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The Soul and its Purpose in this World
By Rami Allon
Every one agrees that man is composed of a body and a soul. If some one disagrees, merely take him/her to a funeral parlor to view the body and ask him why the person laying there does not move. It is obvious to all that when the body contains the soul, it has life. When the soul departs, the body remains, but can no longer be "alive". This is the simplest proof to the existence of the soul and the most powerful.
The body and soul come from two different and distinct entities. The body was created from the lowest elements, the soil, and the soul from the breath of G-d, as related in Genesis 2:7
"Then the L-rd formed the man from the dust of the ground and He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul."
The body was created from the lower elements of earth, the purely physical and the soul was given by the breath of G-d, the highest and loftiest of the spiritual. Now prior to the insertion of the soul, it was a part of G-d, just like the air inside your lungs is a part of you. It was only after it was 'exhaled' and inserted into the lifeless body that the entity that we call man was completed.
From this we see that of the two parts which man is composed of, the soul is actually a part of G-d. The two different and disparage opposites which create man have very little in common. The body including the intellectual facilities is for its part is connected to the world. It relates very strongly to the world and everything that is in it and is affected by worldly events and physical desires, such as food and drink. Yet with all of these seemingly shortcomings, it is the body that has the ability to accomplish something in this world. The soul can not effect any change in the material.
The soul is connected to the upper worlds, the spiritual side of life. It does not relate to the physical and has little connection to this world other than it is locked into the body like a prisoner serving its sentence. However through it, the body derives its vitality. The soul yearns for the pleasures of where it came from, the closeness to G-d yet can not find it in this low material world.
Other than the soul bestowing upon the body the gift of life, what does the soul benefit by being housed in the body? Or even more so, does the soul have a purpose other than being enclosed in the body to give it life?
To answer these questions and grant clarity to this subject we present a parable:
There was a king whose daughter was kidnapped by some very low criminal elements. The princess had lived secluded in the castle and very few people in the outside world could identify her. Captured and imprisoned, it was reasonable to assume that her clothing and appearance had changed. Only her brother, the prince, who knew her well could be counted on to identify her. The problem was that she was being held by extremely low level people and the prince who had grown up in the palace in high society did not know their customs and language patterns which would enable him to go by himself to find her. He needed someone who knew the underworld, its customs, and its language and jargon.
There was only one person that the king knew that was from that lowly stratum of society who he could possibly trust to accompany the prince and be his guide and helper. He had come from that stratum of society but worked for the king. The king brought the prince together with this man and charged them with the mission of going into the vast empire in search of the princess and to bring her back. This simple commoner man was necessary to navigate the underground elements of the cities to find where the princess was hidden and it was the job of the prince to identify the princess, for she would not be in her royal robes nor would she look like the princes after her long imprisonment.
As the two, the prince and the common man, journeyed through out the kingdom searching for the princes, it was necessary for the prince to keep an eye on this man who was his guide. He was prone to indulging in alcohol, over eating and chasing women. Left to his own base desires he was apt to become sidetracked and forget his mission. It became the task of the prince to constantly remind the commoner that he was on an assignment, a royal mission, in service of the king.
This commoner was able to penetrate into the murky world of the hoodlums and thugs and since he could easily pass as an element from the underworld quickly made connections and eventually was able to locate the people who he believed were the criminals that held the princess. This man took the prince who was dressed as a commoner into the underworld to view the princess and convince her to come with him. She was forced to work and toil at hard labor. She was frightened of all strange men; she would never believe that the king sent a simple commoner to get her out, but she would trust the prince whom she would recognize. Although her beauty had paled and her body showed the signs of the forced work and imprisonment, they recognized each other instantaneously and together with the commoner they were able to take the princess out from her captivity.
When the prince and commoner returned to the king with the princess the king was ecstatic. He rewarded both the prince and the commoner with lavish gifts, special gifts that the prince would enjoy and different gifts that the commoner would enjoy.
The parable describes the relationship between the soul and the body. The body needs the soul to keep it straight and in line of its purpose for it is very easy for the body to get sidetracked in its earthly mission for there are all types of pleasures and desires in this world to which the body is constantly draw.
The soul is like the prince in the parable; it can not do anything by itself. It is there to give direction and ability to the body. The body which is like the common man is from the lower aspects of the world. With out the soul, the body would be completely absorbed in the mundane physicality of the world. The soul can recognize spirituality, not the body. But the two together make up a viable pair for accomplishing the world of heaven, the mission of the King, in this world.
Our King also has for us work in this world. They are called mitzvoth. Whereas we perceive mitzvoth as use of the physical world - by utilizing various physical things in this world such as a succah, matza, tallit, etc, to do G-d's will, In reality there is a holiness invested inside of these physical items that must be released. When the body, aided by the soul, performs the mitzva, then the holiness that is in the physical object which is used for the mitzva is released and returns back to its source.
The soul benefits in this world in that it strengthens its connection to G-d, but it does not receive a direct reward at this time because like the prince in the parable who had to return to the king to receive his reward. The body also gets little reward in this world except for the benefit of purify itself and living a good and healthy lifestyle. It is only at the end of days, the end of time, when G-d will perform the greatest miracle of them all, the revival of the dead that the body will receive its true reward a reward that it could not appreciate in this physical mundane world. The reward of being granted the closeness to G-d.
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For more on Spirituality and Mysticism, see our Mysticism Archives
from the June 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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