How Man’s faculties correspond to regions of the Soul

Posted: January 19, 2014 in Hebrew, Kabalah/Mysticism, Mussar (Ethics), Spirituality
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Kabbalistic literature sometimes reckons the soul as having three components, each “higher” than the last — nephesh (can be translated roughly as “spirit,” “soul,” or “life”), ruach (can be translated as “wind” or “spirit,” but in the context of the soul undoubtedly is more closely related to the latter), and neshamah (invariably translated as “soul”).

(Seeming similarity or redundancy in translation is due only to the deficiency of the English language to express delicate matters of the soul. Hebrew is much more naturally suited for this, therefore, in the Hebrew, each of these terms carries a nuance not expressed in the other.)

According to Kabbalistic sources, man’s faculties impact his soul, and by extension, the Universe into which the soul is tied, in the following way:

Man’s actions are tied to the area of the lowest region of the soul, called nephesh.

Man’s speech is tied to a higher region of the soul, called ruach.

Man’s thoughts are tied to the still higher region of the soul called neshamah.

These 3 faculties likewise impact the fabric of Creation in ascending order of severity, for better or for worse, depending on the positive or negative nature of the deed, word or thought.

For elaboration on this topic, see Nephesh ha-Chayim by Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin, 1st Gate, Chapter 14.

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