“When one leaves to war against the enemy and H”S gives them into your hand and you take a captive…” (Devarim 21:10). The Zohar states that this war not only is referring to the physical wars that the Jewish nation has to experience for its survival, but it also refers to the ongoing spiritual war that we all have to battle with every day in our time of prayer. The Zohar states: “ The time of prayer is a time of war.” This is also alluded to from the verse that was stated by Yaakov: “That I have taken from the Emorites with my sword and bow.” Onkelos translates this to mean that, “I have taken with my prayer and supplication.” These two statements are somewhat bizarre, what war is fought during prayer, and if a war is fought during prayer then why are we required to pray not only daily, but three times a day? Once the war is won the previous day, why are we required to wage a new war the next day? This battle takes place in the heart and mind and it’s spread through ones day.
Prayer is known as Avodah Shebalev (service of the heart). The Sages teach that the prayers were instituted corresponding the korbanos (sacrifices). This is so because during prayer is when the G-dly soul wages a strategic attack on the core and essence of the animal soul and redirects it to have feelings and a desire to be close to G-d. Once this is accomplished, the battles of the rest of the day are easier to fight.
During Temple times, they would offer a Korban Olah on the Mizbeach (burnt offering) from the animal kingdom so that a fire would descend and consume the Olah. The reason why the Olah offering would draw a fire down to consume it is because the soul of the animal derives from Yesod Haeish (foundation of fire) and is rooted in the supernal chariot. So when the animal was sacrificed, in order for its soul to ascend, a fire would descend from above and consume the soul of the animal, which was the fire of below.
After the destruction of our Temples, we were forbidden to offer sacrifices and the Sages instituted that each person should offer his animal soul as a sacrifice in place of the physical animals. Prayer is the way to do this, by offering our animal soul we reattach it to its root and source above.
Every day a persons Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) is filled with wants for the material and physical world, driving his desire for the pursuit of mundane pleasures. Each person is given an allotted time to live as its stated in the verse: “ These days were not assigned based on the needs of the G-dly soul, as the soul does not require any Tikkun (correction) for itself, being that it is eternal and is not invested within time, but rather unites with its source in the Or Ein Sof.” (Yamin Yutzru)
Rather, man’s days are allocated to him according to the needs of his animal soul, based on the amount of sparks that fell into it during the Sheviras Hakeilim (breaking of the vessels). These shattered vessels left sparks in this world that need to be elevated by us and this is what is known as Tikkun Olam.
Going back to the Korbanos, we need to understand that in order for the heavenly fire to descend, first a fire must be ignited from below. This law applies likewise in our prayers, first we need to arouse within us the will to want to connect to H”S and then the fire from above will consume it. How do we ignite a fire from below? This is accomplished through contemplation of matters that the animal soul admires and is in awe from, thus showing him the greatness of G-d and His Divine intervention in this world we will ignite a fiery passion within both souls to want to attach to H”S and be united with Him.
There is a parable that tells the story of a high-position investment banker who traveled to the Amazon forest for a prospective new business expedition in the coffee industry. He lived the upper class life with all the best life had to offer. He lived in a mansion, drove a fancy car, had a beautiful wife, children, and every luxury a person could have. Unfortunately, the expedition in the Amazon forest went bad and they got lost from their guides. The expedition ended living many years in the deep Amazon forest and all the goodness of his past life became almost like a long lost dream. This man who used to get so much pleasure from life, suddenly was getting pleasure from the most disgusting creatures he had to eat for his survival. If he could sleep three hours with no disturbance from the wild animals he would feel he had had a priceless gift. The executive found himself losing his vision of his past and began losing hope of the future, until he met a wise man who was also lost in the forest. Although the wise man was in a similar situation he never lost hope and was determined to find his way out. This new friendship reawakened in the executive his desire and yearning for his previous life. He decided that he would not allow himself to get too happy with the newly found pleasures of the forest and would force himself to be determined to find his way home.
This is the story of the animal soul down on earth. The animal soul once experienced a great level of G-dly pleasure and delight by being close to G-d. Once it descended to the earthly abode it completely forgot its previous life and accepted its ne passions of lowly and trivial matters. The G-dly soul, which is represented by the wise man, is there to remind the animal soul of its previous life and to where its real passions deserve to be channeled.
So “When you will go out to war over your enemy,” “over your enemy” rather than “with the enemy,” the wording of the verse gives us the strategy of the battle with the animal soul. The verse is teaching us that by cooling the desires of the animal soul with prayer, we switch this desires to love for G-d instead, you will be “over your enemy.” This means that you should reach out to the root and source of the enemy, which is the root and source of the animal soul in the supernal chariot.
The goal of prayer is to empower the G-dly soul to conquer the animal soul by reminding him that he indeed comes from a holy place and has a G-dly purpose. Once the G-dly soul has overpowered the animal soul it will maintain its position throughout the day, until the next day in which we need to start all over again.
Some excerpts from Torah Or-Likkutei Torah Parashah Ki Seitze
Compiled by Rabbi Yaacov Goldstein