…[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 the human soul is one…”

Other Jewish sages, however, maintain that there is more than one soul. Indeed, Prophet Isaiah  states:

… for the spirit (ru’ach) that enwrappeth itself is from Me, and the souls (neshamot) which I have made.

Isaiah 57:16

Whereas the word ru’ach (spirit) appears in this verse in the singular, referring to a single individual, the word neshamot (souls) appears in the plural, indicating that G‑d made at least two souls. From this, we learn that there must be more than one soul.[3] Indeed, in Kabbalah and Chasidic sources, we find references to at least two souls— Nefesh HaBahamit and Nefesh HaElokit—and, sometimes, more than two and as many as five.[4] In this essay, we shall discuss the many souls of man.

Nefesh HaBahamit —The Animal Soul

When we speak of a soul without any modifiers, we usually mean the Nefesh HaBahamit (“animal soul,” a.k.a. “animalistic soul” or “bestial soul”). According to Kabbalah, this soul is shared by all humans and animals.[5] It is viewed as the body’s life force.

We begin with this soul, because it is the first soul that enters a human body at birth.[6] However, it was the last soul received by Adam and Eve—the first humans in the biblical story of creation. Before the primordial sin, even the bodies of Adam and Eve were said to be spiritual,[7] created in the Tzelem Elokim (“Divine Image”).

And the Eternal G‑d made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21

The Tzemach Tzedek[8] explains this verse as follows:

. . . the meaning of “He garbed them in garments of skin” is the body, meaning that after the sin it became a material body, unlike before the sin when it was a holy, refined, clean body, and called “garments of light.” The body was light, illuminating light like the neshamah (soul). The neshamah inside a body of light [and both of them are now] inside a body of flesh.[9]

Nefesh HaBahamit (the animal soul) is self-centered by nature. It gives life to the body and is behind all instincts for survival, procreation, avoidance of pain, and the seeking of pleasure. As such, while it is not intrinsically “bad,” it is not G‑d-centric but rather ego-centric.

Every soul possesses a full complement of ten sefirot (divine emanations)—Chokhmah (“Wisdom”), Binah (“Understanding”), Da’at (“Knowledge”), Chesed (“Love/Kindness,” desire to give), Gevurah (“Severity/Restriction/Might,” desire to receive), Tiferet (“Compassion/Beauty/Harmony”), Netzach (“Endurance/Eternity/Victory”), Hod (“Humility/Splendor/Thanksgiving”), Yesod (“Connection/Foundation”), and Malchut (“Kingship/Sovereignty,” female principle). The ten sefirot give rise to ten kochot hanefesh (“ten powers of the soul”). The seven lower sefirotChesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut—are called midot—the emotional attributes. The midot of the animal soul collectively are called yetzer harah—the “evil inclination.”[10] The animal soul is not inherently bad;[11] it is neutral, except for its self-centeredness. So long as it motivates the person toward fulfilling natural needs to survive and procreate, the animal soul acts as the natural soul, Nefesh HaTiv’it (more on it later). However, when it motivates the person to indulge in worldly pleasures, when it encourages laziness, depression, and egoistic—never mine narcissistic—behavior, it becomes an impediment to the person’s spiritual growth and firmly takes a position in sitrah acharah (the “other side,” the side of evil).

This soul has only four levels:[12] nefesh, ru’ach, neshamah, and chayah. It does not have yechidah, the singular soul, which is latent and not revealed in Nefesh HaBahamit.

Nefesh HaBahamit is said to be vested in the left ventricle of the heart, from which it spreads through the body via the flow of blood[13]—the carrier of oxygen, other life-sustaining nutrients, and hormones that sustain the body and regulate our mood and emotions. Of course, this cannot be understood literally: the soul is not material and cannot be localized in any particular organ or place.[14] (For more on this, see my essay, “The Soul is in the Blood.”[15])

Nefesh HaBahamit primarily expresses itself in emotions, the midot—emotional attributes of divine emanations as they are reflected in the human soul.[16]

In some context, Nefesh HaBahamit refers to self.[17]

Nefesh HaElokit —The Godly Soul

Nefesh HaElokit[18] (the “godly soul” or “divine soul”) is not a creation.[19] All created things were created by means of divine speech in ten utterances.[20] The godly soul, however, was not created by divine speech, but rather exhaled, as it were, by G‑d and breathed into the first man:

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

Thus, Nefesh HaElokit (the godly soul) is the eternal soul, which is not a creation but a “part” of G‑d Himself.

The Alter Rebbe calls the godly soul a second[21] soul that enters the human body at a later time:[22] thirteen years old (the time of bar mitzvah—legal majority) for boys and twelve years old (the age of bat mitzvah) for girls. Tanya states:

[is to be found] in light of what Rabbi Chaim Vital wrote in Shaar Hakedushah (and in Etz Chaim, Portal 50, ch. 2)—that every Jew, whether righteous or wicked, possesses two souls, as it is written, “And neshamot (souls) which I have made.” [Isaiah 57:16.][23]

Midrash explains:

And whence do we learn that the soul has been given from heaven? Come and see. When the Holy One, blessed be He, formed man, he did not have in him the spirit. What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He breathed with the spirit of the breath of His mouth, and cast a soul into him, as it is said, “And he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Genesis 2:7)

Pirke D’Rabbi Eliezer

This soul is pure[24] and G‑d-centric. The midrash states:

The soul is unique, altogether pure, concealed, abides in the innermost precincts of the body yet permeates and pervades the whole body and sustains it.[25]

Nachmanides[26] writes, “One who blows, exhales from his inside and essence.”[27]

The midot of the godly soul are called yetzer tov—the “good inclination.” Moreover, as the Alter Rebbe stresses in Tanya, Nefesh HaElokit is a chelek Eloka mima’al mamash “part of G‑d from above[28], indeed!”[29] This phrase is a quotation from the earlier work of the kabbalist Rabbi Shabtai Sheftl:[30]

It is a well-known fact that the souls of the Jewish people are a part of G‑d. This is hinted at in the verse, “[The Jewish] people is a portion of G‑d” (Deuteronomy 32:9), literally.[31]

Shefa Tal

Similarly, the Vilna Gaon[32] writes in his commentary on Ecclesiastes that “And the soul is a ‘chelek Eloki mimaal’ (divine part from on high).”[33] The godly soul is also called a “princess, the daughter of the King in Heaven.”[34]

Sages drew a parallel between the soul-body relationship and the relationship of G‑d and the created worlds.  G‑dliness, at least its immanent aspect, can be seen as the “soul” of the universe. G‑dliness permeates the created universe and is so enmeshed with the created worlds that it is impossible to separate the physical from the spiritual. So, too, the soul is so enmeshed with the body that it is impossible to point out where the body ends and soul “begins.” In its immanent manifestation, godliness fills the worlds, as the three lower levels of the soul fill the body. In its transcendental manifestation, godliness encompasses the worlds, as the two higher levels of the soul envelope the body. G‑dliness is hidden just as the soul is hidden. Thus it is stated in the midrash:

G‑d filleth the world, and the human soul filleth the human body. G‑d supports the world, and the soul supports the body. G‑d is unique in the world, the soul is unique in the body. G‑d neither sleepeth nor slumbereth; the soul neither sleepeth nor slumbereth. G‑d is pure, the soul is pure. G‑d seeth and cannot be seen; the soul seeth and cannot be seen. Let the soul, which so far possesses the attributes of the Lord, praise and worship the Lord.[35]

Tanya refers to Nefesh HaElokit as the “second soul” because it first enters the body at the time of the bar or bat mitzvah—long after the animal soul has taken hold of the body.[36] The mission of the godly soul is to subdue the egocentric tendencies of the animal soul and then recruit it to join in the divine service.

The godly soul—Nefesh HaElokit—is said to express itself mainly in the brain.[37] As we mentioned before, this cannot be understood in literal terms. It means Nefesh HaElokit primarily manifests itself through our consciousness. In some context, Nefesh HaElokit refers to self.

This soul is rooted in the world of Tikkun (the Universe of Rectification), whereas Nefesh HaBahamit is rooted in the world of Tohu (the Universe of Chaos). The Nefesh HaElokit has all five levels, including Yechidah. Much of the first book of Tanya, Likutei Amarim, is devoted to the relationship between Nefesh HaElokit and Nefesh HaBahamit.

While Tanya clearly speaks of two souls—Nefesh HaBahamit and Nefesh HaElokit—we still need to understand why we need two souls. The root of this apparent duality is in the unique quality of G‑d—He exists, and He doesn’t exist (because He is unlimited and cannot be limited by what we call “existence”). G‑d is in a superposition of both states—existence and nonexistence, as it were. A man (and a woman) was created in the image of G‑d, which means that man reflects G‑d in all His manifestations. Therefore, there must be two distinct metaphysical entities—a divine soul and an animal soul—to reflect the blurry dual state of G‑d’s existence.[38] But which soul reflects the existence of G‑d, and which reflects G‑d’s “nonexistence”?

From one perspective, the animal soul, which is an egocentric soul, represents selfhood—the person’s “I.” In this sense, the animal soul, which is believed to make a person alive, reflects G‑d’s existence. The godly soul, which is G‑d-centric, represents the state of bitul—complete submission and self-nullification before G‑d. Thus, the godly soul, which makes a person lose his or her sense of independent existence, must reflect the state of the “nonexistence” of G‑d.

However, from another perspective, the roles reverse. As the Alter Rebbe describes in Tanya, these two souls are akin to kings warring over a city—the human body.[39] The godly soul must win this war and subdue the animal soul. From this perspective, it is the godly soul, which is ultimately destined to reign, that reflects G‑d’s existence (and the person’s “I”), whereas the animal soul, facing its ultimate defeat, reflects God’s “nonexistence.”

This role reversal hints at the underlying hidden unity of both souls. They are not two different souls, as distinct metaphysical entities, but rather two opposite facets of one soul—two sides of one coin. Just as G‑d has two states—existence and “nonexistence”—and He is in a superposition of these states, so too, the soul has two states—the godly state called the godly soul and the animalistic state called the animal soul. The soul, in a manner of speech, is in a superposition of these two states. From our perspective, we may see two souls, but actually (from G‑d’s perspective) there is one soul in a superposition of two states. This hidden unity reflects the ultimate unity of G‑d, who both exists and does not exist, as it were.[40]

Initially, Nefesh HaElokit opposes Nefesh HaBahamit, in the effort to subdue the latter’s egoistic and hedonistic tendencies and direct it toward serving G‑d. However, Nefesh HaBahamit has certain advantages over Nefesh HaElokit. Nefesh HaBahamit, which manifests itself primarily in the blood, is seen as “hot,” that is, full of emotions and enthusiasm. Nefesh HaElokit, on the other hand, manifests itself primarily in the brain and is seen as cold and rational. While its sole desire is to give and serve G‑d, it lacks the enthusiasm and the energy of the animal soul. To compensate for that, Nefesh HaElokit must convert and recruit Nefesh HaBahamit to the service of G‑d, to infuse it with energy, passion, and enthusiasm. Nefesh HaBahamit, which initially vigorously resists the influence of Nefesh HaElokit, ultimately is happy to lose the war and join Nefesh HaElokit in divine service.

The Zohar uses an allegory of a harlot and prince to illustrate this paradoxical dynamic: A king decided to test the moral strength of his son, the heir to the throne. To this end, he asked a loyal courtier to play a harlot and try to seduce his son. The courtier obliges and plays her role, trying to seduce the prince. While she is diligent in doing her job, in her heart of hearts, she desires to fail, because she knows that nothing will please the king more than her failure—the testimony to the maturity and moral fortitude of the prince.[41] So too, the animal soul inwardly desires to be defeated by the godly soul, although it resists strenuously. In this allegory, the harlot symbolizes evil. The purpose of evil is only to be defeated.[42] The ultimate purpose of the animal soul is to be won over by the godly soul and join ranks with it to serve G‑d with the warmth, energy, and passionate enthusiasm only the animal soul possesses.

The sechel (three intellectual faculties—Chokhmah-wisdom, Binah-understanding, and Da’at-knowledge) of the Nefesh HaElokit primarily vests itself in the brain, whereas the midot (seven lower sefirot representing emotive attributes) of the Nefesh HaElokit, called the Yetzer Tov (“Good Inclination”), vest themselves in the right ventricle of the heart.[43] This means that, in the language of Kabbalah, the Divine soul primarily expresses itself in the ChaBaD—the three intellectual sefirot (Chokhmah, Binah, and Da’at)—intellectual attributes of divine emanation as they are reflected in the human soul. Just as the godly soul possesses both intellect and emotions, so too, the animal soul possesses intellect and emotions.[44]

Nefesh HaSichlit—The Intellectual Soul

The Nefesh HaSichlit is the intellectual soul. It is an innovation of the Chasidic philosophy of Chabad. [45] The Alter Rebbe said he had not learned of this (Nefesh HaSichlit) from the earlier sources but rather reached this understanding on his own. In his own words, “G‑d enlightened my eyes.”[46]

The Tanya speaks of two souls— Nefesh HaBahamit and Nefesh HaElokit because these two are the essential players in the inner conflict of the human soul.[47] However, in another place, the Alter Rebbe speaks of three souls—Nefesh HaBahamit, Nefesh HaElokit, and Nefesh HaSichlit.[48] According to the Tzemach Tzedek: “Nefesh HaSichlit is part of Nefesh HaBahamit.”[49] However, according to the Rebbe Rashab, “Even though Tanya describes two Nefashot [souls], there are really three—Nefesh HaElokit, Nefesh HaSichlit, and Nefesh HaChiyunit.”[50] Nefesh HaChiyunit is used here, apparently, as synonymous with Nefesh HaBahamit.

The big picture that emerges from various Chabad sources is this: generally, there are two souls—Nefesh HaElokit, the godly soul, and Nefesh HaBahamit, the animal soul.[51] However, a closer examination reveals a third soul, Nefesh HaSichlit, the intellectual soul. Whereas the godly soul and the animal soul pull the body in opposite directions, the intellectual soul, being in the “middle,” decides between the two. It is the intellectual soul that gives us free choice.

The Alter Rebbe has explained this concept at length in Likutei Torah.[52] The purpose of the descent of Nefesh HaElokit into the human body is the rectification of Nefesh HaBahamit. However, as mentioned before, Nefesh HaBahamit is self-centered, whereas Nefesh HaElokit is G‑d-centered. As such, they are opposites and have no nexus. How then can Nefesh HaElokit and Nefesh HaBahamit affect each other? Nefesh HaSichlit (the Intellectual soul) serves as the connector between the two:

The Nefesh HaElokit (the godly soul) can [vest itself] in the Nefesh HaBahamit (animal soul) through…. the Nefesh Hasichlit (the Intellectual soul), which is the intermediary between them and connects them…. In order for Nefesh HaElokit (the godly soul) to be able to effect the rectification of Nefesh HaBahamit (animal soul), there is a need for an intermediary, which is the purpose of the Nefesh Hasichlit (the intellectual soul).[53]

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

Thus, the Alter Rebbe states in the Likutei Torah, “The intellectual soul refers to the Nefesh HaSichlit which is an intermediary between a person’s animal soul and his godly soul.”[54]

The need for this soul can be further seen from the metaphor used by the Alter Rebbe in Tanya, where he describes the two souls—Nefesh HaElokit and Nefesh HaBahamit—as two armies fighting for the same city, the person’s body, as mentioned above. The G‑d-centric Nefesh HaElokit pulls the person to serve G‑d and do G‑d’s will, whereas the egocentric Nefesh HaBahamit pulls the person to satisfy his or her own desires.[55] The question is, who is the arbiter in this tug of war? Who shall decide whether to obey the impulses of the godly soul or those of the animal soul? The answer proposed by the Alter Rebbe is Nefesh HaSichlit, intellectual soul, which serves as a dispassionate arbiter deciding whose advice to follow.[56]

It appears that, according to the Tzemach Tzedek, Nefesh HaSichlit was given to Adam and Eve when their eyes were open as the result of their partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge:

…this means [their eyes were opened to] the aspect of external wisdom, the Chokhmah of the Nefesh HaSichlit (Intellectual soul), which is not how it was before [the sin when] they also had wisdom, but it was the Chokhma of the divine [soul].[57]

Tzemach Tzedek

Thus, Nefesh HaSichlit is viewed as merely “human intellect relating to physical matters.”[58,59] For this reason, the Nefesh HaSichlit is called Adam. Initially, Nefesh HaSichlit is seen as at best mundane or worse, opposed to the divine consciousness: “the intellect which grasps physicality according to the human intellect; and it is falsehood and indeed the opposite of the divine wisdom, which is the wisdom of truth.”[60] However, the intellectual soul can be rectified and elevated by Torah study. Nefesh HaSichlit thus can be transformed when it

…is elevated and connected with the light of Torah … until the wisdom that is in the Nefesh [HaSichlit] will be … absorbed in the light of the Torah and to be truly transformed from one extreme to the other, from the human intellect, which [merely] grasps [the physical], to the intellect of the wisdom of the Torah – godly wisdom.[61]

Only after the intellectual soul is refined can it, in turn, refine the animal soul—Nefesh HaBahamit.[62]

The Nefesh HaSichlit possesses both intellect faculties (sechel) and emotional faculties(midot).[63]

Other Souls

In the literature of Chabad, one can find references to two other souls: Nefesh HaChiyunit (“living soul” or “essential soul”) and Nefesh HaTiv’it (“natural soul”). In fact, these souls already appear in the writings of Maimonides. The first two souls mentioned by Maimonides in his introduction to The Ethics of the Fathers (quoted at the beginning of this essay) are indeed Tiv’it (which parallels Nefesh HaTiv’it) and Chiyunit (Nefesh HaChiyunit).[64] The Maharsha[65] also writes:

A person has three souls—tiv’it (a ‘natural soul’), chiyunit (a ‘vital soul’) and sichlit (an ‘intellective soul’).[66]

Similarly, the Malbim[67] describes these three souls in greater detail.[68]

In the Chasidic literature of Chabad, one finds seemingly conflicting references to a person having either two souls or three souls.[69] Thus, Rebbe Rashab wrote:

As is known, there are three souls in every Jew (although Likutei Amarim[70] only mentions two, in reality, there are three)—Nefesh Elokit, Nefesh HaSichlit, and Nefesh HaChiyunit (the Nefesh HaSichlit is the bridge and intermediary between the other two souls– Nefesh Elokit and Nefesh HaTiv’it).[71]

The quote is interesting not only because it introduces the third soul, Nefesh HaSichlit, but because Rebbe Rashab uses the two expressions—Nefesh HaChiyunit (the essential soul[72]) and Nefesh HaTiv’it (the natural soul) interchangeably. As we shall see, other sources distinguish between the two.[73]

On the other hand, the term Nefesh HaChiyunit is often used to refer to Nefesh HaBahamit. For example, Rebbe Rayatz[74] writes:

. . . [T]he Nefesh HaChiyunit [vital soul], which animates the organs of the body and enables them to fulfill their respective functions, such as sight and hearing and walking and touching. . .[75]

Nefesh HaChiyunit is a general soul[76] that contains both Nefesh HaBahamit and Nefesh HaSichlit. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes, “Nefesh HaChiyunit from the first chapter [of Tanya] splits to two: [Nefesh] Sichlit and [Nefesh] Behemit.”[77]

There is even greater ambiguity as far as Nefesh HaTiv’it (the natural soul)[78] is concerned. In some contexts, it is used as synonymous with Nefesh HaBahamit. For example, Rebbe Rayatz writes:

There are three souls. There is Nefesh HaTiv’it, the Natural soul, also called the “animal soul” [Nefesh HaBahamit]; Nefesh HaSichlit or intellectual soul… and Nefesh HaElokit, the godly soul.[79] [emphasis added]

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, clarifies this by distinguishing Nefesh HaTiv’it from Nefesh HaBahamit. Thus, writing about the folly of sinning, he says:

If for just a moment he [the sinner] would think about how distant his desires are from his common sense, even the common sense of his Nefesh HaBahamit, and how distant the sechel [intellect] of his Nefesh HaBahamit is from the sechel [intellect] of his Nefesh HaTiv’it; and how distant the sechel of his Nefesh HaTiv’it is from the sechel of his Nefesh HaSichlit (etc.), he would realize that even his common sense has no place among the high levels of his neshamah...[80] [Emphasis added]

It appears from the above that Nefesh HaBahamit, Nefesh HaTiv’it, and Nefesh HaSichlit are three types of self-centered souls that are progressively more refined: Nefesh HaBahamit is the coarsest of them all; Nefesh HaTiv’it is more refined than Nefesh HaBahamit; and Nefesh HaSichlit is more refined than Nefesh HaTiv’it. Their common denominator is that they are all created beings, unlike the godly soul that was not created (and is eternal). Thus, they come from an unholy source that conceals their Creator, as each of them feels its selfhood, that is, its independence from the Creator. In the language of Kabbalah and Chasidic philosophy, these souls come from klipah (“husks”[81]).

Some say that Nefesh HaBahamit, after it has been completely nullified and converted by Nefesh HaSichlit, is transformed into Nefesh HaTiv’it.[82] Thus Nefesh HaTiv’it is the righteous person’s (tzadik’s) equivalent of Nefesh HaBahamit. After all, it is argued, even tzadikim (righteous people) have different natures, personalities, tendencies, natural character traits, tastes, etc. All these are the domain of Nefesh HaTiv’it.[83]

There is yet another “temporary” soul—neshamah yeterah, granted to every Shabbat-observing Jew on Shabbat Eve. At the conclusion of the Shabbat, this soul leaves the body.[84] As it is stated in the Talmud, “Every Friday, G‑d gives the Jew another individual soul, which He takes back again at the end of the Sabbath.”[85]

Yet other types of “temporary” additional souls include mystical ibbur (“impregnation”)[86] and dybbuk (from davok—to “cling” or to “adhere.”)[87] An ibbur is a holy soul (or an aspect of the soul) of a departed tzadik grafted onto the soul of a leaving person (with his consent) to give that person extra spiritual energy to do a mitzvah or accomplish the task at hand.[88] For example, in the biblical story of the spies, according to some kabbalistic commentaries, the spies sent by Moses to survey the land of Canaan were impregnated (ibbur) with the souls of the twelve sons of Jacob (each spy representing a particular tribe was impregnated with the respective son of Jacob who was the progenitor of that tribe), to give them strength to accomplish their task. However, it did not help—the spies, except for Caleb and Joshua, sinned. The soul of a departed tzadik can also be temporarily grafted on a sole of a living person to help the soul of the tzadik to accomplish something it needs to accomplish using the body of the living person as its vehicle. Once the task is accomplished, the soul leaves. In contrast, a dybbuk, is a possession by a malicious and unwanted spirit. Jewish mythology is full of legends of the evil dybbuk—a wandering soul of a dead person possessing a living person for nefarious purposes—and stories of the exorcism of such unwelcome spirit.[89]

How Many Souls?

So, how many souls does a person have? In Kabbalah and Chasidic philosophy, numbers are divided into two distinct categories—one and many. Two means many. Thus, there is no fundamental difference among two, three, four, and five.[90] As we shall see, there is one godly soul, and there is one natural soul. The godly soul is white and pure. The natural soul is gray, and there are many shades of gray—four in this case. There is only one godly soul—Nefesh HaElokit. However, when speaking of the natural soul, depending on the level of granularity, we can speak of one, two, three, or four natural souls whose respective names point to their functions.

Among scholars of Chabad philosophy, everyone agrees that there are two main souls, Nefesh HaElokit and Nefesh HaChiyunit. This dichotomy is essential, because it reflects the perceived “dichotomy” of the states of godliness—existence and nonexistence. (Needless to say that there is no dichotomy whatsoever in G‑d, whose oneness is absolute.) As it is stated, “G‑d made one opposite the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).[91] In this view, Nefesh HaChiyunit is viewed as a category of natural souls among which we find HaChiyunit, Nefesh HaSichlit, Nefesh HaTiv’it, and Nefesh HaBahamit.

Then there is an opinion that the two main souls are Nefesh HaChiyunit and Nefesh HaElokit, and that Nefesh HaChiyunit further splits into two—Nefesh HaBahamit and Nefesh HaSichlit. On this level, the soul trichotomy reflects the dialectics of two souls, the divine soul and the animal soul, which are antithetical and require a mediator—the intellectual soul—to allow two souls to relate to each other. The soul trichotomy reflects the basic dialectic triad of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Three souls parallel the three levels of the soul. The trichotomy of the souls also parallels the trichotomy of creation: matter/space, time/change, and spirit.

SoulsLevels of the soulDomainsCreation
Nefesh HaBahamitNefeshOlam (“world, ”i.e., space)Matter
Nefesh HaSichlitRu’achShanah (“year,” i.e., time)Time/change
Nefesh HaElokitNeshamahNefesh (“soul,” i.e., spirituality)Spirit
Table 1. Trichotomy of Souls

Thus, the millennia-old debate about trichotomy vs. dichotomy that has occupied philosophers and theologians through modern times finds a happy resolution in Chasidic philosophy—each opinion has its place and depends on the degree of granularity with which we examine the souls; thus dichotomy is the first degree of approximation, and trichotomy is the second degree of approximation revealing more granularity and detail.

An even more granular picture revealing subtle distinctions between Nefesh HaChiyunit and Nefesh HaBahamit forces us to count them as two distinct souls and brings the number of souls to four, which are parallel to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton. This is parallel to four levels of the soul and four worlds.

SoulsLevels of the soulTetragrammatonPartzufim
Nefesh HaElokitNeshamah d’Neshamah (chayah and yechidah)YudAba
Nefesh HaSichlitNeshamahHehIma
Nefesh HaTiv’itRu’achWawZe’ir Anpin
Nefesh HaBahamitNefeshHehNukvah
Table 2. Four Souls vis-à-vis the Tetragrammaton

Finally, the most granular picture distinguishes yet another soul, Nefesh HaTiv’it, bringing the number of souls to five, reflecting five primary partzufim and five elements of the Tetragrammaton (four letters plus the apex of the yud). The five souls are parallel to five levels of the soul.

SoulsLevels of the soulTetragrammatonPartzufim
Nefesh HaElokitYechidahApex of the YudKeter-Adam Kadmon
Nefesh HaChiyunitChayahYudAba
Nefesh HaSichlitNeshamahHehIma
Nefesh HaTiv’itRu’achWawZe’ir Anpin
Nefesh HaBahamitNefeshHehNukvah
Table 3. Five Souls vis-à-vis the Expanded Five-Element Tetragrammaton

Each ascending number reflects greater granularity and another spiritual structure. Thus, one encounters scholars of Kabbalah or Chasidic philosophy who maintain that there are two, three, four, or five souls, with five represented thus:

  1. Nefesh HaElokit (godly soul; Although, Tanya lists Nefesh HaElokit as the second souls (Nefesh HaSheini), because it enters the body much later than the first soul—Nefesh HaBahamit, here, we don’t follow the chronological order but, instead start with the highest soul—godly soul—and proceed in the descending order as souls get coarser and coarser);
  2. Nefesh HaBahamit (animal soul);
  3. Nefesh HaSichlit (intellectual soul);
  4. Nefesh HaChiyunit (living soul); and
  5. Nefesh HaTiv’it (natural soul).

According to this last opinion, each of these five souls has four levels—nefesh, ru’ach, neshamah, and chayah. Nefesh HaElokit, additionally, has yechidah—bringing the total to twenty-one levels:

Souls/LevelsNefeshRu’achNeshamahChayahYechidah
Nefesh HaElokit (NhE)Nefesh of NhERu’ach of NhENeshamah of NhEChayah of NhEYechidah of NhE
Nefesh HaChiyunit (NhC)Nefesh of NhCRu’ach of NhCNeshamah of NhCChayah of NhC 
Nefesh HaSichlit (NhS)Nefesh of NhSRu’ach of NhSNeshamah of NhSChayah of NhS 
Nefesh HaTiv’it (NhT)Nefesh of NhTRu’ach of NhTNeshamah of NhTChayah of NhT 
Nefesh HaBahamit (NhB)Nefesh of NhBRu’ach of NhBNeshamah of NhBChayah of NhB 
Table 4. Levels of the Soul

Last, there is an opinion that there is only one soul, but with Nefesh HaBahamit, Nefesh HaElokit, Nefesh HaSichlit, Nefesh HaChiyunit, and Nefesh HaTiv’it as five facets of that soul. This opinion does not contradict that of scholars who maintain that there are five souls. The latter view looks from our human vantage point, whereas the former sees from the vantage point of G‑d. In other words, those who maintain that there are five souls speak of the outer structure as it appears to us; and those who maintain that there is only one soul speak of the essential, albeit hidden, unity of all souls.

Despite some ambiguity about the total number of souls, the big picture is clear. Two souls are at odds—the godly soul, Nefesh HaElokit, and the natural self-centered soul. Whether we call that natural soul Nefesh HaBahamit, Nefesh HaChiyunit, or Nefesh HaTiv’it matters little. Whether we consider these souls separate souls or different facets of the same soul does not matter very much, either. The fact that different names are used to denote this natural soul simply results from the complexity of the natural soul and its function. Each of these names highlights a particular aspect of the natural soul. Thus Nefesh HaChiyunit (the essential — or living — soul) pertains to and highlights the basic function of the natural soul—to enliven the body. Nefesh HaTiv’it pertains to the nature of the person, his or her proclivities, talents, tastes, likes, and dislikes. Nefesh HaBahamit highlights the egocentricity of the person. Thus, one may say that from a bird’s-eye view, Nefesh HaBahamit, Nefesh HaChiyunit, and Nefesh HaTiv’it are synonymous. However, a more nuanced view picks up subtle differences that are reflected in their names. Like any synonyms, they denote the same concept but highlight different nuances. Nefesh HaSichlit serves as the bridge between the godly soul and the living (or natural) soul.

The dialectic tension between and the juxtaposition of the divine soul and the living soul mediated by the intellectual soul will play a critical role in the model of the soul that we shall develop in future installments.

Levels of the Souls

To clarify the difference among souls and levels, the following analogy may help. Consider two different chemical substances, say, water and alcohol. Each of these substances can exist in any of the following four states: solid, liquid, gas, and ionized plasma. Although water and alcohol typically exist as liquids, they may be frozen to form solid ice[92] or evaporated to form gas.[93] If heated to very high temperatures,[94] these gases can ionize[95] and form plasma. In addition to these four classical states of matter, there are exotic quantum states, such as a Bose-Einstein condensate. These five states of matter make a good metaphor for the levels of the soul. While different souls in this analogy correspond to different chemical substances, the levels of the soul correspond to different states in which these substances can exist:

State of MatterLevel of the souls
Exotic statesYechidah
PlasmaChayah
GasNeshamah
LiquidRu’ach
SolidNefesh
Table 5. The states of Matter as a Metaphor for the Levels of the Soul

This metaphor is particularly appropriate, for the following two reasons. First, as mentioned above, the five levels of the soul parallel the four worlds (Atzilut, Beriyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah). Above Atzilut, there is a higher spiritual realm, called Adam Kadmon, which cannot be classified as a “world.” (In Kabbalah, olam, “world,” means concealment—helem, which is cognate with olam. Since there is no concealment in Adam Kadmon, it cannot be properly called a “world.”) These worlds represent progressive diminution and concealment of the divine light. However, this diminution is not linear. There is a significant drop at each level. The phase transition of matter is the best metaphor for the transitions of divine energy from one world to the next. Thus, we expand our table as follows:

State of MatterLevel of the soulsWorld
Exotic statesYechidahKeter/Adam Kadmon
PlasmaChayahAtzilut
GasNeshamahBeriyah
LiquidRu’achYetzirah
SolidNefeshAsiyah
Table 6. The States of Matter as a Metaphor for the Levels of the Soul and Worlds

Second, in classical philosophy and in medieval Jewish philosophy, the levels of the soul are often compared to four yesodot (“foundations” or classical elements)—aish (“fire”), ru’ach (“air”), mayim (“water”), and afar (“dust”).[96] These four foundations (elements) correspond to the four letters of Tetragrammaton.[97] The Arizal states that “From these four elements, which are hinted to by the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, all of physical creation was brought into existence.”[98] All Natural souls are seen as originating from these four foundations and combinations thereof. These four foundations or elements correspond to four levels of Nefesh HaTiv’it. These foundations are not material elements as in Greek philosophy; they are metaphysical categories that are best conceived of as spiritual counterparts of the four states of mater. Afar (dust) parallels the solid state, mayim (water) parallels the liquid state, ru’ach (air) parallels the gas state, and aish (fire) parallels plasma (indeed, physical fire is ionized gas—plasma). Thus, our table can be expanded as follows:

State of MatterLevel of the soulsWorldFoundation/Element
Exotic statesYechidahKeter/Adam KadmonNone[99]
PlasmaChayahAtzilutAish (fire)
GasNeshamahBeriyahRu’ach (air)
LiquidRu’achYetzirahMayim (water)
SolidNefeshAsiyahAfar (dust)
Table 7. States, Levels, Worlds, Elements

This simile goes even further. In physics, the relationship between energy and temperature is linear within each state. For example, the temperature/energy of water rises linearly as the water is heated, until it reaches the boiling point of 100 °C. As the water continues to be heated, its temperature does not rise; instead, the energy is used for the phase transition—breaking molecular bonds to convert water from the liquid state to the gaseous state, that is, initiating the evaporation of the water. This process is called the first-order phase transition. Something similar happens during an individual’s spiritual growth. As a person works on himself or herself, his or her spiritual level rises linearly in proportion to the amount of effort exerted. However, as the soul approaches the first “boiling” point—the point of transition from one level of the soul to the next—continued effort seems not to elevate the person further. It appears to the person that he or she is stuck at that level. In truth, all the energy exerted on spiritual growth is not lost—it is used to elevate the person to a new level—to reveal in the person the higher level of the soul. If, say, the soul first revealed was at the level on nefesh, the next level to be revealed is ru’ach. However, this process is not linear. A significant and sustained effort needs to be made (while working on oneself without visible progress) to transition from one soul level to the next—exactly as in first-order phase transition.

Just as any chemical substance can exist in any of five states, so too can any of the souls be expressed on four—and in the case of Nefesh Elokit—five levels.

It is worth noting that while each soul can potentially be revealed on all levels, typically each soul primarily manifests itself on the one level characteristic of that soul. For example, Nefesh HaBahamit primarily manifests itself at the level of nefesh. But Nefesh Elokit primarily reveals itself at the level of neshamah. That is why, when used without specifying the level, Nefesh HaBahamit usually means the nefesh level of Nefesh HaBahamit, whereas Nefesh Elokit usually means the neshamah level of Nefesh Elokit.

On the other hand, when medieval Jewish philosophers wrote about nefesh, they meant what we today would call Nefesh HaBahamit, and when they wrote about neshamah, they meant what we today would call Nefesh HaElokit.


Endnotes:

[1] Maimonides, Shemone Prakim (Eight Chapters), ch. 1:2 (see https://www.sefaria.org/Eight_Chapters.1.1?lang=bi, retrieved November 25, 2021).

[2] Maimonides, Shemone Prakim (Eight Chapters), ch. 1:1 (see https://www.sefaria.org/Eight_Chapters.1.1?lang=bi, retrieved November 25, 2021).

[3] See Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg, Lessons in Tanya on Likutei Amarim 1 (see https://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7880/jewish/Chapter-1.htm, retrieved November 23, 2021).

[4] Kfir Shlomo cites many sources relevant to this subject in his answer on Mi Yodea, to the posted question, “Where do humans souls come from?” See https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/64411/where-do-human-souls-come-from. Many of these sources are used in the text that follows.

[5] The animal soul comes from kelipot (“husks” or “shells”). The animal soul comes from the four faces of cherubim in the vision of Ezekiel—the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10). Human souls come from the face of a man, souls of kosher animals come from the face of an ox, souls of non-kosher animals come from the lion’s face, and souls of birds come from the eagle’s face (Kitvei Arizal, Ta’amei HaMitzvot, parashat Vayikra). According to some, plants also possess the animal soul, which is called on this level the vegetational soul, nefesh tzomachat (the “soul of growth”). See Vilna Gaon’s Barak HaShachar commentary on Ecclesiastes, http://dafyomireview.com/article.php?docid=270, retrieved November 27, 2021. According to Kabbalah, when the vessels of the midot of Tohu “shattered” and “fell,” the souls of animals and the animal soul within man were brought into being from the shards of shattered vessels. According to some Kabbalah sources, the spiritual root of Nefesh HaBahamit is shemarei haofanim—“the dregs of the angels.” See Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, Sefer Hama’amorim – Kuntreisim. See also Sefer HaSichos 5701, Shabbos Parshas Vayishlach At the Datetime Seuda, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3375920/jewish/Shabbos-Parshas-Vayishlach-At-the-Daytime-Seudah.htm, retrieved December 9, 2021.

[6] The Rabbis question whether the soul descends to earth at the moment of conception or after the embryo has been formed (Talmud, tr. Sanhedrin 90a; see also tr. Niddah 31a). It seems that the animal soul is attached to the embryo upon conception, but at that point, there is no body yet to allow the soul to fully garb itself within that body. Perhaps we can say that the vesting of the animal soul in the body begins with conception and ends at birth.

[7] Ohr HaTorah, Bereshit vol. 7, p. 2326 (1163a). See also Zohar, Kedoshim 83b and Eitz Chayim, Gate 49, ch. 5.

[8] Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek (1789–1866), was the third Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch.

[9] Tzemach Tzedek, Derekh Emunah – Sefer HaChakirah, p. 68.

[10] Torah Ohr, Miketz, 38b. Cf., Tanya, ch. 13. See also Sefer HaMa’amarim 5655, p. 227, ftn; and Sefer HaMa’amarim 5700, p. 93.

[11] According to the Kabbalah, the Nefesh HaBahamit originates in the impure husks—kelipot. However, this soul can be redeemed and husks rectified when the person uses the energy of the animal soul to do good.

[12] See the previous installment—“The Anatomy of the Soul.”

[13] Tanya, Likutei Amarim, 1.

[14] See the earlier installment, “Spiritual vs. Material.”

[15] A. Poltorak, “The Soul is in the Blood,” QuantumTorah.com, 8/10/2020, (see, www.quantumtorah.com/the-soul-is-in-the-blood, retrieved 11/21/2021).

[16] See Igerot Kodesh 11:107.

[17] Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Likutei Torah, “Ha’azinu hashamayim…” p. 64a.

[18] Sometimes written as Nefesh Elokit without the definite article “ha.”

[19] Spiritual things (such as souls or angels) are created by G‑d, just as material things are. The only difference is that spiritual things are more refined and ethereal and do not occupy physical space. In the Chasidic philosophy of Chabad, it is explained that most of the Nefesh Elokitnefesh, ru’ach, neshamah, chayah, and the external part of the yechidah—are created being. Only the inner part of the yechidah, called yachid, is not a creation but a spark of the divine.

[20] Genesis 1.

[21] Tanya, Likutei Amorim, ch.2.

[22] According to Tanya, Nefesh Elokit is the soul that is given specifically to Jewish people, who are called in the Torah by G‑d, “My firstborn”: “Thus saith the Eternal: Israel is My son, My first-born” (Exodus 4:22). This soul is the direct link between G‑d and His chosen nation. This does not mean, of course, that non-Jews have nothing godly in them. Every person comes from Adam into whom G‑d breathed the godly soul. Therefore, every person has a godly spark. However, according to Tanya, this spark is more revealed and more developed in the Jewish people. In potential, it is given to every Jewish person as a birthright. However, the extent to which it is revealed depends on the person’s action. A non-Jewish person can reach the highest levels of spirituality and closeness to G‑d.

[23] Tanya, Likutei Amarim, ch. 1. English translation by is from Rabbi Yosef Weinberg, Lessons in Tanya, Kehot. (See online, https://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7880/jewish/Chapter-1.htm, retrieved November 21, 2021)

[24] “My G‑d, the soul Thou didst place in me, it is pure.” Morning prayers liturgy; see also Talmud, Shabbat 152b.

[25] Midrash Tehilim 103:4-5.

[26] Moshe Ben Nachman, known as the Ramban (1194–1270), an eminent biblical commentator, Talmudist, Kabbalist, and physician who flourished in Spain in the thirteenth century. He was also famous for being forced to debate the heretic Pablo Christiani. Although he won the debate, he was exiled from Spain.

[27] Nachmanides on Genesis 2:7. The Alter Rebbe quotes this expression verbatim in ch. 2 of Tanya in the name of the Zohar. However, it is not found in our editions of the Zohar.

[28] This expression, “part of G‑d from above” is from Job 31:2.

[29] Tanya, Likutei Amarim, ch. 2.

[30] Rabbi Shabtai Sheftl (1565–1619), a medieval Kabbalist who lived in Prague. Besides Shefa Tal, a popular and important Kabbalah book, he authored a treatise on the nature of the soul, Nishmat Shabtai HaLevi.

[31] Rabbi Shabtai Sheftl, Nefesh Tal, Hanau, 1612, Introduction.

[32] Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu, a.k.a. the Vilna Gaon (1720–1797)—a prominent Talmudist and Kabbalist.

[33] Vilna Gaon, Barak HaShachar commentary on Ecclesiastes (http://dafyomireview.com/article.php?docid=270, retrieved November 27, 2021).

[34] Rama of Fano, Maamar Chikur Din 3:1, quoted in Rabbi Avraham Finkel, Kabbalah (Southfield, MI: Targum Press, 2002), p. 156.

[35] Talmud, tr. Berachot 10a; Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:9. For other references, see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Inner Space: Introduction to Kabbalah, Meditation and Prophecy, ed. Abraham Sutton (Jerusalem: Moznaim, 1990), p. 16 and endnote 29.

[36] Tanya, Likutei Amarim ch. 2.

[37] Tanya, Likutei Amarim, ch. 2. See also, Torah Ohr, Miketz, 38b; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, Chasidic Discourses, vol. 1., “G‑d does not make tyrannical and unreasonable demands of His creatures,” ch. 2. (See in English, www.sie.org/templates/sie/article_cdo/aid/2631332/jewish/Chapter-II.htm, retrieved on November 23, 2021.)

[38] I am grateful to my friend, Rabbi Yossi Krasnjanski for elucidating this point.

[39] “The body is called a ‘small city.’ Just as two kings wage war over a town, which each wishes to capture and rule, that is to say, to dominate its inhabitants according to his will, so that they obey him in all that he decrees for them, so do the two souls—the Divine and the vitalizing animal soul that comes from the kelipah—wage war against each other over the body and all its limbs” (Tanya, Likutei Amarim, ch. 9.) Interestingly, we find a “city” analogy vis-à-vis souls in Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul. Plato also uses the analogy of the city with three classes of citizens. The highest level of the soul, logos (or logisticon)—that parallels the Intellectual soul (Nefesh Elokit)—rules the city using the power of reason. In Plato’s tripartite soul, the eros (or epithymetikon) always seeks pleasure—a parallel with the Animal soul (Nefesh HaBahamit). Needless to say, Plato has no parallel with the godly soul. However, the parallel with Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul is not entirely appropriate because, clearly, Plato talks about three levels of the soul rather than three souls. Thus, it is more alike to the three levels of the soul nefesh, ru’ach, and neshamah, as we already pointed out in the previous installment.

[40] The ultimate albeit hidden unity of the opposite states of the soul—the Divine soul and the Animal soul—is an example of unity of opposites, a major topic in dialectics. Harking back to pre-Socratic philosophers of Ancient Greece, such as Anaximander and Heraclitus—who famously wrote that “The road up and the road down are the same thing (Hippolytus, Refutations 9.10.3)—to modern Western philosophy, where dialectics was championed by Hegel. He wrote, “That true and positive meaning of the antinomies is this: that every actual thing involves a coexistence of opposed elements” (Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830) Part One, IV. Second Attitude of Thought to Objectivity, Two, The Critical Philosophy).

[41] Zohar II, 163a.

[42] Tanya, Likkutei Amarim, ch. 9.

[43] Tanya, Likutei Amarim, ch. 9.

[44] Sefer HaKitzurim LeTanya, p. 81.; the ma’amar VaYavo Amalek, 5709, Kuntres 62, ch. 2.

[45] This statement is puzzling, however. Aristotle already spoke of an intellectual soul. In Aristotle’s metaphysics, living beings are thought of as a composition of matter and form. The body is matter whereas the soul is form. The body is the first potentiality and the soul is the second potentiality and the first actuality. Thus, Aristotle wrote, “those who say that the soul is a place of forms are right, except that it is the intellectual soul, not the whole soul, which is – potentially, not actually – the forms.” De Anima, III, 429a28-29. Following Aristotle, Maimonides and many medieval Jewish philosophers wrote about the intellectual soul. Similarly, Plato spoke of logos—the rational (level of) the soul. Medieval Jewish philosophers who were Neo-Platonists (such as Salomon ibn Gabirol), also wrote of an intellectual soul. Perhaps, the Alter Rebbe distinguishes his understanding of the Intellectual soul as the arbiter deciding between the godly soul and the Animal soul, from the intellectual soul of classical philosophy.

[46] Sefer HaSichot ??

[47] This inner conflict violated Plato’s principle of non-contradiction, according to which it is impossible for a person to desire something and, at the same time, desire its opposite. Thus, Socrates states: “It is obvious that the same thing will never do or suffer opposites in the same respect in relation to the same thing and at the same time” (Republic, Book V, part 5). The essential two-soul dichotomy, wherein each soul pools in the opposite direction, is the unique feature of the Alter Rebbe’s scheme, which sets it apart from the unity of soul in classical philosophy. However, the Alter Rebbe was not the first to break with the principle of non-contradiction. According to Aristotle, Heraclitus denied the law of non-contradiction (Metaphysics, Book 4, section 1005b). As pointed out above, these two souls are essentially two facets of the same soul. However, this hidden essential unity is not felt until the godly soul converts the animal soul and compels it to join in the service of G‑d, which is the hallmark of a tzadik (a righteous and holy person).

[48] Sefer HaMa’amarim Admur HaZaken 5569, Bi’ur D”H, Mayim Rabim, 44.

[49] Rabbi Menachem M. of Lubavitch (the Tzemach Tzedek), Kitzurim Vchaoros Shel Admur HaTzemach Tzedek, L’Tanya, p. 88)         

[50] Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, Sefer HaMa’amarim RaNaT, Dibur Hamaskil “Lechol Habalah,” Kehot, p. 5659.

[51] Just as the godly soul possesses both intellect and emotions, so too, the animal soul possesses intellect and emotions. (See Sefer HaKitzurim L’Tanya, p. 81.; the maamar VaYavo Amalek, 5709 (Kuntres 62), ch. 2). As the Rebbe Rayatz, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn writes, “Each of the three Nefashot [souls] has sechel [intellect] and midot [emotions]” (KubutzChatomim,” chovros 3, p. 66).

[52] Likutei Torah, B’chukotai, 47c; ma’amarChaviv Adam”, Shavuot 5728.

[53] Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Maamar “Chavivin Yisroel,” 2nd Day Shavuot 5726, 2‐3; Likutei Torah, Bechukotai, 47c. This and several other sources have been quoted in the online issue of Inyonei Moshiach and Geulah, “All That Remains Is to ’Open Up the Eyes,’” Teves, 5774, section “The Intellectual Soul (Nefesh Hasichlis),” accessed November 24, 2021, https://moshiachindepth.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/kuntres11_openeyes_notbooklet.pdf.

[54] Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Likutei Torah, Ha’azinu, “Ha’azinu HaShamayim…”

[55] “G‑d made one opposite the other” (Kohelet 7:14, as explained in Tanya, ch. 6).     

[56] The three souls—the godly soul, animal soul, and intellectual soul—are an example of soul trichotomy. It is somewhat akin the trichotomy of Nous (“mind”), Psychë (“soul”), and Söma (“body”) in Platonic philosophy (Plato, Timaeus, 30). Nefesh HaBahamit parallels Plato’s Söma-body, Nefesh HaElokit parallels Plato’s Psychë-soul, and Nefesh HaSichlit parallels Plato’s Nous-mind. It can also be compared with the Aristotelian soul-trichotomy: Threptike (nutritive, vegetative), Aisthetike (sensitive, animal), and Noetike (rational, human), although this analogy stops at the tripartite division (Aristotle, On the Soul). While Noetike can be compared with the intellectual soul, both Aisthetike and Threptike can be compared with the animal soul. No analogy exists for the divine soul in Aristotelian trichotomy. Plotinus’ trichotomy of the hypostases—the One, the Intellect, and the Soul—is also worth noting (Lloyd Gerson, “Plotinus” [2018]). In modern philosophy Alter Rebbe’s trichotomy may be compared to Hegel’s Subjective Spirit, Objective Spirit, and Absolute Spirit (Redding, Paul (1997, 2006), “Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) or Freud’s id, ego, and super-ego, where the id parallels the animal soul, the ego parallels the intellectual soul, and the super-ego parallels the divine soul, although these parallels are tenuous at best.

[57] Tzemach Tzedek, Ohr Hatorah, Devarim Hanachot, Hoisafot, p. 110.

[58] Mitteler Rebbe, Vayikra II, Bechukotai, p.339.

[59] Note that the identification of the intellectual soul with the human intellect harkens back to the notion of nous (Ancient Greek for intellect) in classical philosophy, which was identified with logos in Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul or with basic understanding and awareness in the philosophy of Aristotle.

[60] Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Torah Ohr, Vayechi, 38b.

[61] Idem., 38c.

[62] Alter Rebbe, Sefer HaMa’amarim 5566 I, “Lehavin Shoresh Hadvarim,”p. 417.

[63] The Rebbe Rayatz wrote: “Each of the three Nefoshos [souls] has sechel [intellect] and midot [emotions]” (KubutzChachomim,” chovros 3, p. 66).

[64] Maimonides, Shemone Prakim (Eight Chapters), ch. 1:1 (see https://www.sefaria.org/Eight_Chapters.1.1?lang=bi, retrieved November 25, 2021).

[65] Maharsha—the acronym of Rabbi Shmuel Edels, a prominent Talmudic commentator (d. 1631).

[66] Maharsha’s commentary on the Talmud, Pesachim 68b.

[67] Malbim is the biblical commentator Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (1809 – 1879).

[68] “The Jewish soul: In the human soul according to its powers there are three parts. (1) Nefesh HaTivis—the natural soul that grows in the lower part of the body, and its powers will be seen in the abdominal vessels to grow the human body from its food… (2) Nefesh HaChiyunit—the vital soul that dwells in the body in the human heart, from which results life… (3) The educated soul resides in the human body in the head and the skull, operating in the vessels of the brain with the powers of wisdom and understanding” (Malbim, Sefer HaCarmel, quoted in the post on https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/64411/where-do-human-souls-come-from retrieved November 26, 2021.)

[69] “The ma’amarim [Chasidic discourses by the Rebbes of Chabad] go either way—two or three Nefashot [souls].”—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Maamar Dibur Hamaschil “Ashrei Habechor,” p. 716.

[70] Likutei Amarim is the first part of Tanya, the principal work of Chabad philosophy.

[71] Rabbi Dovber Schneersohn, Sefer HaMa’amarim RaNaT, Dibur Hamaskil “Lechol Habalah,” Kehot, p. 5659.

[72] Not to confuse Nefesh HaChiyunit with chayah (the fourth level of the soul), which is translated as the “living soul,” we translate Nefesh HaChiyunit as the essential soul. Note that Nefesh HaChiyunit, like all souls, has at least four levels, including chayah.

[73] In Chasidic philosophy, when two words are synonymous, they are not necessarily identical; rather, they merely denote the same general concept. However, when two different (albeit synonymous) words are used, they always highlight different aspects of that concept.

[74] Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch (1880–1950), a.k.a. the Frierdiker Rebbe or the Rebbe Rayatz—the sixth Rebbe of Chabad. He was the son of the Rebbe Rashab and the father-in-law of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

[75] Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, Sefer HaSichot 5703, “Klalei HaChinuch VehaHadrachah –Principles of Education and Mentorship” Kehot (See in English www.sie.org/templates/sie/article_cdo/aid/4440521/jewish/Appendix-B.htm#footnoteRef29a4440521, retrieved November 23, 2021.)

[76] Nefesh HaChiyunit is a general soul in another sense. In Kabbalah and Chasidut, tzadik is seen as neshamah klali (a “general soul”) from which the souls of all those attached to this tzadik branch out. This is particularly true about the relationship between the Rebbe and chasidim whose souls are seen as branches of the general soul of the Rebbe. Nefesh HaChiyunit appears in some sources as the neshamah klali—the general soul of a tzadik.

[77] Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Igeret Kodesh, 11, Igeret 107 (Note, that Bahemit as another way to refer to Nefesh HaBahamit.) See also Sefer Kitzurim, p. 81, and Likkutei Pirushim, Shinuyei Nuscha’ot, ch. 1-28, p. 37.

[78] Rabbi Shemuel Dovber of Lubavitch, Yom Tov Shel Rosh HaShanah (“Samach Vav”), Acharei Havayah, Part 8. See also Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, Sefer HaSichot 5705, Purim (see in English www.sie.org/templates/sie/article_cdo/aid/3195321/jewish/Purim.htm#footnoteRef8a3195321, retrieved November 23, 2021).

[79] Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, Chasidic Discourses, vol. 1., “G‑d does not make tyrannical and unreasonable demands of His creatures,” ch. 2. (See in English, www.sie.org/templates/sie/article_cdo/aid/2631332/jewish/Chapter-II.htm, retrieved on November 23, 2021.) See also HaYom Yom, Monday, Chof Teves, 5781 (in English, https://s3.wasabisys.com/chitas/MondayShemos-summaries.pdf, retrieved November 23, 2021).

[80] Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Biurim on Mesechta Sota (see online https://collive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Daf-2-34-1.pdf, retrieved November 23, 2021).

[81] The role of the husk or the shell is to conceal the fruit—its essence. This is emblematic of evil, which conceals the godly essence of the creation.

[82] An interesting story is told by the Rebbe Rayatz: “[A] prominent misnaged once said to my great-grandfather: ‘In every context and on every subject, your learned grandfather [i.e., the Alter Rebbe] cites the language of Rambam, and with regard to most of the Talmudic debates and halachic decisions he follows his approach. Why, then, when Rambam (Maimonides) 12 names the three souls of man tiv’is (‘the natural soul’), chiyunis (‘the vital soul’) and sichlis (‘the intellective soul’), does your grandfather name them chiyunis (‘the vital soul’), sichlis (‘the intellective soul’) and Elokis (‘the Divine soul’)? What did he do with the tiv’is (‘the natural soul’)?” The Tzemach Tzedek replied: “Out of the [person animated by a] nefesh hativ’is (‘natural soul’) my grandfather made a chassid. That ‘natural’ person who was transformed into a chassid has three souls: the chiyunis (‘the vital soul’), which regulates how a chassid ought to live, and the sichlis (‘the intellective soul’), which [provides] the mind that a chassid ought to have. And when a person lives as a chasid ought to live, and has the mind that a chasid ought to have, he can then have some appreciation of his nefesh Elokis (his ‘Divine soul’). At that point it is his nefesh Elokis, his Divine soul, that animates him” (Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, Sefer HaSichot 5700, Shabbat Parshat Bamidbar, at the Daytime Seudah; see https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3150642/jewish/Shabbos-Parshas-Bamidbar-at-the-Daytime-Seudah-New-York.htm#footnoteRef12a3150642, retrieved November 26, 2021).

[83] There is also an opinion that Nefesh HaTiv’it is the midot of Nefesh HaChiyunit, whereas Nefesh HaSichlit is the sechel (mind) of Nefesh HaChiyunit. See Rabbi Hillel of Paritch, Kuntres HaHitpaalut, ch. 3, p. 103, in the footnote.

[84] The ceremony of Havdalah is meant to console the person for the loss of the extra soul at the conclusion of Shabbat (Tur, Ohr HaChayim, 297:1).

[85] “Resh Lakish said, ‘On the eve of the Sabbath, G‑d gives man an additional soul, and at the close of the Sabbath He withdraws it from him, for it says, “He ceased from work and rested,” i.e., vaynafash (Exodus 31:17): “once it (the Sabbath) ceased, the additional soul is lost.’” (Vaynafash is a play on words since it could also be read as vai lenefesh—woe to the soul). Talmud, tr. Beitzah 16a.

[86] In Kabbalah, ibbur is differentiated from gilgul (reincarnation) in that it inters the living person’s body not at birth (or in utero during gestation) but during adulthood with the person’s permission.

[87] “Dybbuk” is an abbreviation of dybbuk me-ru’ach ra’ah (a cleavage of an evil spirit.”) This term, which does not appear in the Talmudic or Kabbalistic literature, is of later origin in Jewish folklore. Talmud and Kabbalah sources calls this phenomenon an “evil spirit.” Great Kabbalist, Rabbi Moses Cordovero, called dybbuk an “evil pregnancy.” Sha’ar ha-Gilgulim (1875), 8–17; Manasseh Ben Israel, Nishmat Chayim (book 3, ch. 10, 14). For other sources, see G. Scholem, Dybbuk, Encyclopedia Judaica, 2008. (see https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/dybbuk-dybbuk, retrieved December 9, 2021).

[88] See Sha’ar HaGilgulim; Manasseh Ben Israel, Sefer Nishmat Chayim (Amsterdam, 1652).

[89] See Avner Falk, A Psychoanalytic History of the Jews. (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1996), p. 538; Matt Goldish, Spirit Possession in Judaism: Cases and Contexts from the Middle Ages to the Present, (Wayne State University Press, 2003), p.41; and Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism (Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 229–230.

[90] I am grateful to my teacher and friend, Rabbi Hirsh Rabisky, for elucidating this point.

[91] As explained in Tanya, Likutei Amarim, ch. 6.

[92] Water freezes at 32 °F or 0 °C, whereas pure ethanol alcohol freezes at -173°F or -114 °C.

[93] Water evaporates at 212 °F or 100 °C, whereas pure ethanol alcohol evaporates at 174 °F or 78.2 °C.

[94] In a closed system, the temperature at which a vapor becomes ionized depends on the pressure. To cause electrons to escape their atomic orbits in molecules of water, for example, they have to have the energy of at least 12 electron volts. To excite the electrons to this level of energy, one would need to heat the water to a blistering 12,000 °Kelvin (21,140 °F), which is very difficult but not impossible.

[95] Normal gas consists of molecules made of neutral atoms, where the number of electrons in an atom is equal to the number of protons in the nucleus (an electron has a negative electric charge -1, and a proton has a positive electric charge +1; thus, an equal number of electrons and protons neutralize each other giving the atom a total charge of zero). In an ionized gas, atoms have either extra electrons, giving the atom a negative charge, or fewer electrons than protons, giving the atom a positive charge. Atoms that have an electric charge (where the number of electrons does not equal the number of protons) are called ions. Ionized gas is made of charged ions, instead of neutral atoms. For example, plasma made from water has free electrons, positively charged water ions H2O+, and other positive ions such as O+, H+, and OH+.

[96] Midrash Rabba, Numbers, 14:12.

[97] Zohar Vayera 23.

[98] Sha’ar HaGilgulim (Gate of  Reincarnations) 18:4. (See  “The Four Elementals,” Chabad.org, https://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/1372760/jewish/The-Four-Elementals-184.htm, retrieved December 5, 2021.)

[99] Yechidah does not have a parallel in four foundations (elements). It is not surprising because the four foundations are seen as the spiritual sources of the Natural Soul, whereas yechidah is only found in the divine soul.

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