All people, regardless of their lineage - be they descendants of aristocracy or common folk - possess both virtues and deficiencies.

G‑d implanted in man's nature virtues, for they bring man to perfection, and shortcomings, so that man work on his character, to remove and to uproot these imperfections, cultivating and acquiring exemplary virtues in their stead.

The service and labor that enriches the worker is supreme.

There is no pleasure greater than the pleasure of man's toil in transforming evil into good.

A person who plows and sows a plot of choice land, and produces a prosperous yield, is not as pleased as one who plows and sows poor soil and nevertheless produces a prosperous yield.

The latter finds moral satisfaction in his handiwork and copious labor, in addition to his monetary profit.

So, too, great is the ethical service and labor; it rewards the laborer with everlasting happiness.

The work of replacing and exchanging evil with good and the repulsive with the beautiful, provides a person far more pleasure than assiduous occupation with goodness and beauty - as the saying, "Who among you [before coming] here, has converted darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness?"

Man's natural characteristics, his virtues and shortcomings, are divisible into two categories: those that are inborn, and those that are formed by habit.

From time to time, both [categories of character traits] become more deeply rooted in one's personality.

Eventually inborn characteristics can become an intrinsic and inseparable part of the person, and habits can become as [compelling as] inborn traits - as the saying, "Habit becomes nature."

Understandably, the two forms of character traits, virtues and deficiencies, do not grow, expand, or take deeper root by themselves - without any diligent work and effort on the person's part.

"G‑d has made one thing opposite the other," so just as one does not become knowledgeable or wise without prolonged study, likewise one's bad characteristics neither develop nor broaden without being continually exercised.

For this reason, we often observe children or youngsters, with much talent or with bad dispositions, who suddenly come to a standstill: their talents or bad dispositions develop no further.

Those possessing talents retain their talents [but grow no further], and those possessing shortcomings retain their shortcomings.

The explanation for this [stagnancy] is the lack of diligence in the development of the talents, and the scarcity of opportunities for the growth of the bad inclinations.

However, even the person whose base characteristics have grown completely unrestrained, has the possibility and the capability not only to subdue and discard these traits, but to elevate them as well. He can do so by using the supernal power that G‑d gives each and every Jew according to his needs - as our Rabbis have taught, "An oath is administered to him [before birth, enjoining him]: `Be righteous....'"

This oath is explained as [G‑d] satiating [and empowering] the soul, in a manner of "The camel is loaded according to its capacity to bear."

That is to say, G‑d gives everyone the spiritual powers necessary to transform "darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness" through exerting oneself physically and spiritually in one's [divine] service.


People possess virtues and shortcomings that are inborn or acquired. One who involves himself in the labor of self- refinement has the ability to transform a shortcoming into a virtue.