awesome ultimate expert hen (mdyesowitch) wrote,
awesome ultimate expert hen

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Passover haggadah insights and the soul

Starts this weekend!
9:00 at the Beit Chayim Meyer Chabad house in Lexington (

So to continue my discussion:
Nefesh, as previously mentioned is a specific word that often refers to soul, but can easily refer to a person, rather than a soul. The correct translation is soul, but idiomatically, that can be no different than saying people, so that's not conclusive.

What I'd started to do before the lj cat ate my comment was go into the text of Genesis surrounding the creation and discuss that wording there a little bit. Remember that as with all discussions of religion, what you're seeing is my thoughts, but is based on what I've learned, so there's some scholarly work behind it, but I'm not presenting it as the only possibly interperation of the data and I wouldn't want people to take it that way.

So there are two words that describe attributes that seem to transcend the physical. One of them is aforementioned "Nefesh" from which we get the word "Neshama" which is the feminine embodiment of soul. I mentioned yesterday, I think the litergical uses of soul, one of those is Yedid Nefesh, "Beloved of my soul" which is a reference to the second soul that is believed to descend onto Jews on Shabbat to enhance their spiritual enjoyment. The Havdalah ritual of smelling spices is related to that. Those smelling "salts," if you will, are intended to revive us as the soul is leaving our body to return to wherever it goes during the week. The other word is "ruach" and it's commonly translated as "spirit" (as in the famous cheer "Have you got that ruach? Yeah, man! Gonna keep that ruach? yeah, man!" and I've quite forgotten the rest.)

So if we look into Genesis (and I've decided not to be a weenie and actually get the text up on my screen so I can be prepared to discuss intelligently.) using my favourite Biblical site:

Genesis 1:2 we get our first taste of the idea that there is life beyond the physical. In the first verse there's some physical stuff happening in. A being, who goes by the name of Elokim makes (barah) the heavens and the earth. We don't really know much about this being other than His name and that He is capable of creation.
In verse 2 however, we get some details about these things that are just mentioned in the first verse:
Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit (ruach) of God hovered over the face of the waters.
What do we know now: Well, we know the earth was physical, but very lame and boring and had a lot of water, no one cares about that right now. And we know that this Elokim guy has spirit. Spirit is not a physical attribute. It's a spiritual attribute. So we are now being told that Elokim, this being, is not strictly a physical being.

So lets move down to Genesis 1:27. And God created (l'yivareh) man (adam) in His own image, in the image of God created (barah) He him; male and female created (barah) He them. Yivareh is another of form of barah, creation. (It means literally "and he created") So we've got these very very phyiscal creation words being thrown around. The word create is used three times in the sentence in two different word forms. The word adam itself is a very phyiscal word meaning earth or ground. This is a very, very physical creation. There's physical attributes surrounding the concepts of male and female. There's physical attributes associated with the word used for the object of creation, adam. And the very act is described in a physical way with the word creation.

Let's skip ahead again to Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD (YKVK) God (Elokim) formed (from the word V'yisarahu (ysar is the root) man (adam) of the dust (afar) of the ground (adama), and breathed (v'ipach) into his nostrils the breath of life (nishmat kol chai) ; the man (h'adam) became (l) a living soul (nefesh kol chai).
Now we have a new name for Elokim that's popped up. I'm not going to recap the usages of the name prior to now, but I am going to say that it doesn't show up for the first time until Genesis 2:4. Genesis 2:2 and 3 is the creation of the Sabbath day. I think that's where the idea that you have an extra soul on Sabbath comes from. So now that the Sabbath exists we can move on to the addition of a spiritual component to this adam, that was created. So the spiritual (YKVK) and physical (Elokim) sides of G-d come together to form this adam. I totally failed at finding some other uses of ysar using the Biblical text search. If I were doing more research and had a proper concordance, it would be interesting to see whether form is used more as a physical or a spiritual act of creation. I think it's certainly implied from my perspective that forming is different than creating. Creating implies more of a something from nothing, where form implies reshaping what exists. We already know that adam exists from Chapter 1, so this a refinement of adam a moving beyond the mere creation into the formation. At least that's what I get off it. I can't textually support that because when I tried to search for Ysar, it's also including "tsar" in the search, which is the Hebrew word for trouble (tzara, tzaras, (in Yiddish "tzuris") which as you can imagine is used quite extensively in the Bible throughout the Prophets, in Judges, Lamentations, Psalsm.. etc. so I gave up on following that train of thought.
So we're breathing the breath of life, "nishmat kol chai" Neshama, soul. And now we're back to where we started. The idea that a spiritual and physical component was transmitted from a spiritual and physical of G-d to us to form not just our physical body, but also our spiritual essence.

This kinda rambled and I haven't actually reread it for coherance, so feel free to ask for clarifications.
Tags: religion

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