Prayer Insights

Morning Blessings # 3: "Soul Awakenings"

Rabbi Shaul J. Leiter

Eighteen morning blessings are said each day upon arising, after one has dressed and washed hands. The third blessing deals with the Jewish soul.

My G-d, the soul which You have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me. You will eventually take it from me, and restore it within me in Time to Come. So long as the soul is within me, I offer thanks to You, L-rd my G-d and G-d of my fathers, Master of all works, L-rd of all souls. Blessed are You  L-rd, who restores souls to dead bodies.

"A person is a small world" (Bereishit Rabbah 78:12). In a sense each one of us reflects the entire creation. While we are asleep, conscious control is suspended and our souls return to their source. This corresponds to the state of reality before the world was created. When a person awakens and his divine soul reenters his body, he re-enacts the creation by drawing the divine energy back into him.

My G-d...  Who is talking here? Given that a human being is an entity comprised of different spiritual and physical elements, the speaker cannot be the body, for the body without the soul is like an inanimate rock.

the soul...  On the other hand, if the speaker is the soul, why is it referring to itself in third person?

which You have given...  The basis for the answer is that in addition to his body, every Jew has two souls - a G-dly soul that is linked to the Infinite, and an animal (animating, animalistic) soul, totally tied to material reality. The G-dly soul is derived from G-d's essence [see Tanya I, ch. 2]; this is what is meant by "the soul which You have given."

within me...  Just as the animal soul is clothed within the body (its intellect in the brain, its emotions in the heart, and so on) and through it, seeks to fulfill its desires, so too the G-dly soul finds expression by being clothed within the animal soul. The speaker here is the animal soul, making a statement about the G-dly soul within it. "Within me" alludes that while this condition is a benefit for the animating soul, it nevertheless constitutes a state of exile for the divine soul.

The descent of the divine soul through the Four Worlds [stages or spiritual dimensions in the process of Creation] is now described:

is pure...  It originates in the world of Emanation,

You have created it...  it descends through the world of Creation,

You have formed it...  the world of Formation,

You have breathed it... the world of Action,

into me...  into this physical world.

You preserve it within me...  Even though the soul longs to leave the confines of the body and return to its previous level, like a flame that naturally ascends, as it is taught [Avot 4 (end)], "Against your will, you live." Furthermore, you guard it from doing evil within me, as it is written, "If G-d did not aid the soul in its task, it would be unable to overcome the evil inclination" [Kiddushin 30b].

And in the future you will take it from me...  The primary purpose of the soul's descent into the body is to gain the merit to eventually cling to G-d on an even higher level than it did previously. The soul attains this merit by influencing the rest of the entity, the animal soul of the body, to conduct itself properly.

and return it within me in Time to Come....  G-d will restore the soul as well as the body at the time of the Enlivening of the Dead.

So long as the soul is within me… When a person awakens in the morning his soul is refreshed and, more than at any other time, is free from evil thoughts and impulses. He feels pure. What better time is there for the animal soul to thank the Creator for His gift of potential growth.

I offer thanks to You, my G-d and G-d of my fathers, Master of all works…. Ultimately even the animal soul realized that its existence, too, is dependent on G-d. ("G-d" refers to the divine name associated with creation.)

L-rd of all souls… It is to You we will have to answer. ("L-rd" refers to the divine name associated with justice.)

Blessed are You, G-d, who returns souls to dead bodies. Sleep approximates a 60th part of death [Berachot 57b]. The animal soul simulaneously affirms the new opportunity for the day and expresses faith in the future Enlivening of the Dead

Rabbi Shaul Leiter is the executive director of Ascent-of-Safed.

This series is translated and adapted from Meah Shearim and other sources

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