The Five Parts of the Soul

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The Five Parts of the Soul

What is a Soul?


The soul is the self, the "I" that inhabits the body and acts through it. Without the soul, the body is like a light bulb without electricity, a computer without the software, a space suit with no astronaut inside. With the introduction of the soul, the body acquires life, sight and hearing, thought and speech, intelligence and emotions, will and desire, personality and identity.

Everything Has a Soul

In truth, not just the human being, but also every created entity possesses a "soul." Animals have souls, as do plants and even inanimate objects; every blade of grass has a soul, and every grain of sand. Not only life, but also existence requires a soul to sustain it--a "spark of G-dliness" that perpetually imbues its object with being and significance. A soul is not just the engine of life; it also embodies the why of a thing's existence, it's meaning and purpose. It is a thing's "inner identity, it's raison d'ętre. Just like the 'soul' of a musical composition is the composer's vision that energizes and gives life to the notes played in a musical composition--the actual notes are like the body expressing the vision and feeling of the soul within them. Each soul is the expression of G-d's intent and vision in creating that particular being."1

Five Levels

But it is the human soul that is both the most complex and the most lofty of souls. Our sages have said: "She is called by five names: Nefesh (soul), Ruach (spirit), Neshamah (breath), Chayah (life) and Yechidah (singularity)."2 The Chassidic masters explain that the soul's five "names" actually describe five levels or dimensions of the soul. Nefesh is the soul as the engine of physical life. Ruach is the emotional self and "personality." Neshamah is the intellectual self. Chayah is the supra-rational self--the seat of will, desire, commitment and faith. Yechidah connotes the essence of the soul--its unity with its source, the singular essence of G-d. For the essence of the soul of man is "literally a part of G-d above"3--a piece of G-d in us, so to speak.

Two Souls

The Chassidic masters speak of two distinct souls that vitalize the human being: an "Animal Soul" and a "G-dly Soul." The Animal Soul is driven by the quest for self-preservation and self-enhancement; in this, it resembles the soul and self of all other creations. But we also possess a G-dly Soul"--a soul driven by the desire to reconnect with its Source. Our lives are the story of the contest and interplay between these two souls, as we struggle to balance and reconcile our physical needs and desires with our spiritual aspirations, our self-focused drives with our altruistic yearnings. These two souls, however, do not reside "side-by-side" within the body; rather, the G-dly Soul is enclothed within the Animal Soul--just as the Animal Soul is enclothed within the body. This means that the Animal Soul, too, is vitalized by the "part of G-d above" at its core. Ostensibly, the two souls are in conflict with each other, but in essence they are compatible.4


The Divine essence of the human soul is what sets the human being above and apart from all other creations, even the angels. The angel may be more spiritual, but the human being is more G-dly. No creation can possess true freedom of choice--a creation, by definition, has and consists of only what its creator has imparted to it; this is its "nature," and its every inclination and action will be dictated by that nature. It is only in the human soul that the Creator imparted of His own essence. The human soul is thus the only truly "supra-natural" being (aside from the Creator)--a being that is not limited by its own nature. A being that can transcend itself; a being that can choose to not merely react to its environment, but to act upon it; a being whose choices and actions are therefore of true significance.

Why a Physical Life?

A soul is formed in the womb of supernal spiritual realms, where it acquires its distinct identity and mission. To fulfill this mission, it is dispatched to the physical realm, enclothed within an Animal Soul and equipped with a body. Here the G-dly Soul is challenged by the (apparently) conflicting needs and desires of the Animal Soul; here divine reality is obscured by the dense selfhood of the body and physical world. In this arena of hidden truth and perpetual challenge, the soul can fully express and actualize its divine power.5

Guidance & Nurture

The soul is provided with a compass and guidebook to navigate the challenge of physical life, and the resources to fortify it. The Torah is the divine "blueprint for creation" that guides and instructs the soul on its mission in life. The Torah is also "food for the soul": by studying Torah the soul ingests and digests the divine wisdom and is supplied with the divine energy to persevere in its mission and overcome its challenges

The human soul was created in a unique manner.   All other creations were formed through command, God declared and the item appeared.  For example, of the sky Scripture states, “Bidvar Hashem shamayim naasu” “With the word(s) of God Heavens were created”.[1] The soul was not commanded to emerge rather God blew man’s soul into him.[2] 

God does not recite words.  What is meant by the image of God declaring the existence of a physical dimension?   Breath is the life of a person.  Human speech limits breath, modulating it with the mouth and limiting it to particular sounds.  Speech is a process in which the essence of man is clothed and limited.  God’s creation resembles human speech, the created world is a cover for God, His Essence was limited many myriad of times until He was clothed within the world.  The image for the creation of the soul is one of direct breath, for the soul contrasted to the created world is like blowing versus speaking.  The human soul, when compared to the rest of the created world, is “pure”, essential, and unclothed Divinity.[3]  An even deeper truth reveals that the image of a soul emerging out of blowing is a lesson about the parts of the soul, they resemble the different stages of breath a glassblower employs when blowing glass.[4]  With glass once the vessel is shaped the other steps in the process are lost but in the Heavenly realm every stage of the formation leaves eternal results.[5]

          Firstly, the glassblower wishes to create a vessel.  Then he decides what the vessel will look like and prepares for the process by filling his lungs with sufficient air.  The glassblower then pushes the air through his lungs to his mouth and releases the breath out of his lips.  The breath turns into a mini wind.  It enters the heated glass and changes its form.  As the wind settles the glass’s shape is solidified.

God is the glassblower, my soul is His breath and my body and personality comprise the glass vessel.

 There are five parts to the soul and they resemble the five stages of glass production.

 The first part or the lowest level is Nefesh corresponding to the craftsman’s breath that settled within and fully shaped the vessel. Nefesh is a derivative of the term nafash meaning to rest.[6] Nefesh is the “resting soul.” This is God’s “breath” once it has reached its destination within man.  Nefesh can be felt when a person is fully a vessel.  It can be felt through the quietistic experience. Silence the external static that we are constantly processing; relax, and humble yourself.   Open your heart as an empty vessel to be animated with God’s light and you might feel a bit of Nefesh  Nefesh is the part of the soul that is most directly connected with the body and physical existence.[7]  One merits receiving the holy form of Nefesh soon after birth.  A Jewish boy will receive his Nefesh with his circumcision and a girl when her father names her in the synagogue.  The next stage of the soul, Ruach, is received with adulthood.  When a boy or girl, who are righteous, celebrate their bar or bat Mitzvah they receive their Ruach.

          The Hebrew word ruach conjures a picture of a forceful wind.  In the glass making analogy, before the breath settled in the vessel, it was a powerful force that gave form to molten glass.   Forceful and emotionally stirring spirituality is God’s “wind”, the Ruach part of the soul.

 Imagine a room filled with dancing Chassidim. They are singing and when they reach the climax of the song, all are screaming, “Ki ata hu melech malchey hamlakhim malkhuskha netzach”  “That you God are the King above all kings; Your rule is eternal.”   Their eyes are closed and their bodies bob up and down throbbing with devotion.  They pull you into their circle and you join their dance. You lose yourself in a passionate swirl. You feel that God is everything and your deepest desire is to be loyal and close to Him.  Those feelings are an expression of Ruach.     

A level higher than the wind is the breath at the lips of the glassblower.  God’s breath at His Lips is the Neshama.  This level of soul is felt in the experience of pure thought.  Most of our thoughts are tainted, they are the result of physical biases and emotional inclinations; pure, abstract, moral thought is an experience of Godly intimacy.  The pleasure of comprehending and fully grasping the pure truth of Torah is a bit of Neshama.   Neshama is the highest part of the soul most of us will ever fully internalize, as a result the soul as a whole is called Neshama .   It enters a righteous, scholarly, married person at age twenty.  If one is not righteous enough to internalize the holiness of the Neshama, it will hover above man, serving as a Makif- an encompassing light, not a pnimi – an inner light.

          Above Neshama are two levels of soul that are rarely fully internalized by humans, Chaya and Yechida.  Chaya is the breath of the glassblower before it reaches the mouth, it is the stage when he has first determined the mental picture of the vessel he will create and has filled his lungs with sufficient breath for the creation of the vessel.  Yechida is the first possible stage of glass making, the will and desire to produce a vessel, it is the level of soul that parallels God’s decision to create a being.   Yechida is God’s will before He has even conceived of the form of man, it represents God’s desire.     

          The Body and the Parts of the Soul

           The different parts of the soul are concentrated in distinct body organs.  Nefesh is in the blood.   The Torah characterizes blood as Nefesh when it prohibits the ingestion of blood, “Ki hadam hu hanefesh”, “for the blood is the Nefesh.[8]  The blood of a person is his source of organic life.  If blood stops flowing to a limb in the body, the limb will atrophy and waste away.   The body part that has the most blood is the liver and Nefesh is primarily concentrated in the liver[9] and the left ventricle of the heart.  The limbs of the body are the tools for all human action, thus bodily action, Maaseh, of Mitzvos, such as stretching your hand to give charity, or walking to hear a Torah lecture, is an expression of Nefesh.

          According to the Midrash,[10] Ruach is the part of the soul that “rises and descends.”  This soul part rises to the mind and then descends to the body, connecting our thought with our deeds.  What is the intermediary between the mind and the limbs?  Feelings.   All emotions stem from Ruach.   It is also related to dibbur, speech,[11] a wind that connects the mind’s thoughts to the physical mouth.[12] Speech also connects people to each other.[13] Speech primarily strengthens the emotions that you are feeling.  Why do words have such an impact on the heart?  Because emotions and speech are expressions of Ruach while an act is a manifestation of Nefesh.[14] Our emotions usually dictate how we act, thus, Ruach is usually the deciding part of the human personality.  It is concentrated in the heart - the source of all emotions.[15]  Feelings of purity, such as fear of violating Divine mandates, or love for fellow Jews, are expressions of Ruach.

          Neshama is located primarily in the mind.[16] The Neshama is the most Godly of the soul parts.   It is pure intellect. One feels God’s “breath”, with Machshava, pure thoughts, such as when you fully understand an abstract, correct, and moral principle.

          Chaya and Yechida are called Makifin, enveloping lights.  These are levels of holiness that are hardly attainable for most mortals.  That is why they surround man and do not enter man.  They form a protecting shield and occasionally send to the individual flashes of inspiration.  Since these levels of soul are outside man’s essential personality they are not internalized within a physical body part.[17]       

          The most perfect hierarchy within man is one in which the Neshama rules the Ruach and Nefesh.  Obey the clear voice of pure thought, then allow clear logic to inspire emotions and finally let pure emotions control the body and guide its lusts.  In symbolic terms the ideal arrangement is mind then heart and then liver.  God teaches this lesson by the very makeup of a human being.  God placed mind (which holds the Neshama) in the skull, the highest point of the body, the heart (the place of Ruach) and liver (the seat of the Nefesh) are beneath the head, thus indicating that the head should rule the others. 

The Hebrew terms for mind, heart, and liver are moach (mind), lev (heart) and kaved (liver).  An acronym of the terms is Melech – literally king.[18] When man lives a life of mind first and then heart and liver, he is king over his lower self.[19] Frequently, we reverse the order.  Our lusts lead.  For example, we desire someone else’s money, or we are lazy and seek to avoid performing a moral duty, we then arouse our heart to love that path and we employ our mind to rationalize and justify misbehavior, saying, “He did not need that money anyway, I will use it for better purposes than he,” or “The duty will be performed by someone else, I can safely ignore it.”  In these instances our livers were really first, followed by the heart and then the mind.  The first letters of Kaved, Lev, Moach,(the reversed order) spell Kalem, which means embarrassment, shame, and death.  A life in which lusts rule inevitably ends with the unholy trinity of embarrassment, shame, and death.[20]

Man does not deserve a life of embarrassment.  Man deserves great honor.  Man carries the image of God and as a result deserves regard.  Lesson nine demonstrates how the five parts of the soul are the image of God that man contains. ( From Talmud )

This is not from Agnes Sanford teaching just something I think it is very interesting  from Jewish Books Like Talmud  .

Johann Helgason