Every Jew is a complex tale of two souls. As previously explained, a person is composite of a Nefesh Elokit and a Nefesh HaBehamit. Their on-going struggle and oscillation between heaven and earth, the soul and body, and the spiritual and material is the epicenter of the purpose of creation, which is to create a Dirah BeTachtonim (dwelling for G‑d in the lowest of all worlds). In human terms, this means making an abode within this “two-souled” character, brokering a peace between the two parties, so that harmoniously they may together fulfill the purpose for which they have been created.

This idea is expressed by our Sages when they stated that the Torah has been given in order to make peace in the world.

Torah is elsewhere defined as “power” and “salvation” in the sense that Torah gives the person the ability to overcome his baser nature, and the Talmud states that if one meets one’s own evil inclination then “drag him to the house of study.” Would it not be for the fact that G‑d helps us overcome the Evil Inclination we would never have the ability to do so.

Armed with Torah, a person can wage war against his darker nature, first subduing and then transforming and channeling its power. The Nefesh HaBehamit can be compared to an ox; it is coarse and animalistic. Yet it has powers to be extremely constructive if channeled in the correct way. Torah is the yoke that harnesses those powers and puts them into Divine service.

The Talmud speaks of the Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination. Hassidism teaches that the Good Inclination is the intellectual faculty of the Nefesh Elokit and the Evil Inclination is the Emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit. All negative character traits stem from the Emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit. The intellect of the Nefesh HaBehamit just serves as a server to its Emotions, the mind finds a way to fulfill the desire. Take for example the emotion of Chessed. In the Nefesh Elokit, the Sefirah of Chessed represents the soul’s love for G‑d. In the Nefesh HaBehamit it is the capacity to love the material. This love can degenerate into lust and can be very destructive. We have already explained that not everyone has the ability to totally transform and sublimate the Emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit like the Tzaddikim. The Benoni will always have the struggle and it is for that purpose that he has been created. Knowing how powerful the Evil Inclination can be how is one to bridle the Emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit?

The first stage must be that of interpretation. Whenever an impulse comes to the mind or heart, one must first determine from which side does this impulse stems. For example, if a person has a passion for a forbidden relationship, then obviously the desire is not coming from the Nefesh Elokit but from the Nefesh HaBehamit. But what about something that could be seen as good, such as Torah study. How does one know if one is studying for the right reasons, with the right intension? If a person is not sure as to the source, then again there is a simple test to find out. Simply ask: What is the result? If what will result is something positive in terms of Avodat Hashem, then it stems from the Nefesh Elokit. If however the result is negative, the Nefesh HaBehamit. In the case of Torah study, if one is studying to learn how to fulfill G‑d’s will, then it is holy. If one studies in order to use the knowledge to humiliate another or to feed one’s own ego, then it is not holy. This delineation is very useful in that at least it allows the person to understand from where the impulse is coming. Even though it does not necessarily help overcome the impulse, at least the person cannot fool themselves as to its source. The first stage is diagnosis. If a person does not feel well and goes to the doctor, the first relief is to find the cause of the malady. Once the cause has been located, one can then apply the correct medicine.

If it has been decided that the source is impure, then one must reevaluate his or her intensions and act accordingly. The following treatment is based on the verse in the Psalms: “Turn away from evil, do good, seek peace, and pursue it.” After the diagnosis, one must “turn away from evil.” This means that one should not only turn away in the face of evil, but should also avoid a situation in which would be ripe for evil to arise. A person should never ask for a test (Nisayon).

The Talmud tells us that King David did ask for a test and he failed. If a trial or tribulation comes your way by Divine providence (Hashgochah Pratit), you are meant to overcome it.

Everything is by Divine providence, and the very fact that such a test has come your way means that you have the energy and ability to overcome it, for G‑d would never ask something from you that you cannot cope with. G‑d does not come with unfair claims to his creations. When He asks something of somebody, He asks only according to their ability. This is a very calming notion in itself. The premise is that G‑d is good and that ultimately everything that happens is for the good. Sometimes it is revealed good and sometimes concealed good.

When calamity strikes, a person should realize that ultimately what is happening is for the good, even if they cannot rationalize it. This notion applies not only to tragedies that befall us seemingly out of the blue, but also for temptations and tests that we are confronted with on a daily basis. Such an approach— that every temptation and every calamity is for the best—is a massive act of faith and requires one to draw on huge reserves of “trust” (Bitachon) that G‑d knows what He is doing and it is all for the good. The great Tzaddikim would live with such faith amidst even the greatest tragedies.

When one is tested on a daily basis, the test must be received in the manner in which it is given. The attitude should be that this is a G‑d-given opportunity to exercise self-control, subduing and controlling one’s bad Emotions. The Zohar states that whenever a bad impulse is subdued, “the glory of G‑d diffuses throughout all the worlds.” This means that a person should not underestimate the immense value of subduing his Evil Inclination even once, including on the level of thought. We live today in a very permissive and promiscuous society, and in general there is a terrible lack of modesty (Tzniut). A Torah observant Jew can hardly walk in the street without being confronted by immodest behavior.

What should one do in such a world? The first thing is to realize that this is a test. It is a wonderful opportunity to fulfill the Mitzvah of “not straying after one’s eyes.” One should not feel bad that one has such an impulse for base thoughts or desires, for one has been created with a Nefesh HaBehamit, but one should instead channel that impulse into the permitted and rejoice at the chance to turn away from evil. If a person gives up on the fight with the feeling of “who cares?” and “why not?” he must realize that such impulses come directly from the Nefesh HaBehamit and ultimately are the slippery slope to sin.

If one feels mentally that one is losing the battle, due to an overpowering Evil Inclination, or due to tiredness in the battle, one should mentally shout at the Nefesh HaBehamit, demanding that the animal impulse release its grip. The truth is that negative thoughts creep into an empty mind. The mind should always be occupied with Torah thought, which will combat negativity. This is why pious Jews review portions of Torah by heart when they walk in the street or when in the store or subway. It is of great virtue always to have tracts of Torah engraved in the mind verbatim. When a person is walking in the street and they see something forbidden and immediately divert their mind to Torah thought, this is a supreme act of Avodat Hashem and making a Dirah BeTachtonim in the highest form. The joy that one gives G‑d when this is done is immense.

If one still feels that the Evil Inclination is getting the better, one should mentally prostrate oneself before G‑d and ask for Divine mercy. One should contemplate how low the Nefesh Elokit has fallen, sunken in the pits of iniquity. Before she came down to this world, the soul was basking in the light of the Or Ein Sof. Now she is wallowing in a body contemplating some fleeting bodily pleasure. It is at this point that it should become clear that though the challenge is a situation that can be overcome, it is one that is overcome with the beseeching of mercy and help from G‑d. There is the possibility that such a disturbing thought can come to a person when they are praying or learning. If this happens they should immediately divert their mind and not entertain such thought even for a moment. All this applies in speech as well. Unfortunately, in today’s society, not speaking “gossip” (Lashon Hara or Rechilut) is a major challenge. When one is tempted to become involved in a prohibited discussion, one should again realize that this is only the trappings of the Evil Inclination and will be the downfall of the person.

After “turning away from evil,” one is responsible for “doing good.” This means that a person should become so involved with the positive, that they don’t have time for anything negative.

Their mind is filled with the desire to fulfill the Mitzvot and to do Chessed to one’s fellow man. The righteous become involved day and night with the welfare of their brethren, not resting for a moment until the needs of the less fortunate have been supplied. Such approach and activity can use all one’s energy in a positive way, and nothing is left for negativity. Free time is always used for Torah and Mitzvot, leaving no vacuum for anything else to creep in.

Finally, the third stage is “seek peace and pursue it.” This means that a person’s Nefesh Elokit must sit down and communicate with their Nefesh HaBehamit. They must have a conversation in which the Nefesh Elokit will tell the Nefesh HaBehamit the reasons it would be much more advisable to channel its energies into serving G‑d rather than squandering its capabilities on vanity and emptiness. In the chassidic community, this conversation was done publicly in the form of a chassidic “gathering” called a Farbrengen. In a Farbrengen a “spiritual mentor” (Mashpia), would lead the conversation and discuss self-improvement and self-refinement. He would never point a finger at anyone other than himself, and often discussing his own shortcomings and how to correct them. In life, one must know three things: how it should be, how it is, and how it could be. How it should be is stated in the Code of Jewish Law. How it is can be seen in the mirror. A Farbrengen is all about how it could be, and about moving from the state of how it is to how it should be. Farbrengens should be held regularly since the nature of a person is that they need constant encouragement.

“Seek peace and pursue it” means that the ultimate is to make peace between the Nefesh HaBehamit and the Nefesh Elokit. It is the realization that instead of fighting, they need to join forces in the fulfillment of creation. It means that the Nefesh Elokit understands the great advantage of this world being the arena where it can attach to Atzmut, and the Nefesh HaBehamit feels proud to be a vehicle to the Divine.

On the holiday of Simchat Torah, we “rejoice with the Torah” by dancing with it and renewing the yearly cycle of reading the Torah. The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneerson, once said that in truth the Torah scroll would like to jump out of the ark and dance itself, but it has a basic problem—it has no feet. The Torah asks the Jews to be its feet. This illustrates our role as Jews in this world as those responsible to disseminate G‑d’s will and wisdom, utilizing both the powers of the Nefesh Elokit and the Nefesh HaBehamit.

Loving with “all one’s heart” means serving G‑d with the two parts of the heart—the G‑dly and the animal.

Every negative character trait has a moment of contemplation attached to it that allows a person to reflect on its futility.

For example, anger is very destructive and many people suffer from bad tempers. In this area too, one must realize that if one is frustrated or angered by circumstance or other people, it is a golden opportunity for Avodat Hashem. Imagine a common scenario, where a person is driving to an important meeting and suddenly they are caught in an unexpected traffic jam which will make them very late. It can be extremely exasperating sitting in such a jam, wasting valuable and precious time.

Some people can get so agitated it puts them in a very bad and angry mood, often for the remainder of the day. The correct approach is to contemplate the following: Everything is by Divine providence, including the heavy traffic. If one is to be late for the meeting, so be it—such circumstance is beyond one’s control. If one were to get angry, it would be tantamount to idolatry and disbelief in Divine providence. G‑d wants us all to stay calm in the face of frustration and trial, and certainly not to vent our frustrations on our near and dear ones. Our traffic jam—or any other situation from annoying to catastrophic— is an opportunity to display self-control, to profess our belief that we are not in control of the world. While some people react to challenge in an aggressive manner, others are lazy and apathetic. Such sluggishness comes from a deep insensitivity to the immense value and daily opportunities presented here on this world. This, too, is a reaction that can be detrimental to our ultimate fulfillment of purpose. The works of Hassidism and Mussar are full of advice as to how to cope with the vast array of spiritual maladies. The general principle is that the mind must rule over the heart. Using meditative and contemplative techniques, a person can learn to bridle and subsequently channel their negative character traits and use them in a positive direction.

From a Kabbalistic point of view, this “refinement of character” called Tikkun HaMiddot is very much part and parcel of the Divine purpose in creation. Even small improvements are vastly appreciated by G‑d. Every individual “refinement” or “correction” contributes to the general “World Refinement” (Tikkun Olam) which will be precipitated when Mashiach will come.

Some people think that G‑d is not bothered by such a minor detail as whether or not one person resists one temptation. It is a mistake. G‑d—through His Torah—has communicated to us what is important and what is not important to Him. He emphatically states that we should serve G‑d with all our heart, soul, and might. G‑d stands by every individual and searches his heart to see how each individual serves Him.

He takes into account every detail of the individual’s situation— spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc. In fact, G‑d leaves all the supernal realms and designates His sovereignty on Israel in general, and on every Jew individually to see his Divine service.

Every movement, sincere feeling, each thought, and action is counted and appreciated.