The Context

The classic chassidic work of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi known as The Tanya, begins with a crucial question: How is it possible that a Jew should not be depressed, knowing that he may never succeed to become a tzadik, and certainly will never achieve the spiritual purity that his soul knew at its origin. The author's grandson, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, points out that although his grandfather answers the question in his work, the answer seems lost within the forest of the lengthy explanation. In these short words, he tells us in a very pointed way what that answer is.

The Text

The Baal Shem Tov said that even the archangel Michael, greatest of all the angels, would give away all that he does and all that he understands in Divine service just for the mitzvah of one tzitzit of any Jew.

Why? Because the angel Michael can only grasp those revelations that have been squeezed into the World of Creation—which is already some sort of limitation. Tzitzit, on the other hand, are manifestations of the Infinite Light, may He be blessed, from beyond the entire order of Creation. And the same applies to every mitzvah.

This is what is called "the joy of a mitzvah." It is the main service of a person in this world.

This explains the verse, "In recompense for this that you did not serve the L‑rd your G‑d out of joy and with a good heart…"—because it is so important that a person should rejoice and be of good spirits with a fierce joy. Why? Because he is drawing upon the very core-substance of the Infinite Light, may He be blessed, through a mitzvah—something relative to which all the worlds are valueless.

Therefore, even if someone considers himself to be a wicked person, and he knows that he will get punished in hell or suffer in this world on account of this, nevertheless he should be happy and in good spirits from the joy of doing a mitzvah. For all the pains of hell are worth the ecstasy of just one hour even in the Lower Garden of Eden, never mind the Higher Garden of Eden—how much more so the actual Infinite Light, may He be blessed, that is drawn upon a person through any mitzvah. All forms of supernal bliss, even those much higher than the Higher Garden of Eden are valueless and literally null in comparison to the Infinite Light itself.

That is why a person should be happy and in good spirits even though he might consider himself wicked for his lack of proper fear of heaven: Although he realizes that his animalistic soul deserves a punishment for this, yet, as the Zohar says, "Happiness is fixed in my heart from one side, and bitterness from the other side"—and there is no conflict between the two whatsoever.

Kitzurim V'ha-arot L'tanya, page 46. Based on Maamarei Admor Hazaken, Inyanim (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi), page 211