"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Evil Inclination vs. the Bestial Soul

The Evil Inclination vs. the Bestial Soul

(Based on a maamar of the Alter Rebbe,
in honor of 19 Kislev)

Rabbi Y. Oliver

The Bestial Soul is also referred to as the Evil Inclination. In fact, in classical Torah sources, this soul is referred to as the Evil Inclination, and only at a later point did it also come to be known by the appellation of Bestial Soul.

An analogy for the place of the Evil Inclination in the Bestial Soul can be drawn from burning wood. Wood consists of a combination of the four elements of fire, air, water, and earth. Now, everything consists of a combination of two parts: chomer, the raw matter, and tzurah, the particular form that it assumes.

The primary chomer of a thing is the component that comes from the element of earth within it. This is the deeper meaning of the verse, “Everything came to exist from earth.”[1] In contrast, the tzurah stems primarily from the specific combination of three other elements—fire, air, and water.

In the wood, the chomer is the element of earth within it, while its tzurah is shaped by the specific combination of the other three elements. Since burning destroys the tzurah of a thing, when the wood is burned, the other three elements are separated from the wood, and only ashes—which come from the element of earth, which is the chomer—are left behind.

The distinction between chomer and tzurah also exists spiritually, and this sheds light on the nature of the Evil Inclination. This name is precise—the Evil Inclination, for this title refers specifically to the emotional expression and inclination toward selfish and even sinful desires, which, unless one exercises self-control, naturally culminates in the thought, speech, and action that consummate these desires.

In contrast, the essence of the Bestial Soul is beyond any inclination; it is not inclined to any particular, defined emotion, for by definition, an essence transcends particularities.[2] Rather, at the Bestial Soul’s essence lies the ko’ach hamis’aveh, the “faculty that desires,” which consists of an intense, primal, selfish desire as it exists in potential form—raw, simple, uncomplicated, and unformed.

Now, although an actual desire for the physical is unworthy, its core, the ko’ach hamis’aveh, is not fundamentally evil, for just as it was directed to physical pleasures, so can it be redirected to desire that which is good and holy—to yearn to connect with Hashem, as it is written, “My soul yearns for You.”[3]

This[4] is also the meaning of the verse, “You shall love Hashem bechol levavcha—with all your heart.”[5] Although normally translated in the singular, the literal meaning of bechol levavcha is “with all your hearts,” in the plural. What is the significance of this unusual expression?

Our sages explain[6] that this alludes to the two inclinations within—the good inclination and the evil inclination. The Jew should come to love Hashem not only with the good inclination—the Divine Soul, but even with the evil inclination—the Bestial Soul.

However,[7] in order to reach this love, one must first uproot the “filthy garments”—the selfish, indulgent desires for physical pleasure, permitted and forbidden, along with the thought, speech, and action to which they led. This is accomplished through genuine Teshuvah—sincere regret for one’s past behavior, and a firm resolution to change in the future. Teshuvah uproots one’s desires from materialism and redirects them to yearn for the realm of purity and holiness instead.

Based on Likkutei Torah, Chukas 56c-d.

[1] Koheles 3:20.
[2] Cf. Imrei Binah, Shaar HaKerias Shema, ch. 8. Toras Chaim, Vayeshev 68a.
[3] Yeshayah 26:9. Cf. Tanya, Chinuch Katan.
[4] Cf. Sefer HaMa’amarim 5717-5718-5719, p. 389.
[5] Devarim 6:5.
[6] Berachos 26a-b.
[7] Cf. Sefer HaMa’amarim ibid., p. 388.

Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Jacob Ostreicher (Yaakov Yehuda ben Shaindel), Alan Gross (Aba Chonah ben Hava Chana), Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin), and Zeva Rochel bas Chaya (Wendy Weiner Runge).

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