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A TALE OF THREE SOULS

Thursday, 17 August, 2017 - 3:30 pm

A young boy asked his mom about their ancestry. She told him of her illustrious background, back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“Where did they come from?” "Adam and Eve." "And they?" “G-d created them.” The boy wrote it down and then went to his dad.

“Where do we come from?” he asked. “Ah, we come from the apes. After millions of years of evolution we evolved into humans.”

“And the apes?” “Ah, they evolved from other primates.” “Where did it all begin?” “It all began with bacteria.”

The confused boy went running back to his mom. “Mom, you said we come from Adam, Eve and G-d.

Dad said we come from the apes, monkeys and bacteria….” “No contradiction, son,” she said. 

“Your father was talking about HIS side of the family; I was talking about MINE.”

This week's Torah portion, Re’eh, includes laws for the consumption of Kosher animals. The Torah distinguishes between three categories of animals:

a) land animals, b) birds, and c) fish. Mystically, these three categories embody the three major facets of our personality.

Who am I? That question is as old as life itself. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the author of the Tanya, said, There is not one “I,” but three “I’s.”

We have three distinct batteries within our bodies—each consisting of a different persona. We operate on three levels of consciousness.

On the same day, even the same hour, we can operate on a different level of consciousness.

By becoming familiar with these three distinct personalities in each of us, we can not only understand ourselves in a deeper way, but also learn how to deal with the perpetual conflict in our psyche.

The three categories of G-d’s creatures—land animals, birds, and fish—exist in our brains. 

1. I have the animal in me: Nefesh Habihamit—the animal soul; 

2. I have the bird in me: Nefesh Hasichlit—the rational soul;

3. I have the fish in me: Nefesh Haelokit—the G-dly soul.

The animal soul is driven by the quest for self-preservation, self-enhancement and self-gratification. Its one question: What’s in it for me?

The rational soul is driven by the quest for knowledge. It seeks to objectively understand how things work:

How do volcanoes happen? Is light a particle or a wave? It also asks moral and existential questions: 

What makes something right or wrong? Is there a purpose to life? What makes us human? Where did the universe come from?

The G-dly soul, defined as a “fragment of G-d,” sees life from the perspective of its singular Creator.

This Divine soul experiences Him within Creation and aspires to be one with the source of all reality, G-d. 

It senses the innate, organic oneness that unites us all as creations of one G-d. It asks, "Do you understand the gift of life? 

This infinite creator (who is infinitely more infinite than the 170 million galaxies) has given us an opportunity to become one with Him.

Torah is a taste of G-d Himself. How do you expect me not to be inspired when I awake in the morning?"

Let's look at a scenario: You are driving home from work after a long, hard day of working non-stop to support your family. 

Your phone rings; it's your wife. You smell trouble. Sure enough, she says: “Where are you? 

You said you would be home 1.5 hours ago. You are so untrustworthy. 

Besides, I asked you 100 times to take care of that bill, but you still have not.

I had a miserable day, the kids drove me mad, and your mother came over too. 

I hate your new work schedule. Plus there is a leak in the bathroom; you need to call the plumber. 

And by the way, I thought about it, I really do not want you to go surfing next week….” Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. How do you respond?

Well, depends which “you” will take charge. Next time you are in this or a similar situation, think about these three ways of responding and choose the most powerful and wholesome path.

The animal soul is now feeling anxious and threatened. It reacts impulsively and shoots back. “You are never happy or content.

There is always another problem. Go to therapy and get help, and leave me alone. I am sick and tired of this complaining. 

You are just like your mother. You make me miserable. You are a…” Bang. Hang up.

The Rational Soul analyzes the situation calmly and objectively: Your wife is quite stressed out. Don't get swept away with impulsive emotions.

Let’s figure out how to assuage and get out of this situation without bruises. “Honey,” the rational soul says, “You are very upset. 

We will talk about it and try to work things out. I will be home soon and we will talk.” 

“But you were suppose to be home more than an hour ago!” “Screaming helps no one. Let us calm down.

 In the big picture, from the vantage point of space, our issues are less than meaningless. I will be home soon to talk.” “Okay,” bang. Hang up.

The G-dly Soul has no defense mechanisms, nor is it busy protecting its ego. It only asks one question: 

What does G-d want from me at this moment? 

The Divine soul does not see life as “me vs. you,”  we are all linked and interconnected, and where I need you to win for me to win; and if you lose, I ultimately lose, too.

In the G-dly dimension of myself, I am never insecure, timid, frail, weak, or afraid.

I never respond with anger coming from a place of me being threatened.

Rather, I have the serenity to see things from your perspective without feeling that my existence is in danger. 

When your wife is stressed or upset, the Divine soul does not judge her, or get upset at her. 

On the contrary, it looks at things from her perspective and empathizes with her. 

It absorbs her genuine criticism without getting offensive or defensive. 

The Divine soul responds, “I love you and I am sorry for my mistakes. I did not mean to hurt you. 

I am here for you. I am so sorry you had a hard day; 

I also had a pretty hard day—which only means we have SO MUCH to share tonight over dinner. 

I know we are both always there for each other. I can’t wait to see you and give you a big hug.” 

“But you said, you would be home…!” “I know, and I am sorry. I will do it differently next time. 

I am human and happy to work on myself and grow. I am so glad I have you as my partner in life to love me and challenge me.”

Then the Divine soul makes sure you stop at the corner, pick up a bouquet of roses, and bring it to your darling who mainly wanted your empathy and a sense of connection.

Now, here is the catch. The animal and rational souls are not bad. 

They are just relatively primitive —operating on a lower rung of consciousness. 

The animal soul within us is a “land animal”—an earth-bound creature, physically and conceptually, and is a wholly material being, self-engrossed, incapable of ever escaping the confinement of its earthly existence. 

At the other end of the spectrum is the G-dly soul, characterized by the water creature in that it lives wholly immersed in its source. 

Just as a fish cannot survive outside the water that spawned it, so too, the G-dly soul is always synced with its source, conscious of the Creator at every moment, submerged in the living waters of the Divine energy that infuses all creation with vitality.

 The “bird” in man is a mixture of matter and spirit, a creature that is capable of soaring to the most sublime heights, though it repeatedly returns to earth to rest and feed between flights. 

This is the intellect within us, capable of raising itself above the materiality of earth and attaining a higher, yet nevertheless bound, in many ways, to the physical reality of which it is a part.

Now we can appreciate the mystical and spiritual distinctions between these three types of animals in terms of the laws of Kosher—representing how we create peace and harmony between the three souls, so that they all become “Kosher.” The most stringent slaughter requirements pertain to the “land animal.” 

At the other end of the spectrum are fish, which require no slaughter at all. You take them out of the water and you may eat them.

 Birds occupy the middle ground between land animals and fish: they do require slaughter, but the severing of only one of the vital passages—either the windpipe or the gullet—is sufficient.

Why the distinction? Because the way we deal with our animal soul varies from how we deal with our rational soul, and with our Divine soul. The “animal soul” requires a full-fledged challenge it to its core in order to sublimate it to its Divine source.

The “rational soul's" intellect is sacred, although it requires its egotistic elements to be subdued.

The wholly selfless “G-dly soul” is the purest and most sacred dimension within ourselves; the part of us that is forever submerged in the living waters of the Divine reality.

A baby camel asked its mother, "Mom, why do I have these huge three-toed feet?" She replied, "Well, son, when we trek across the desert, your toes will help you stay on top of the soft sand."

A few minutes later the young camel asked, "Mom? Why have I got these great long eyelashes?" 

"They are there to keep the sand out of your eyes on our long trips through the desert." 

After a short while, the young camel asked, "Mom? Why have I got these great big humps on my back?" 

The mother, now a little impatient, replied, "They help us store water for our long treks across the desert."

"Wow, said the baby, "that’s really great. So we have huge feet to stop us from sinking in the sand,long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes and these great humps to store water.

But Mom! What are we doing locked up in a cage in a zoo?"

This must be our question, too: If I have all these qualities, characteristics, potentials, and resources, why am I “locked up,” not actualizing all of my G-d given opportunities and potential?

May we all find it within ourselves to maximize our potential and encourage our three souls to unify in the best possible path.

Shabbat Shalom & Chodesh Tov and A HAPPY AND SWEET NEW YEAR,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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