“The letter tzaddik has two forms…the bent tzaddik which occurs at the beginning or middle of a word…[and] the straight tzaddik which occurs at the end of a word. What is the significance of each?
The straight tzaddik represents the baal teshuvah, one who has worked to improve his connection to G-d and returned to his essential holy nature. The bent tzaddik is born righteous, but has not yet reached the level of a baal teshuvah.
We are told, even a complete tzaddik cannot stand in the place of a baal teshuvah. A baal teshuvah stands higher. How is it possible that a baal teshuvah—one who has sinned all his life and then decides to change—stands higher than a tzaddik?…
The one who has transgressed has…already experienced its physical pleasure [and] might be hooked. It is very difficult to extirpate that aspect from his life, and it requires tremendous strength and commitment. Thus a baal teshuvah…creates an elevated connection to G-d when he decides to change.”