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What's this "Jewish soul" Thing? Aren't We All One?

What's this "Jewish soul" Thing? Aren't We All One?

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Question:

Why do you speak of a "Jewish soul"? How can you put souls in boxes?

I think that, at a certain point, the question every human being will ask is "Who am I?" Ultimately, we discover that there are no attributes. To me, that is the essence of spirituality: there is a transcendence that we can experience that is beyond Jewish or Christian or Islam or Buddhist or even Atheist. Isn't it absurd to think that a soul has attributes like Jewish or non Jewish or black or white, etc?

Gary

Answer:

Dear Gary,

The idea that all souls are the same is one of the biggest mistakes of modern spirituality. We are so used to thinking that definitions create barriers and barriers cause hatred that we are convinced that to be spiritual means to have no borders. From a Kabbalistic perspective, this totally misses the point of existence.

Before creation, G‑d had unity. G‑d was all there was; there were no borders, definitions or distinctions. If unchallenged unity is what G‑d wants, He had it already. He would not have created the world.

Creation was an act of making borders. From unity came multiplicity. Ours is a world of divisions: body and soul, male and female; as well as the divisions of nations, families and individuals.

Why did G‑d create multiplicity? Doesn't that go against the oneness of G‑d? No, it doesn't. Because the deepest unity is unity found within diversity. If we are all the same, then unity is no big deal. So G‑d gave us all particular souls, each with its unique and diverse chartacteristics. When each individual as an individual, and each nation from within its own culture and perpective, recognizes the same G‑d, that is real unity.

In other words, a unity that is challenged by diversity yet emerges from that very diversity is an invincible unity. That is something G‑d "couldn't" have without a world like ours.

To blur the boundaries between nations, genders and individuals is to avoid facing the challenge which lies at the very heart of G‑d's purpose in creation -- to find unity in our differences.

For the unity of humankind we need one G‑d; but for G‑d's unity to be complete we need human diversity.

Jews should be Jews, non-Jews should be non-Jews, men should be men and women should be women. And every individual has to be himself. Only then can we learn from each other the wisdom that we ourselves lack.

The majesty of G‑d is revealed when each individual and comunity connects with Him from his/her/their unique vantage point. There is a contribution that only you can make to G‑d's master plan. That's why you were born as you are -- a Jew, a male, and and the other distintive spiritual chasracteristicts that make you "Gary."

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Amy UK July 29, 2014

I'm not sure if this thread is still active, but I found it fascinating to read. I recently found out that my maternal great great grandfather was a Prussian Jew. He married a Christian from Poland and they came to the UK and raised a family (all with Jewish names, which were passed down as far as my Grandmother, who is still alive). I've been raised Christian, but have always felt very Jewish. I listen to Israel National News, read Jewish publications, listen to Rabbis online and long to live in Israel. I feel like converting could be G-d's calling for me. However, watching a currently rise in anti-Semitism across Europe reminds me again what a huge responsibility it would be. It is indeed quite confusing! Reply

David Sanders Denver April 29, 2014

What is being confused here by Rabbi Moss is not his well-taken point that diversity is God’s plan and for us to experience unity within that diversity--it is what Gary wants to understand regarding the soul. The soul has nothing to do with attributes or who “Gary” is. Being Gary, Jewish or male or your skin color are all equivalent attributes compared to the soul. These attributes are what makes us unique, I may be an Ethiopian Jewish man who is a physician and a father of 3 girls--all which will provide me with my unique identity and opportunities and challenges--those are what we call our attributes (masks). My fellow Ethiopian who is Christian and female, has 3 boys and is a politician has her unique attributes. On the soul level we are the same. God is not only color blind, God is blind to gender and to religion. The attributes are ours to fulfill on or to change. Reply

Ariela July 27, 2012

TO: You cannot choose your soul Hi Katin,
I just wanted to check that you are saying that a convert to Judaism is not "becoming Jewish" but she has ALWAYS been a Jew from the very beginning ( as chosen by Hashem)

Thank you for your commentary. It is very reassuring to find your take on that.

I am a convert. And I have been a Jew for about nine years now.
When I was born, I arrived out of my Mother and then they baptized me and made me Roman Catholic.

I was a very devout Catholic, who would go to church almost daily if I could.

But there was always a leaning tendency towards Israel, Jews. e.g. When I was four years old, I looked at the front page of the news paper, and there was Ariel Sharon and Arafat photographs- I just instantly liked the Ariel Sharon photograph better, not know what it meant etc

Now I am a Reform Jew but I observe a lot of the Modern Orthodox practices since my closest friends are all Modern Orthodox.

But I wonder what happens to the other souls? How would good Catholics reach G-d? Reply

Katrin May 14, 2012

You cannot chose your soul Maybe I'm going one step further than "our" Rabbi Aron here, but I believe that there're only two kind of souls: The Jewish and the Non-Jewish soul.
There's no such thing as a Christian soul for example. Because, being a Christian or a Muslim or any other religion is something you chose after your soul had been given to you. You can become a Christian or join any other religion at any time in your life and leave them again whenever you like and you won't lose your soul over it.

A Jew, however, is born with a Jewish soul. You can not choose to be a Jew. You cannot choose your soul. You cannot change your soul either. You received it from G-d. Hence, you either are a Jew with a Jewish soul or you are not. Even when someone converted to Judaism, he didn't become a Jew, but has always been a Jew from the very beginning as he was chosen by G-d. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA February 22, 2012

Charles, the Go-d I know is kind and good. Does He expect us to be perfect? Absolutely not. In fact, we will be made perfect AFTER death, in that our spirit will join with G-d in the after life. No more physical pains or emotional angst. What do you know about the grace and forgiveness and goodness of Go-d? I believe G-d created all of us, and we are all one in humanity. The point of a Jewish soul is for us, and not for G-d. It is so we can have a sense of belonging to a wider group of people, that's all. Reply

Charles Kerr Honolulu, HI February 22, 2012

Sorry for Earlier Comment In an earlier comment I said not all Jews possess a Jewish soul. I'm sorry to say such a thing. I should have kept quiet. I would never want to say anything wrong or false in this discussion, even seemingly so. It's just that I'm worried that our behavior might cause us to loose our Jewish soul. I'm worried that in our hour of Divine Judgement, the L-rd in His mercy may give us the opportunity to surrender our soul. He might tell me: you are a Jew but in your life did you act like a Jew? Consider well and tell Me how shall I judge you - as a Jew according to the Law of Moses, or not as a Jew according to the laws of Noah? At that hour, I fear the L-rd in His mercy might allow me to loose my Jewish soul. Can this be? Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA February 14, 2012

To Carmine in Fl. You said, "you say everyone has a different soul and thus only Jews are bound for a resurrection body". No one said that, Carmine. This is in your own mind. Jews don't believe in a resurrection such as described about jesus LONG after he died. (This was a myth, you know. Try counting from Good Friday until Sunday Morning and you 'll see that is not three days and three nights). Jesus was not resurrected. Sorry. That is only one of the untruths in the New Testament. Another is that a Jew (Jesus) would say "This is my blood, drink it". Jews do not drink blood or eat people's bodies. This was not a Jewish thing! If it was a Passover supper, Jesus still could not take the place of a sacrificial mammal. The bible abhors human sacrifice. Etc. So, no Jewish person would have said only we are going to be resurrected. In fact, our ideas of after-death are very different than yours. Did you know we don't believe in Hell? Reply

Anonymous Kidwelly, Dyfed February 14, 2012

Jewish soul? Can someone please explain why a Jewish soul should be different to a Noahide/gentile who is observant of Jewish teaching. As once Jews were Noahides and in fact still are by being the sons of Noah as we all are! Jews were chosen by Hashem to a very high calling of being a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations. But we all come from the same stock - do we not? Reply

Barbara Melbourne, Australia December 3, 2011

ALEXANDRA Alexandra, I get the impression that you think Gentiles/Xians are carefree and happy. May I direct you to their belief in eternal Hellfire? Imagine living with that horror lurking in your psyche! Their worship of a human being as God- does that make for happiness, or insanity? Be thankful you're Jewish. Reply

Samantha L. Longmont, CO June 20, 2011

To Alexandra I used to feel the same way as you. If I were not Jewish, I thought, I'd have no more depression, angst, whatever. That sensitivity to your own and others' pain. I want to point out a few things.One, not all non-Jews/Christians are "happy." Two, sometimes what looks like happiness is just shallowness and denial, three, if you could change, SERIOUSLY, would you really? I think if you somehow changed your mind and soul so as not to "feel Jewish" or perceive the world in a "Jewish way" you would not feel happy, just confused and alienated from yourself. You might feel like part of your soul had been murdered. I am sorry to say that this was my own experience. Your sensitivity is a gift. Use it to make art or help other people who are suffering. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA June 7, 2011

Alexandra, I once went to a psychiatrist. This man asked, "What do you want in life?" I said, "I want to be happy!" He asked, "So, what is stopping you?" I had a whole laundry list of complaints. He responded, "So, what is stopping you right now at this moment? Someone has a gun to your head forcing you to not be happy?" I thought he was joking, and laughed. I then understood and responded, "Oh, no. I'm safe here right now." So, I smiled. He explained that happiness is an emotion, not a situation. You can choose this emotion just as you choose items to buy in a store. So, too, being Jewish. You can VIEW it as a restriction and hardship (even as being ridiculous and out of step with society) or you can view it as a sense of belonging with no restrictions, and go and have fun. Who is stopping you? It sounds as if you have some issues with self image. You like "heights" of the soul? So, who is stopping your Jewish soul from reaching heights? The secret is inner LOVE. With that, you have reached Heaven on earth. Reply

Alexandra Denver, Co,uSA June 6, 2011

Jewish Soul. is TOO SERIOUS! I want to CHANGE! Dear Lynne Eutsler; Yes, there are "depths' of being Jewish But I prefer the 'heights' of the Christian soul --and other souls. its a scientific fact that biologically, most Jews are more sensitive to pain than other people -- I know I am. And i dould do ANYTHING not to beq! With me, it's not just sensitivity to pain in my own body --it's sensitivity to the pain, mental & physical, of others. But 'feeling' too much can lead to sadness and loss of energy! i want to have fun...Fun...FUN! I want to laugh, & be CAREFREE! If other people can have 'fun in the sun, and be 'ditzy' & HAPPY! I'd probably be too serious even if i wsn't Jewish...being Jewish only makes it worse! Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA June 6, 2011

Alexandra, I had to smile. There is a reason you are writing on this site. It's because your soul is beckoning to you. I, also, had those reasons for traversing into Christianity. I was tired of being ostracized, and people telling me there is a better way, and that I am not spiritually fulfilled, etc. Guess what I found. Many sects of Christianity have JUST AS MANY restrictions and rules as orthodox Judaism. They also are using incorrect historical facts on which to base their religion, and misinterpret the old testament (scriptures). My dear Alexandra, you can fight against your biology, but you have a Jewish mom. One day, it will mean something to you. One doesn't have to follow all the rules in the Torah to have the FEELING of connection with Jewish ancestry. Let me welcome you to the family, even though you reject us. You will always be beloved by G-d, no matter what religion you follow, and you will always be my sister. Reply

Alexandra Denver, Co, USA May 24, 2011

Dear Karen: I'm glad you enjoy Jewish traditions. I don't. Being Jewish makes me feel OUT of the mainstream culture, and a possible victim of anti-Semiiism, too. I know other Jews enjoy Chanuka, but they are a TINY minority, & I wnat to join the MAJORITY of people in my country, (the USA) who celebrate CHRISTMAS! My mom told me of the epxression, "Pynt a la yid"l meaning, "it's hard to be a Jew"-- & truer words were never said! Kate Middleton has SOME Jewish ancestry, (her mom's maiden name was "Goldsmith"), but she was baptied in the Church of England as a chilld, then RE-baptied a few weeks ago, (to be sure she remains COE, I assume.) Being born Jewish-- or with Jewish ancestry -- is something you can't help. But enjoying being Jewish? I can't do that. Not as long as Judaism offers so few advantages...and Christianity beckons me, with so MANY advantages. (And EVERYONE is descended from Adam & Eve..so why not go with what makes one happy...and CARE-FREE???? Reply

Charles Kerr Honolulu, HI May 19, 2011

Lesson On the Jewish Soul Question: Does every born Jew and convert have a Jewish soul? The answer is no. Here's why. A Jewish soul is determined by two things, name and weight of merit. The name of a Jewish soul is long, like a legal contract. Though each name is unique, only a small part of it is unique to the individual. The rest of the name is exactly the same as every other Jewish soul. The soul of every born Jew and convert has such a name. They are the only people who do so. Name is essential; but, by itself it is not enough. A Jewish soul always hangs in the balance. Imagine an ancient balance scale. On one side hangs the worldly, and on the other side is the holy. Though both the worldly and the holy are perfect and good, the Jewish soul must possess enough merit to tip the scale in favor of the holy. The way to acquire merit is by adherence to the mitzvoth. Each mitzvah gives the soul extra weight on the side of the holy. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA May 18, 2011

Anon in England, hmmm. You say the "Jewish soul has a depth of sensitivity and spirituality that differs from other souls". You say it doesn't mean better, but by literal definition, it does imply this. In fact, if I were not Jewish and read that statement, I'd be highly insulted. If you had said, "type of sensitivity and spirituality" instead of "depth", that would have probably said what you meant to say in a less condescending manner. Also, I would argue there is no "Jewish soul". Soul means "spirit", and a spirit has no gender. It is invisible. There is a Jewish FEELING, but only G-d gives us a soul. I doubt He gave one kind of soul to Jews and a different kind to Gentiles. We do OPT IN to our soul in different ways, however. Some say it shows up in our religious beliefs, but I say it is just a feeling. As far as showing G-d's love to the world, we don't have a monopoly on this. In fact, I know of Jews who give $ for the poor but wouldn't lift a finger to help them. Where is the "soul" in this? Reply

Anonymous London, England May 18, 2011

EVERY SOUL IS A GEM I am jewish and so proud of my origins. I do believe that the Jewish soul has a depth of sensitivity and spirituality that differs from other souls. All though this is the case, it does not mean that in anyway one is "better" then the other. It simply means that both types of soul have different purposes to fulfill on the earth. both souls urge to do good and both are distracted by the same types of obstacles. However they are both just in different scenarios and with different backgrounds. The main difference I think between Jewish and gentile is the fact that Judaism has always been a minority and therefore in the larger scale of things it is harder to express your internal views in the diaspora. whereas Christianity and catholic religions have been far more socially excepted all over the globe. This is what makes the Jewish soul special as all Jews have this same understanding of being a minority and being one...

All souls are perfect in the eyes of G-D Reply

Carmine Fragione New Smyrna Beach, FL April 26, 2011

circular reasoning is false you say everyone has a different soul and thus only Jews are bound for a resurrection body and that then non Jews and Jews are all that exist. That fails because you do not have any proof that any Jew, other than Jesus was ever witnessed as being raised from the dead. Perhaps, then, only Jesus has a Jewish soul and you do not, because you will be dead and as ashes to ashes and dust to dust, and no tangible sign from God that you have a Jewish Soul , worthy of being uniquely raised up. So, your idea of a division has no sign or seal of evidence, in spite of the fact you cannot say any other promise of God to Israel was so lacking from a tangible proof it could be and was so in at least one case, as a Sign, or Proof. So the very one you reject, Jesus ,appears to be then, by your definition, the only Jewish Man, whom God ever agreed with, that has the soul special to God to be raised. no ? Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA October 26, 2010

Hi, Lydia. Please Google about Noahide. I just found out, also, from Chabad.Org. It's the "righteous gentiles" who are included in G-d's children, and that includes those who are Jewish in heart, spirit, and perhaps lineage but don't know it. It also includes those whom are excluded by the Board of Rabbis, or whatever, whomever controls those who VOTE on who is and isn't Jewish in Israel. To me, of course, that's ridiculous. If I were in charge I would GLADLY ACCEPT ALL people who think they are or who want to be Jewish with OPEN ARMS! In my opinion, a Jewish Soul just means feeling solidarity with Judaism. To me, that's how I see it. Some see Judaism as being a "closed" club. I see it as an open and welcoming club. Then, others see it as a family and if you weren't born into the family, you're an outsider. To me, that is just plain MEAN. My opinion, again. Reply

Lydia sloten, the Netherlands October 26, 2010

Noahide Jews Karen, I'm not sure what a Noahide Jew is?
The hypothesis you mention about genetic memory would be a good explanation for how I experience things on a soul level, and others with me, as there seem to be many more. I wonder why these feelings even do exist. Could this be an accident or flaw in the perfection of creation? I have thought about this a lot, but I think that is not the case, because that would suggest G-d is not perfect, but He is.
So, there must be another reason for these things to happen. Maybe there is such a thing as the Jewish soul trying to get back to the collective, or genetic memory.
Maybe these things occur because there is an important purpose in a life that needs to be fulfilled. Or maybe it is part of becoming who we are meant to be, finding out what plans G-d has for us on an individual level. Someone I value deeply once said: "it is not the goal itself that counts, but the journey we take is what really matters."
But the journey can be alone and painful. Reply

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