Body and soul are opposites. The soul wants nothing more than to escape heavenward, to leave its existence in this world and reunite with its Infinite Source. The body, on the other hand, seeks to experience an earthly life full of earthly pleasures. The body is not interested in abstract spiritual concepts. The body craves instant, tangible gratification.

How then do the body and soul unite so smoothly to become the human being? Why is the soulThe body craves instant, tangible gratification not at war with the body's gravitational pull? Why does the soul not escape the confines of the body?

The Kabbalists teach that the Divine energy that creates the world—the “soul” of the world—is comprised of two parts: light and vessels. The light is the undefined energy, and the vessels express the energy in a limited and defined way.

Just like the human body and soul, the vessels and light are opposites. The light seeks to escape upward and reunite with its Infinite Source, while the vessels are happy to maintain their own distinct personality. Why then does the light bond with the vessels? Why does the light not retreat to its source?

Let us understand this by way of a parable:

A brilliant professor taught in graduate school, where he had many gifted students who understood the depth of his teaching and appreciated his profound insights. One day, the professor invited his students to join him on a visit to a first-grade classroom, where he would explain his latest discoveries to the children. Understandably, the graduate students declined to join him. They preferred to experience their great professor’s brilliance in graduate school, not in grade school. They had no desire to limit their learning to the intellectual capacity of a first-grader.

One student, however, decided to go along with his professor. The student understood that for a theory to be projected to the distant world of a first-grader, the professor would need to reach far deeper within himself. In order to communicate with people so intellectually far from himself, he would search for and discover the essence of the idea. The student understood that the first-grade classroom was the place where the professor’s true brilliance would be expressed. The ability to communicate with a distant reality comes from the deepest resources of one's intellect.

And so, as the first-graders were listening to the older gentleman talk, they were oblivious to the greatness of his wisdom. They would have preferred to play with the toys piled up in the back of the classroom. Yet the graduate student marveled at every word that emerged from his teacher's mouth. Never before had he experienced this element of the professor's awesome intellectual power. Never had he heard such deep ideas expressed in such simple words. Interestingly, the first-graders, the cause of this revelation, were not mature enough to appreciate it. It was the graduate student alone who appreciated the lofty nature of what was transpiring in the first-grade classroom.

Similar to the graduate student appreciating the lecture given to the first grade, the soul appreciates the greatness of the body. The body, like the first-graders, does not understand that the body is a deeper expression of G‑d’s greatness than is the soul. In order to create a body, in order for G‑d to express His energy in a spiritually distant place, G‑d must express an even deeper part of Himself. And yet, it takes a soul to understand the great spiritual source of a body.

And so it is with the Divine light. It, too, feels that the vessels, specifically because they are limited and defined, are rooted in a higher place within the Divine. The undefined abstract light senses that the creation of vessels is G‑d projecting a deeper part of Himself.

This, then, illuminates Judaism's attitude toward all things physical. Physicality, left to its own devices, is empty of spiritual light and is a distraction from one’sIt takes a soul to understand the great spiritual source of a body purpose in life. Yet when the soul engages with the physical, the soul reveals the truth, that physicality is a greater expression of the awesome power of G‑d. For when an infinite G‑d expresses Himself in a finite realm, that is the true indication of His infiniteness.

In Parshat Re’eh, the Torah describes the Jew’s ultimate spiritual experience during the thrice-yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem:

And you shall eat before the L‑rd, your G‑d, in the place He chooses to establish His Name therein, the tithes of your grain, your wine and your oil, and the firstborn of your cattle and of your sheep, so that you may learn to fear the L‑rd, your G‑d, all the days.1

How does the Jew reach the epitome of spiritual heights? By eating his grain, wine, oil, cattle and sheep!

For light feels the superiority of the vessels. The soul feels the superiority of the body. And the Jew senses that if while engaging in delicious meat and wine he can simultaneously experience a spiritual joy, he has reached the essence of G‑dliness.