Contact Us

My Body and Me

My Body and Me

 Email

As you can imagine, in my condition, I have many mixed feelings about my body.

I began to notice that among these feelings was fear, waiting for the next thing my body might do to me. Now, whenever I encounter fear I pay close attention, because fear is an emotion that signals to me that something is amiss in my perspective, in my way of relating to the thing of which I am afraid. Since I deeply believe that all that occurs derives from G‑d's will and His personal involvement with me, I question why I am afraid of something that G‑d intends, and which, if G‑d intends it, is therefore for the and my good.

So, the fear set me off on an exploration of my feelings towards and my relationship with my body. Essentially, I began to question the word "my" when relating to "body." Who is the "me" to whom this body belongs, the "me" to whom my body is doing things? Aren't my body and I really one entity? Isn't the illness really an expression of this "me" and therefore this "me" is not a victim of this body, but a participant with it, a partner?

And from a healing perspective: How can my body heal if my attitude toward it is antagonistic? Need not I send love to my body for healing, as everything needs love to heal? But how to love something that is capable of causing me so much pain and threatens my very life?

I remembered, too, a yoga meditation I used to do: I am not my body, I am not my emotions, I am not my foot, I am not my thoughts, etc. And while this is true, it did not now ring as true as it once did to me. It now seemed to me that, instead of peeling the onion until there is nothing at the center, each layer was onion. It was all onion, expressing the "idea" of onion in physical form. So that while I was not limited to "body," "emotions," "foot" or "thoughts," could they not still be me?

As I was asking myself these questions (not in the verbal, conscious asking mode, but in that kind of asking when words mix with feeling and image and flow one to the other into a whole without defined parts), suddenly a different image occurred, a different kind of relationship than I had imagined before.

In this image, my body was not separate from "me," nor was it a vessel that contained my soul. Nor even a garment worn by my soul. It was, instead, an emanation of my soul, its physical expression. And in this image, my soul emanated a variety of expressions, not just in the physical (body) but also in the intellectual, emotional, and other realms.

I began to relate this image of my soul and my body to my understanding of this physical world as an emanation of G‑d, and these other emanations (intellectual, emotional, etc.) of my soul as equal to the "four worlds" which, as the Kabbalists tell us, G‑d emanates in the act of creation. This model made sense to me -- in the way that sometimes an insight suddenly makes everything click into place.

As you know, I often relate to my illness as something that has brought much good in my life -- deeper understanding, improvements in my relationships, a closer connection to G‑d. This is why I say that it comes from G‑d, from the goodness of G‑d, because it has clearly brought good into my life. I don't mean to belittle the "bad," nor do I wish to invite the cancer into my life for any longer than it need be here. And I would be glad to see it go once and for all (Get outta here!). But there has been unbelievable good that has come from it as well. Clearly it is something that I must have "needed" or fits into my destiny. Something that is real in my life.

So this new model now began to fit.

If my body is an emanation of my soul, its malchut if you will, and not something separate from it, then whatever is happening in my body is also an expression of my soul. I (my soul) am "creating" (I'm not sure this is the right word) or emanating this body, and am doing so in accordance with G‑d's will, as received through communication with or emanation from Above. Essentially G‑d's will or instruction is "dripping" down from above into my soul, and is then being realized in a material sense in my body. My soul is thus not entrapped in my body, but is in fact constantly emanating the body best suited for either its own functioning and expression or for its growth and development.

From this perspective, nothing occurring in my body is happening to me, but rather from me. And at another, deeper level, there is no difference between me and my body; we are joined together, one emanating from the other. We are one expression, an extension of spirit into the material, but completely one, reflecting the way G‑d and His world are One.

You can imagine how pleased I was with this model. It fit perfectly with what I had been experiencing and gave me a very different way to relate to my disease and its manifestations. They were me manifesting myself. And if I followed the disease backward, or inward, I could now contact them on an other than material plane, traveling through emotions, revelations, relationships. It all carried meaning and purpose and destiny. It was G‑d's path for me, not as punishment, not as test or challenge, but as expression or emanation of my life. It simply was. It became the "what is" of my life as directed by G‑d, as much as any other what is: work, family, etc. It was me emanating myself totally connected to G‑d.

And there was no longer this "prison" of the body. There was no longer this soul suffering the trials and temptations of the body. There was no longer soul and body as separate entities.

Once I understood my body as a material emanation of my soul, I understood how my soul could cease emanating in the material world and emanate in another way more suited to the world it might inhabit at a later time, or inhabits now as well in addition to the material/physical emanation I/it inhabits in the material world.

I saw as well how there would/could be some process by which my soul "withdraws" from my physical body or is hidden within it, giving the appearance or sensation of separateness, leading to the false belief that the body "belongs" to me, or is "opposed" to me, or has its own individual, separate existence from me, even though I might think that I am its owner -- as in "my foot" or "my ankle" or even "my cancer." While in truth it is a material emanation of soul as expressed in foot, or expressed in ankle or even as expressed in cancer.

At one point in my contemplation, my thoughts came crashing. Because it seemed that what I was experiencing - imagining in a very vivid way - was in contradiction with all the language and all that I'd read and heard through the years about the opposition of body and soul. The imprisonment of soul in body. Duality. Separation. Opposition. And the result: suffering, victimization, etc.

In fact, in the Torah (in the 2nd chapter of Genesis) we read that G‑d formed man from the earth and blew a soul into him. If this is so, isn't then the body one thing and the soul another? Doesn't this model conform much more to the body-as-garment model or the soul-imprisoned-in-the-body model or the-soul-making-the- reluctant/painful-descent-into-a-body model?

But then I thought that perhaps this is why there are two ways in which the creation of man is described in the Torah. One in the first chapter of Genesis, in which we are simply told that G‑d created man in His image, without any reference to the body/soul dichotomy; and the second account -- in Genesis 2 -- which describes a soul being breathed into a body. Do these two accounts describe two levels of creation and reality? Or perhaps the second account is the Torah describing a dichotomy that reflects more man's perception of himself, rather than the truth of the emanation of G‑d that he is?

I have no idea. I'm just guessing, or rather, describing the process I went through and seeking clarification.

For me, a person grappling with my relationship with my body (or, should I say, my relationship with body, without the "my"?) the ramifications in perspective and orientation and relationship and even healing are great, or at least they seem to be.

It takes me from being an opponent to being a partner. It redefines healing. It allows for acceptance.

Jay Litvin was born in Chicago in 1944. He moved to Israel in 1993 to serve as medical liaison for Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl program, and took a leading role in airlifting children from the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster; he also founded and directed Chabad’s Terror Victims program in Israel. Jay passed away in April of 2004 after a valiant four-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their seven children. He was a frequent contributor to the Jewish website Chabad.org.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
9 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Carolyn Florida February 4, 2015

I think that if your given a disease of any kind, it is from G_d, as it points out in the Old Testament and if you pray for G_d to take it away and he doesn't, then that's supposed to be the way you die. You cannot live forever, and not everyone on this earth is put here to live a long, long life. There would just be too many people on this earth, so I have chronic kidney disease I have been sick all my life so instead of dialisys or a kidney transplant, I am just going to let the good Lord take me. I have had 4 heart attacks, 5 strokes over 200 mini strokes and G_d saw me through it all, I've had probably 10 major surgeries and G_d was with me every step of the way. But you know what? You have to die of something at some point in your life, I can't live forever and neither can you, so this time I'm leaving it up to G_d and not me or the doctors. G_d bless you all. Reply

Jeffrey Tobias Portland , Oregon September 14, 2010

I fear only G-d I don't worry about the small things, all things are small. I know my soul was given by G-d, to do the right thing.
Accentuate the positive, don't hang out with any negativity in your Life. Your life will become simpler, and just do MITSVAHS. Reply

Ruth Gonsky Carmel, NY April 12, 2009

Emanations/Nonduality of Being I just today discovered Jay Litvin and his articles. He sounds like a person who has gained wisdom through suffering, but I do not find his article "too heavy." His whole point, Rivky (if you read this) is that he was redefining his perceptions of himself as having separate body and soul. HIS perceptions changed due to his illness. I am only sorry that Jay is no longer on this physical plane, but profoundly grateful that he shared his wisdom with us. May we all use our illnesses, limitations and suffering as illumination, as he did. Reply

John Shore San Angelo, Tex/USA July 18, 2004

My Body and Me Ater a 3 by-pass in 1989 and a 5 by pass in 2003 blaming my loving
G-d would be worse than blaming my wife for feeding me canned food that had poison in it unknown to her and my smoking for 25 years which blocked my arteries. With 73 years under my belt and almost 50 with my wife I give them the credit for extending my time not giving me a heart condition. Reply

Mike Perry Temple, Texas July 15, 2004

Mine or His I found the essay by Mr. Litvin profound as I am struggling with "my own mortality." All I have is a gift given by G-d it has never been mine nor will it ever be mine. G-d speaks and directs in wonderful ways. Even that I have found Chabad.org is somewhat unusual, but I have been given this by G-d for a reason I have a profound sense of peace given to me by G-d through Mr. Litvin.

Blessed be the name of G-d Reply

Rivky Brooklyn, NY July 15, 2004

too morbid This article is too heavy, I think it is tragic to go through all that Jay did, but I found it too difficult to finish. I do enjoy most of the articles but felt the need to respond to this. Reply

dg Albuquerque, NM July 14, 2004

Thanks so much for continuing to publish Jay Litvin's articles. I always feel I have like-minded company when I read his writing, not only in its content but its tenor. Reply

nat Brooklyn, NY July 12, 2004

There is no contradiction The same text(s) that describe the 'fight' of the body versus the soul, also mention that for the ultra-righteous (tzadikkim) who merit it, the body not only succombs to the soul, but inverts to become holy and actually helps the soul.
Our dear Jay zt"l merited (thru body pain -and acceptance of it-) this high level, and did not realize it, hence he self-suspects that his theory is in contradiction of the known texts. In reality though, there is no contradiction.
יהי זכרו ברוך!
Reply

Dr Efraim B Kramer, Dept of Accident + Emergency, The Hillingdon Hospital Uxbridge, London, England July 11, 2004

Just wished to say how inspirational it is to be able to log onto chabad.org whilst working in the accident and emergency department at the hospital where I am based as an emergency physician.
Nowhere is it more essential to have absolute Emunah and believe in His guiding hand than in this department. Nothing is more inspirational than to have a few patient free moments and to use them constructively in reading something, particualrly at 01:35 in the morning. Thanks.
Regards Reply

This page in other languages