The 19th of Kislev is the anniversary of the date when Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the first Chabad rebbe, was released from prison in 1798. He was imprisoned due to libelous information supplied to the czarist government by opponents of the fledgling chassidic movement. According to chassidic tradition, the imprisonment of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the “Alter Rebbe,” was merely the earthly reflection of a heavenly complaint which was lodged against him and the chassidic cause which he was promoting; his liberation symbolized a heavenly green light for the continued promulgation of Chassidism. Therefore, among Chabad Chassidim, this day is known as the “Rosh Hashanah (New Year) of Chassidut,” and is festively celebrated.

In a letter written after his release from prison, the Alter Rebbe described the moment of his release: “On the day G‑d made for us, the 19th of Kislev . . . while I was reading in the book of Psalms the verse (55:19), ‘He redeemed my soul in peace,’ before beginning the following verse, I emerged in peace . . .”

Can one transcend the internal struggle which is the lot of all human beings?The Alter Rebbe authored Tanya, the foundational text of Chabad Chassidism. Tanya is largely devoted to discussing a battle constantly waged, the battle that pits the “G‑dly soul” against the “animal soul.” It masterfully dissects and analyzes the struggle between refinement and coarseness, between the pursuit of spirituality versus the quest for self-aggrandizement, while pointing out how to capitalize on the inherent strengths of the G‑dly soul and the built-in weakness of the animal soul.

When the Alter Rebbe left prison, however, he wasn’t focusing on the battle of the souls. Rather, the Psalms he read speak of a loftier ideal—a peaceful redemption of the soul from the clutches of its adversary.

Is this realistic? Can one transcend the internal struggle that is the lot of human beings who are endowed with the power to choose between good and evil?

It is indeed possible. But achieving this goal involves a change of perspective—a battle plan based upon an entirely different strategy.

In most respects, the animal soul is a mirror image of the divine soul. They both possess identical soul-powers, such as willpower, intellect and emotions. The difference between the two is expressed in the way they choose to employ these powers. This is why the animal soul is such a formidable opponent: it battles the divine soul by countering its every spiritual aspiration with a corresponding aspiration of its own. For example, the G‑dly soul’s love and passion for G‑d is offset by passion and love for materialism, stern discipline is matched with nastiness, etc.

The divine soul, however, possesses one weapon that is absent from the animal soul’s arsenal. When the G‑dly soul enters the battlefield armed with this ammunition, the animal soul is completely flustered, having no response whatsoever to this form of warfare. This weapon is the G‑dly soul’s ability to transcend its own agenda and desires, and to serve G‑d simply because this is G‑d’s desire.

As long as the G‑dly soul has an agenda, such as the ambition to connect to G‑d or to be more spiritual, the animal soul can combat it with its own agenda. At that point, it becomes a battle of wills. True, the divine soul has the means and the fortitude to be victorious in this battle, but battle is always exhausting and draining. However, when the G‑dly soul approaches the battle with no personal ambition whatsoever, as a simple servant who fulfills his master’s command, it leaves its opponent completely bereft of weapons.

Such a peaceful resolution to our personal conflicts will certainly lead to the peaceful resolution of all conflict, with the advent of the messianic era.