What is a Soul?
Adapted from the writings of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi Yossi Marcus
is the day (zeh hayom) of the beginning of Your work, a remembrance
of the first day for it is a chok (law) for Yisrael and
a mishpat (statute) for Yaakov..”
from the Rosh Hashanah liturgy, serves as the prelude to numerous discourses discussing
the inner dimensions of Rosh Hashanah. It represents the idea that Rosh Hashanah
is more a celebration of the creation of man than that of the world. Who is man
and why is his creation worthy of celebration?
he world was created on the 25th
of Elul. The Hebrew equivalent of 25 is chof hei, which spells koh.
Koh connotes vagueness. The word zeh, on the other hand, which means
“this” connotes clarity. For example, at the splitting of the sea the revelation
of Divinity was such that one was able to point and say zeh keili, “this
is my G-d.” By contrast, the various revelations through prophecy (excluding that
of Moses) are usually reported with the preface of koh amar hashem, which
is translated as So said G-d, but is also understood to mean “like this” said
G-d, meaning that there isn’t a crystal clear picture.
The world was created in a state
of koh, Divinity was not apparent in its purest form. This state existed
until the sixth day when man was created, whose mission it was to bring about
the revelation of zeh.
This is why Rosh Hashanah, which
celebrates the creation of the world, is celebrated on the first of Tishrei, which
corresponds to the sixth day of creation, the day man was created. The
reason for this is that the ultimate purpose of creation is that man through his
divine service reveals G-dliness in the world—a revelation that could be pointed
and addressed as zeh, “This.” This endeavor began on the day man was created,
Hence the prayer: “This
is the day (zeh hayom) of the beginning of Your work, a remembrance of
the first day….”
Hayom (this day), says the Zohar, refers
to Rosh Hashanah. [Another instance of the word hayom in reference
to Rosh Hashanah is in the first verse of the section of the Torah read on the
Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah: “You stand hayom (today) before the L-rd
your G-d,” today referring to Rosh Hashanah
when the entire nation stands together as one “from your leaders…to your water-carriers.”]
Rosh Hashanah is called the beginning
of Your work, although it is celebrated on the day corresponding to the sixth
day of creation, since the creation of the world is truly celebrated on the day
when its purpose began to be realized: the day man was created. It was on this
day that the revelation of zeh began to be realized; hence zeh hayom,
meaning that each Rosh Hashanah—hayom—we celebrate the revelation of zeh.
To appreciate the achievement and
advancement of the sixth day of creation, we must first understand the condition
of the world on the first day of creation.
On the first day of creation, heaven
and earth and all of their hosts were created ex nihilo. The Torah’s description
of the “creations” of the subsequent days in truth refers to the revelation
of these creations—their formation and evolvement—not their creation. The creation
of everything—their coming into being, albeit an undefined one—took place on the
first day. Even man was in a sense created
on the first day, since he was formed from the earth, which was “created” on the
(The spiritual world of Atzilus,
says the Zohar, was also created on the first day.
Thus is explained the first verse of the Torah:
In the beginning, referring to Chochmah; Elokim,
referring to Binah; The heaven, referring to z”a; The earth, referring to Malchus.)
Furthermore, the Midrash writes
that on the first day G-d was alone in the world, He was the only conceivable
reality. In other words, the creation that took place on the first day was of
the sort that demonstrated the exclusivity of G-d’s existence.
In addition, up until the sin, the
entire world was on the level of Gan Eden.
Yet despite the superior condition
of the world even before man was created, man’s creation brought the world to
a higher level. For the first five days of creation, the world, even in its lofty
state, was still a world. Lofty, but limited to the parameters of creation. What
was introduced through the creation of man was the light beyond, the revelation
of the essence of G-d, which transcends any connection and association with the
concept of a world.
How does man have the power to draw
and reveal the Essence? Because of the source of his soul, which is of the essence
of G-d. Until the sixth day of creation, only the body of man existed in this
world. The sixth day is when G-d blew into his nostrils the spirit of life, a
soul. The nature of this soul is defined in the Zohar in its comment on the imagery
of G-d “blowing” the spirit of life into man: “He who blows, blows from his inside,”
from his essence.
The soul is thus called the child
of G-d. A child emanates from the essence of the father, a place that is beyond
the manifest capacities of the father. (Thus the child is capable of surpassing
the father since there are capacities that exist within the father’s essence that
are not manifest in him but can become manifest in the child.) So too the soul
emanates from the essence of G-d, beyond His manifest attributes.
This explains the statement of the
Holy One Blessed be He: “My children have been victorious over me.”
The term the Holy One blessed
be He, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, refers to the Ein Sof as it is manifest
in the manner of kodosh and boruch, holy and blessed. Holy, or detached,
refers to sovev kol almin, the transcendent light, while boruch,
which also connotes drawing down, refers to mimalei kol almin, the permeating
and adapted light.
Since the soul of man stems from
the essence of G-d which is beyond even kodosh [since transcendence implies some
level of association with that which is transcended], its halachic ruling supersedes and
is victorious over that of Hakodosh Baruch Hu.
(This idea bears particular relevance
on Rosh Hashanah. The Midrash relates: When the celestial angels gather before
Hakadosh Boruch Hu to say, When is Rosh Hashanah?…Hakadosh Baruch Hu says to them,
Why do you ask me? Let you and I go to the earthly court [and ask them].)
This explains the ability of the
soul of man to effect the revelation of the essence of G-d. That it can also reveal
this in the world—the unification to koh and zeh—is through its
revelation in the body. For the body of man which is created from earth, which
was created on the first day, is on the level of koh. When the soul reveals
the level of zeh within its body, this in turn causes the revelation of
zeh in the entire world.
How does the soul accomplish this?
The answer is found in the second half of the above verse: “…for it is
a chok for Yisrael and a mishpat for Yaakov.” In other words,
the goal of zeh hayom, the revelation of zeh is achieved
through the soul’s study of chok, the Torah, and its fulfillment
of mitzvos, mishpat. &