The Baal Shem Tov famously advocated using every experience one is exposed to as a lesson in one's service of G‑d. As my fellow blogger Baruch Epstein pointed out to me, this is the lesson he learned from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's security motto, "If you see something, say something!" Say something to yourself, and maybe share it with others too.

Well, over the past few weeks, the entire world has been exposed to the calamitous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Public servants and oil executives certainly have lessons to learn from this major fiasco, but little me also has to use this experience as a lesson. I dug a bit, and I think I may have struck oil... A lesson in how to steal, while ensuring that we are not likewise victimized. Allow me to share my thoughts, and feel free to chime in with your comments.

Oil is found deep in the earth, under land or sea. Accessing it is not a simple process; it requires extensive mapping, drilling, etc. And another hurdle remains even after the reservoir is reached. The oil in the wells is highly pressurized and it must be properly channeled, lest it become an untrammeled geyser—which is exactly what occurred when an explosion sunk the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

"For you shall be a desirable land, says the G‑d of Hosts" (Malachi 3:12). Every one of us is analogous to "desirable land"; we contain a treasure trove of valuable resources—some closer to the surface, and some which we can only uncover if we drill and drill.

Deep, deep down lays the soul's oil well. When tapped, it has the ability to provide ample fuel and illumination for the person, his environment, and the entire world. But what happens when the oil isn't properly channeled? When the oil rig explodes?

Before answering that question, let's discuss the nature of the soul's oil.

The human being is animated and powered by two distinct drives. In chassidic parlance, these two drives are termed the "G‑dly Soul" and the "Animal Soul." Boring down to the essence of these two souls, we find two engines, with diametrically opposed agendas.

The Animal Soul is driven by the quest for self-fulfillment—emotional, physical, and even spiritual. Its own interests are all that concerns her.

The G‑dly Soul, by contrast, is, at her core – her "oil" – characterized by complete surrender and submission. It desires nothing for herself—not even spiritual fulfillment. It is one with her Creator, and desires only that which He desires.

Thus, the human is the battleground for the perpetual showdown between selfishness (albeit not necessarily of the negative and nauseating sort), and ultimate selflessness.

But the souls are not only battling for dominance over the person they inhabit—they are battling for domination over each other.

In other words, the G‑dly soul desires to take control over the person's natural tendency towards self-centeredness. It wants to "steal" the Animal Soul's ammunition. If it's part of human nature, it too should be directed towards holy causes. You want pleasure? Enjoy a relationship with G‑d. You want fulfillment? Enjoy doing a favor for another. You want good food? Load your Shabbat table with every sort of delicacy.

Conversely, the Animal Soul, not content with its dominion over self-serving impulses, desires to steal the G‑dly Soul's modus operandi. It wants to squander the powerful oil well of selflessness and altruism on trivialities and worse. Ever wonder why we sometimes do things though we know them to be harmful and self-destructive? Where is the selfish interest in these behaviors? Or how about blind adherence to certain (sometimes innocuous, sometimes not) nonsensical routines or habits?

That's stolen goods. The G‑dly Soul's tools hijacked.

Oil that pollutes.

Instead of illuminating.

A calamity.