A G-DLY SOUL IN THE MOST MATERIAL REALITY
“In the winter of 5652 (1891-2) when my father taught me in the book of Tanya “The second soul in Israel is an actual portion of G-dliness from above (ממעל ממש)”, he explained to me that the connotations of the word “from above” and “actual” are opposites. “From above” means the most spiritual of spiritual, and “actual” means the most material of material. And he explained that this is the superiority of the second soul [the G-dly soul] that even though it is the most spiritual of spiritual, it has an effect in the most material of material.”
While it may seem that we are simply “ourselves”, there is in reality a lot more to our beings than just that. Our bodies are made up of limbs, veins and arteries. We have organs and senses. A heart, lungs, a brain, a liver, kidneys and a variety of other material matters that make up who we are. And then of course there is the real “us”. An ethereal concept of who we really are, although we can’t quite seem to touch our real selves! As one intern doctor described to his teacher, “I have dissected many human bodies… but I have never found a soul…” And yet it is certainly there. It makes us who we are – if we’ll only just take ourselves away from the world of science for a moment, and realise this is our reality.
The modern world, with exception to a number of scientists – tells us that we do indeed have a soul. Kabbalah teaches that in fact we have five! Each level higher than the next, able to conceive of higher levels of Divinity. In fact, if only we would “tap in” to what these levels are, we would be working on extremely high levels of divine inspiration and prophecy!
The Alter Rebbe – knowing well all these points, tells us clearly that in fact every Jew has two souls – an animalistic soul and a G-dly soul.
Imagine for a moment the heart divided into its two greatest loves. Its love for the lusts of the physical world – and its other GREAT love for G-d! As each beat pumps, the blood rushing around the body finds itself confused in its desire to do what it really wants. With each beat it changes its mind – from one moment to the next. In a period of two seconds, one fluctuates from desiring the entire material world with all its desires and lusts. The largest mansion, the fanciest car, the best clothing and the finest foods! We dream of what we can have, and just how wonderful our bodies will feel with all its desires fulfilled. Heaven!
And one moment later, reality sets in and we feel ourselves – our souls. We feel a G-dly spark inside ourselves wake up… What do we really want? Nothing, but G-d. As the Alter Rebbe would say, “G-d, I do not want your world-to-come, nor do I want your Garden of Eden… I just want you!” The true soul comes forward shouting, screaming and crying – all I want is YOU. I am You. I am truly a part of You – G-d. And if so, there is nothing else that I wish for – but You.
But the heart beats once again – pump… and those flashing and fleeting images fade away into oblivion, as we once again realise we are back grounded in the most physical material world ever created. Who wants G-d, when you can have so much material good?!
The Alter Rebbe well understood the concepts of Emotional Intelligence long before the great psychologists of today! We are not just physical beings. We are made up of a brain and a heart. We think and we care. We aim for understanding – and so often get caught up in emotion. We think about good, but our heart, filled with the blood of physicality pumps out its opposite. Sometimes though, every now and again, the tables are turned, and as we think good, our hearts hear that beauty, and the flow of blood pumping, itself becomes good. It rushes up towards the brain with fuel, allowing it to truly think straight, bringing even more good thought into the heart, which once again pumps out even more good, until the mind, the mouth and the limbs put the good into action, causing goodness to oneself and the world itself!
With this great battle in front of us, this animal soul fighting the G-dly – and the G-dly fighting the animal, how will things turn out?! Is it really all a battle? Perhaps the two are really friends, striving for the same goal – to serve G-d, but because of the differences of opinion in how to go about things, we experience the tensions and frustrations of combining the physical together with the spiritual.
Imagine the scene for just a moment – two of the greatest people in the world, sitting and learning a chapter in Tanya. The Rebbe Rashab learning together with his son – just about 11 or 12 years old – but in grooming to become the next leader of the entire Lubavitch movement – the leader of the next generation! The subject? The G-dly soul… combined with a pinch of physicality! But which was the reality, the physical or the spiritual? The gross material or the ethereal G-dly?! Or was it about both?!
Chassidut teaches about the Oneness of G-d. Each day a Jew must recite the reading of the Shema “Hear Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One” at least twice a day. Most will say this sentence at least four times a day, while others (for one reason or another) may say it even more. It’s one of the first sentences a Jewish baby will master – and it may well be the last one he will ever say. In truth, there is nothing in the world but for this. There is nothing but G-d, for He is everything and everything is Him. This is why we constantly say these words – to remind ourselves that there is no reality in the world – nothing at all, except for Him. Even the lowliest mosquitoes in the bottom of the Earth where no human ever goes, and the highest angels in the highest heavens – are all equal before Him. The unholy evil husk that turns man away from his purpose in this world – and the most spiritual archangel – are just the same before G-d. Material and spiritual are all one. There is nothing that separates them. Nothing of course, except for the way we think about things.
The Rebbe Rashab teaches his son that the Alter Rebbe “made a mistake” in his terminology and expression. Having spent 22 years writing his masterpiece, the Alter Rebbe apparently did not put enough effort into his language. He spoke about the second soul of a Jew – the G-dly portion that rests within each one of us – and he said that while it comes from above – the highest highs in fact, it is absolute physicality! The Hebrew word “Mamash” – ממש – denotes absolute physicality. Its root letters have the connotation of “MaShash” – משש – meaning to feel and to touch. MaShash also means “reality” and “palpability”.
How then could the holy Rebbe contradict himself?! How could he speak of the highest level of spirituality in the same sentence as absolute physicality?!
The Rebbe Rashab explained to his son, that there was no contradiction. It is all one and the same. The greatness of the highest levels of the soul is that they are able to affect changes and make a difference in the lowest levels of physicality.
We may not be angels but we are certainly not animals either. It is true though that we live in a world where material drives and behaviour are most manifest. In fact, so much so, that we may feel disillusioned that we are disconnected from G-d at times. That our physicality has removed us from G-d. But as the Baal Shem Tov teaches “A Jew does not want, nor can he be disconnected from G-d.” Likewise the Baal Shem Tov would teach “One does not know how precious is the body of a Jew to G-d.”
There is no such thing as a world of materiality and a world of spirituality. It is all one. Our two souls connect with each other, and compliment each other. Together they work in harmony. Our duty is to know when to wake up each soul to make it have its desired effect – and how to awaken it. Just as there are many keys on a piano – and each has their own tone, so too our soul levels have their own tones as well. Just as we must select the right note at the correct time in order for beautiful melodies to resonate within the world, so too do we need to awaken the correct soul at the correct time to achieve its particular goal.
As for the G-dly soul – it is active – always. In fact, even when we think we are completely immersed in physicality, the Rebbe Rashab teaches, there is no contradiction – there too, our G-dliness is awoken, achieving wondrous things! There… in the lowest low – there too is G-d, and it is there that the greatest good is being achieved for the entire world. The G-dly soul awakens right there amongst the grossest physicality, clothing herself in the material and affecting changes for ourselves and the world – for the good.
As King David said so beautifully in Psalms 139:8
“אם אסק שמים שם אתה, ואציעה שאול הנך” – “If I ascend to heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in the lowest depths – behold, You are there.”
G-d makes the spiritual into material. Our duty is to turn the physical into spiritual.