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The Soul – Part IV. The Whole vs. the Parts

This is the fourth installment in the series of essays on the nature of the soul. The first three installments can be found here: What Is a Soul? I. The Spiritual vs. the Materia What Is a Soul? II. Anatomy of the Soul What is a Soul? III. The Many Souls of Man At the dawn of classical philosophy, there were two leading schools of thought: holism and atomism. Holism holds that a system (e.g., physical, chemical, biological, social) should be viewed as a whole rather than a collection of parts. Atomism, in contrast, holds the reductionist view that every system is a collection of parts, and the system can be known only by studying its parts. Holism[1] essentially stands for the proposition that the whole is greater than the sum of its [...]

What Is a Soul? II. Anatomy of the Soul

In the biblical story of the creation of Adam, the Torah states: Then the Eternal G‑d 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, [...]

The Cosmological Problem of Initial Conditions and the Universe of Tohu

Now the earth was unformed and void.Genesis 1:2 We have a big problem in cosmology: the problem of the initial conditions of the universe at the time of the Big Bang.[1] Before we can explain this problem, however, we need to review some basic concepts of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics developed by Boltzmann and others[2] described the behavior of gases and liquids and the transfer of heat. A key concept in thermodynamics is entropy. Entropy is a measure of disorder, of chaos. The second law of thermodynamics states that in an isolated system, entropy always increases with time. The second law of thermodynamics explains universal decay. And entropy is the measure of that decay.[3] Shining stars produce entropy. Stars collapsing into black holes produce entropy. Evaporating black holes produce entropy.[4] Entropy is increasing in the universe.[5] Let us [...]

Yom Kippur—The Day of Pure Delight

Yom Kippur means “The Day of Atonement.” Some view it as a frightening day full of regrets of the past and anxiety for the future. However, Chasidic philosophy sees Yom Kippur as the day of pure delight. On a simple level, Yom Kippur is the day of forgiveness--the day when we all going to be forgiven, cleansed, and atoned. What is not to be happy about? Moreover, it is a day when we get our personal rendezvous with our Heavenly Father, and with ourselves. The last prayer of Yom Kippur is called Neila ("closing"). It is usually interpreted as the closing of the doors of prayers when the penitent feverishly trying to squeeze another prayer before the doors are shut. In Hassidic teachings, the Neila is viewed completely differently—it is the most cherished [...]

By |2023-09-24T00:35:40-04:00September 15th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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 [...]

Ki Tisa Hints at the Coronavirus

On the Eve of Shabbat, we received a government mailing containing documents that we were required to fill out and send back to the Census Bureau. The connection between the Census and the plague was not lost on me. The Torah portion we read last Shabbat, Ki Tisa. It begins with the story of the census: When you count the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” (Exodus 30:12) This verse, linking the census with a plague, was uncanny in view of the COVID-19—Coronavirus pandemic—the modern-day plague, in the midst of which we find ourselves today. Interestingly, the word “count” in the verse above is [...]

Abel and Cain Conflict—Wave-Particle Duality

…And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Eternal. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Eternal had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Eternal said unto Cain: “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.” And Cain spoke unto Abel [...]

Relational Space

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – II This post is a sequel to my previous post, “Space – Between Future and Past.” For background information, the reader is referred to that post. My second Shavuot “epiphany” was that space is relational. Not that I realized that space was relational for the first time – I always thought so. But, for some reason, thinking about the meaning of the four faces of Chayot, the "living creatures" – the angelic beings described in the prophecy of Ezekiel that we read on Shavuot – made it absolutely clear in my mind. Isaac Newton The debate about the nature of space goes back at least to the times of Newton and Leibniz. Isaac Newton believed (as it is apparent from his mechanics and as it [...]

Space – Between Future and Past

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – I We do science by studying nature. We study physics in a lab, peering into space, or working out mathematical models with pencil and paper to see if they fit experimental data. However, great mystics of the past were able to see how this world operates by gazing into spiritual worlds above. On Shavuot, the holiday when we celebrate the revelation on Mount Sinai, we read the prophecy of Ezekiel (the First Vision of Ezekiel) called Maaseh Merkavah (or Ma'aseh Merkabah) – Work of the Chariot. Masters of Kabbalah have taught us that understanding the Work of the Chariot gives the initiated an understanding of the works of nature. This Shavuot, studying and thinking about Maaseh Merkavah, I came to understand some profound insights about the physics [...]

The Entangled Tenth

And all the tithe of the herd or the flock, whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” (Leviticus 27:32) This Shabbat, I was called up to the Torah for the last aliyah (lit. “ascent”, meaning the reading from the Scroll) of the book of Leviticus. This portion talks about tithing animals, giving the precise procedure for doing so – every animal is released from a pen one by one while being counted – one, two, three, … , ten. The tenth animal is touch by the rode and consecrated as the ma’aser – tithe. The Torah states that every tenth animal is holy unto G‑d. What is the state of the animals before counting? They have two possible states: (1) chulin, i.e., “not sacred” and (2) ma’aser, [...]




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