What is a mitzvah? The simple meaning is "something G‑d told us to do." Like helping others, putting on tefillin or resting on Shabbat. Some will say that a mitzvah is a spiritual act. But really a mitzvah is beyond spirituality. Far beyond.

Everyone today is talking about "spirituality." Even business people are talking spirituality. But let's be honest: Spirituality in earthly form is like ballet in a five-ton asbestos suit.

Imagine a being without a body. Pure intellect, unfettered by earthly conceptions. We call such beings malachim--usually translated as "angels."

Malachim have their own worlds and despite the fact that our world is devolved from theirs, there's really no comparison. First of all, malachim are heavily into the divine energy. You see, every world is charged with a particular form of energy that keeps it running, determines its form and sustains its very existence. Think of the world of a computer game, sustained by the energy running through the computer—except, in this case, the hardware is also energy.

Actually, our world also gets this sort of energy (very stepped-down and filtered), but we have no comprehension of what's going on. Malachim "get it" and are totally obsessed with the process. According to how much their massive intellects can comprehend of the energy, such is the degree of delight they experience. And so they spend their blissful days and years. You could call them spiritual junkies.

Malachim come in all sorts and on endless levels in higher and higher worlds. But living in the penthouse of the highest world, on the very cusp of reality where existence meets pre-existence and all things are generated into being, is the malach Micha'el. No being of any world comprehends more, no being receives greater delight—because no being sits as close to the Beginning, the Source of All Life.

So much for angels. Meanwhile, down on this earthly plane, the human soul fumbles in murky darkness. This clumsy body-thing she's been locked inside of has zero comprehension of its mission, of the meaning of life, of anything divine or beyond this world. Choking from the heat of a burning, beast-like heart, chilled by the intellect of that slab of cold meat called a brain, she gasps frantically for any breath of life, struggling for just a bare minimum of control—at least to avoid being trampled to extinction in the rat-race.

Face it: The most successful soul here below cannot hope to dance as gracefully as the clumsiest malach. The malach dances in a world of ideas and expression while the soul clambers about in its asbestos suit, its valiant attempts at twirls and spins resulting in little more than flips and falls with all the pain and ugly mess that follows. Then there's guilt, feelings of inadequacy, soul-cleansing laundromats in the after-life and prescribed re-runs in the next. When failure is unavoidable, despair is inevitable. And despair, for the soul, is death.

So Rabbi Israel, the "Baal Shem Tov," came to our world and told a secret. "The malach Micha'el," he revealed, "is jealous of every one of us. He would give anything, he would give up all his comprehension of the divine light, and all the pleasure and delight he receives from it, just for one fragment of a mitzvah of a soul on this earth."

How could it be? The disciples of the Baal Shem Tov explained: the malach Micha'el has light, great light. But here, in the darkness, in the act of any single mitzvah, we have the Source of Light. We have G‑d Himself.

What is this "divine light" the malachim sense, after all? It is nothing more than the power of G‑d's unlimited imagination, imagining them and their worlds and ours and our world and all the things inside those worlds and thereby rendering them into existence. In less than a poof, the whole thing could be gone and forgotten as though it never was, like some fanciful daydream of zero import and zero impact.

Only that in this fantasy, the Author Himself makes a cameo appearance. And where is that? In the mitzvahs we do. There, in those seemingly insignificant acts, He is no longer fantasizing. The mitzvah is Him, doing what He really wants to do, the purpose for which He conjured up all these worlds to begin with. And how does He go about doing those things? Through us. So that in a mitzvah, we are being Him, the real Him. And that's something a malach can never be.

True, we don't feel G‑d there. We don't get any of the ecstatic delight that those angels are so hooked on. But that is only because we are dealing with something far beyond our comprehension, something that would blow all the fuses in the mind of even Malach Micha'el, way beyond anything the human heart can handle in its current iteration. For that, we will have to wait for what they call "the World to Come," as the sages taught:

"One moment of life in the World to Come contains more beauty than all the life of this world."

...because that is when we will have minds and hearts that can cash in on the more-than-awesome beauty we have generated here in this lifetime.

But then, they also taught:

"One moment of return (teshuvah) and good deeds in this world contains more beauty than all the life of the World to Come."

And so, every moment of life is a moment to celebrate. True, we mess up, over and over again. True, we feel the awful pain of those mess-ups as they bounce back to us in the cosmic game of pong. But maybe, just maybe, while we're granted another day of life down here, we'll get to do another mitzvah. And in the blinding light of that one mitzvah, all the pain, guilt and inadequacy fades into oblivion. It's all worth it.

Hey, maybe even two mitzvahs. Or three. Or more. As for Malach Micha'el, let him eat his heart out.