There are the material battles in life of which we are all aware. These include our individual economic struggles, conflicts with neighbors, international politics, encounters with terrorism and war (G‑d forbid).

Another kind of battle which engages us is spiritual. It takes place primarily within ourselves, where there are two empires at war: the empire of the spirit, of Jewish ideals, of Torah; and that of ordinary and everyday needs, desires and attitudes. The struggle between these two forces within us extends throughout our lives.

Our parshah begins by speaking of war: "When you go out in battle against your enemies" (Deuteronomy 21:10)--and the Sages explain that these verses apply to our inner spiritual battle, as well.

The goals in this conflict are set by the Torah: to make G‑dliness a part of our daily lives through keeping G‑d's commandments, and to create homes and families where the atmosphere is harmonious and wholesome, expressing the values of thousands of years of Torah teachings.

Against this come all kinds of threats. Some of them are very simple issues such as convenience and self-indulgence. Others are more problematic obsessions, which seem to haunt us continuously.

In this life-long situation we are each called on to go to war. Like a good strategist fighting a battle on a difficult front, the Torah takes into consideration where to make concessions to the frailties of man, and where not to.1 Guidance by rabbis and rebbetzins today is often given precisely for subtle borderline issues.

However, there is an interesting comment by the sages which illuminates the paradox of life. Two kinds of battle are described in Jewish law: a battle which is a duty (such as to save the lives of the Jewish people) and a battle which is optional, such as King David's battles to extend the territory of the Land of Israel. The Sages describe the battle in our Torah portion as "optional."

How can the spiritual battle of life, struggling to keep the Torah properly, be described as optional? Surely it is imposed on us by the very fact that we are born?

Chassidic teachings give an interesting answer. The sages say that G‑d consulted the righteous before He created the world.2 Furthermore, every Jew is considered to be righteous.3 Hence creation in general, and consequently the fact of each person being born, has been approved by each individual soul.

This means that on a profound level, each of our souls has chosen to be here. Our soul chose the option to come into the world, to face the spiritual and indeed material battles involved, because it was confident it would come out on top. The battle is "optional" because this is the option we chose. We chose to be here, and on every front, we are going to win.4