“Why do a mitzva if I know I will sin afterward?”
A visitor once asked this blunt question to the Rebbe in a private audience. He understood that performing a good deed is meaningful, but thought that any merits gained would be wiped away upon sinning.
“Imagine a breathtaking scenic landmark,” the Rebbe began. “A tourist captures the view with a photograph, and frames it beautifully. How much would the photograph sell for?” the Rebbe asked.
The man answered hesitantly, “About twenty-five dollars?”
The Rebbe continued his metaphor: “Another tourist who is an accomplished artist sees this magnificent sight and skillfully paints the scene. How much would his original artwork sell for?”
“Oh, it could be several thousand dollars!” exclaimed the man.
“Logically,” the Rebbe explained, “the painting, despite its beauty, only captured several of the many details in the entire scene. The photograph, on the other hand, captured every detail of the landmark.
“Why is the painting worth more than the photograph?” the Rebbe asked.
The man, comprehending the Rebbe’s parable, quickly replied, “It’s the effort that counts!”
“Exactly!” the Rebbe concluded. “Angels are picture-perfect. Though they do not sin their perfection does not require effort. Humans are imperfect. We may make occasional mistakes, but our effort is very precious to G‑d.”
—Heard from Yehoshua Werde and cited in Chicken Soup to Warm the Neshama