Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
With a drop of humility, we realize that every mitzva we're privileged to perform and every tiny thing we have in life is the product of Hashem's mercy; in other words, a free gift.
One of our prime lifelong objectives is to reinforce our simple emuna to the extent that we can be happy with our lot in life and rejoice in our good points. Once we strengthen our humility, we arrive at the truth that everything comes from Hashem. We realize that arrogance both destroys our happiness and keeps us away from the truth, Heaven forbid.
Rejoicing in one's good points is the foundation of Judaism. Therefore, if one lacks the illumination of joy, he lacks the light of Judaism. The family members of those so-called “religious” who growl with hellfire-and-brimstone threats and severities will certainly forsake such a religion. Harshly stern people cannot influence others and certainly aren't capable of being a “light unto the nations.” We can therefore understand the emphasis that Rebbe Nachman of Breslev placed on looking for the good both in others and in ourselves.
People harbor the misconception that joy in performing a mitzva is something that pertains to the great tzaddikim alone. That's not true! Even if we're the most insignificant of people, we can always rejoice in the fact that we too are privileged to serve Hashem – the King of kings – and that He derives phenomenal satisfaction from every single effort we make to do His will and to get close to Him.
Our sages teach that there is no wealth in the world that is adequate compensation for even the tiniest of mitzvoth. We'd surely be happy if we found a two-carat diamond on the sidewalk, so why not be happy with every word of prayer and every good deed, which is intrinsically much more valuable than the diamond?
If a person considers himself to be an individual of stature, then he surely won't be happy. Because of his arrogance, he always expects more, wants more, and is never satisfied with what he has or what he does. But if a person is truly simple and humble, he rejoices in whatever Hashem gives him or enables him to do, for he views everything as a free gift and an act of loving-kindness on Hashem's behalf.
The feeling of unhappiness and insufficiency stems from arrogance. Sadness neutralizes a person, rendering him incapable of performing even basic mitzvoth.
A depressed professional with a doctorate in his field won't be able to get out of bed in the morning to pray with a minyan. Yet, a cheery street cleaner who serves Hashem with innocence and simplicity will fly out of bed to pray with the dawn minyan so that he can be at work at 7 AM. In this manner, the simple street cleaner will make light-years more spiritual gain than the professor. Precisely in this manner, Rebbe Nachman juxtaposes the clever one and the simple one.
A humble person who recognizes his own futility while also recognizing Hashem's greatness will always be happy. Yet, the arrogant are always sad. They wonder, “Why is someone as brilliant and talented as I am not doing better in life?” The reason is simple: with an overinflated ego, one is never satisfied.
The holy Ariza'l, the father of Kabbala, said that he earned his lofty spiritual status simply by performing the mitzvoth with joy. Indeed, serving Hashem with joy opens the doors to spiritual ascent.
The following example helps us understand Hashem's loving-kindness:
A factory employs 100 workers on its production line. Every ten minutes, these workers produce an automobile engine. They must keep up with the pace of the production line and or they'll lose their job. The company pays them a fixed wage of $100 per day; if they sing and dance, they won't receive any more money.
Hashem's policy is different from the factory's. Two people might be performing the same mitzva, but the one who does it with joy will receive an added bonus. The more joy a person invests in the performance of a mitzva, the greater the reward. So, let's get to work for Hashem with big smiles on our faces, and with Pesach fast approaching we'll certainly see the full redemption of our people, speedily and in our days, amen!