People are a synthesis of physical and spiritual; body and soul. The Hebrew word for soul is neshama
which comes from the word nishima
, meaning “breath.” When G-d created man, He “breathed” a soul into the physical body. This breath of G-d is the source and essence of the soul.
In life, people confront and struggle with urges, interests and inclinations of both the body and the soul. The body is inclined to physical pleasures, like a good meal and a nap on the couch, while the soul is interested in deeper pleasures like meaning, helping someone in need, and ultimately, a spiritual connection to G-d. Judaism does not relate to the body and the world of physical pleasures as inherently bad. Likewise, it does not view the soul and the realm of the spiritual as the exclusive domain in which to live life. The Torah (Bible) teaches us that people are created “In the image of G-d.” This means that just like G-d breathes spiritual life into an inanimate physical body, in a sense, we can do the same. Judaism views life as an ongoing challenge to elevate the body and infuse the physical with the spiritual. In Jewish life, physical urges are not shunned or starved, rather they are refined and uplifted by harnessing and experiencing them in a spiritual context. The body can be viewed as a horse, while the soul is the rider. The definitive question of life is; who is leading who, and in which direction is ones life headed?
In Jewish life, physical urges are not shunned or starved, rather they are refined and uplifted by harnessing and experiencing them in a spiritual context.