There are various levels in the service of G‑d. There is one level where the light of holiness drives away the darkness, as is understood from the famous saying "A small amount of light drives away a great deal of darkness." (Tanya, Chapter 12) There is a higher level where one transforms the darkness itself into light.

The Zohar states, "The time of prayer is the time of battle!" This means that during the time of prayer there is a spiritual battle between the Evil Inclination, which is the darkness in man, and the Good Inclination, which is the light. The Evil Inclination is called "darkness", because its urge and desire is solely for physical pleasures.

The Evil Inclination is characterized essentially by emotional qualities: love, fear, pride, etc. It also has the power of intellect, but its intellect is only for material things, contriving all kinds of schemes to acquire the physical pleasures which it desires, and also finding many ways to justify itself. Sometimes, the person himself recognizes that he is wrong, but nonetheless he finds various rationalizations - even those which he knows are false, yet he uses these false reasons as a basis to gain his desires. Since such conduct is similar to animal behavior, the intellect of the Evil Inclination is called the "Animal Soul".

The primary essence of the Evil Inclination is that it possesses a "power of desire". This will and desire of the Evil Inclination is of exceptional strength, as seen from the famous saying (Sukkah 52b): "The more one satiates his animalistic desires, the more hungry and lustful he becomes." The same applies to the Evil Inclination; the more one submits to its desires, the more powerful - and the more fiery - does the "power of desire" become, until it can finally lead a person to rob, steal and even murder, G‑d forbid. This is exemplified by the Rebellious Son who rebels against his parents (Deut. 21:1), whose conduct degenerates steadily through gradual stages of gross over-indulgence in eating and drinking until eventually reaching the stage of murder, G‑d forbid. Hence, the Evil Inclination and the Animal Soul are called "darkness". On the other hand, the Good Inclination, together with its intellect - the Divine Soul - is called "light", because it infuses light into the darkness of the Evil Inclination and the Animal Soul.

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In order to be victorious in battle, a king will utilize and expend his most precious treasures….

This task of the Good Inclination and the Divine Soul to brighten the darkness of the Evil Inclination and the Animal Soul is called a "battle" inasmuch as both the Animal Soul and the Divine Soul employ their most outstanding powers, each trying to overcome its opponent. The desire for control over such an enormous adversary is so great that all means are considered worthwhile to gain this victory. We find that in order to be victorious in battle, a king will utilize and expend his most precious treasures which have been accumulated and guarded for many generations, and both sides engage in battle with a firm determination to die - if necessary. This analogy can also be applied to the spiritual battle between the inner forces of good and evil - each one exercising its utmost capabilities to win.

In warfare, various types of weapons are used. There are certain types of arms which can only be used at short range, while others are fit only for long-range purposes. This is also true in the spiritual war between the Good Inclination and Evil Inclination, both possessing these various types of armaments. The revealed - or short-range - weapons of the Evil Inclination are the physical and material things, even those which are permissible according to the Torah. As the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad-Lubavitch] explains in Tanya (Chapter 7), even kosher food, when it is eaten with the intention of satiating one's desire, becomes evil! The desire, which was the factor in using the food, transforms the good into evil, and this evil eventually becomes a weapon which destroys the person spiritually, or, at the very least, makes him spiritually defective. He receives his vitality from Evil, which brings him to the level where he derives pleasure from a physical desire.

Forbidden food and the like are the vile weapons of the Evil Inclination….

The Evil Inclination also possesses weapons that work on a long-range basis. Unlike the aforementioned, where one indulged only in things which are permissible, now the evil inclination causes him to transgress unwittingly, by doing things which are forbidden, thereby killing him spiritually! A man once came with his scholarly son-in-law to the Alter Rebbe in Liozna, and complained that his son-in-law, who had always conducted himself properly, suddenly was beset with doubts about his faith, thereby causing himself great anguish. The Rebbe told him that, unknowingly, he had eaten forbidden food. The Rebbe showed him the way to repent, and he became spiritually healthy once more. Thus, forbidden food and the like are the vile weapons of the Evil Inclination which reach far out and destroy, G‑d forbid, or, at the very least, make the person spiritually defective.

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The Good Inclination also possesses two types of weapons, i.e. those that perform at close-range, and those which are far-reaching. The latter are of such a nature that they prevail over even the hidden evil of the Evil Inclination. These two types of weapons are: 1) acceptance of the yoke of Torah and mitzvot, 2) fear of the Almighty. The service of acceptance of the yoke of Torah is the weaponry of the Good Inclination which works at short-range. Acceptance of the yoke of Torah means that one's service of G‑d, both in the study of Torah and the fulfillment of the Commandments, is not dependent upon one's understanding or desire to understand the reason for the mitzvah. On the contrary, he performs it simply because it is G‑d's command, without questioning why. Acceptance of the yoke of Torah guards one from the Evil Inclination and its desires, because he has resolved that everything the Evil Inclination urges, he will not do. This resolution has been made as a result of accepting the yoke of Torah, and not reason.

There is an essential difference between the service of G‑d based on understanding and the service of G‑d based on accepting the yoke of Torah. When the resolution not to conform to the whims and desires of the Evil Inclination is founded on reason, it is subject to changes in relation to the fluctuations of the intellect. This can be seen in the case of a scholar presenting a profound thesis and expounding upon it with deep insight. From every intellectual statement or concept there must necessarily follow a practical result or application. Obviously, the practical result depends upon the underlying reason. When another scholar repudiates the thesis, then the practical outcome is also correspondingly changed. Likewise, the service of G‑d founded solely on intellect will be affected by changes in reasoning and logic. On the other hand, service inspired by acceptance of the yoke of Torah transcends reason; hence, there are no changes.

The time and place of this spiritual struggle is during prayer….

The resolution of accepting the yoke of Torah, that whatever the Evil Inclination desires he will abstain from, is the weapon which overpowers the Evil Inclination. That is, he utilizes those physical objects which he needs, not for the purpose of gratifying his pleasurable desires, but only because they are necessary for his physical existence. The second weapon of the Good Inclination is fear of Heaven, namely that he fears that which G‑d has forbidden. This overpowers the hidden evil of the Evil Inclination, for fear of Heaven is characterized by scrupulousness in all that one does, and therefore he is protected in all his ways.

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The time and place of this spiritual struggle is during prayer. Then, both the Divine Soul and the Animal Soul strengthen themselves with their maximum power, each one trying to overcome the other. As it is written about Jacob and Esau, "…and one nation will try to prevail over the other" (Gen. 25:23, referring to the two nations stemming from Jacob and Esau). In a deeper sense, relevant to the divine service of every Jew, Jacob and Esau refer respectively to the spiritual and the mundane. Esau, the son of Isaac, is called "a man of the field" (ibid. 25:27), for his interest lay only in mundane and worldly affairs. His whole desire was only for physical pleasures, and for this he acted falsely and deceitfully. He had the greatest respect for this father, Isaac (i.e. when he had to serve him food, he dressed in his best clothes, thus fulfilling the commandment of honoring one's father), yet, he deceived him also.

Jacob, on the other hand, represents the spiritual, as he is called "a simple man" (ibid.), one who is neither able nor desirous of fooling others. Jacob's only interest was in spiritual matters; all of his thoughts centered on how to elevate and improve himself, as the Talmud teaches, that a person should be kind to people and devoted to G‑d (Kiddushin 40a). His whole pleasure was the study of Torah; he is described as "a tent dweller" (ibid.), studying the Torah which was taught in the study halls of Shem and Ever.

In terms of a Jew's service of G‑d, Jacob and Esau correspond respectively to the two souls within every Jew, the Divine Soul and the Animal Soul. Both souls wishing to dominate the person battle between themselves. This is the meaning of "and each nation will try to conquer the other." When two people fight, the actual fighting gives each a certain amount of courage and strength.

The same applies to the spiritual battle between the Divine Soul and the Animal Soul which takes place during the time of prayer. Therefore we find that during prayer two opposite emotions are revealed within the person, one stemming from the Divine Soul, and the other from the Animal Soul. We see that during prayer, various alien thoughts enter one's mind, until he even forgets that he is standing in the presence of G‑d, the King of kings, and praying. However, when a person is occupied with his business affairs or other mundane matters, such as eating and drinking, then no other thoughts enter his mind.

While speaking or listening to idle talk, he momentarily forgets his financial worries; but on the contrary, during the time of prayer, strange and foreign thoughts enter his mind. However, we also find that during prayer, even though one is not mindful of the meaning of the prayers, nevertheless there are certain paragraphs or verses which he says with an inner warmth and a vitality that permeates his whole being. These opposite dispositions originate from the Divine Soul and the Animal Soul. The Animal Soul causes to arise in one's mind all sorts of strange and improper thoughts, distracting him from prayer, while the Divine Soul inspires him with vigor which expresses itself in a sudden heartrending outcry of repentance. This outburst stems from simple faith and complete trust that "he will be saved from it".

And through the individual redemption of each and every Jew, which is achieved by means of the victory of the good over the evil within himself, will come the complete Redemption of all our people. Then we will all witness the fulfillment of the prophecy "How great is that day, there is none like it" with the downfall and destruction of Gog and Magog, and the complete Redemption of all the Jews, through our righteous Mashiach.

Selected from a discourse delivered in 1942.

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