows: “A broken spirit of the sitra achra is accomplished by means of a broken heart” Since sadness over one’s sins causes the sitra achra to be broken, and the “iron wall” to vanish, it leads one to rejoice — as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

ואזי יקוים בו רישיה דקרא: תשמיעיני ששון ושמחה וגו‘, השיבה לי ששון ישעך ורוח נדיבה וגו’

Then the preceding verses will be fulfilled for him: 4 “Make me hear joy and gladness”;… 5 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and support me with Your generous spirit.”

This joy is the “profit” of sadness, whereas sadness itself is neither “profitable” nor advantageous.

וזהו טעם הפשוט לתיקון האר״י ז״ל לומר מזמור זה אחר תיקון חצות קודם הלימוד

This is the simple reason i.e., apart from the deeper, mystical ones for the practice instituted by the AriZal (Rabbi Isaac Luria) of reciting this Psalm containing the verses quoted above after Tikkun Chatzot (the midnight prayer) before resuming one’s Torah study —

כדי ללמוד בשמחה אמיתית בה‘ הבאה אחר העצב

in order that one should study with the true joy in G‑d, that succeeds the remorse of Tikkun Chatzot.

שיש לשמחה זו יתרון כיתרון האור הבא מן החשך דוקא

Such joy is of a greater quality than joy which is not preceded by sadness, similar to the distinctive quality of light which follows darkness.

כמו שכתוב בזהר על פסוק: ראיתי שיש יתרון לחכמה מן הסכלות כיתרון האור כו’, עיין שם, ודי למבין

As the Zohar6 comments on the verse, 7 “And I (King Solomon) saw that wisdom surpasses foolishness as light surpasses darkness.” Note there, and this will suffice for him who understands.

The Zohar asks: Does it take a Solomon to see this? And it answers that the intention of the verse is that just as darkness contributes to light, for we cannot truly appreciate light unless we have experienced darkness, so too does foolishness contribute to the appreciation of wisdom. Similarly in our case, one’s earlier sadness adds strength to the joy which follows it, and this is the “profit” of sadness. Sadness itself, however, is a hindrance in one’s service of G‑d.

ומקרא מלא דבר הכתוב: תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה‘ אלקיך בשמחה וגו’, ונודע לכל פירוש האר״י ז״ל על פסוק זה

Furthermore, the verse states explicitly: 8 “Because you did not serve G‑d your L-rd with joy...[therefore you will serve your enemies]” — and everyone is familiar with the explanation of the AriZal on this verse. 9

The verse reads: “Because you did not serve G‑d your L-rd with joy and gladness of heart, from an abundance of everything [good]” The simple meaning is: “When you had an abundance of everything you did not serve G‑d with joy” (This meaning is borne out by the context of the following verse: “You will serve your enemies in hunger, thirst, and nakedness, and in want of everything.”) But the AriZal interprets it thus: “You did not serve G‑d with a joy greater than that caused by an abundance of everything.”

We see from all the above the importance of serving G‑d joyfully. Yet, many things in one’s life, both physical and spiritual, may cause him sadness. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to propose means of combating this sadness, so that one may always be joyful.