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What’s Your Element?

What’s Your Element?


A popular pastime among my friends in high school was anything that had to do with self-analyzing. Handwriting analysis, picture analysis or personality analysis—as long as it helped bring self-awareness, it was cool.

Then came our Tanya teacher and introduced us to aAir has no meaning or substance new form of personality—one not in the books we were reading—and it had to do with four elements. All matter can really be classified into fire, air, water and earth (this was much easier than the elements in chemistry class!), and each of the four elements spiritually symbolizes a core character trait of the animal soul. The animal soul is not evil, but may present negative characteristics in its quest to cater to its own selfish or instinctive needs.


Anger erupts like a raging fire, rising and destructing like fire itself. Fire represents the personality of one who is easily vexed, and whose pride is easily punctured.


Water is key for the growth of many of life’s pleasures, such as delectable foods from both the plant and animal variety. Water, therefore, represents the personality of one who has an insatiable appetite for life’s material pleasures, and who is constantly on the lookout for more.


Air has no meaningful substance; it represents the personality of one who enjoys empty talk or boasting.


Earth represents depression and laziness, as one who is depressed is drawn downward in an earthlike fashion. This personality feels a heaviness and a lack of motivation to get things done.

Then began the guessing game of where each of us fit into which category, analyzing ourselves and our biggest challenges.

Tanya Bit: I will consider which of the four elements resonates as my instinctive nature and will work to make improvements.

(Inspired from Chapter 1 of Tanya)

Sara Blau is a teacher and extracurricular director at Beth Rivkah High School. She is a wife, mother, and author of several children“s books.
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Anonymous January 19, 2017

I gather that most people are a bit of everything?
Do we also inherit some unfortunate elements that we find ourselves working on, to improve our response to the animal soul?
Learning how to use them positively could be a very powerful thing.
Most of the time it happens out of necessity or by accident so perhaps learning the Tanya could help us in being more intentional? Reply

jim dallas January 16, 2017

does it relate these to birth months too? interesting categorizing of what?...heart, mind,....i guess mental will of physical bodies, will maybe due to an inherent or G-d given lack of emotional stability or mental alertness? interesting breakdown anyway one looks at them. Reply

Sara Blau NYC January 7, 2017

Response to Beth Thank you for your feedback! If you notice, this is discussing the four elements in a very specific context- understanding the nature of our animal soul. Of course there are positive aspects to the four elements, but that is derailing from the discussion at hand.

Besides for the animal soul, every Jew possesses a G-dly soul as well, which has all the positive and altruistic qualities you are referring to . See the following pieces in the column for a continuation of the discussion. Reply

Beth New Jersey January 2, 2017

the four elements That is the most depressing understanding of the four elements I have ever read. Are we truly not supposed to see all the incredibly powerful and positive aspects in air, fire, water, and earth? Why look only at the negative aspects of ourselves as well? I don't find that inspiring; I find it disheartening. I don't mean to be offensive; I'm just stunned at this interpretation. Reply

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