Updated: Sep 20, 2021
If we want to progressively advance inthe service of Hashem, it’s crucial to understand what the soul is all about. After all, it’s the soul who’s animating the body, and commanding it. In fact, it’s the most important part of us, who we really are. Therefore, understanding it is understanding us and, with proper intention and prayers, we can get a lot of benefits from it, so let’s begin!
As many of us know, the Zohar teachesus in many places that the soul is composed of 5 parts, which are, from most inferior to most superior: Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and Yechida. The first 3 are inside the body, the Nefesh’s center being in the liver, the Ruach’s stationed in the heart and the Neshama focused on the brain.
The next two are called Makifim(Surrounding) souls, the Chaya being the smaller Makif and the Yechida being the second Makif, which encompasses all the lower levels.
Let’s see them further in depth and how they interplay to form who we are.
When a person is born, only his Nefesh is revealed. But not his holy Nefesh, rather his Animal Nefesh. This explains why kids need to be refined throughout their tender years to correct their behavior. Once a person passes through his Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, that’s when his Holy Nefesh is revealed. That’s when a person really begins his service of Hashem and when he can really choose between good and evil.
It’s important to note that the Nefesh circulates through the blood vessels and is the most basic life force and consciousness that most of us have in their lives. It’s the Nefesh that desires the things of this physical worlds and the one that needs to be rectified. This is why we call the rituals for rectification of our soul “Pidyon HaNefesh” or “Tikkun HaNefesh” and it’s related to the lowest Sephira of Malkhut(Kingship) and comes from the lowest world of Assiyah (Action).
The Ruach is the second level of the soul. It comes once a person rectifies his Nefesh after much effort throughout his life. While everyone can merit to have his Ruach revealed, the truth is very few people succeed in doing so. Nevertheless, it is the seat of six emotions corresponding to the 6 Sephirot Chessed (lovingkindness),Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (truth), Netzach(victory), Hod (splendor) and Yesod(foundation), and comes from the second spiritual world of Yetzirah (Formation). The Ruach already represents a quantum jump in a person’s consciousness and is what effectively enables people to receive RuachHaKodesh (Divine Spirit), and know things of the past, present and future.
Very few people get to his Ruach and, according to Sha’ar HaGilgulim (Gate of Reincarnations) from Rabbi Chaim Vital, a person doesn’t merit his Ruach in his first Reincarnation, but has to die at least once in order to be able to receive it. Nowadays, this doesn’t make much of a difference since we are all old souls, but it’s interesting to know.
Contrary to common sense, rectifying the Ruach is not nearly as difficult as rectifying the Nefesh according to the great Sephardi Kabbalist R’ Shimon Agassi. As we explained above, it’s in the Nefesh that we have most of the work because it’s set in the lowest part of a person, right in the domain of the Sitra Achra (the Evil Side).Rabbi Agassi explains that with little effort people can rectify the Ruach.
Rabbi Chaim Vital explains in Sha’arRuach HaKodesh (Gate of the Holy Spirit) that prophecy is a revelation given straight to the Neshama. Unfortunately, due to our sins and the fact that the Holy Temple is destroyed, we ceased to have full-fledged prophecy.
It is, nevertheless the Neshama who’s gives us the highest power of clarity. This is the part of the soul which is giving us the power of reason, representing the Sephira of Binah and comes from the world of Beriyah. Interestingly enough, we call the 5 levels of the soul by the name Neshama, because it’s the highest and most important part of our soul, since it receives its light and sustenance from the Chaya, the next level.
The Chaya stays right outside the body, irradiating its light to us. It’s related to the Sephirah of Chokhmah (wisdom) and comes from the world of Atzilut(Emanation). It is constantly guiding us in our lives like a light house. Chaya comes from the Hebrew term Chay ((חי which means Life or Living and, in fact, it’s the one from which all our vitality flow towards our Neshama in our brains.
While the Chaya is not readily visible inside our bodies (or properly attainable), it always represents the next level in service of Hashem. This is because once a person goes up and receives new consciousness, the Chaya also goes up and sends newer and higher vitality down form the source.
The Yechida is the final level of the soul which is constantly attached directly to Hashem. It literally means “unique” or “alone”, since there’s nothing like it.
The Yechida encompasses all the previous levels and is a person’s quintessential will to be bound to Hashem in complete unity. It represents the Sephira of Keter and comes from the stratospheric spiritual plane called Adam Kadmon, above all previous worlds.
I wish you a wonderful Shana Tova full of light and blessings and that we all merit the revelation of Hashem in all levels of our souls!
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