8. The Soul

8.1. The Soul II

The Lower Soul

We tend to think of the soul as a purely spiritual entity, which it is. However, what about animals? Do they have souls?  The answer is “yes.”  However, their souls are not spiritual. Instead, they are the most ethereal of physical entities.

What is more, all living beings possess this nefes ha-behamis – this “animal soul.” This includes man as well. This animal soul is the most basic force needed to maintain life. It is the animating force that governs the “natural laws” of physiology and most basic needs for survival.

This soul is what the Torah refers to when it states:

The soul of the flesh that is in the blood.

This animal soul is essential for guaranteeing the survival of the organism.  Without it, the spiritual soul would never eat, engage in reproduction, or do anything other than pray and pursue connection to God.  This physical soul is what is also known as the yetzer hora, the evil desire.

The Immortality of the Soul

All souls that will ever exist were created at the beginning of time. Since then they have been kept in a celestial repository until God deems them to be born.  Upon death, the soul ascends to a new place, the olam ha-neshamos, where it resides until the coming of the messiah. However, it doesn’t always work out this way.

Gilgul HaNeshomos – Reincarnation

Reincarnation, though subject to some debate in the past, is an accepted part of Torah belief. However, reincarnation is a loaded term with lots of non-Torah connotations. We must, therefore, be cautious not to assume anything about the Torah’s doctrine lest we color our understanding with the convoluted perversions of pop-culture.

In the Torah’s view, reincarnation is neither an automatic nor a common event. It is also neither a punishment nor a reward. Instead, reincarnation is an act of divine compassion. God gives many neshamos, souls, a “second chance” to fulfill mitzvos that they may have missed in a previous life. This is sometimes needed to allow particular souls to accomplish unique tikkunim, repairs to the world, for which those souls are uniquely suited.

However, neshamos, souls, are not always reincarnated in whole or in the same form held in their previous life. Sometimes only some of the components of the soul (Nefesh, Ruach, or Neshamah) are reincarnated, carved away from their fellows. The reincarnated souls, or parts of souls, may also not come back in human form.

Reincarnation is not common, and full reincarnation in human form is exceptionally rare. However, it does happen. Noahides are subject to the doctrine of Gilgul ha- neshamos, reincarnation as are Jews.

Summary of This Lesson

  • Man was created with a physical being and a spiritual soul. The imbuing of the spiritual soul was a more intimate act of creation than the creation of the physical body. The body was created by speech, the soul by breath.
  • The soul is a single entity which emanates into the world, radiating as three distinct expressions. These expressions are a chain which binds the soul in this world to its origin.
  • Each expression influences particular human qualities.
  • There are higher expressions of the soul, but these are rooted in the being of God Himself and essentially unknowable to us.
  • Man, as all living creatures also has a natural, animal soul, which animates the basic, rote physiological processes and desires needed for survival. This soul is the root of the yetzer hora, the evil desire.
  • The soul is immortal. All souls were created at the beginning of creation and set aside by God until their time to be born. When a person dies, their soul is transferred to another repository to await the World to Come.
  • Some souls or portions of souls are reincarnated as an act of divine compassion. They are not always reincarnated in human form, however.

For a deeper and more comprehensive study we encourage you to take the 'Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Course' taught by the Talmudic University of Florida or the 'Home/Study course', 'Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Course'.