The Different Origins of Bodies and Souls
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver
Chomer vs. tzurah
Some necessary background: Everything that exists possesses both chomer and tzurah. chomer, “matter,” is the raw substance of the entity, while tzurah, “form,” refers to the specific shape and properties that the chomer assumes.
In terms of the relationship between body and soul, chomer corresponds to the body, while tzurah corresponds to the soul.
Memalei vs. Sovev
Memalei Kol Almin: This is the G–dliness that sustains Seder Hishtalshelus. The energy of Memalei descends in a gradual, systematic manner known as “ilah ve’alul”—“cause and effect.” The cause begets the effect, which in turn acts as the cause to a level further down, and so on.
The tzurah, the individual properties of each and every level within Seder Hishtalshelus, stems from the life-force of Memalei.
Sovev Kol Almin: Also referred to as Ohr Ein Sof, Hashem’s infinite light. This kind of G–dliness completely transcends the vast, complex series of limited levels in Seder Hishtalshelus.
Sovev is endowed with the power to create “yesh mei’ayin”—ex nihilo. In Chassidus, creation ex nihilo does not mean that the created being came literally from nowhere, for Hashem is the source of everything. Rather, it stands in contradistinction to ilah ve’alul, where it is obvious how the effect evolves from the cause. In the case of yesh mei’ayin, however, one sees no comparison whatsoever between the level below and the level above it, and thus no way in which the lower level could have emerged from the higher one.
The reason that Sovev is the only force with the power to create something from nothing is that Hashem’s very Essence is vested in it. As the Alter Rebbe famously states, only Hashem’s very Essence, which has no previous cause, can create physicality, an entity that feels as if it has no previous cause.
The chomer, the raw matter of all the levels within Seder Hishtalshelus, was created yesh mei’ayin from Sovev.
Memalei: The source of souls
All souls stems from Memalei, and more specifically, from the four “faces” of the Divine Chariot, located in the world of Beriyah. Each “face” is the origin of a different kind of soul in our world: 
- “The face of the ox, to the left”: The origin of the souls of all domesticated animals. Like oxen, domesticated animals possess the quality of raw strength, and so “Much grain [can be produced] with the power of an ox.” However, domesticated animals may lack the quality of agility and keenness that wild animals possess. This is also the source of the Jew’s Nefesh HaBehamis.
- “The face of the lion, to the right”: The origin of the souls of all wild animals. Like lions, wild animals in general have the quality of zerizus—they are much more energetic. This is the reason that wild animals are called chayos, which is related to the word chayus, vitality and energy. However, wild animals may lack the quality of raw strength that domesticated animals possess.
- “The face of the eagle”: The origin of the souls of all fowl.
- “The face of the man”: The origin of the souls of all humans, i.e., the Nefesh HaSichlis, the intellectual soul that both Jews and non-Jews possess.
Above them is the “man” who is “sitting” astride the “chariot”: “On the likeness of the throne was the form of the likeness of a man.” This level is the origin of the Nefesh HoElokis. Thus it is written, “You are man,” which is interpreted to mean “You [the Jewish people] are called man”—“because you resemble the Supernal Man”—the “Supernal Man” that sits astride the Divine Chariot.
The Jew’s 248 limbs correspond to the 248 “limbs” of the Supernal Man from whence his soul is derived. He connects his limbs to the G–dliness within the 248 “limbs” of the Supernal Man by observing the 248 Positive Mitzvos of the Torah, which are also compared to a man—“This is the Torah of man.”
Sovev: The source of bodies
The above describes the origin of the souls within our world. However, bodies cannot stem from the higher spiritual realms in Seder Hishtalshelus.
To explain this, we must define the difference between the physical and the spiritual: In the higher spiritual realms, one naturally senses the presence of a Higher Force to which one must submit to some degree. In the physical world, however, one does not sense this reality naturally and automatically; only through inquiry and contemplation can one reach that awareness (as in the famous story of Avraham, who deduced logically at age three that a single Creator must exist).
This fundamental difference between the physical and the spiritual makes the gap between them so vast that no matter how far down spiritual levels evolve and descend in a manner of ilah ve’alul, they can never develop into a physical entity, even an exceedingly refined one. A spiritual entity can only ever beget another spiritual entity.
This gap between the physical world and the higher spiritual realms means that the former can only come forth from the latter by a process of yesh mei’ayin. As we explained, it is the G–dliness of Sovev that brings something forth yesh mei’ayin.
So since souls are spiritual entities, the souls in this world can descend in a systematic, gradual manner from higher spiritual levels. The bodies, however, since they are physical, cannot, and they must be formed yesh mei’ayin from the spiritual.
Since the neshamah stems from the divine energy of Memalei, while the body stems from that of Sovev, and Sovev is higher than Memalei, it emerges that although in our world, the soul is higher than the body, in the higher realms, it is the reverse.
The power of food
Since body and soul are so different, they need an external force to bring them to unite, to join the physical and the spiritual. This is known as “the power that performs wonders,” and this is the power vested in food.
The main purpose of food in joining body and soul is not to give vitality to the soul per se, but to enable the soul to give vitality to the body. The soul has vitality independently, for before the soul becomes vested in the body, it exists in the higher spiritual realms in a constant state of love and fear of Hashem. This is alluded to in the verse, “By the life of Havayeh, the G–d of Yisrael in front of Whom I stood,” and “standing indicates prayer.” This alludes to the way that the neshamah prayed to Hashem Above, before it descended into a body. Likewise, when the soul departs from the body, it rises to Gan Eden and takes delight in the G–dliness that it evoked through its Torah study in this world.
Since the soul can exist without the body, while the body depends totally upon the soul, the main purpose of food in binding body and soul together is for the body’s sake.
The reason for this is that both the body and the food (i.e., the physical matter of the food) stem from Sovev.
But how then can the food help the body, if their source is identical? Because although they both stem from Sovev, there are numerous levels within Sovev, and food stems from an even more sublime level in Sovev than that from which the body stems.
This also explains the fact that food must lose its life before it may be eaten—an animal must be slaughtered and a plant must be severed from the soil. For it is the raw chomer of the food that holds the Sovev energy that combines the physical and the spiritual; in order to reveal this Sovev energy, the external Memalei energy of the animal soul in the animal, or the plant soul in the plant, must first be removed.
Toras Menachem, Vol. 33, p. 372 ff.
 Rav Chaim Vital, Ta’amei HaMitzvos, Vayikra s.v. Mitzvas korbanos.
 Sefer HaMa’amarim Admur HaZakein 5566, p. 395.
 Yechezkel 1:10.
 Mishlei 14:4.
 Yechezkel 1:10.
 Ohr HaTorah Devarim, Vol. 5, p. 2131.
 Yechezkel 1:26.
 Ibid. 34:31.
 Yevamos 61a, beg.
 Asarah Ma’amaros, sec. eim kol chai, 2:33.
 Bamidbar 19:14.
 In Hebrew, “ko’ach hamafli la’asos.” Based on the Asher Yatzar prayer. Cf. Ramo on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 6:1. Cf. Sefer HaMa’amarim 5649, p. 233.
 I Melachim 17:1.
 Berachos 6b.
Dedicated by Zvi Rona and family l'ilui nishmas Shlomo ben Pesach, whose yahrtzeit was on 8 Tammuz.
Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard) and Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin).
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