On the Subdivision of Souls
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver
On the highest level, all Jewish souls exist as one undifferentiated singularity. They are first divided into seven, corresponding to the seven branches of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash. Each of the branches corresponds to one of the seven emotional Sephiros (divine attributes—sing. Sephirah) in Atzilus, each of which acts as a “root-soul” for all the Jews in whose souls that particular emotional attribute is primary.
Then there was the division into the twelve tribes, who acted as root-souls in their own way. The number twelve corresponds to the six emotional Sephiros (excluding the last, Malchus), as they go from below to above, and from above to below. After that, each of the seven emotional attributes itself consists of ten sub-attributes, and this is the next division, into seventy, which was embodied in the seventy souls that descended to Egypt.
The souls then subdivided further into 600,000. The Torah relates that at Mount Sinai, there were 600,000 men present between the ages of twenty and sixty. Kabbalah and Chassidus explain that these men possessed the souls of the entire Jewish people, for there are altogether 600,000 Jewish souls. However, these souls are not ordinary souls; they are “root souls,” and so just as a root produces many branches, so do each of these souls subdivide into “sparks,” which also number 600,000. Each of these sparks is a single Neshamah.
The number 600,000 also stems from the six Sephiros in Atzilus. Every Sephirah contains all ten Sephiros (both the three intellectual, and the seven emotional), and so the six contain 60, and then 600, and so on, until they reach 600,000.
This is the meaning of “A generation passes, and a generation comes,” but there can be no generation with less than 600,000 Jews. These are the same souls, come down into different bodies, and so in this sense the passing generation is the succeeding generation.
 Torah Ohr 32b.
 Sha’ar Ru’ach HaKodesh, gate 7, p. 108.
 Bereshis 46:27.
 Shemos 12:37, 38:26, Bamidbar 1:46, 11:21.
 Zohar 3:273a.
 Tanya ch. 37, 48a.
 To do the simple math, that’s 360,000,000,000 Neshamos. However, the soul—even the root soul—consists of three distinct levels: Nefesh, Ru’ach, and Neshamah. So when the root souls split up into 600,000 sparks, that’s really all three levels of the soul splitting up. So even in the world of Atzilus, there are altogether 1,080,000,000,000 soul-levels. This number of souls then descends further into each of the three lower worlds, which comes to a total of 4,320,000,000,000 (quoted in Tanya Betziruf Marei Mekomos, Likkutei Pirushim, Shinuyei Nuscha’os, chs. 29-53, p. 756, in the name of Likkutei Hagahos LeTanya, p. 37. But see Torah Ohr 27d.
 Sefer HaMa’amarim 5654, p. 106. Sefer HaMa’amarim 5663-5664, p. 311.
 Koheles 1:4.
 Koheles Rabbah on Koheles 1:4, Yalkut 2:966. Zohar 3:273a. ibid. 4:216b.
 Sefer HaBahir 51.
This post was dedicated by Reb Pinchas Cylich in honor of the birthday of Menachem Mendel ben Faiga Matel on 16 Cheshvan. May he have a shnas hatzlocho begashmiyus u'veruchniyus!
Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.