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The Beast Within

The Beast Within

For some it's a war. Others win with love.


Dr. David Barlow of Boston U is known for making patients feel uneasy. If you try to take off your jacket in his office, he stops you and tells you to keep it on. The last thing he wants is for you to feel cool and relaxed when you’re sitting with him. He’s happy to see you as uncomfortable as possible. He wants to see real anxiety.

Which is what makes Dr. Barlow of the most successful therapists today for sufferers of anxiety disorders.

Doc Barlow wants his patients to face their anxiety head-on. Why? Because he believes there’s a fear structure wired into their brains, a little beastie with a messed-up mind of its own. To rewire that beast, you’ve got to meet it while it’s live and kicking, throbbing and pumping red. You’ve got to discover that you can beat it on its own ground.

Two paths beyond nature

You don’t need an anxiety disorder to have a beast inside. There’s a beast inside all of us. There’s a beast, and you’ve got to hold it tight, restrain it, harness it. Do nothing, and it will rip you apart and consume you alive, with rage, with passion, with fear, with depression, with stupidities—with whatever teeth and fangs adorn this particular beast of yours. Other creatures thrive by following their nature. But you are a human. Human nature demands that you transcend nature.

There are two ways to transcend nature. You could wage an endless war. Or you could transcend in utter peace.

The person we call a tzaddik is one who has walked away from his battle in peace.

What is the tzaddik’s secret? It is his unbounded love. The tzaddik’s soul burns with passion, the ecstasy of his heart bursts into flames—fierce, inextinguishable flames that consume the entire animal, meat, blood and bones, as a burnt offering brought upon a heavenly altar, transforming that beast at its very core, until it is more an angel than an earthly being.

The beast of the tzaddik knows reason and bows to it. It willingly offers all its power of passion to the divine soul that has mastered it, and all its brute strength to its service. While the rest of us—at best—grab the beast by its horns so we can harness its power to plow our fields, the tzaddik has already stripped that beast of its earthiness and taught it to fly to the heavens.

But what power fans those flames? What renders his love so real, so all-consuming?

Behind the tzaddik’s love lies his vision. A vision that pierces beyond the delusions of the human ego, and beneath the façade of corporeal perception. For where you and I see a world, the tzaddik sees Infinite Light. Where you and I see a static image, the tzaddik sees reality refreshed at every moment—as though the frequency of his soul exceeds the refresh rate of creation.

For us, this cold, hard world is the ground of reality. The idea of a Creator, of transcendence, of purpose and meaning—all this is a discovery, a revelation, perhaps even an intrusion for which we must apologize. For the tzaddik, that revelation is the background, the canvas from which all forms emerge.

For us, the world is obvious, and its source a revelation. For the tzaddik, the opposite is true: the Infinite Light is obvious, and the existence of this world an astonishment, a wonder that forever escapes resolution.

If so, for the tzaddik, the animal passions never had any dominion to begin with. For us, the animal is the host, and the divine soul arrives with its baggage as an unwelcome guest. As much as that soul might demand and command and assert its superiority, in the end this body is the meaty and earthy territory of the beast, and our soul is the alien who must bow to its conventions.

But for the tzaddik, G‑d is an absolute, and there is nothing else but G‑d. So too, the tzaddik’s love is absolute, and once ignited, there is nothing left in his heart but that love.

The love burns. A blazing fire. In that fire, there is peace.

While in our fire . . .

While in our fire, there is war. Our own persona is the battleground. The beast remains a beast, ever awaiting its moment to break free of its reins and run unfettered by the nuisances of reason, social propriety and moral decency. Every morning we are faced by a yet more powerful brute, already wise to the strategies the mind used yesterday to thwart it, kicking back with yet greater passion, sharper teeth and longer claws.

Some of us suppress rage that could rip apart our families and friendships. Some hold back burning passions for the forbidden. For others, every day is spent escaping addictions they know are destroying them. In business, not a day goes by without some ethical decision to face head-on. Each with his or her challenge, each with his or her battle. And each time, a victory demands reaching inside and awakening a source of power hidden deep within.

We struggle to touch that source, and at times it may even flicker within us. Perhaps even brightly, if just for a moment. Without doubt, it glows there inside us, like a tiny pilot light that glows at the foot of a cold furnace. It calls out to us, like the voice of a small child calling out from the depths of an uncharted cavern.

And then, it leaves us. Once more, we are on our own.

The light leaves us, the voice quietens, but its power is still there. It is the power of the tzaddik within us. For at that essence-core, he is us and we are him. And so, the power of his love is our power; and with that power, nothing can stand in our way.

And if we will ask the tzaddik, “Please, can’t you share with us your burning love? Can’t we, too, live in serene peace?”

Then the tzaddik will tell us, “But that is not the purpose. That is not why you came to this world. You came here to meet the animal eye to eye, to face it at its most primal level, entrenched at the brainstem, and to rewire it there. I cannot do that, for as long as this love burns bright, the beast does not dare to crawl out of its den. Indeed, it has no substance at all in my world, for it simply dissolves in the light.

“But you will meet it there, in the thick of its darkness. You will struggle to tame it, and it will challenge you. And so you will become yet stronger, stronger than you ever imagined you could be, until the very essence-powers of your soul shall emerge. And that is when the darkness of that beast will truly shine.

“So that you, not I, will change the world.”


This concept is presented in the seminal work of Chabad, the Tanya. It is developed in many maamarim, but see especially the maamarim of the Rebbe that begin with Padah b’shalom nafshi (“He has redeemed my soul in peace”).

The latter part is an elucidation of Chapter 27 of Tanya, as it is developed in many maamarim.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Anonymous December 6, 2015

I recently learned to live with the beast i feel peace lies within rage and serenity and the strength i feel now the calmness due to it is indescribable !! Reply

Anonymous MI June 25, 2014

Killing the Beast or Conquer the Beast. Well Ravi Freeman, you done it again. A pricking with a goad straight into my soul, and how marvelous it is in mine eyes. From my observation, concerning the date of this writing; I am quite late, but it was a strong, hard, cemented truth until all I can do is save it-forever if possible. Indeed, beast do as they do by nature, instinctively embedded for the actions they exhibit, but for us, as human beings; we devour not just each other, but ourselves. We very seldom take time out for self scrutiny so that we should or could realize that there is beast within who lies in wait. Why does he wait? Because he's wired that way and hardly ever will he miss the opportunity to battle whether it's for food, murder, or any other vice. We can choose our battles, thus not all battles belong to us but unto G-d. However, some level of effort must be made on our behalf. How do we harness this power though? Let us draw from the fountain of Life where love and peace is ever-flowing. Reply

Anonymous NC March 5, 2014

I'm not Jewish, but I keep this site close to me as there are always incredible lessons that seem to pop up when I need them the most. This one is no exception, and I cannot thank you enough for posting it. I needed to read this . In so many ways, I needed the message that it contains.

From the bottom of my heart.

Thank you. Reply

Anonymous September 10, 2013

thank you Thank you for this wonderful site and article. Reply

Golda Watertown, NY May 30, 2013

Yosher koach! . ,again! Thank you for sharing your clarity and writing gifts. Now to impliment . . . Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA May 29, 2013

100% Loyalty to Him Is Our Mission “Love the Lord your G-d with all your heart (Deuteronomy)” R. Judah the Prince in the Mishneh Torah says this means both with your will to do good and with your evil inclinations (such as the sexual instinct), which effectively states that one should love the Blessed be He with total loyalty(JPS), and submission to His heavenly commands. That means that we should love God both when we say our blessings and at any other time and that there should be no place, no thing, and no step that we should make without worshiping G-d. Reply

tom McCaffrey Ireland March 11, 2013

The Beast never sleeps How true! We wake in the morning to find that during our time of sleep the Beast was busy rearming with more temptations, even to distract us in our prayers. Reply

Menachem-Mendel Brooklyn February 15, 2013

Define love I generally become confused when the word love is used in this context. What does it mean that a tzaddik burns with love that is a fire of peace? How does that manifest itself in his relating to a world full of those not burning with that love and peace, those of us who are nasty and dedicated to doing nasty things? Those are substantial beasts that, unlike a student of Torah, appear to have no interest in reaching an elevated state of love and peace? Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman February 14, 2013

Re: Question from LA Questions like these are the pay dirt of writing. This is what makes it all worthwhile.

There are stages. The first stage is to know where you are, that there is a battle inside, and that the struggle is good. Just because you crave something you shouldn't have, or battle with an impulse to do something you shouldn't do doesn't mean you're a lowlife, it doesn't mean you're a monster, it doesn't mean you have no soul. It means you have two souls, and they are in conflict. And on the contrary, the good side won the conflict this time. That's something to celebrate.

Once you are there, encouraged by your victories, knowing your strength, then you can work on the next stage—to win with love and in peace. But even if you never achieve that, you are a healthy human being and your contribution is very great.

It's a strange thing about the human being. All the other creatures, even the angels, are healthy when they follow their nature. We are only healthy when we transcend it. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles February 14, 2013

Question... "While in our fire, there is war. Our own persona is the battleground. The beast remains a beast, ever awaiting its moment to break free of its reins and run unfettered by the nuisances of reason, social propriety and moral decency. Every morning we are faced by a yet more powerful brute, already wise to the strategies the mind used yesterday to thwart it, kicking back with yet greater passion, sharper teeth and longer claws. "

If the article is being understood correctly, this is saying that it is ideal for a person to be in a constant state of war with themselves? If so, my main question, then, would be how does a person attain emotional well being/stability knowing this? Or, is this saying that emotional well being/stability is not as important as a goal as being in a constant state of fighting? Reply

Raymond Bastarache New Brunswick, Canada. February 13, 2013

The beast within Well said, Rabbi Tzvi Freeman Asaph, said in the Psalms 73:22 " So foolish was I and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee"
There are times I am so worldly minded, so empty of all holy desires, so short sighted, so full of animal passions.. that without G-d , at times I became a beast with only it's body appetites...not caring much... for my soul... that will someday live forever. Thank you, for reminding me. Shalom. Reply

Anonymous USA February 13, 2013

The Beast Within Very true Rabbi Freeman. If we seek G-d just for the purpose of going to Heavens and get the best seat next to him, or because we want to get rich in this world, I believe it is treason. The same goes with our relationships with our fellow humans. True love is wanting to be with that special person because we want to share our lives with him/her. Loving G-d is because He, blessed be He, is our Father, Creator, and Giver of our breath of life. I think that is the main reason. The same when we love our parents just because they are our parents. No one would give so much love than a parent, the opposite would be because they are mentally ill. Hashem, blessed be He, is loving and compassionate. Reply

Angela Hoffberg February 13, 2013

Which Beast Do We Feed As we eradicate our lower nature (Hasatan), our higher nature takes over(following Hashem). Which one do we follow? The one we feed. We become righteous when we finally overcome, and obey, Hashem. Obeying leads to God's throne. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman February 13, 2013

Re: tzaddik as intermediary Not a true intermediary. As the other Daily Dose goes, "A tzadik connects you with your G-d, and then gets out of the way."

Think of it this way: There is only one neshama. In each one of us, that neshama expresses itself differently—just like the life-force within you expresses itself differently in the brain than in the heart, in the eyes than in the toes. But for a body to be healthy its every cell must stay intimately connected to the brain, sensitive to its signals, working together with it as a single entity. So too every person with a neshama must stay bonded with a tzadik, a person in whom the essential neshama resonates clearly and without distortion, in order to fulfill his or her mission in life to its fullest.

What does the tzadik do? Does s/he take over your life for you? If so, he would not be a tzadik. His job is connect you, empower you, guide you—and get out of the way. You must fulfill your own life's mission, no one else can do that for you.

This is not a uniquely chassidic idea. Jewish life was always centered around the chacham, the rav, the tzadik. But when the Baal Shem Tov taught that every Jew must serve G-d not just out of fear, or to get to heaven, but out of sincere love, then the bond between the tzadik and the common Jew had to be struck much deeper.

All this is explained at length in Tanya, Chapter 2. See our Tanya section for that chapter with commentary and classes. Reply

Sylvie The Netherlands February 13, 2013

Fantastic article Thanks a lot !
I knew we all have this deep (darker) forces within us. Some call it rage, or anger, some primal fear. I like the way you describe it, calling it the "beast" within. If we suppress it, we end up having psychosomatic disorders....
I'm more in touch with my Tsadik within these days, thanks God :-) but surely, as everybody now and then get confronted with my beast too !
Thanks again ! Great article and very wisely said. I will share :-) Reply

Eric Sander Kingston CA February 13, 2013

Very nice work here in this piece! Reply

Anonymous Israel February 13, 2013

tzaddik as intermediary Thanks for your great articles! I have trouble with the concept of the tzaddik as a spiritual intermediary - "It is the power of the tzaddik within us. For at that essence-core, he is us and we are him." Don't you think that this could be formulated as "the power of the neshama within us"? There may well be tzaddikim who have conquered their yetzer ha-ra, but why is my battle against mine dependent on them? How did generations of Jews connect with God before chassidut provided them with a rebbe? Many thanks for your ongoing inspiration. Reply

Anonymous San Francisco February 12, 2013

Soul Thank you, this spoke to my soul. Reply

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