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Some meditations on the soul

Did you ever wonder what is a soul? What is the soul made of? Or perhaps we can ask more philosophically, What is the soul of a person? What is the soul of man?

According to Judaism, the soul is the seat of awareness.

The Structure of Awareness (Soul)

The soul has a complicated structure and we will attempt to explain these deep Kabbalistic concepts.

The Kabbalah divides the structure of our awareness (soul or spiritual being) into five sections: Nefesh, Ruach, Neshma, Chaya, and Yechida. (from the lowest to the highest). We use ‘NRNCHY (נרנח”י)’ as an acronym for the five parts of the spiritual being.

The Nefesh

To understand this structure of our spiritual being, let us start with the most familiar – the physical body.

Most of the people in the world today agree that there is more than the physical body when describing who and what a person is. We know and feel that inside the physical body, there is something spiritual that gives it sustenance, energy- life force. The first degree of spiritual awareness is becoming aware of the life force that sustains the body. The part of the soul that connects with the physical is the lowest level of our spiritual being, and it is called Nefesh. The Torah says that it inhabits our blood. Therefore as the blood flow carries all the sustenance of the body, it also carries the life energy of the Nefesh.

Meditation practice:

 Connect to Your Nefesh

 Close your eyes, breathe deeply, relax, and for two minutes, contemplate about the fact you are more than a physical body. Try to be aware of the life force that sits in the body. Try to feel the spiritual content of that energy, and with your breathing, recharge it. This is a wonderful meditation for waking up in the morning. 

The Ruach

The Ruach is the intermediary between the Nefesh and the Neshama. Though the Neshama only wants to connect and be subservient to HaShem, there is a tendency of the Nefesh to solidify in one’s baser qualities and serve its desires. This creates the feeling of ever searching but never finding true satisfaction in the many pleasures of the world. Therefore we need an intermediary quality which we call Ruach to channel the Light of HaShem from Neshama into the Nefesh. 

As it says in Tehillim, “Taste and see the goodness of HaShem.” Once properly connected, the Nefesh tastes the purpose of life and resigns from its stubbornness. It joyfully accepts its place in service of the Neshama to be in a constant connection with HaShem, thereby revealing HaShem in the world.

Meditation practice:

 Activate The Ruach

Begin by connecting to your Nefesh, as we explained above, then continue by speaking some words of Kedusha, a Tehilim or a Beracha, try to be aware of every letter you say. The verse we brought before of “נפש חיה” was translated in Oncolos as“רוח ממללא” – speaking Ruach, we see that the leading quality of the Ruach is speech. Therefore, activating the Ruach is achieved over time by practicing “Holy speech,” i.e., Torah learning and heartfelt prayer.

The Neshama

At the beginning of the Torah, it says:

“וַיִּיצֶר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם עָפָר מִן הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַיְהִי הָאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה” (בראשית פרק-ב’-ז’)

When HaShem gave men Nishmat Chaim, a high spiritual structure, it is written “וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו”. This translated means that God ‘blew’ the breath of life into Adam. It says in the Zohar that G-d gives His breath to Adam, in the present tense. And we know that whatever is in the Torah is true forever. It means that Hashem is continually breathing life into us, thus connecting us with Hashem; this is the ‘Neshama.’

The problem is that we are not aware of this. And that is why we need the meditations.

Meditation practice:

 Connecting To The Neshama and Hashem

 Close your eyes, breathe deeply, relax, and start to contemplate about that breath of life. This is the beginning of Jewish meditation. It is connecting us to Hashem by introducing into us a soul. With the soul there is the possibility of elevating further towards Him through a process of spiritual elevation of our awareness. If a person persists in this, contemplating, meditating, intending to connect with God, the Divine Presence gradually descends on him.  He is rewarded by HaShem revealing to him profound secrets of the Creation [even to the point of prophecy].

Chaya and Yechida

Nefesh, Ruach, Neshma, are the three principal components of our spiritual being. We have another two parts above the Neshama that are so elevated that it is tough to comprehend their qualities, these are the Chaya and the Yechida. They are not inside of us and in our spiritual awareness but exist outside of our regular spiritual experience and therefore are called surrounding light.

Meditation practice:

Reaching Up To The Chaya and Yechida

 Close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax for two minutes. Contemplate about the ”NRNCHY” from the lowest to the highest. Start by the Nefesh, then go up to the Ruach, Neshma, Chaya, and Yechida. After you reach the top, make your way back to the bottom, When you connect back to your physical body, try to feel the difference in your body’s sensations from the way you felt before you started. 

Each one of the parts of the soul dwells within a particular dimension that we call “a world”. In the Kabbalah, we speak about five worlds in ascending order: Asiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah, Atzilut, and Adam Kadmon, and of course it is all coming from the Infinity of the Ein Sof. 

Check out this post to see how the Tetragrammaton corresponds to the 5 levels of the Soul.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!


    Shalom Rav, this article really called out to me. For days now I had been asking myself what a soul is, your articles and teachings are truly inspirational and helpful.

      Thank you! May Hashem bless you to always find inspiration and help

    I am greatly satisfied, Rabbi Yakov Abraham Shepherd. You are helping me to build a solid meditation base. You do not only offer knowledge, but you also offer techniques. AMON TODOT.

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