A blind man and a lame man steal some fruit from an

orchard guarded by a high fence. They do this by joining

forces. The lame man climbs onto the shoulders of the

blind man and guides him toward the fruit. When caught,

each of them claims that he is obviously unable to commit

the crime due to his disability. The orchard owner places

the lame man on the back of the blind man and they are

judged as one. [A parable to the soul and the body.]

Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 91a


Kabbalistic wisdom states that this world is comprised of three dimensions: time, space, and soul. [1] These three dimensions are inseparably linked. Einstein demonstrated this connection with regard to time and space, declaring that one cannot accurately describe one without the other. There is not time and space. There is only space-time. [2]

Likewise, from the Jewish perspective, one can only speak of time-space-soul. [3] In fact, it goes further than simply linking these dimensions together. Kabbalah states that the energy source sustaining the world is the soul. It is the internal spiritual dimension that sustains the other two. [4]


We are created as two seemingly contradictory parts: body and soul. Our bodies, which are very physical, are created by G-d’s “hidden face.” Our souls are created by His “revealed face.” [5] The body is an exact replica of how G-d hides His face in the world, and the soul is an exact replica of how G-d shines His light in this world. [6] 

Neither alone can define us. We are not our body. The body is a transient creation, made from the dust of the earth. [7] When its time on earth expires, it will return to the dust of the earth. [8] However, we can’t be our soul either. When saying the morning blessings, one declares:

“G-d, the soul that you have placed in me is pure.” [9] If so, there must be a “me” external to the soul that can receive it.

In this world, body and soul are in constant tension. Each of us — the being that is made of these two elements — is essentially a paradox. The miracle of man is that G-d integrated the soul and the body into one being. When we think of ourselves, we don’t think of two beings — a body and a soul. They are both just us. One who cannot think this way will be alienated from his own being. (Alternatively, he may be an existential philosopher.) If man thinks he is only his soul, then when his body acts with sensual passion or craves materialism, or wants to sin, who is that?

If we want to integrate the multiple facets of our being and still be the same person, we have to become soul-people. Only then can we connect all the dots of a self that is part angel and part animal. Only then can we stay true to ourselves across the spectrum of our lives.

[1] Sefer Hayetzirah 6:1. In Hebrew, this is known as Olam (“world” — space), Shanah (“year” — time), and Nefesh (one of the words for soul).

[2] This was a part of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which he announced in 1915.

[3] Yosher Divrei Emet 53.

[4] See below.

[5] Ramchal, Daat Tevunot 80.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Genesis 2:7: “And the L-rd G-d formed man dust from the earth and He blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” The body was from the “dust of the earth,” while “the breath of life” refers to the creation of the soul. See also ibid., v. 17, where G-d also forms the animals from the ground. However, the term “dust of the earth” is only used with reference to man.

[8] Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread until your return to the ground, for you were taken from it, for you are dust and you will return to dust.

[9] Prayerbook, Morning Blessings.

Continue reading Body and Soul.

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Rabbi Avraham Edelstein serves as the Education Director of Neve Yerushalayim College for Women and a senior advisor to Olami. Many of Rabbi Edelstein’s foundational publications addressing the world of Kiruv appear on OlamiResources.com.

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