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Converts are the vehicle by which supernal souls descend.

Soul of the Convert

Soul of the Convert

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Soul of the Convert
Converts are the vehicle by which supernal souls descend.

Zohar, Mishpatim, pp.98b-99a

Before undertaking an in-depth inquiry into the nature of the souls of converts, there are some rules in Jewish Law that one must know. Every Jew has an inheritor who is a relative, however distant, with the right to inherit his property, and when he dies his property is never "up for grabs" since there is always someone who has the legal right to inherit it; in contrast, a convert does not have a Jewish family tree that goes back for generations, and he might die leaving no inheritors. In such a case the rule is that his property is up for grabs. Whoever grabs the property of a convert who has died and left no inheritors merits the property. The Zohar, in a famous section in which an old man, a saba, reveals secrets to Rebbe Shimon' circle, explains the esoteric meaning of this rule.

"All these holy and high Neshamot that are designated by the Blessed Holy One to go down below, as we explained, go out at specific times to play in Paradise. There they meet the souls of converts. One that takes hold of one of these souls, and unites with it, merits it, envelops itself within it, and goes out…"

The Sabba began to cry as he had done before, and he said to himself, "Old Man, Old Man, you certainly have reason to cry and pour out tears over every word that you are revealing…

"All these holy souls come down into this world to inspire human beings and to take their places as is fitting for each one of them. When they come down each one is clothed in those souls that we discussed [the souls of converts], and that is how they enter into the holy seed. It is within these garments that they are able to exist and to be effected by the things of this world. When these envelopes draw desired things from this world, then the holy Neshamot are nourished from the odors that they smell in these garments. The Nefesh of the convert is a garment that envelops the higher souls…

The Nefesh of the convert is a garment that envelops the higher souls from the levels of Neshama and Ruach, and it is through this exterior garment that envelops them that the Neshamot and Ruchot enter into the physical world. In other words, the Nefesh of the convert is the interface between the higher souls and the physical world.

The Neshama and Ruach can enter the world only when they are enveloped in a Nefesh which acts as their interface. They can only benefit from the world by the sense of smell - so to speak - the most ethereal of the senses. This they do through the interface of the Nefesh, and if they cannot use their own Nefesh, then they get to use the so-called Nefesh of the convert, which is made available to them specifically for this purpose.

It is written in the Torah (Exodus 23:9), "Do not oppress a convert, for you have known the Nefesh (soul) of a convertwhen you were strangers in the land of Egypt." The continuation of the Zohar emphasizes the need to understand this verse and the concept of Nefesh of the convert in an esoteric way, and not according to its simple meaning.

All the hidden things that the Blessed Holy One does, He has put into the holy Torah, and everything is in the Torah. The wise…are able to see a hidden thing within its garment…

He reveals a hidden thing in the Torah, but he immediately clothes it in another garment and hides it. The wise, who have many eyes, are able to see a hidden thing within its garment even though it is hidden there. They spot it when it is revealed even though it may be hidden again within its covering immediately, and they don't lose sight of it again despite its obscurity.

In several places the Blessed Holy One has already warned about converts that the people of the holy seed must be careful about them…

In other words, the people of Israel must be careful about the converts in their midst - not to oppress them or treat them harshly in any way, and to go out of their way to make converts feel at home as much as possible

Having warned about the convert in all these places, He now takes the thing out of its covering and reveals it. This is what it says, "…for you have known the Nefesh of a convert," and then it is immediately hidden with the words, "…when you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

In other words, the Sabba is insisting that we should not understand this verse according to its simple meaning: that since we were strangers in Egypt, we have the ability to empathize with the convert in our midst. The Sabba may well be doing what he is "accusing" the Torah of doing - revealing one measure and hiding two. Nevertheless, the text of the Zohar here insists that we must understand the esoteric meaning of these words, "…for you have known the Nefesh of a convert."

The appearance in this phrase of the word "known" indicates that we are talking about some sort of special "intimacy," which was hinted at by the previous description of the meeting of a higher soul with the Nefesh of a convert in Paradise. Furthermore, the Sabba reveals now that the esoteric meaning of the verse is about the relationship of Neshama (and Ruach) to the Nefesh of the convert.

It is through this Nefesh of the convert that the Neshama knows the things of this world and is able to enjoy them. The Nefesh of the convert is the interface…

That is the main point. The Nefesh of the convert is the interface. The Zohar now clarifies the point by comparing it to the cloud that is mentioned in the verse, "And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and he went up to the mountain…" (Exodus 24:18).

What is this cloud?

This is what is written, "I have put My rainbow in the cloud…." This rainbow sent forth its garment, and it was given to Moses. And with this garment, he [Moses] was able to go up to the mountain, and through it he was able to see what he saw and benefit from what was there.

In other words, the cloud was the interface between Moses and what was being revealed on Mount Sinai.

At this point the members of the fellowship [that were present, R'Yossi and R'Chiya] prostrated themselves before the Sabba. They cried and they said, "If we had come into the world only to hear these words from your mouth, then it would have been enough."

Nevertheless, the following question remains to be asked: Why is this special interface that is created specifically to allow blemished Ruchot and Neshamot to reincarnate into the world - why is it called the Nefesh of a convert?

First, this special interface Nefesh is comparable to a convert because it also has no history or genealogy. It was created for this special purpose of serving as an interface. It does not have a previous "owner" to which it will return.

Second, this special interface Nefesh is comparable to the property of the convert who has died without any inheritors. Whoever takes hold of it, unites with it and uses it, will possess it forever, in addition to his own Nefesh. The Nefesh of the convert is like a new creation…

The Arizal has explained in Gates of Reincarnation (Chapter 7) that the Nefesh of a convert is a fourth type of soul in addition to the three main types (i.e. Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama). The Nefesh of the convert is like a new creation, and therefore it can serve as the vehicle for a blemished Ruach to come into the world - on the condition that the Nefesh of that Ruach has already been completed.

Nevertheless, the Arizal teaches that the gentile background of a convert may continue to exert influence over a period of one or two generations. In such a case, even second or third generation Jews may be born with the Nefesh of a convert. The example of this is none other than Rebbe Akiva whose father was a convert; this explains why he did not study Torah and was an enemy of those that did for the first forty years of his life.

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Adam Lexington April 23, 2015

At the fourth level, the soul of every human being loses all of its identity, including Jewish and whatnot. However, the act of conversion, is reflected up from the lower levels to the higher ones. Thus it is one of the most extraordinary spiritual acts, the light of which is greater than any individual mitzvah. While mitzvot are performed as choice-commandments, the conversion is entirely made by choice, thus it draws the power from Keter (the highest of Sefirot). Only complete Teshuvah is comparable in tikun to conversion. A Divinely inspired act indeed. Reply

Sarah Lin Oakland January 29, 2015

Thank you, Rabbi Brownstein. I have no problems accepting my lowly soul as I have the chance to rectify it through uniting with the higher souls or the higher souls of the Tzadiks, whom I have surrounded myself with. I am like a kid sheltered in warm blankets. Not bad being a Ger or goy at all for now. Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein Chabad.org October 22, 2013

Every Jew, born or converted, has all the soul levels; we need all of them. Most of us are recycled. Aspects of a soul that were not perfected in one life come back again to finish the job. When Moshiach comes, each body that rectified part of the soul will receive that part that it rectified. In the case of the soul of the convert, sometimes a person has rectified the lowest level of Nefesh, but the higher soul levels, Ruach and Neshamah, still need work. In that case, the Nefesh does not come back down. Instead, the higher soul levels join with the Nefesh of a convert which does not on its own possess the higher levels. The person lives in this world as a convert, and corrects the Ruach and Neshamah. The Nefesh of the Ger and the higher levels are never separated after death or in the times of Moshiahch. The Ger is deserving of love and sensitivity, in recognition of their great sacrifice to join the Torah nation, and cannot be considered "less than" a born Jew. Reply

Carol Gottlieb Greensburg, PA August 18, 2013

Can you explain a little more what the Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama are in relation to the soul of the convert? I read the article, and ask for a simpler explanation or perhaps suggest other online sites that I could go to in order to gain a better understanding. When I came online to this site and saw this article it spoke to me. I would like it if you could e-mail this article to my e-mail address listed below. I would like to share it with my Rabbi. Reply

webmaster Tzefat, Israel via kabbalaonline.org August 15, 2013

Same answer as to Z. Reply

webmaster Tzefat, Israel via kabbalaonline.org August 15, 2013

Your difficulty in understanding is only because of your insistence that there is a dichotomy between the aspects of the soul. The article emphasizes the sharing of the persona and the melding of the soul aspects. "Who perceives? etc." - the whole person body-soul composite. Reply

z. ist via kabbalaonline.org August 14, 2013

This is an article quite above my level of understanding, so I hope my questions will not be too out of place. From an experiential standpoint I have serious difficulty to understand this dichotomy between the nefesh of the convert and the ruchot and neshamot of higher existences. Who is the one experiencing on this physical level? Is it the nefesh of the convert or the ruchot and neshamot who sees the Creator's signature in everything that happens? Who is it that bursts into tears of affection, awe, gratefulness and indescribable love seeing his/her Creator just looking around the physical existence? Who is it that feels the immensity, intensity and loyalty of the Creator's Love? Who is it that starts to learn, understand and internalize the Truth that all is the Creator? Reply

Nesanel August 14, 2013

Just btw im i looking right now through the neshama or the nefesh. As in im I myself as i am the nefesh or the neshama. Do i just go to another neshama as "myself" or are my "eyes" the neshama. Please anwser, if this is true that could potential mean me as "myself" actualy isn't "Jewish"(i.e. a neshana) and will not inhereit moshiach, just some form of gan aden. PLEASE ANWSER ME THIS BOTHERS ME GREATLY Reply

Yoshi CT June 18, 2013

To those saying they feel they are being treated low for being converts, I couldn't have had a more different experience myself. As a matter of fact, I have found that converts are most respected in the more Orthodox communities. Neither converts, divorcees, nor non-virgins are thought of as lower just because they cannot marry Kohens. This stuff is explained better in Kiddushin, which I haven't studied much yet, unfortunately. Remember that the daughter of converts can marry a Kohen so it's not like it's a racial thing. You may never find an explanation that you like as to why converts can't marry Kohens, but there are many laws which cannot be explained by logic. As for the treatment on converts, I would suggest watching this www.chabad.org/therebbe/livingtorah/player_cdo/aid/1317511/jewish/Sons-and-Daughters-of-Abraham.htm Reply

Anonymous USA January 24, 2013

Where does all these knowledge come from about the spiritual world? Have these been revealed by the Eternal G-d? Is it in Torah? How do we know about all these? I know that the spiritual world exist, I have seen spirits, and angels, but they never revealed all these information. I am flabergasted! Reply

SarahRachel Los Angeles, USA via kabbalaonline.org March 11, 2012

Chaya said: "It must be that a convert shares the same condition--not the status--of a divorcee or non-virgin. It is not a question necessarily of being lowly."

Yes, a non virgin and a divorcee are considered to have a lowly condition and therefore also a lowly status. To put a convert, a sincere convert to Judaism in those same categories, conditions, and status, just because they ARE a convert, is WRONG.

Often sincere converts to Judaism are far more Torah observant than born Jews. The lowly condition or status thing should be applicable to BORN Jews who are not Torah observant. Yet it isn't. It should also be applied to converts who go off the derech. Yet instead it is applied to EVERY sincere, observant convert. This is wrong. Reply

Chaya Clinton, SC February 28, 2010

It must be that a convert shares the same condition--not the status--of a divorcee or non-virgin. It is not a question necessarily of being lowly. We need to think: how does the soul of a convert resemble that of a divorcee, whose inability to marry a Cohen has nothing to do with whether or not she was born a Jew. What does having been divorced do to the soul? How is that similar to the soul of a ger? Reply

Malka Montreal, QC February 7, 2010

The last paragraph about exerting influence is the reason converts are seen as a threat. Also because a convert cannot marry a Cohen and is the same category as a divorcee or non virgin, people see us as being lowly. I haven't found the answer (kabbalistic reason) as to why their souls are not fit to marry cohanim and who they were in a previous life. I don't buy the whole eirev rav explanation which just adds fuel to the fire of indifference. Did the clouds fo glory find then unworthy as to not protect them? It is written in the Torah an ample amount of time to respect the convert but for some reason few follow this point of view. Its quite contradictory. Being a convert is a challenge. Reply

Janice Ganz Baltimore, MD January 5, 2010

I just asked my rabbi a question about where I stand as a convert in terms of the neshama soul etc. and this article jumped out at me while I was looking for something totally unrelated. Todah. Reply

David Dome London, UK via kabbalaonline.org October 26, 2009

Written exactly the way I needed to read it ...clear , easy to internalise .

Thanks , I've benefitted from this "lesson-on-Line". Reply

Anonymous September 24, 2009

I will keep this article close by. Thank you. Reply

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