The Uniqueness of the Jewish Soul
By Avi Lazerson
What is it that all Jews want? To what is their inner most striving and desires directed towards? We all feel a need to reach something, but that inner voice that is always dissatisfied is always searching for something else. What is the cause of this lack of inner tranquillity?
To answer these questions, we must first begin with an understanding of the Jew. As is well known, man is divided into two parts, the physical and the spiritual. The body is physical, like the world around him. It has length, depth, and height. It has all the features of the physical world around it and even come from the physical and in the end returns to the physical earth.
The other aspect of man is the soul. The soul is not physical. It has neither dimensions, weight, form nor matter. It neither comes from the earth nor returns to the earth when the body's earthly being is ended.
Like physical objects, no two objects can occupy the same place. No two rocks can rest in the exact same place on the ground, no two trees can grow from the exact same place in the ground and no two people can occupy the exact same place in time and space.
Gases are less physical and are a bit different. Two gases can occupy the same space. If you put two gases in a jar, they mingle. In reality they do not really occupy the same space, they merely diffuse and intermingle to an extent that they appear as one. Under the microscope, we can still see that the various molecules of the two gases are still exist independently.
Light which is even less physical than gas seems truly to merge into another object such as water and colored light of different colors seem to blend in with each other to create a third color. But we do not truly understand the phenomena of light enough to see that light really does not intermingle with other light, rather, we do not posses instruments refined enough to perceive that the various light energies are really separate. This is because the source of light is from the physical world.
The soul, on the other hand, which is even less physical than gases, can intermingle with another. The reason is because the soul is not from the physical universe, its source is in G-d. Since G-d is always one, the souls, which are a parcel of G-d exiled into the physical body and shackled into the body to provide the body with its animation and vitality can not leave until the body has completed its earthly mission.
The body and soul work together as one unit. The soul gives the spark to live and function to the body. The body acts out the will of its intellect and desires. Seeming as only an ignition spark, the soul is falsely portrayed as an entity with out its desires, so strong and overwhelming are the desires of the body that it eclipses the desires of the soul.
The body however is aware of the soul's yearning. The intellect, being bases on the physical world, bound by time and space, can not decipher the cravings of the soul. The intellect and the heart are cognizant of these longings, and it tries to solve it in the manner in which it solves the yearnings and desires of the body.
The body knows from an early age to understand hunger, therefore it looks for food. It understands other bodily needs and it tries to fulfil the body's request for them in a manner that will quiet the internal needs. As the body matures, so do the needs. Not just food and other basic bodily needs are required, but also new, acquired needs. A mate, a house, furniture, etc, are new needs for the body. But the internal hunger signals are at times mixed.
Even when a person is blessed with that realization of all of these needs, still, he feels the need for something to make up that which is lacking in his/her life. Even a person who has wealth, health, contented family and the home and furnishings, with out feeling any real lacking, will still feel a lacking. Why?
This is where the hunger of the soul becomes apparent. The soul is giving over the message to the body that its needs have not yet become fulfilled.
And what are the needs and desires of the soul?
The soul, which is an emanation from G-d, a "piece" of G-d in the body, a entity that was one with G-d before its entry in to the physical world, into the physical body, desires that oneness with G-d again. Each year, as the soul feels the lengthy separation from its source and true being, strives with greater intensity to return to the closeness that it once shared with G-d.
As the body grows, maturing and deepening its connection with the physical side of the universe, the soul feels more and more estranged. It has been neglected since its injection into the body and its loneliness for G-d only increases. This the body, mistakenly in most cases, addresses as a need for some material object. But there is no soothing the body with material satiation for a spiritual need. The body can not satisfy the yearnings of the soul with anything in its realm. The soul must connect with that to which it desires to feel satiated.
Therefore, prayer, not as expressed in the didactic dry recitations, but as the out pouring of a bitter heart longing to re-connect to its source can bring the body back into realization that it can not supply the soul with that which it longs for. It can only permit the soul to actuate itself and "log in" with G-d.
It is this yearning that is so frustrating for the Jew to fulfill. Not through riches, and not through wisdom can the soul be satisfied, but only through connecting to G-d.
from the May 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine