Translator's preface: The kabbalistic masters write that sometimes a physical, even lustful, desire will enfold within itself a holy desire — the soul's attraction to the "spark of holiness" buried in the physical world. Indeed, this is the purpose for which our soul is placed within a physical body and world — so that it should "refine" and "redeem" these sparks by utilizing the things within which they are embodied toward a holy and G‑dly purpose.

We are both body and soul, both vessel and light, both medium and purpose. And we have been granted freedom of choice. This means that we can strip a desire of its materialistic "garments," cultivate the holy yen at its core, and channel it toward the holy and constructive realization which will refine the "spark" to which his soul is attracted. Or else, we can succumb to the desire's most external, physical manifestation, in which case not only is the spark not elevated, but it— and our own soul — becomes more deeply entrenched in the morass of the material.

This, says Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar (1696-1743) in his Ohr HaChaim commentary on Torah, is the deeper significance of the law of the "beautiful captive." A Jewish soldier is physically attracted to an enemy maiden. But beneath this corporeal "husk" a deeper attraction is at play; indeed, the physical attraction is but the external (and corrupted) expression of the inner spiritual craving. In truth, the soldier is being drawn toward a holy soul held captive in the depths of the kelipot (the "husks" which conceal G‑dliness in our world). By following the regimen prescribed by the Torah — designed to strip his desire of its mundane trappings and reveal its holy core — he can redeem this "beautiful captive."

The following poem by Chassidic poet Zvi Yair is based on the above Kabbalistic and Chassidic teachings.

From the beauty of the creature
From the longings of the flesh
From the depths of desire
From the murkiness of lust
Called to him
Sparks of Your fire
Strewn there
By the pound
Of Your creation hammer;
From the gloom of the abyss
To him signalled, flickered,
Pearls of Your light
There scattered.

Captives of darkness
Blackened of form
Mired in filth
Wallowing in bile
They cried out to him
To descend to them
To draw them from the pit
Raise them from squalor
Cleanse them of dirt
To purify, to refine,
To restore them
And set them as before
In Your crown.

And yet
When he descended the depths
To redeem Your imprisoned
And Your exiled to restore
His soul betrayed;
Led astray
By the flashes of Your glow
In the darkness of earth
By the flickers of Your light
In the twilight of the dust

And it was enticed
To consort with them
In their land of exile
To be enamored by them
And cleave to them.

For the soul of man
Fell in love
With the gleam of the husk
The fat of the land
The beauty of the material
The infatuations of the flesh;
It was pleasing to it
Under the slavery of desire
In the chains of lust

For the song
Of earthly pleasures
Drowned the cry
Of Your forlorn
Calling to him
From the pit of their captivity.