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.

But this must be made known as a cardinal principle:

בְּרַם, כְּגוֹן דָּא צָרִיךְ לְאוֹדוֹעֵי כְּלָל גָּדוֹל:

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.

כִּי כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּצָּחוֹן לְנַצֵּחַ דָּבָר גַּשְׁמִי, כְּגוֹן: שְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים הַמִּתְאַבְּקִים זֶה עִם זֶה לְהַפִּיל זֶה אֶת זֶה,

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.

הִנֵּה, אִם הָאֶחָד הוּא בְּעַצְלוּת וּכְבֵדוּת – יְנוּצַּח בְּקַל וְיִפּוֹל גַּם אִם הוּא גִּבּוֹר יוֹתֵר מֵחֲבֵירוֹ,

Similarly with the conquest of one’s evil nature.

כָּכָה מַמָּשׁ בְּנִצְחוֹן הַיֵּצֶר,

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:

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

אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְנַצְּחוֹ בְּעַצְלוּת וּכְבֵדוּת – הַנִּמְשָׁכוֹת מֵעַצְבוּת וְטִמְטוּם הַלֵּב כָּאֶבֶן,

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.

כִּי אִם, בִּזְרִיזוּת – הַנִּמְשֶׁכֶת מִשִּׂמְחָה וּפְתִיחַת הַלֵּב, וְטָהֳרָתוֹ מִכָּל נִדְנוּד דְּאָגָה וָעֶצֶב בָּעוֹלָם.

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

וּמַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: "בְּכָל עֶצֶב יִהְיֶה מוֹתָר", פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אֵיזֶה יִתְרוֹן וּמַעֲלָה מִזֶּה,

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.

הִנֵּה אַדְּרַבָּה, מִלָּשׁוֹן זֶה מַשְׁמַע, שֶׁהָעֶצֶב מִצַּד עַצְמוֹ אֵין בּוֹ מַעֲלָה, רַק, שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ וְיָבֹא מִמֶּנּוּ אֵיזֶה יִתְרוֹן,

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.

וְהַיְינוּ – הַשִּׂמְחָה הָאֲמִיתִּית בַּה' אֱלֹהָיו, הַבָּאָה אַחַר הָעֶצֶב הָאֲמִיתִּי לְעִתִּים מְזוּמָּנִים עַל עֲוֹנוֹתָיו בְּמַר נַפְשׁוֹ וְלֵב נִשְׁבָּר,

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

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

שֶׁעַל יְדֵי זֶה, נִשְׁבְּרָה רוּחַ הַטּוּמְאָה וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא וּמְחִיצָה שֶׁל בַּרְזֶל הַמַּפְסֶקֶת בֵּינוֹ לְאָבִיו שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם,

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

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזֹּהַר עַל פָּסוּק: "רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה, לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְגוֹ'",

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

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

וַאֲזַי יְקוּיַּם בּוֹ רֵישֵׁיהּ דִּקְרָא: "תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה וְגוֹ', הָשִׁיבָה לִי שְׂשׂוֹן יִשְׁעֶךָ, וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה וְגוֹ'".

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

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

וְזֶהוּ טַעַם הַפָּשׁוּט לְתִיקּוּן הָאֲרִ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה, לוֹמַר מִזְמוֹר זֶה אַחַר תִּיקּוּן חֲצוֹת קוֹדֶם הַלִּימּוּד –

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

כְּדֵי לִלְמוֹד בְּשִׂמְחָה אֲמִיתִּית בַּה' הַבָּאָה אַחַר הָעֶצֶב;

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.

שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְשִׂמְחָה זוֹ יִתְרוֹן, כְּיִתְרוֹן הָאוֹר הַבָּא מִן הַחֹשֶׁךְ דַּוְקָא,

As the Zohar comments6 on the verse, “And I (King Solomon) saw that wisdom surpasses foolishness as light surpasses darkness.”7 Note there, and this will suffice for him who understands.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזֹּהַר עַל פָּסוּק: "וְרָאִיתִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ יִתְרוֹן לַחָכְמָה מִן הַסִּכְלוּת כִּיתְרוֹן הָאוֹר כוּ'", עַיֵּין שָׁם, וְדַי לַמֵּבִין.

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 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.

Furthermore, the verse states explicitly: “Because you did not serve G-d your L-rd with joy…”8 [the punishment described in the ensuing verse will be administered, G-d forbid]—and everyone is familiar with the explanation of the Arizal on this verse.9

וּמִקְרָא מָלֵא דִּבֶּר הַכָּתוּב: "תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָבַדְתָּ אֶת ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּשִׂמְחָה וְגוֹ'", וְנוֹדָע לַכֹּל פֵּירוּשׁ הָאֲרִ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה עַל פָּסוּק זֶה:

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….”