Don't you think it's rather unfair to take this pristine G_dly soul, throw it into a bag of meat and bones, and then tell it, "Now go about life like a mentsch. Don't sin. Only do good. Remember, it's all on video."?

So I'll let you in on a secret. A Kabbalah secret. According to the master Kabbalist, the Arizal, as a soul is descending through the higher worlds, it passes through a place called, "the lower garden of Eden"--and there it picks up a practice body. The practice body is not your regular hunk of meat like we get down here. It's a lot more responsive to the soul and more flexible, too. It can handle both spiritual and physical realms, transporting smoothly from one to the other. It doesn't need food to survive and isn't so hampered by other physical limitations, such as matter (it can go through walls) and space (it can be projected to a far distance faster than the speed of light).

Nevertheless, this practice body looks and functions just like the body which the soul is scheduled to pick in the material world. So the soul gets a practice period, learning how to do things like move a body's arms to put on tefillin or light a Shabbat candle, talk nicely and share its toys, eat food so it can say a blessing before and after—all the basic Torah stuff a soul is commissioned to do down here. In other words, a hands-on rehearsal of the entire Torah before birth.

Once born, this practice body (known sometimes as the tzelem--which literally means a shadow or a form, and sometimes as the levush--meaning a suit, like in spacesuit) invests itself within the physical body. This physical body, however, comes pre-programmed with a mind of its own. A meat mind. It's interests are in matters such as eating, drinking and otherwise deriving pleasure from its surroundings. In a way, that's a good thing, since the G_dly soul isn't the slightest bit interested in those things, yet it cannot fulfill its mission without them. On the other hand, it also presents a great challenge to the soul, which will have to rein in this meat-brain animal from rolling in the mud looking for all those pleasures when it's supposed to be helping the soul with its divine mission.

So now you have a soul invested within a semi-spiritual body invested within a physical body pre-programmed for physical life. If the connections are all clean and solid, the soul will have a much easier time taking control of this body, even when it wants to run wild through the swamps of life. If, however, the practice body connection was never really tight, then life down here is going to be much more challenging.

(Some Kabbalists know how to project their semi-spiritual levush to distant places, in order to perform special missions without actually having to go there. The people who see this levush, believe they saw the Kabbalist himself, while he may have been sitting somewhere on the other side of the planet. Most of us, however, should not attempt such practices, since you never know if you'll be able to get the levush back into the body.)

Now let's get to the practical stuff: The body your child gets is a product of your DNA plus your partner's DNA, along with some mitochondrial and environmental factors. The soul is chosen Up Above. There's a schedule that says, "at time x, the world needs soul x to descend to place x and get x done."

And here's the scary part: The practice body, the levush, is formed by the thoughts and mindset of the parents, especially at the time of the child's conception. Throughout the child's life, this levush remains connected to the parents, which is why a child has a mitzvah to honor his mother and father. So, practically speaking, your purity of thought and attitude to your spouse has a very profound effect on your child's journey through life. And your child's journey has a profound effect on you.