The Four Elements of Your Soul

ToledothYaakovYosephIntroduction

It is known that the soul of man is hewn from the four spiritual elements from which all the upper realms were formed, and they are the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (the four letter Name of G-d)… So too, the body of man is formed from the four elements of the lower realm, that are comprised of both good and evil, owing to the sin of Primordial Man (Adam), and they are fire, wind, water and earth. All of (man’s) attributes, both good and evil, are rooted in the four elements of the body, as [Rabbi Chayim Vital] wrote in the 2nd Gate (ש”ב) of the Gate of Holiness (שער הקדושה): ‘Therefore, all the wicked attributes are divided into four types, according to the following particulars. From the element of fire comes forth arrogance, since this elements is higher and lighter than the rest, and included in it are anger, and the desire for office in order to lord over and hold oneself higher than others, as well as hatred of others. From the element of wind comes forth that speech which is called vain chatter, and it includes flattery and lies and slanderous speech (לשון הרע) and boastful speech. From the element of water comes the desire for enjoyment, for the water causes all sorts of enjoyable things to sprout, and included in it are greed and jealously. From the element of earth comes the attribute of sadness in all its particulars, and included in it are slothfulness in the fulfillment of the Torah and the commandments because of one’s sadness over one’s [lack of] attainment of material acquisition… All these [wicked attributes] are on the side of the evil inclination, the evil component of the four elements. The good component is their opposite. The first is humility, which is the distancing from all anger and arrogance. The second is to be silent as a mute, not opening one’s mouth except out of necessity or [words of] Torah or [fulfillment of] commandments. The third is one who detests worldly pleasures other than those that are necessary for upholding one’s bodily existence. Fourth is joy in the service of the Creator… and being happy with one’s lot. All these [good attributes] on the side of the good component of the four elements.’

-from the Introduction to Toledos Yaakov Yoseph, by Rabbi Yaakov Yoseph of Polnoye, disciple of the Baal Shem Tov

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