Thursday, November 10, 2005

אלוהיי נשמה

Go read about an interesting new theory of the soul, and how our ancestors understood it at the time of the Tanakh, at Azure! It's a 'multiple soul' theory, and while I'm generally more partial to the 'single soul' theory of R' Moshe ben Maimon, this one sounds good to me too. Probably because it doesn't distinguish between the souls or soul-levels of Jews and Non-Jews, as some later cosmologies do. And it fits in well with the earthy/hippy "Indigenous" trend in contemporary Judaism that I'm a fan of.

Soul of Fire: A Theory of Biblical Man
(you may have to free-register)


In short, the author, Ethan Dor-Shav (nice Zionistic name!), distinguishes between the different words used for 'soul' in Biblical Hebrew, associating them each with a primal element as well as a realm of the universe:
 (Body)NefeshRuahhNeshama
Element:EarthWaterWindFire/Light
Realm:[Verdant] EarthShe’ol/TehomAirHeaven
Found In:Plants and AnimalsAnimalsBreathing Animals
(not fish or insects)
Human Beings
Function:Life/Growth
Procreation
Animation
Movement
Social RelationsSpeaking
Form of
Immortality
:
ChildrenWatery
Underworld
Passed on
to Others
Reunites
with God


PS: If there's a mistake in my chart, tell me in the comments!
PPS: Biur Chametz blogged about this first, and I was alerted to the original article by my brother

12 Comments:

Blogger HaJew said...

I think the Maharal and others talk about how these words refer to different levels of the soul of man.

11/10/2005 7:52 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

According to this quick overview, Cabbalists (which, though?) see the soul as consisting of 5 parts: nefesh, ruahh, neshama, hhaya, and yehhida (5 words identified by the Oral Tradition as being terms for Soul).

Yehhida = highest soul
Hhaya = next-highest
Neshama = pulls towards God
Ruahh = generates feelings and personal qualities
Nefesh = life-force, lowest soul, common to all living creatures

I've seen references in other Kabbalistic descriptions of the soul to a "Godly Soul" and a "Animal Soul", not sure how those fit in.

Interestingly enough, Rav Sa‘adya Ga’on seemed to agree, at least somewhat, with Dor-Shav's understanding:
Rav Sa'adya Gaon (10th century) takes this statement literally, meaning the soul is one entity with five different names that describe five different attributes. It is called Nefesh since it drives the physical desires and needs responsible for growth, as in the verse "when your nefesh desires to eat meat". It is named Ruach since it generates emotions, as in the verse "be not hasty in your ruach to be angry". It is called Neshama in that it imparts intellect and thought, as in "the neshama...gives men understanding". The soul is also named chaya since it derives its vitality from G-d, and yechida refers to its uniqueness.

11/10/2005 8:51 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Oh crap, now I'm going to have to read Schneer Zalman this evening!

Urrgh!

Does anyone know, did he get those ideas purely from Dov Bear (the Maggid of Mezeritch, NOT the bavuste Judeoblogger), or did he attribute them elsewhere?

11/10/2005 9:04 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/10/2005 9:20 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Second thought: The idea that the "Jewish soul" differs from others may have some basis in the idea that all Jews who ever were and ever shall be were present at Sinai.

Point 1. And so were others (a mixed multitude came out of Egypt).

Point 2. Zoiche to receive Toireh, but too sinful to enter the land. This is a problematic concept.

Point 3. All may have been present, but some may have been behind a rock catching a smoke (just look at some of the people you know - where they likely to have really been paying attention?).

Point 4. Not that I want to open the gates to all those people who 'discover' that they have a Jewish soul (as ten years ago they 'discovered' that in a previous life they were ancient royalty or priests, but one implication of 'all at Sinai' is that not all are always Jews - or that the Jewishness is not necessarily in the flesh.

Point 5. How very Greek. And how very mystical.

11/10/2005 9:22 PM  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

The Ramchal speaks of the five different levels of the soul - nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya and yechida - in Derech HaShem. I don't recall all of what he said, just that the nefesh level was the animal soul, and that the highest two levels (chaya and yechida) are not really accessable or detectable by man. He definitely made a distinction between a yid and non-yid in terms of souls. Also mentiones the sixth soul - the neshama yeteira we receive on shabbat.

You might find the following helpful - or more confusing...:

http://www.machondaniel.org/displayissue.asp?ArticleID=594

11/11/2005 2:07 AM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

Link to solution.

11/12/2005 6:44 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Thanks for the entertaining picture, Mis-nagid, but we're not dicussing "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" — and that angel isn't even dancing, it's getting ready to take a dive. Or jump and eat someone unfortunate. One of the two. Don't mess with those angels, man, they bite hard.

11/12/2005 8:24 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

what a fascinating concept. Could you please refer me to the distinguishing soul levels between Jews and non-Jews. I am unaware of such a distinction.

Thank you.

11/14/2005 10:07 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Barbara:

i'd rather not :-P , but if you click on the word some in "some later cosmologies" in the post, it'll take you to a webbified version of Liqutey Amarim, a.k.a. the Tanya, the central text of Chabad Hassidism, which is a major contemporary proponent of the idea that there are qualitative metaphysical differences between the souls of Jews and that of Non-Jews. Its author, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, claims that Jewish souls come from a kabbalistic 'shard' that is partially good and partially evil, while the souls of the other nations of the world come from other, purely evil 'shards'.

11/15/2005 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Tzurah said...

Any thoughts on his interesting taich of Ber. 2:7?

וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים

becomes
“and he kindled (yipah) in his inner-fire(apav)a neshama of life.”

It's a really evocative way of reading it, but are there any mepharshim who translate it this way? I don't think anyone in the Mikraot Gedolot does.

I find his articles (like the ones on Job and Kohelet) extremely compelling, but I also find his paucity of references to traditional sources frustrating. :(

9/06/2009 5:03 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i also find some of his readings a bit stretchy, but i like the ideas.

9/13/2009 8:39 PM  

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