"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Levels of the Neshamah

Every morning, Hashem wants us to remind ourselves about the special Neshamah that we have—about its origin, composite levels, and current state.

In the beginning of the Morning Liturgy we recite: “My G–d, the soul that You implanted within me—it is pure. You created it, You formed it, You blew it into me.” Chassidus explains that this prayer alludes to the various levels of the Neshamah.

The Neshamah may be divided into two general parts (for a somewhat more detailed explanation of these levels of the soul, see here).

The lower part of the soul descends into the body and becomes vested in it; this comprises the levels of Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah (referred to henceforth by the acronym naran). This level is alluded to in the above phrase, “You created it”—referring to Neshamah; “You formed it”—referring to Ruach; “You blew it into me”—referring to Nefesh.

Then there is the higher part of the soul that does not enter the body, but remains in the sublime spiritual realms. This comprises the levels of Chayah and Yechidah (referred to henceforth by the acronym chai). This level is alluded to in the phrase, “My G–d, the soul that You implanted within me—it is pure.”

This is related the distinction between the spiritual world of Atzilus and the three spiritual worlds below it—Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah (referred to henceforth as B’ya).

Atzilus is a world of pure and untainted G–dliness, of which it is written, “Evil does not reside with You” (Tehillim 5:5). This is a world that submits totally to Hashem’s infinite light. This complete nullification of self is referred to as bittul bimetzius, “[total] nullification of selfhood.”

In contrast, the worlds of B’ya contain a spiritual energy that is fundamentally different from that found in the world of Atzilus, for these worlds have an independent sense of self, called yesh. Although they submit to Hashem, their submission is partial. Even as they submit, they maintain their sense of selfhood. This type of self-nullification is referred to as bittul ha’yesh, “nullification of ego [that maintains its ego nonetheless].”

As mentioned, “It is pure” refers to the level of chai. The reason for this is that the levels of chai remain in the world of Atzilus, and, as mentioned, Atzilus is a world of pure G–dliness.

Naran, however, descends into the lower worlds of B’ya, and ultimately into the physical world and the body, and thereby undergoes a tremendous spiritual descent. Thus, Chassidus explains that “You created it” refers to the soul’s descent into the world of Beriah; “You formed it” refers to the soul’s descent into the world of Yetzirah; and “You blew it into me” refers to the soul’s descent into the world of Asiyah.

There are two stages to this descent.

1. Naran’s very descent into the body changes its perspective radically.

When naran resided in Heaven, it basked in an intense divine light, and thus sensed G–dliness as an immediate, tangible reality, while it regarded the physical world as an abstract, novel concept.

However, once naran descended and became vested in a physical body, its attitude was reversed: Once in a body, naran naturally regards the world around it as the obvious and undeniable reality, and G–dliness as a distant, abstract concept. This also means that there is a certain sensitivity to and awareness of G–dliness that no matter how hard one tries, as long as naran remains in a body, it can never attain.

2. Then naran undergoes an even further descent through becoming vested in the Bestial Soul, which creates obstacles to the expression of naran, seeking to prevent it from grasping even the limited level of G–dliness that it can grasp in a physical world.

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