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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? III. The Many Souls of Man

  …[H]e who tries to cure the soul, wishing to improve the moral qualities, must have a knowledge of the soul in its totality and its parts…Maimonides[1] Maimonides opens his introduction to The Ethics of the Fathers with this statement: Know that the human soul is one, but that it has many diversified activities. Some of these activities have, indeed, been called souls, which has given rise to the opinion that man has many souls, as was the belief of the physicians, with the result that the most distinguished of them states in the introduction of his book that there are three souls, the physical, the vital, and the psychical.[2] While Maimonides lists three souls—the physical (tiv’it), the vital (chiyunit), and the psychical (nefoshit)—he believes them to be aspects of one soul—“Know that [...]

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, [...]

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 [...]

In the Beginning — It’s All About Change

In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)   The first verse in the Torah is key to understanding the fundamentals of creation. As far as physics is concerned, there are three key words in this verse, which are highlighted in bold: In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and the earth. According to Nachmanides, these three words—“beginning,” “heaven,” and “earth”—represent, respectively, time, space, and matter. It is easy to see that the “beginning” stands for time, because the “beginning” is clearly a temporal concept that sets off the beginning of time; that “heaven” is a metaphor for space, because the stars and the planets are perceived to be in the sky (i.e., heaven) when, in fact, they are moving in space;[1] and that “earth” is emblematic of matter, [...]

Biblical Relativity

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years... (Gen. 23:1) Why did Esther merit to rule over 127 countries? Said G‑d: “Let Esther, the descendant of Sarah who lived 127 years, come and rule over 127 lands. (Esther Rabbah 1:8) The Midrash Ester Rabbah compares 127 years of Sarah’s life with 127 provinces that Esther ruled. How can one compare time with space? When the Midrash says that Adam gifted 70 years of his life to his descendant, King David, it’s understandable – a year for a year. But a year for a province? What’s the connection? Hermann Minkowski When, in 1905, Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity, it was nothing short of a scientific revolution. For the first time, Einstein showed [...]

Brit Milah in Six Dimensions

Sefer Yetzira speaks of three dimensions: Olam, Shanah, and Nefesh.  Olam literally means "world" and signifies space. Shanah literally means "year" and signifies the dimension of time. Nefesh literally means "soul" and signifies the spiritual dimension. In another place, recognizing the space itself is three dimensional, Sefer Yetzira speaks of five-dimensional space which is a Minkowski spacetime with an addition of the fifth spiritual dimension. This construct is very similar to the Kaluza-Klein five-dimensional generalization of the General Theory of Relativity (a theory that is near and dear to my heart, because, unaware of its existence, I independently rediscovered it as a teenager.) Kaluza-Klein, first forgotten, is now experiencing a revival as a special case of the string theory. Sefer Yetzirah In every one of these dimensions, G‑d created the domain of holy [...]

By |2018-09-23T03:48:50-04:00September 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

The Fifth Force – Epilog

This post is a continuation and the conclusion of the previous post, THE FIFTH FORCE. Aside from the connection with the last week’s Torah portion, Vayelech, there is also connection with and Aseret Yimei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance) and Yom Kippur. When it comes to physics of fundamental forces, there are two unresolved problems: (i) unification of gravity with the other three fundamental forces (electromagnetic, strong and weak); and (ii) discovery of the fifth force. Both problems are related to repentance (teshuvah), which comes to sharp focus on the Ten Days of Repentance (Aseret Yimei Teshuvah) and Yom Kippur. Firstly, the word “teshuva” doesn’t mean “repentance”, it literally means “return” In Kabbalah tradition, the word TeShuVaH, is read as “ToShuV H” – return of the letter “heh”. It is talking about the [...]


Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him: "When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the menorah." (Num. 8:1) In the Torah portion Behaalotecha (Num. 8:1), Aaron is commanded to light the Menorah so that three light on the right and three lights on the left are directed towards the middle light. On the first blush, it appears to be a very strange commandment. Why would lights on the right and on the left need to be directed towards the center light? What is the significance of that? It seems to me that this unusual arrangement hints at fundamental structure of our world. Sefer Yetzirah states that this world is created in three domains – Olam (“World” – meaning space), Shanah (“Year” – meaning time) and Nefesh (“Soul” [...]




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