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Vayechi: Soul Profit

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Samach-Vav Part 25 —

I have often been asked, as I was after last week’s column, why is it necessary to indulge in a complex and dense discussion on the nature of the soul? Isn’t life strenuous enough without further taxing our minds with esoteric ideas?

The answer, my friends, is because without our souls we are utterly lost. The basis of human dignity, the strength we need to make it through life’s difficulties, all originates in the soul we carry.

The basis of human dignity, the strength we need to make it through life’s difficulties, all originates in the soul we carry.

We live in a troublesome world. Distracted by the struggle for survival, often broken by life’s curve balls, our inner soul is our only recourse. The only way to truly discover peace, happiness and direction in life is to access your soul.

My son shared with me this week the following line: You were born an original. Don’t become a copy. Our originality, our indispensability and unique qualities, all derive from our souls. If that is not enough reason for discovering your soul, I don’t know what else one can say.

If nothing else, just being aware of your soul – and its majesty – lifts you and your soul up to great heights. Think of your soul like your child: Nothing worse can be done to a child than ignoring him or her. With so many demoralizing voices inundating us with the message of our own insignificance, the mere awareness of your soul can be a lifesaver.

And thus the gift of Samach-Vav – and other such discourses – which illuminate for us the nature and power of our souls. To appreciate yourself and your enormous potential it is critical to understand the powerful roots of your soul.

After explaining, last week, the great benefit achieved through the soul’s descent into a material universe, Samach-Vav now continues with an even more startling revelation: Not only is the soul’s root dormant power revealed in this world, but the soul actually goes through a metamorphosis and accesses an entirely new unprecedented dimension, which it did not contain earlier.

But before we can understand the meaning of this extraordinary accomplishment, let us first backtrack to Samach-Vav earlier analysis of the souls very nature.

The purpose of the soul’s descent into this material world – in effect, the mission of our lives – is to recognize and reveal the inherent unity in all of existence. In the words of the sages (cited in Samach-Vav): To transform the lowest of universes into a “Divine home.”

Since the human being’s mission is to fuse matter and spirit, the human itself is comprised of these two components: “G-d formed the human out of dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils a breath – a spirit – of life.”

The soul too, Samach-Vav explains, is comprised of these two dimensions, matter and spirit (in subtler form of course), which empower it to achieve the fusion in the world at large. “Souls originate in Divine thought,” declare our sages. Thought consists of two elements: The containers – letters – that express the thought; and the energy – the ideas – within the thought. The containers (letters) of thought are very closely connected to the thought’s energy and ideas. Thought in contrast to speech carries your innermost ideas and feelings. By contrast, letters of speech, and even more so written letters, are not as attached to the ideas they are conveying. Thought itself is rooted in the power of thought, which also contains both components, in an even subtler form.

Consider the difference between written and engraved letters. The written word is a separate entity from the material it is written on, like ink on parchment. The engraved word, on the other hand, is one with the stone (and made of the same material) upon which it is engraved.

This analogy explains how the letters of expression fuse with the ideas themselves. Samach-Vav, in its inimitable style, then dissects in meticulous detail, and retraces the steps of the souls evolution, explaining that the fusion of matter and spirit continues to intensify as we climb the ladder of the souls roots in Divine thought.

Engraved letters themselves break into two categories: They can be only partially engraved, causing some shadow, or they can be engraved through and through the stone, rendering them literally one with the stone itself. As we get closer to the source of all – the souls point of origin – the souls “matter” and “energy,” its substance and its spirit, literally join as one: The “containers” are indistinguishable from the “light,” as engraved letters are indistinguishable from the stone in which they are engraved.

The formula works like this: In the fusion of matter and spirit, the lower we go, the more they seem to separate, waiting for us to reunite them. The higher and deeper we travel the more the distinction between the two weakens, until they seem to merge into one. This is the nature and state of the soul in its highest source.

But this potent power – the fusion of matter and spirit in the souls root – is unleashed, paradoxically, only when the soul descends to earth, in a pluralistic universe, where matter and spirit are perceived as a duality.

A soul is a piece of the Divine, originating in G-d’s innermost thought, empowered to spiritualize the material universe. Such a radical jump – to tear a soul away from a most sublime environment and throw it into a hostile universe – requires a powerful Divine force, which thrusts the soul into this world. This is the meaning of the verse G-d “breathed into his nostrils a spirit/breath of life.” The Hebrew word for “breathed” is “vayipach,” which actually means “blew,” as in blowing breaths into someone’s mouth. Says the Zohar (cited in Tanya ch. 2): “He who blows, blows from within him,” “that is to say, from his inwardness and his innermost being. For it is of his inward and innermost vitality that a man emits through blowing with force.” Thus the soul’s highest power in its Divine origin is revealed only when it enters a body in the material universe, which requires Divine intense “force.”

And this “innermost” breath from the Divine depths vested in our souls, in turn, empowers us with the enormous force necessary to subdue the seductive woos of material pleasures, and harness them into vehicles for spiritual expression. This challenge – and the power vested in the soul to make this quantum leap – allows the soul to truly fly (as discussed in last week’s entry).

But then something even greater happens: The soul – and every aspect of its substance (containers) becomes one with the essential Divine light and energy. Total fusion of spirit and matter are achieved!

Make no mistake: This is nothing less than an unprecedented soul experience. Being an independent entity, the soul, even in its source in the highest planes of the Divine, is still rooted in “letters” and “containers;” albeit, ones that are inseparable from the “energy,” but “containers” nonetheless. Through the soul’s descent and hard exertion in transforming a pluralistic and hostile universe, the soul rises from the level of the “container” to the level of pure light; from the state of “pure” (“the soul you have given me is pure”) to the state of sanctity (kodosh).

These two achievements of the soul’s descent to earth are consistent with the purpose of existence in general. As you may recall, that the purpose is twofold: 1) To reveal within the parameters of our universe the Divine light that hitherto was concealed. 2) By transforming the material world into a Divine home, we draw down new unprecedented energy, “there will be a revelation of light that is greater than the light that was there before… And these lights are of the innermost aspect and essence of the Infinite Light, which are even higher than the light that filled the “space” before the tzimtzum. So too, with the soul that directs this effort: In addition to revealing its potency, the soul elevates to a place higher than its original source – it accesses the hidden essence and metamorphisizes into pure light, which becomes one with its Source.

The bottom line is that the Rebbe Rashab, one century ago, illuminated for us the astonishing power that we have to change our lives, the lives of our families and the world in which we live.

Your soul contains unimaginable strength, waiting to be released – by you.

If all this may sound too difficult, all you have to remember is this:

You were born an original. Don’t become a copy.

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