Monday, June 11, 2007

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The Animal Within - Part 1

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

In the sefer HaYom Yom, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote, for the 23rd of Sivan...

In a reply to a Yechidus query in the winter of 5635 (1874-75), my grandfather said to my father:

"The Yetzer Hara, (the evil impulse), is called "animal soul," not because it is necessarily a brute animal. At times it may be a fox, the most cunning of beasts, and great wisdom is needed to perceive its machinations. At other times it may clothe itself in the garb of an earnest, straightforward, humble Tzadik, possessing fine traits of character.

The animal soul manifests itself in each person according to his individual character. One person may suddenly experience a powerful longing to study Chassidut or to meditate deeply on some chassidic concept. The truth is, however, that this is nothing more than the Yetzer Hara's counsel and the animal soul's machinations to prevent him from engaging in the Avoda of davening or a similar activity.

Take this as a general principle and remember it always: Any matter that is effective towards or actually leads to active Avoda, and is confronted with opposition of any sort, even the most noble, that opposition is the scheming of the animal soul."

My father concluded:

"Until then I had not known that there can be a "pious" animal soul, let alone a "Chassidic" animal soul."


This is a great challenge, greater than even most realize. Because while there are those times when the evil inclination must be absolutely defeated, when those negative impulses must be pushed aside, this is not the ultimate goal. Rather, the energy of those impulses, that strong drive that the animal within provides, should be utilized to drive Torah and mitzvot. Ahh, the lesson above teaches us, when that drive comes via Torah and mitzvot, but it still doing it's job of interfering, it's still not kosher.

A Simple Jew has sent me a question...

Kesser Shem Tov 1:64 states, "The Baal Shem Tov said in the name of Rav Saadiah Gaon: A person should learn a lesson from his desires for physical pleasures how he should desire to serve Hashem and love Him." Reflecting on this teaching, what lesson would you imagine that your strongest taiva (desire) could teach you about how to better serve Hashem?

That's a seriously deep and introspective question that I've basically been avoiding since he sent it! Recognizing the strong animal drive, be it fox or bear or wolf or dog or cat, and admitting it, isn't so simple.

As I'm off on a business trip today (G-d willing) and will be spending some time sitting on a plane, perhaps I'll take a look and see who exactly is sitting in the seat with me.

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.

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