soul of man – sohar


Over de ziel

The soul of man

Sohar 141b-143a


Three names has the soul of man: nephesh, ruach, neshamah. They are all comprised one within the other, yet they have three distinct abodes.

Nephesh remains in the grave until the body is decomposed and turned into dust, during which time it flits about in this world, seeking to mingle with the living and to learn of their troubles; and in the hour of need it intercedes for them.

Ruach enters the earthly Garden (of Eden) and there dons a likeness which is in the semblance of the body it tenanted in this world: that likeness being, as it were, a garment with which the spirit robes itself, so that it may enjoy the delights of the radiant Garden. On Sabbaths, New Moons and festivals it ascends unto higher regions, imbibes the joys thereof, and then returns to its  place. Concerning this it is written: “And the spirit (ruach) returns to God who hath given it” (Eccl. XII, 7) – namely, at the special seasons and on the special occasions which we have enumerated.

Neshamah ascends at once to her place, the region from whence she emanated, and for her sake the light is kindled to shine above: She never again descends to earth. In her is consummated the One who combines all sides, the upper and the lower. And as long as she has not ascended to be united with the Throne, the ruach cannot crown itself in the lower Garden, nor can the nephesh be at ease in its place; but when she ascends all the others find rest. Now when the children of men are in sorrow or trouble, and repair to the graves of the departed, then the nephesh is awakened and it wanders forth and rouses the ruach, which in turn rouses the Patriarchs, and then the neshamah. Then the Holy One. blessed be He, takes pity on the world.

This matter has already been explained, although the doctrine of the neshamah has been put in a somewhat different form; but it all amounts to the same, and what we have said is entirely correct. Now if the neshamah is for one reason or another hindered from ascending to her rightful place, then the ruach, when it reaches the door of the Garden of Eden, finds it barred, and it cannot enter, [142a] and so roams about unnoticed and forlorn; and as for the nephesh, it wanders about the world and beholds the body which was once its home devoured by worms and suffering the judgement of the grave, and it mourns therefor, as the Scripture teIls us: “But the flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn” (Job XIV, 22). Thus all suffer punishment, and so they remain until the neshamah is able to attain to her rightful sphere above. Once this is accomplished, however, both the others are united each with its sphere; for all three are one, forming one whole, united in a mystical bond, according to the prototype above, in which nephesh, ruach and neshamah constitute together one totality.

The (supernal) Nephesh possesses in itself no light and cannot out of its own being engender it, and for this reason it is in close  connection and deeply enmeshed with a certain Body, which it fondles and sustains. It is concerning this Nephesh that it is written : “She giveth meat to her household and an appointed portion of labour to her maidens” (Prov. XXXI, 15), the “house” denoting the Body, which she feeds, and the “maidens” the limbs of that Body. The (supernal) Ruach rides upon the Nephesh, dominates it, and enlightens it with supernal glory, as much as it can bear; this Nephesh is the throne ar pedestal of this Ruach. The (supernal) Neshamah produces the Ruach, rules over it, and sheds upon it the light of life. The Ruach depends entirely upon the Neshamah and is lit up by its light and nourished by its celestial food, while the Nephesh is similarly dependent on the Ruach. But as long as that supernal Neshamah does not ascend unto the spring of the “Ancient of Ancients”, the most Hidden of all hidden regions, there to be filled with the presence of Him whose glory is eternal as the waters of an unceasing and refreshing spring, so long must the Ruach be debarred from entering into that which is its own especial Paradise, namely, the Nephesh; and in all cases the abode of the Ruach is the Garden of Eden, while the Neshamah ascends aloft to the fountain-head, and the Nephesh takes up its abode in the body.

Similarly in man below, the three are one yet separate. The neshamah ascends aloft to the fountain-head; the ruach enters the Garden of Eden: and the nephesh finds rest in the grave. It may be asked, what in our analogy corresponds above to the grave? The answer is that “the grave” in this case is the mighty klifah. In this respect the soul of man corresponds, and here, as elsewhere, the lower is after the pattern of the upper. Thus there are three grades of the soul distinct one from another, although they form one bond and one mystery .As long as the bones of their human habitation remain intact in the grave, the nephesh remains there also, though unwillingly.

There is here a mystery which is entrusted only to such as perceive and know the way of truth and are afraid of sin. In the hour when the neshamah crowns herself above with the holy crown, and the ruach stands within the radiance of the supernal light to which it is admitted on Sabbaths, New Moons, and festivals, and when that same ruach descends well satisfied from those feasts to enter into the Garden of Eden resplendent and radiant: in that hour the nephesh also rises up within the grave and assumes shape in the likeness of the form which it previously possessed when in the living body, and in virtue of this image all the bones arise and sing praises to the Holy One, blessed be He; as it is written: “All my bones shall say (tomarnah), O Lord, who is like unto thee ?” (Ps.XXXV, 10). And had the eye but the power and permission to perceive such matters, it would behold on the nights of Sabbaths, New Moons, and festivals, a kind of figures singing and praising the Holy One above their: graves. But the folly of the children of me prevents them from having any cognizance of these matter, since they neither know nor perceive what the foundation of their lives in the world is, and have no mind to be aware of the glory of the Supernal King in this world which they can see, not to speak of the world to come, which they see not; thus they have no perception of the basis of either, or of the inner meaning of these things.

On New Year’s Day, when the world is judged, and the Throne of Judgement stands by the Supernal King, every soul (nephesh) hovers about and intercedes for the living. On the night following the giving of judgement they roam about, endeavouring to discover what decisions have been made concerning the fate of men in the coming year; and sometimes they communicate their knowledge to the living in the form of a vision or dream, as it is written: “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men. .. then he openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instructions” (Job XXXIII, 16): i.e. the soul puts its seal to words which it communicates to the sons of man that they may receive instruction or reproof. On the last night of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the final edicts are issued from the King, and the shadow is removed from those persons who are shortly to die, [I42b] a certain celestial officer named Yehudiam descends with myriads of followers and bears that shadow aloft; and the soul which we have mentioned roams about and sees the shadow and returns to its place, and announces to the rest of the dead: “Such and such an one is coming to be with us” -meaning the soul of whichever shadow has been most lately borne away by the angelic minions. If that deceased one be righteous and has lived a good life while in this world; all the dead rejoice; but if not, they all say: “Alas, alas! Woe, woe!” When the angels bring up the shadow, they deliver it to that faithful servant whose name is Metatron, and he takes it and brings it unto its due and rightful place, as it is written: ” As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow” (Job VII, 2). From that hour on, a place is prepared for the neshamah of that man, and a place for his ruach in the Garden of Eden, and a place for his nephesh to rest in during its wanderings-for there is a certain nephesh which has no rest, concerning which it is written that “it shall be slung out, as out of the middle of a sling” (1 Sam. XXV, 29), which nephesh wanders about in the world, having no rest either by day or by night, this being the greatest and direst punishment possible; and there is likewise a “nephesh” which is “cut off” together with the body, concerning which it is written: “and I will cut it off from its people” (Lev. XVII, 10): and there is also a nephesh which is not “cut off” together with the body, but is ” cut off” from the place which, had it belonged to a worthy person, would have been its appointed place above, concerning which it is written: “that nephesh shall be cut off from my presence; I am the Lord” (Ibid. XXII, 3); “from My presence” means that the ruach does not rest on it any longer; and when that is so the nephesh can have no part in the heavenly bliss, nor have any cognizance of any of the matters which take place in the other world. Such a nephesh is like that appertaining to an animal.

A nephesh which is destined eventually to find rest, when in the course of its wanderings it meets with Yehudiam, the chief angelic messenger, with all his princes, is taken by him through all the doors of the Garden of Eden and shown all the glories of the righteous and the splendours of its own ruach, and then it invests itself in all serenity with its ruach, and it perceives all that is going on in the supernal world. And when that ruach ascends to be crowned within its neshamah which is above, the nephesh joins the ruach and clings thereto with all its strength, and receives illumination from it, which causes it itself to shine, even as the moon borrows light from the sun. And that ruach then joins itself in the same wise to the neshamah, and the neshamah unites herself with the end of Thought, this being the mystery of the Nephesh which is above, and the Nephesh which is above unites itself with the Ruach which is above, and that Ruach again with its Neshamah, and that Neshamah with the Infinite (En-sof). Thus is achieved harmony, peace and union both above and below. This constitutes the attainment of the rest and quietude of the nephesh that is below, concerning which it is written: “But the soul (nephesh) of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with (et) the Lord thy God” (1Sam. XXV, 29); that is to say, in the union symbolized by êt (the first and the last letters of the alphabet, signifying the union of all things), one being like unto  another. For when the Moon-which is the symbol of the supernal Nephesh- descends, illumined with glory from all sides, then she in her turn illumines with her radiance all the chariots and all the camps, and unites them, so that they are formed into one complete body which shines forth resplendent with the steadfast brilliance of the supernal light. In the same way the lower nephesh, when it descends, similarly illumined from all sides-from the light of the neshamah and of the ruach -also illumines all the chariots and camps, namely the limbs and bones of its body, and forms them into one complete body which emits light. This is the significance of the words: ” And he will satisfy with splendour (zahzahot) thy soul” (Isa. LVIII, 11); and then “He will make vigorous thy bones” (Ibid.): that is, they will be fashioned into one complete body which will emit light, and arise to give praises to the Holy One, as has been pointed out in connection with the words, “All my bones shall say, O Lord, who is like unto Thee ?” This praising does indeed constitute the rest and delight of the nephesh, and is verily the completion of its joy. Blessed are the righteous who fear their Lord in this world, for they merit the threefold rest of saints in the world to come.’

Then came R. Simeon and blessed R. Abba, and said : ‘Happy are ye, my sons, and happy am I who have been permitted to behold how many [143a] supernal places are prepared which will shine for us in the world to come.’ Then R. Simeon began to speak on the verse: ‘”A song of degrees. They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion , which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever” (Ps. CXXV, I ). ‘This verse’, he said, ‘has been variously interpreted, but its special significance is this: ‘”A song of degrees” refers to the song which is sung by the supernal holy grades from the side of the celestial Might in harmony with the song of the Levites here below. There are ” degrees” upon “degrees”, and they worship in the mystery of the fifty years (Jubilee). “They that trust in the Lord” are the righteous which trust in their good works, as it is written: “The righteous trust (are bold) like the young lion” (Prov. XXVIII, 1). It might be objected that the righteous do not, in fact, trust in their own works, being, on the contrary , perpetually in a state of fear and trembling, like Abraham, of whom it says that he was afraid concerning Sarah (Gen. XII, 10-13); or Isaac, who was afraid (Ibid. XXVI, 7); or, again, like Jacob, who was likewise in fear (Ibid. XXXII, 8) ; and if these did not trust in their own good works, how much less cause for assurance have other righteous men! How, then, can it be said with any justice that “the righteous trust like the young lion”? We must observe, however, that they are compared to the young lion (Kephir), and not to the other kinds of lion, which are stronger. The young lion, although strong enough to hold his own, is, in comparison with the other kinds of lions, weak, and so does not trust his own strength. In the same manner the righteous, although confident of the power of their good works, yet do not trust in them more than the young lion in his strength. Therefore it says here: “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion “, namely, they win be in the future dispensation, not merely like the young, or even the old, lion, but like mount Zion , immovable and without fear. And ye, my sons. sons of the saints above, your trust. Your confidence, is indeed like unto mount Zion . Verily. Blessed are ye in this world and in the world to come!’

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“God said, `Let there be lights'” (Genesis 1:14 ). The word for “lights” (meorot) is written defectively, as if curses (me’erot), for the reason that the children’s disease, croup, was through them created. For after the primordial light was withdrawn there was created a “membrane for the marrow,” a klifah, and this klifah expanded and produced another. As soon as this second one came forth she went up and down till she reached the “little faces” [the cherubim residing in Heaven]. She desired to cleave to them and to be shaped as one of them, and was loath to depart from them. But the Holy One, Blessed be He, removed her from them and made her go below. When He created Adam and gave him a partner, as soon as she saw Eve clinging to his side and was reminded by his form of the supernal beauty, she flew up from thence and tried as before to attach herself to the “little faces.” The supernal guardians of the gates, however, did not permit her. The Holy One, Blessed be He, chid her and cast her into the depths of the sea, where she abode until the time that Adam and his wife sinned. Then the Holy One, Blessed be He, brought her out from the depth of the sea and gave her power over all those children, the “little faces” of the sons of men, who are liable to punishment for the sins of their fathers. She then wandered up and down the world. She approached the gates of the terrestrial paradise, where she saw the cherubim, the guardians of the gates of Paradise , and sat down near the flashing sword, to which she was akin in origin. When she saw the flashing sword revolving, she fled and wandered about the world and, finding children liable to punishment, she maltreated and killed them. All this is on account of the action of the moon in diminishing her light. When Cain was born this klifah tried for a time without success to attach herself to him, but at length she had intercourse with him and bore spirits and demons. Adam for a hundred and thirty years had intercourse with female spirits until Naamah was born. She by her beauty led astray the “sons of God,” Uzza and Azael, and she bore them children, and so from her went forth evil spirits and demons into the world. She wanders about at nighttime, vexing the sons of men and causing them to defile themselves. Wherever these spirits find people sleeping alone in a house, they hover over them, lay hold of them and cleave to them, inspire desire in them and beget from them. They further inflict diseases on them without their being aware—all this through the diminution of the moon. When the moon was restored, the letters of meorot (lights) were reversed to form imrat (word), as it is written, “the word (imrat) of the Lord is pure, He is a shield to all who seek refuge in Him” (Psalms 18:31 ). That means, He is a shield against all those evil spirits and demons that wander about the world at the waning of the moon, unto those who hold fast to their faith in the Holy One, Blessed be He….


uit: Rosh Hodesh 


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