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….”

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.

Sound advice has been offered by our Sages on cleansing one’s heart of all sadness and any trace of worry about mundane matters, even a sadness or worry caused by the lack of such essentials as children, health, or livelihood.

וְהִנֵּה, עֵצָה הַיְּעוּצָה לְטַהֵר לִבּוֹ מִכָּל עֶצֶב וְנִדְנוּד דְּאָגָה מִמִּילֵּי דְעָלְמָא, וַאֲפִילוּ בָּנֵי חַיֵּי וּמְזוֹנֵי,

The advice is contained in the well-known saying of our Sages: “Just as one recites a blessing for his good fortune (‘Blessed are You, G-d…Who is good and does good’), so must he also recite a blessing for misfortune.”10

מוּדַעַת זֹאת לַכֹּל מַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "כְּשֵׁם שֶׁמְּבָרֵךְ עַל הַטּוֹבָה כוּ'",

The Gemara explains11 that this does not mean that he recite the same blessing (for the blessing in a case of misfortune, G-d forbid, is “Blessed are You, G-d…the true Judge”); rather, the implication is that one should accept misfortune with joy, like the joy in a visible and obvious good.

וּפֵירְשׁוּ בַּגְּמָרָא: "לְקַבּוּלֵי בְּשִׂמְחָה", כְּמוֹ שִׂמְחַת הַטּוֹבָה הַנִּגְלֵית וְנִרְאֵית,

For it, too, is for the good, except that it is not apparent and visible to mortal eyes, for it stems from the “hidden (spiritual) world,’’ which is higher than the “revealed (spiritual) world,” whence derives an apparent and revealed good.

כִּי "גַּם זוֹ – לְטוֹבָה", רַק שֶׁאֵינָהּ נִגְלֵית וְנִרְאֵית לְעֵינֵי בָשָׂר, כִּי, הִיא מֵ"עָלְמָא דְאִתְכַּסְיָא" שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה מֵ"עָלְמָא דְאִתְגַּלְיָיא",

The latter emanates from the letters vav and hey of Havayah (the Four-Letter Divine Name, composed of the letters yud-hey-vav-hey), while the former derives from the letters yud and hey.12

שֶׁהוּא – ו"ה מִשֵּׁם הֲוָיָ"ה בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, וְ"עָלְמָא דְאִתְכַּסְיָא" – הוּא י"ה,

This is also the meaning of the verse, “Happy is the man whom You, G-d (spelled yud hey), chasten.”13 Since the verse speaks of man’s suffering, only the letters yud and hey are mentioned.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּ"הּ וְגוֹ'".

Man sees misfortune only because he cannot perceive that which derives from a higher, hidden level of G-dliness. In truth, however, the “misfortunes” are actually blessings in disguise. On the contrary, they represent an even higher level of good than the revealed good, since they originate in a higher world.

For this reason, our Sages stated14 that the verse “Those who love Him shall be as the sun when it comes out in its might”15 refers to the reward of those who rejoice in their afflictions.

וְלָכֵן אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, כִּי "הַשְּׂמֵחִים בְּיִסּוּרִים – עֲלֵיהֶם הַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר: וְאוֹהֲבָיו כְּצֵאת הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בִּגְבוּרָתוֹ",

G-d always rewards man “measure for measure.” What is the connection, then, between rejoicing in affliction and “the sun…”? Also, why are those who rejoice in affliction described as “those who love G-d”? The Alter Rebbe now explains that since misfortune is really nothing but a disguise for the higher form of good that derives from the “hidden world,” the option as to whether it will bring man either joy or misery depends on his priorities. If he deems his physical life all important, he will indeed be miserable, while if nearness to G-d is his primary concern, he will rejoice, since nearness to G-d is found in greater measure in the “hidden world” whence derives the good that is hidden in misfortune.

Those who rejoice in suffering are therefore called “lovers of G-d” and are rewarded by being granted the vision of “the sun emerging in its might.” Since in this world, they disregarded externals and ignored the veil of misfortune hiding the good within, choosing instead to concern themselves with the deeper aspect of good and G-dliness lying behind the veil, G-d rewards them in the World to Come “measure for measure” by casting off the veils that surround Him and revealing Himself in His full glory to those who love Him.

For the Four-Letter Divine Name, signifying G-d in His Essence, is compared to a sun, and the Name Elokim, signifying G-d as He is clothed and concealed in the created universe, is compared to a veil shielding the created beings from the intensity of its rays, as it is written, “A sun and a shield (respectively) are Hashem (i.e., the Four-Letter Name) Elokim.”16 In the World to Come, the “sun” will emerge from its “shield,” i.e., the Four-Letter Name will no longer be veiled by Elokim, and it will shine forth “in its might” as a reward for those who love Him.

This, in summary, is the explanation contained in the following paragraphs.

For one’s joy in affliction stems from the fact that being near to G-d is dearer to him than anything of the life of this world,

כִּי, הַשִּׂמְחָה הִיא מֵאַהֲבָתוֹ קִרְבַת ה' יוֹתֵר מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה,

as it is written: “For Your lovingkindness is better than life….”17

כְּדִכְתִיב: "כִּי טוֹב חַסְדְּךָ מֵחַיִּים וְגוֹ'",

Now, the nearness to G-d is infinitely greater and more sublime in the “hidden world,” for “there, the concealment of His power is lodged,”18 and it is also written, “The Most High abides in secrecy.”19

וְקִרְבַת ה' – הִיא בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וּמַעֲלָה לְאֵין קֵץ בְּ"עָלְמָא דְאִתְכַּסְיָא", כִּי "שָׁם חֶבְיוֹן עוּזּוֹ" וְ"יוֹשֵׁב בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן",

Both these verses indicate that the “hidden world” contains a higher aspect of G-dliness than the “revealed world.” Since the “hidden world” is the source of seeming affliction, he who loves G-d rejoices in it, for it represents a greater nearness to G-d than revealed good, which derives from the “revealed world.”

Therefore, he is found worthy of seeing “the sun emerging in its might” in the World to Come, when the “sun” will emerge from the “sheath” in which it is hidden in this world and will then be revealed.

וְעַל כֵּן זוֹכֶה לְ"צֵאת הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בִּגְבוּרָתוֹ" לֶעָתִיד לָבֹא, שֶׁהִיא יְצִיאַת חַמָּה מִנַרְתֵּקָה, שֶׁהִיא מְכוּסָּה בּוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וְלֶעָתִיד – תִּתְגַּלֶּה מִכִּסּוּיָהּ,

This means that what is presently the “hidden world” will then be revealed, and it will shine forth and glow in a great and intense revelation upon all who seek refuge in Him in This World, taking shelter in his “shadow,” the “shadow of wisdom,” which is presently in a state of “shade” as opposed to revealed light and goodness. I.e., they find shelter and refuge even in that which presents an external appearance of “shade” and darkness, whereas the light and goodness contained in it is concealed. This is sufficient explanation for the understanding.

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁאָז יִתְגַּלֶּה עָלְמָא דְאִתְכַּסְיָא, וְיִזְרַח וְיָאִיר בְּגִילּוּי רַב וְעָצוּם לְכָל הַחוֹסִים בּוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וּמִסְתּוֹפְפִים בְּצִלּוֹ, צֵל הַחָכְמָה, שֶׁהוּא בְּחִינַת צֵל וְלֹא אוֹרָה וְטוֹבָה נִרְאֵית, וְדַי לַמֵּבִין:

To return to our original point: When one considers that whatever appears as suffering is actually a higher form of good, he will no longer be saddened or worried by it.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to discuss a different type of sadness, that caused by one’s failings in matters of the spirit.

As for sadness connected with heavenly matters, one must seek ways and means of freeing oneself from it.

אַךְ הָעַצְבוּת מִמִּילֵּי דִשְׁמַיָּא צָרִיךְ לָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשׁוֹ לִיפָּטֵר מִמֶּנָּה,

That this applies to the time of one’s divine service is self-evident, for one must serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart.

אֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר בִּשְׁעַת עֲבוֹדָה, שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לַעֲבוֹד ה' בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְטוּב לֵבָב,

But even one who is occupied in business and worldly affairs, should there descend upon him any sadness or anxiety about heavenly matters during his business affairs,

אֶלָּא אֲפִילוּ מִי שֶׁהוּא בַּעַל עֲסָקִים וְדֶרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, אִם נוֹפֵל לוֹ עֶצֶב וּדְאָגָה מִמִּילֵּי דִשְׁמַיָּא בִּשְׁעַת עֲסָקָיו,

it is certainly a trick of the evil inclination, which saddens him, ostensibly for spiritual reasons, in order to lure him afterward into lusts, G-d forbid, as is well known.

בְּיָדוּעַ שֶׁהוּא תַּחְבּוּלַת הַיֵּצֶר – כְּדֵי לְהַפִּילוֹ אַחַר כָּךְ בְּתַאֲווֹת חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, כַּנּוֹדָע,

It is man’s nature to seek pleasure and not to remain depressed. If his feeling of spiritual failure distresses him, he will seek his pleasure in physical gratification. The evil inclination therefore wishes that one be depressed, be it even over spiritual matters, so that he will later succumb to temptation.

For if it were not so, that this depression is the doing of the yetzer hara, from where would a genuine sadness, one that is derived from love or fear of G-d, come to him in the midst of his business affairs?

שֶׁאִם לֹא כֵן, מֵאַיִן בָּאָה לוֹ עַצְבוּת אֲמִיתִּית מֵחֲמַת אַהֲבַת ה' אוֹ יִרְאָתוֹ, בְּאֶמְצַע עֲסָקָיו.

Since a genuine sadness is an expression of love or fear of G-d, it should express itself at a time when these emotions are active—during prayer, Torah study, and the like, but not during one’s business. Clearly, then, the sadness is artificial, created by the yetzer hara for its own purposes, and one must therefore rid himself of it. The next paragraph provides the means:

Whether the depression settles upon him during his service of G-d in Torah study or prayer or when he is not engaged thus but with his material affairs, this is what he should consider:

וְהִנֵּה, בֵּין שֶׁנָּפְלָה לוֹ הָעַצְבוּת בִּשְׁעַת עֲבוֹדָה בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה אוֹ בִּתְפִלָּה, וּבֵין שֶׁנָּפְלָה לוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִּשְׁעַת עֲבוֹדָה, זֹאת יָשִׂים אֶל לִבּוֹ:

“Now is not the proper time for genuine sadness nor even for worry over grave sins, G-d forbid.”

כִּי אֵין הַזְּמַן גְּרָמָא כָּעֵת לְעַצְבוּת אֲמִיתִּית, אֲפִילוּ לְדַאֲגַת עֲוֹנוֹת חֲמוּרִים חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

For this, one must set aside opportune times, when the mind is calm, to reflect on the greatness of G-d, against Whom he has sinned,

רַק לָזֹאת צָרִיךְ קְבִיעוּת עִתִּים וּשְׁעַת הַכּוֹשֶׁר בְּיִשּׁוּב הַדַּעַת, לְהִתְבּוֹנֵן בִּגְדוּלַּת ה' אֲשֶׁר חָטָא לוֹ,

so that thereby his heart will truly be rent with genuine bitterness i.e., bitterness—remorse—as opposed to depression; the former is alive and active, while the latter is resigned and “dead.” It is explained elsewhere when this time should be.20

כְּדֵי שֶׁעַל יְדֵי זֶה יִהְיֶה לִבּוֹ נִשְׁבָּר בֶּאֱמֶת בִּמְרִירוּת אֲמִיתִּית, וְכִמְבוֹאָר עֵת זוֹ בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

There, it is also explained that immediately after his heart has been broken during those appointed times, he should completely remove the sorrow from his heart,

וְשָׁם נִתְבָּאֵר גַּם כֵּן, כִּי מִיָּד אַחַר שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּר לִבּוֹ בְּעִתִּים קְבוּעִים הָהֵם, אֲזַי יָסִיר הָעֶצֶב מִלִּבּוֹ לְגַמְרֵי,

and he should believe with perfect faith that G-d has erased his sin and that “He pardons abundantly.”

וְיַאֲמִין אֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵימָה כִּי ה' הֶעֱבִיר חַטָּאתוֹ "וְרַב לִסְלוֹחַ".

Thus, even if one has sinned repeatedly against Him, G-d will readily forgive him as though he had sinned for the first time, unlike man, who easily forgives a first offense but finds it difficult to do so when the offense is oft repeated.

This knowledge that G-d has surely cleansed him of his sins is the true joy in G-d which follows the sadness, as explained above—that the virtue of sadness lies in the joy to which it gives rise.

וְזוֹ הִיא הַשִּׂמְחָה הָאֲמִיתִּית בַּה' הַבָּאָה אַחַר הָעֶצֶב, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל: