The Battle of the Two Souls

By Miri Shanowitz, Brooklyn, NY
Essays 2017

MyLife Essay Contest 2017

In the times of the Alter Rebbe, people came for advice and direction of how to perfect their service to G-d. The Alter Rebbe answered each one of them according to their needs. As the amount of people  increased,  there  was not enough time in the day to individually answer each and every one of them. To accommodate each individual, the Alter Rebbe compiled a book that helps each individual reach his ultimate level of service to G-d. This book is called the Tanya.

The Tanya is not nearly a book of holy words, but it is actually a day to day guide to life. In Sefer Yeshayahu it says, that each Jewish individual has two souls that reside within him (Yeshayahu 57:16) . These two souls were designed with a specific make up that enables a person to function. These souls are expressed through one’s thoughts, speech, and actions. G-d has given one these two souls for a purpose, for each person must try to fulfill his mission in life.

Every single Jew possesses two souls. It says in Yeshayahu , “I made souls”  (Yeshayahu 57:16). Souls  is written in the plural form and is addressed to one person, indicating that each Jewish individual possesses  two souls. One soul is G-dly because it is directed to G-d, and the other one is known as the animal soul because it is directed towards itself. The reason why the animal soul was created to be the exact opposite of the G-dly soul,  was in order that the world should have a balance. Like it says that” G-d created this side opposite this side (Kohelet 7:14).

G-d made the world with an equal balance. He presented evil in a disguise to lure a person into sinning. His world was designed  to be full of confusion in order to give man free choice. G-d made it hard for one to follow His commands and overcome one’s negative traits, in order for man to decide which path he wants to take in life. G-d designed His World with an equal balance, so ultimately man can earn the reward of overcoming one’s internal and external challenges and reveal one’s inner strengths.

It is very important to have a closer examination on the souls makeup in order to understand how it works.  The G-dly soul is a Chelek elokai mimaal mamash because it is a part of G-d (Iyov 31:2).This soul originates from the deepest level of G-d.It is a part of G-d’s innermost being. It says regarding Adam, that God blew a soul into Adam’s nostrils ( Bereishit 2:7) . This signifies that this soul originates from the innermost aspect of g-dliness, just as blowing stems from the inwardness of one’s being. Blowing stems from deep breathing and can therefore tire one out, as oppose to speech which does not require much energy.

Since this soul stems from such a high level of g-dliness, it is completely nullified to G-d. The G-dly soul manifests itself in different stages. More of the G-dly soul revealed in a person at the ages of twelve and thirteen, and that is why the G-dly soul is called the second soul.

The animal soul, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of the Godly . One is born with it already expressed. This soul is present in the left ventricle of one’s heart and one’s blood, as it says in ( Vayikrah 17:11).  Just as the heart pumps blood and gives a person the ability to live and breathe, so too,this soul is a life force that creates all one’s passion and desires. The animal soul originates from a more external level of G-dliness.This soul operates on self benefit and selfish motivation.The animal soul produces all the negative qualities.

All creations stem from the four main elements that exist in the world.These elements don’t only serve as a physical component, but they also contain  a spiritual manifestation. In the animal soul the four elements manifests itself in all a person’s negative qualities.  So from the element of fire comes anger. For  just as fire rises, so does anger. From the element of water comes one’s desires and pleasures, for  water gives irrigation to all pleasures. From the element of earth comes laziness and depression. For just as earth is heavy so does depression and laziness weigh one down. From the element of air comes idle talk and slander. For just as air is full of nothingness, so is idle talk and slander full of nothingness.One may use these expressions metaphorically in one’s daily life like saying a person is full of hot air to indicate that air represents nothingness. Or one may say that a person got fired up to indicate that the person is angry.

Being that the animal soul is based on self motivation, so even if the person is doing something selfless the motivation is really to feel good about itself.

Each soul is divided into two parts:

  1. The intellectual part which consists of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Wisdom is grasping the initial spark of an idea. Understanding  is to investigate the idea and knowledge develops the idea.
  2. The emotional part consists of primarily love and fear and the rest of the five faculties are branches off of these two emotions.

The G-dly soul utilizes the mind to make choices.In the G-dly soul the mind influences its emotional components. Whereas in the animal soul, the mind is consumed by its emotions, and therefore the mind is controlled by how it feels.

For the Godly soul, these ten powers are holy . This means that the powers are  combined in a way of harmony and they are therefore perfectly balanced and interwoven into each other.  So the emotion of love in the G-dly  soul will be kind yet constructive. As oppose to the animal soul,  these traits are isolated and individualized. There is no balance so extremes in emotions  are expressed.So the emotion of love for the animal soul can be overbearing and out of bounds.

It is discussed in Likkutei Sichos Parshas Breishis, why Adam, a righteous person who was purely good, was not able to restrain himself for such a limited amount of time by obeying one commandfrom G-d to not eat from the tree of knowledge. Because God created the world with a balance of good and evil, each person will be presented by a challenge that matches one’s capabilities.That is the reason why Adam ate from the tree of knowledge, because if Adam had listened to God’s command, the world would have been perfect. The evil influences knew that Adam had the potential to perfect the world, so they challenged him with the toughest struggles in order for him to transgress G-d’s command. ( Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1 p. 5)

This is why G-d created us with two contrasting souls.These souls allow a person to have choice. Through making the right choices and overcoming temptations one will strengthen one’s service to G-d.

For instance, when one is praying one’s two souls will fight with one another to seek dominance over the person. The animal soul will stray one’s concentration and cause the person’s mind to wander.While the G-dly soul will intensify it’s concentration to G-d. When one makes the right choice and overcomes one’s challenges, one is bringing G-dliness into the world.

Each of the two souls consists of three garments by which it can express itself. The garments are one’s  thought, speech, and action. By the spiritual soul, the garments are one’s thought, speech, and action of Torah and Mitzvos.So when one is studying Torah, one is us elevating one’s mind. When one is saying the words of prayer, one is elevating one’s speech. When one is giving charity, one is elevating one’s actions. The purpose of these garments is through the expression of the soul (by utilizing its garments) the soul can establish such a high  connection  to G-d.The garments allow the G-dly soul to achieve a higher spiritual level.

The animal soul also has three garments. However, unlike the spiritual

soul, the animal soul’s garments are impure and can therefore bring the soul down to a low level of impurity. These garments are thought, speech, and action of any service that is not directed to God. When one thinks or says anything that is not for God’s sake, one is dragging one’s soul down because one is giving into ones desires.

The pupose of having these two souls is to ultimately overcome our evil inclinations and use the passion of the animal soul to help us serve God.

In Likkutei Sichos of Parshas Lech Lcha this matter is discussed. Lech Lcha means Go To Yourself. The inner meaning of this statement is that God tells Avraham to move towards his ultimate pupose of sevice to God. That Avraham should go beyond his nature and connect with his true essence and spiritual root.For every person this should serve as a lesson for life. (Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1 p. 18) In order to perfect one’s service to G-d, one should go out of one’s nature by overcoming one’s  natural habits and evil inclinations.

One way to accomplish this, is learnt out from a possuk in Shemos.

It says, :when you see your enemy’s donkey crouching under its load you must help him.

The deeper meaning of this statement means that when one sees one’s enemy’s donkey-  donkey in Hebrew is a “chamor” this refers to “chumrius “ which means materialism which stems from the animal soul

Crouching under its load- refers to the burden and discomfort that the animal soul initially receives from obeying G-d’s commands

One must help him- one must integrate the Torah and G-d’s commands into the animal soul.

Although naturally the animal soul may feel burdened by Torah and its interests may lay in worldly affairs and physical pleasures, it can still be used in the service of G-d.The animal soul has a lot of spiritual potential but it is covered up by physicality. One’s job is not to despise one’s animal soul and shatter it until it diminishes. Nor should one inflict oneself with pain in order to rid one’s animal soul. Rather one should persuade the animal soul that accepting the Torah is in its own best interest.Through doing this,the animal soul fulfills its existence.

Here is an example where the Rebbe shows a person how one can be the master of one’s body through controlling one’s emotions.

Someone once wrote to the Rebbe that he has a really hard time controlling his anger. The Rebbe responded that in order to diminish one’s anger one should constantly remind oneself that G-d oversees every detail of one’s life and observes all one’s actions. One should also remember that he is in the presence of G-d Almighty and G-d knows everything that is in one’s heart. When one will ponder this matter, it will surely diminish one’s anger.(The, “Overcoming Anger”).

One should imagine that life is a scale. Any deed a person may do can tip the scale eitherway. This should refrain one from sin.

One should constantly keep in mind that a sin separates one from G-d  while a good deed connects one to G-d.

These concepts should be kept in mind on a constant basis. This is the goal of each individual. To achieve a complete level of self control.

It says in Gemara Niddah, that one should be a righteous person and not a wicked person. This is the goal of each individual. To achieve a level of complete self control.( Gemara Niddah 30b) This is the level of a Benoni. A Benoni is a person that does not sin in one’s thoughts, speech , and actions.He is a person who constantly battles his animal soul. The animal soul constantly tries to get the person to give into him, but the Benoni won’t listen to the animal soul nomatter how hard it may be. Although he constantly struggles to stand ground, the Benoni will never bring himself to sin. A person can achieve the level of a Benoni everytime one is directing one’s deeds to serve G-d.

The Benoni knows what is right. His mind is able to control his heart. So even when the Benoni will go about his day doing physical things, he knows his purpose. Everything he does is for God. Whether he eats breakfast before praying because it gives him strength to pray to God with all his might, or whether he goes to sleep in order to serve God with a clear mind. In other words, the Benoni is channeling  the passion of the animal soul to serve God.

In Kovetz Michtavim, there is a story that proves this concept. The Rebbe Maharash  tried to show his son that all Jews, nomatter what spiritual level they may be on, have one goal and purpose in life. The purpose of their existence is solely to seve God.  To prove this, the Rebbe Maharash  approached his Jewish servant and asked him a few simple questions. This servant was a simple Jew who barely understood the words of prayer. His name was Ben Zion. The Rebbe Maharash asked Ben Tzion why he eats. Ben Zion responded to the rebbe that he eats in order to live. The Rebbe then asked him why does he live, and he answered that he lives in order to be a Jew and do what God wants. This is the purpose and mission of every single Jew. One must use the qualities of his animal soul and channel it to serve God, just like Ben Zion ate in order to be a good Jew and fulfill God’s will.( Kovetz Michtavim p.217)

A person is born with two contrasting souls. Each soul is made up of three garments and ten faculties. G-d created one with these two souls in order for one to have free choice. One must utilize one’s choice to make the right decisions by persuading the animal soul that it is in its own interest to serve G-d.