Body & Soul: Enemies or Partners?

The Soul - Its source is its essence

וְאַף שֶׁאֵין לוֹ דְמוּת הַגּוּף חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, אַךְ דִּבְּרָה תוֹרָה כִּלְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם

Though He has no corporeal form, G–d forbid, the Torah speaks in the language of men.

וְכָכָה מַמָּשׁ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, הַמַּבְדִּיל הַבְדָּלוֹת לְאֵין קֵץ, בְּנִשְׁמַת הָאָדָם, שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹקִית – דְּמִתּוֹכֵיהּ נָפַח, יֵשׁ בָּהּ בְּחִינַת שֵׂכֶל הַנֶּעְלָם, הַמְרוּמָּז בְּאוֹת יוּ״ד, שֶׁבְּכֹחוֹ לָצֵאת אֶל הַגִּילּוּי, לְהָבִין וּלְהַשְׂכִּיל בַּאֲמִתָּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ וּבִגְדוּלָּתוֹ וְכוּ׳, כָּל חַד וְחַד לְפוּם שִׁיעוּרָא דִּילֵיהּ, לְפִי רוֹחַב שִׂכְלוֹ וּבִינָתוֹ.

The analogy here is that, again considering the infinite separation between the two cases, these same four stages apply to the soul of man, i.e., the divine soul that “He blew from within Himself.” There is the initial state of hidden concept symbolized in the letter yud, with its potential of being revealed, thus understanding and conceiving of His true being and His greatness…each person according to his measure, according to the breadth of his intellect and understanding.

According to the Tanya, our neshama comes from a place that is even higher than angels. Unlike the angels who are described as coming form "the breath of His mouth", the neshama of a Jew comes from a deeper place.

The Body - Weaker than an animal

Our physical body is animated by the nefesh habehamis (animal soul). Rav Chaim Vital teaches (Shaare Kedushah 1:2) that our traits have both a positive and negative version and the Tanya teaches that by refining ourselves we can distill pure good.

Q: How do our physical capabilities compare to that of other animals? Are we stronger? Weaker? What about our emotional equilibrium? Do psychological imbalances affect us more? Does an animal's mood affect its productivity?

The Combination

One of the many reason's human beings are unique are that they consist of the loftiest and most mundane elements of creation: a soul loftier than angels and a physical body weaker than an animal. Additionally, because of intellect we are capable of great accomplishments, yet also massive destruction at the same time.

Each of us are comprised of polar opposites: a lofty soul and an earthly body with the potential for extreme good and, G-d forbid, the opposite.

The Battle

Q: Based on what we learned so far, do you think the body and soul would have a harmonious relationship? Why or why not?

(ב) הרכבת הגוף והנשמה: ואולם להיות הדבר הזה נשלם כראוי גזרה החכמה העליונה שיהיה האדם מורכב מב׳‎ הפכים דהיינו מנשמה שכלית וזכה וגוף ארציי. ועבור שכל א׳‎ מהם יטה בטבע לצדו דהיינו הגוף לחומריות והנשמה לשכליות ותמצא ביניהם מלחמה באופן שאם תגבר הנשמה תתעלה היא ותעלה הגוף עמה ויהיה אותו האדם המשתלם בשלימות המעותד ואם יניח האדם שינצח בו החומר הנה ישפל הגוף ותשפל נשמתו עמו ויהיה אותו האדם בלתי הגון לשלימות ונדחה ממנו ח״ו ולאדם הזה יכולת להשפיל חומרו לפני שכלו ונשמתו ולקנות שלימותו כמ״ש:

(2) The joining of the body and the soul: However in order for this matter to be accomplished appropriately, the Supreme Wisdom decreed that man be composed of two opposites - meaning to say, from a spiritual and pure soul and from an earthly body. And since each one of them naturally inclines to its side - meaning to say, the body towards physicality and the soul towards spirituality - it comes out that there is a war between them in such a way that if the soul wins, it will raise the body with it; but if man allows the physical to win in him, the body will surely be lowered and the soul will be lowered with it. And that man will not be fit for perfection, and will be pushed away from it, God forbid. But that man [still] has the ability to humble his physical [side] before his spiritual [side] and soul and acquire his perfection, as I have written.