Have you ever wondered about the idea of a soul? It is a word that implies something metaphysical, something spiritual, and yet ‘soul’ is a word that is used so frequently that the very concept of a soul is often taken for granted, and rarely dwelled upon. According to Jewish tradition, the human soul is an incredibly complex aspect of the human being. In its most simple explanation, Judaism ascribes five aspects to a human soul.

At the dawn of time, God created the first human by forming the being out of earth. God then breathed into the creature’s nostrils “the breath of life, and the human became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The living soul, known in Hebrew as a nefesh, is the level of the soul that modern society might call “the spark of life.”

The breath of God that was blown into the nostril of Adam gave humanity ruach. The ruach aspect of the soul is commonly associated with emotions. This may be why the Midrash describes Jacob as having lost his ruach haKodesh (Divine insight) during the many years that he mourned for his son, Joseph.

The third, and most commonly referred to level of soul, is the neshama. A person’s neshama defines and distinguishes him/her from all creature. One might simplify the concept by saying that the neshama is a person’s spiritual being.

Chaya, is the soul living God’s will. The chaya is the part of a person that strives to submerge itself in the Divine.

The fifth aspect of the soul is referred to as yechida, and it is the part of the soul that is  completely and utterly committed to God’s will. It is almost impossible to attain consciousness of this part of one’s soul.

This Treat presents a very simplified overview of a fascinating and complex topic.

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