Resolving Inner Conflict

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 - 9:38 am

Resolving inner conflict is an important goal. As human beings we are pulled to the allure of a corporeal life of material pursuits and physical gratification. This is bolstered by repeated societal attempts to argue G-d and the Torah out of existence. On the other hand, we have a moral compass called the soul, which has been fortified by the values and teachings of our faith and upbringing. If survival of the fittest is the rule by which the game of life is played, then we need to take one approach to life. If meaningful and G-dly living is what it’s all about, that requires an entirely different approach to life. Even if we accept that Torah is the way to go, we are still confronting the other side of our personality and the world. How do we ensure the ascendancy of the spiritual over the material, of form over matter?

Although, in this case, the battlefield is our conscience, parallels can be drawn from external conflict. Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, was imprisoned by the Czarist government in 1798 and was released on this day, the 19th of Kislev. He recalls that he received the news of his release as he was in middle reciting a verse in Psalm 55, “He redeemed my soul with peace from the battle that came close upon me, because of the many who were with me.”

This passage became a launching point from which seven generations of Chabad Rebbes addressed the issue of conflict resolution. I would like to briefly share a teaching by our Rebbe.

There can be two ways of resolving conflict – peaceably or through battle. The conflict can also take on two forms – close confrontation or from a distance. What this passage teaches us is that the ideal way to resolve is through peace and from up close.

Battling the urges of the body and the world could be achieved by arguing point by point why the soul’s way is better. Peaceable resolution could be achieved when the force of good is so powerful that an argument is unnecessary. These two approaches reflect the two dimensions of Torah, the rational and the mystical. The rational approach uses philosophical arguments to defend the supremacy of G-dly living. That may or may not be successful in winning the battle. The mystical dimension, especially when it is fused with an intellectual dynamic (like the teachings of Chassidus), fortify a person with so much positivity and spirituality that arguments are not needed. This is called peaceable resolution of the internal conflict.

There is a risk of escapism with this approach. One might think that since the soul and the Torah are so superior to mundane life, it would be best to abandon the world altogether and live in isolation. The passage addresses by instructing that the confrontation must be from up close. We need to engage the world so that we can influence it. Escapism may resolve our personal conflict, but it will do nothing for G-d’s plan to have this world revealed as a Divine dwelling.

Finally we need to recall that to really be successful, we have to have the “many with us,” i.e. a positive relationship with others. Through love and fellowship we can accomplish much more, utilizing the power of the crowd.

Chassidim wish each other a good yomtov on this special day, which spawned over two centuries of inspiration through the teachings of Chassidus. Have a good yomtov, a good Shabbos and a happy Chanukah!

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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