With the advent of long range missiles, fighter planes, nuclear arms, and smart bombs, it was once thought that the era of close range combat had ended. International conflicts would now be effectively concluded by means of a few well placed missiles, without the need to jeopardize the lives of troops engaged in actual combat.

Recent wars have proven the fallacy of this theory. In the first Gulf War, despite a weeks'-long air offensive strategically targeting and annihilating Iraqi military posts and infrastructure, the war was only concluded through a ground invasion. And today more than ever, most battles are waged against terrorists and insurgents, as opposed to nations and regimes, enemy targets that are often elusive and embedded in innocent civilian populations. This largely renders useless much of the technologically advanced weaponry. Just recall Fallujah 2004, or Jenin 2002.

The G‑dly soul's favorite battle arena is prayer. When the mind and heart are immersed in holinessA battle is waged every day within every human being. King Solomon describes the body as a "small city" over which two kings are constantly struggling for dominion; the G‑dly soul and the animal soul, each wishing to impress its vision and goals upon the individual. And as is the case with conventional warfare, the battles are fought in many different arenas, each arena requiring a unique strategy, style of combat and ammunition.

The G‑dly soul's favorite battle arena is prayer. When the mind and heart are immersed in holiness — the mind contemplating G‑d's greatness and beneficence, and the heart consumed with love and awe for the Almighty — the G‑dly soul certainly enjoys a most advantageous position. While praying, the adversary is out of commission. Recognizing that it is overpowered, it slips into hibernation, ready to awaken when the person moves on to friendlier turf. Prayer is a battle, but with no open hostilities.

The battle intensifies during the remainder of the day. "Bread, by the tip of the sword is consumed," the Zohar tells us. Nevertheless, eating, as well as the other pleasures this world offers, is still considered long range warfare. The aim of the spiritual person is to remain detached from these pursuits, only superficially engaged. Whilst partaking of life's pleasures we endeavor not to be defined by them, not to see them as a goal, but to utilize them in the service of G‑d. We battle these desires with missiles and projectiles, refusing to confront them head on.

The ultimate frontier is earning a living. While involved in commerce we don't have the luxury of remaining detached. We are commanded to work faithfully and to immerse our entire being and all our faculties into our work; to remain detached and aloof would be to cheat our employers. This is close combat, hand to hand warfare — to spend hours every day engrossed in physical pursuits, wrestling and smelling the opponent's sweat and foul breath, while striving to maintain the integrity of our soul and spiritual focus.

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 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 chassidut.

In a letter written after his release from prison, the Alter Rebbe described the moment of his release: "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..."

David is thanking G‑d from rescuing him from the most difficult of conflicts, the close range varietyThe verse in its entirety is as follows: "He redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that came upon me, because of the many people who were with me." The word King David uses to describe war is k'rav, as opposed to the standard Hebrew word — milchamah. Interestingly, k'rav actually means "closeness." Apparently, David is thanking G‑d from rescuing him from the most difficult of conflicts, the close range variety.

It is no coincidence that Rabbi Schneur Zalman was reciting this particular verse when he received word about the vindication of the Chassidic cause. For it is the study of chassidism that allows a person to be involved in spiritual close combat, and emerge unscathed.

The Talmud explains David's intent when he claimed that he was delivered "because of the many people who were with him": His son, Absalom, had orchestrated a revolution, and David was fighting for his kingdom and for his life. Yet, in their heart of hearts, Absalom's fighters also recognized the injustice of their cause, and they too prayed for David's success.

Chassidic teachings reveal that even those elements that seem to be battling us, they too are praying for our success. After all, everything was created by G‑d, our enemies too. Their purpose is only to uncover within us the enormous powers required to defeat them. And in their heart of hearts, they too are waiting and hoping to be vanquished.

A recognition of this truth allows a person to be involved in the most intense of spiritual battles and remain unrattled.