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What Is a Soul? II. Anatomy of the Soul

In the biblical story of the creation of Adam, the Torah states: Then the Eternal God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.Genesis 2:7 The word translated into English as “soul” in the original Hebrew is nefesh. This is the first and the lowest level of the soul given to Adam. The taxonomy and anatomy of a soul in Judaism are quite complex. Original biblical sources speak of three levels of the soul: nefesh (“soul”), ru’ach (“spirit”),[1] and neshamah (“breath”).[2] The Kabbalah speaks of the five levels of the soul: nefesh, ru’ach, neshamah, chayah, and yechidah. This is based on classical rabbinic sources. As stated in the midrash, “By five names is the soul called: nefesh, ru’ach, [...]

Noah’s Ark—Three Layers of Being Human

A light shalt thou make to the ark, and to a cubit shalt thou finish it upward; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:16)   As mentioned in the previous post, “The Noah’s Ark—A Model of a Living Cell,” Noah’s ark was a microcosm. Structural parallels have been drawn between Noah’s ark and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (Bet HaMikdash), Tabernacle (Mishkan) (each of these sanctuaries is also called microcosm in its own right), and Mount Sinai—all based on the parallel between three levels of Noah’s ark, on the one hand, and three levels of the sanctity of various areas in the sanctuaries and Mount Sinai, on the other. In the previous chapter, we investigated [...]

The Soul is in the Blood

For the life of the flesh is in the blood." (Leviticus 17:11) The word translated here as “life” in the Hebrew original is nefesh, i.e., “soul.” Torah appears to be telling us that soul of every live creature is in its blood. Indeed, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi says so explicitly in the Tanya: The abode of the animal soul derived from kelipat nogah in every Jew is in the heart; in the left ventricle, as it is filled with blood, and it is written, 'For the blood is the soul' (nefesh)…. just as the blood has its source in the heart, and from the heart it circulates into every organ…" (Likkutei Amarim, 9)[1] The animal soul is primarily vested in the blood (from where it spreads to the whole body and beyond). What does [...]

Secrets of the Talking Ass

And God opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Bilam: "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" And Bilam said to the ass: "Because you have mocked me; I would there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you." And the ass said to Bilam: "Am not I your ass, upon which you have ridden all your life to this day? Was I ever wont to do so to you?" And he said, "No." Num. 22:28-30 Despite the simple dialogue between Balaam (Bilam) and his ass in the Torah portion of Balak, this ass was no ordinary ass. This ass saw an angel where a prophet as great as her owner, Balaam, did not. It stands to reason that [...]

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