Our Two Souls
Reading Torah opens a whole new world of understanding for us. Here we may find godly understandings for our earthly behaviours. For example, in Genesis 1:21 we learn Yahweh created animal life. The rabbis, writing in Talmud, share with us each animal was given ‘nefesh’, a ‘soul’ or animal nature, which is not spiritual but is physical. The nefesh is the seat of egocentric behavior, designed to guide the animal towards security, survival and procreation. Nefesh is totally focused on self and meeting personal needs. Then, in Genesis 1:26, the creation of humankind is introduced to us. Humans were given an additional soul, so explain the rabbis, called ‘neshamah’, which is spiritual not physical. Through neshamah we gain an understanding of the human part of life, those aspects of cooperation, collaboration, kindness, interdependence, chessed (loving-kindness) and tzedakah (correct, ethical, God-inspired behaviour). Nefesh, the rabbis explain, is complete and cannot evolve any further, whereas neshamah is constantly evolving, allowing humans the opportunity, if desired, to become more God-like in our thinking and active behavior – transformed more in His likeness, if you will.
As human beings, we have both nefesh, for survival, security and procreation, and neshamah, to live God-centred ethical lives. A question arises, then, how much control do we have over either of our nefesh, our human nature, and our neshamah, our spiritual souls? Here is where our beloved Abba plays the major role. Once we have accepted Yahweh/Adonai Yeshua into our lives, in the presence of the Holy Spirit of the Living God, we have an ally in the constant battle between our nefesh and our neshamah.
In our human existence, our nefesh continually encourages, challenges, pushes us to accumulate more – wealth, toys, power, influence – while our neshamah urges us to share what we accumulate with those less fortunate. This is what Adonai Yeshua meant, when He told His talmidim, His disciples, in Luke 12:33 – “Sell what you own and do tzedakah — make for yourselves purses that don’t wear out, riches in heaven that never fail, where no burglar comes near, where no moth destroys.” Then He caps this teaching with, “For where your wealth is, there your heart (neshamah) will be also” (Luke 12:34). Very clearly in this teaching, Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus, is urging us to live-up to the two fundamental commandments of Torah – Love Yahweh with all your heart/soul, mind and strength and Love your neighbour as yourself. Is His teaching telling us we should not accumulate wealth — absolutely not! What He is exhorting us to do is take the gift of wealth accumulation we have been given and share it with those who are in greater need. There are so many ways of doing this, other than merely handouts. For example, providing for the training of those who need to relearn, in order to enter the workforce, is a desperate need for our society. In this activity of tzedakah, leaving that up to governments alone, as we know, will not work; we need to be involved much more actively.
Beloved, all of us are involved in a tug-of-war, literally, between the desires of our human natures (nefesh) and our spiritual soul (neshamah). Our role in this battle is to bring the two together, so they work in tandem — we ensure our self-centred desires are directed outwardly to fulfill Yahweh’s command to us – Love your neighbour as yourself.
May the God Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov bless you richly.