Chapter 28: battling evil thoughts during service of G-d
26th Shevat/(LY)8th Adar 1
1. How to handle forbidden thoughts during prayer and Torah learning:
- In the previous chapter we discussed how a person should handle the fact that he suffers from thoughts of evil during his mundane activity, and how the intrusion rejoices over the fact he can fulfill the mitzvah of Iskafya in pushing away evil and causing G-d great satisfaction above. In the current chapter, the Alter Rebbe will deal with how one is to handle forbidden thoughts and lusts that occur during times that he is studying Torah or praying.
- Removing one’s mind from the forbidden thoughts: Even if the lustful feelings, and foreign thoughts enter one’s mind during times that he is serving G-d through studying Torah or praying with concentration, he should not pay attention to them at all. Rather, he should immediately remove his mind from them completely.
2. Not to try to elevate the forbidden thoughts as is done by Tzaddikim:
- Tzaddikim can elevate the forbidden thoughts of others: One should not be a fool, to tell himself that the reason he received these forbidden thoughts is in order to elevate them, as such a divine service of elevating forbidden thoughts is only to be performed by Tzaddikim who do not have such thoughts coming from their own hearts, and rather have the thoughts of others enter their minds in order to elevate them.
- One cannot elevate his own forbidden thoughts: However, a person who has forbidden thoughts fall into his mind, which derive from the lusts that are found in the left ventricle of his heart, then it is not possible for these thoughts to be elevated by him, as how can he elevate them above when he himself is tied down to below.
3. To rejoice and not be saddened by the disturbing thoughts:
- Despite the above said, one’s heart should not be saddened and depressed during his time of service of G-d over the fact that he has these disturbing forbidden thoughts. The reason for this is because one must serve G-d with great joy. On the contrary, one must strengthen himself even more in his concentration with all his might and power to focus on his prayer with great and extra joy and jubilation.
- Focusing on the battle of good against evil: One should focus his heart on the fact that these disturbing thoughts that enter his mind come from the Kelipa that is found in the left part of his heart which performs battle in the Beinoni with the G-dly soul that is found within him. [Hence, because one’s awareness that this is a battle that is taking place between his G-dly and animal soul, he should strengthen himself even more to battle against the disturbing thought.]
- During battle every side fights for its survival: It is well known regarding the ways of battle and wrestling, that when one side is succeeding in the battle, then the other side strengthens himself even more, in full strength, to try to overcome his opponent. This is exactly what happens during prayer when one has disturbing thoughts. During prayer, one’s G-dly soul is working hard to pray with concentration, and this causes that its opponent from Kelipa also tries to strengthen itself in battle against it, through sending the person disturbing thoughts in order to confuse him and stop his concentration.
4. Disturbing thoughts during prayer is a sign that one is praying properly:
- The error of the world: The world is mistaken to believe that if one is challenged by foreign thoughts during prayer, then this is a sign that his prayer is worthless, as if he were to be praying properly and correctly, then he would not have any foreign thoughts enter his mind. This would only be true if a Jew only contained a single soul, and it is the single soul which prays to G-d and thinks and contemplates all of the foreign thoughts.
- Man has two souls which battle over control of the mind: However, in truth a Jew contains two souls which are in constant battle with each other within one’s mind. Each soul desires to conquer and control the mind so that the mind is only occupied with its thoughts and ideas alone.
- Torah thoughts from G-dly soul, mundane thoughts from animal soul: All of a person’s thoughts of Torah and fear of heaven derive from the G-dly soul, while all of one’s thoughts of matters relating to the world derive from the animal soul.
- The two souls are forced to work together: Nonetheless, since the G-dly soul is invested within the animal soul, [and therefore ends up that whenever one of the souls contemplates a thought or does a deed both souls are considered to be doing it. Thus, when one thinks of mundane thoughts which come from the animal soul, the G-dly soul is also forced to think it and when one thinks of Torah thoughts from the G-dly soul, the animal soul is also forced to think it.]
5. Like a heathen who is disturbing one’s prayer:
- The falling of foreign thoughts into one’s mind is similar to an evil heathen who sees a Jew praying with concentration and purposely talks and speaks to him in order to disturb him from his prayer.
6. Ignore the heathen and disturbing thought:
- To completely ignore the heathen: Certainly, the correct advice in such a case is for the Jew to completely ignore the heathen and not answer him either for the good or for the bad, and rather he should make himself as if he is deaf and cannot hear. On this it says in Scripture that “one should not respond to a fool in his foolishness lest one likewise become a fool like him.”
- To completely ignore the disturbing thought and remove it from one’s mind: The same advice applies likewise towards how one should respond to the distracting thought that comes to one’s minds from the animal soul during prayer, that he should not respond to it at all not even to debate or argue with it, as one who fights with a lowlife ends up himself contracting from his lowly state. Rather, one should make it as if he does not know or hear the thoughts that have fallen into his mind, and he should completely remove them from his consciousness, and increase his effort of concentration.
- Pray to G-d for help: Now, if it is extremely difficult and challenging to remove the disturbing thought from his mind being that the thought is heavily pressing itself upon him, then he should humble himself before G-d and supplicate to Him in his thoughts that He out of His great compassion show mercy to him, like a father shows compassion to his sons who derive from his brain. So too, will G-d have mercy on his soul, which comes from Him in order to save it from the polluted waters, and He will do so for His sake being that a portion of G-d is literally found within His nation.