The Mishnah teaches: "Who is strong? He who subdues his yetzer (evil disposition)." The Baal Shem Tov notes that it does not say "he who breaks; tears asunder and destroys," but "subdues." One does not need too much strength or skill to `break' the yetzer, but well to `subdue' it. To subdue it means to control it, to control and utilize the energy and power of the yetzer for sacred purposes, as it is said, "There is much increase with the strength of the ox (euphemism for the yetzer and the `animal soul')" (Proverbs 14:4).

He offers a parable: A man once heard a robber trying to break into his store. Thus he cried loudly for others to come and help him defend his property, and the robber ran away. Another man had the same thing happen to himself, but he kept silent:he waited for the thief to enter, and caught him. He did not want to scare the robber away, lest he return another time and succeed. This is the meaning of conquering and subduing.

In the same context, the Baal Shem Tov offers an original homily on the verse, "When you see the chamor (donkey) of your enemy lying under its burden, you might want to refrain from helping him, but you must surely help him" (Exodus 23:5)

"When you see the chamor," that is, when you consider your chomer, your material reality, i.e., the body, you will note that it is "your enemy;" for it hates the soul which craves G‑dliness and spirituality. Moreover, you will also note that it is "lying under its burden," i.e., the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. For the Holy One, blessed be He, placed the yoke of Torah and mitzvot upon the body so that it become purified and sublimated by it, but the body regards this as an unwanted burden. Thus one may think to "refrain from helping him;" that is, one might consider that the way to fulfill our mission is to adopt fasts and self-mortifications to crush the body and break its matter. The verse, therefore, concludes that this is not the way to cause the light of Torah to reside; rather, "you must surely help him": purify and refine the body, and do not crush it by mortification.

A story is told of the Maggid of Mezhirech: Friday-afternoons he would retire to his room to rest. One Friday he sent his attending student to stop one of his great disciples, R. Aaron of Karlin, from reciting Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs, customarily read by many on the eve of Shabbat). The Maggid stated that R. Aaron's recital aroused and stormed all supernal worlds, and thus prevents him from sleeping. Many understood the point of this story to be the greatness of R. Aaron and the sublimity of his worship. A great Chassidic sage, R. Hillel of Paritsh, however, saw it different. He said that the moral of the story is the greatness of the Maggid: quite evidently his sleeping was still more sublime, a still greater form of worship, than R. Aaron's recital of Shir Hashirim; for otherwise he would not have stopped him!

This is the principle of "Know (acknowledge) Him in *ALL* your ways" (Proverbs 3:6) which the Talmud regards as the "brief passage upon which depend all the fundamentals of the Torah." It means to know and acknowledge G‑d in our physical involvements and preoccupations no less than in our blatantly spiritual ones. It means to recognize the underlying yichud and interaction of all, and the implicit cosmic significance of everything we do. The Baal Shem Tov, in his interpretation of this verse, emphasizes the word da'eyhu (Know Him), which has the connotation of joining together, of unifying. The implication is to use `all your ways,' even the physical and material involvements, to further, bring about or effect, yichud, ultimate unity.