Our existence in this world is a journey. In particular, it is a journey of the soul. The divine soul originates at an exalted spiritual level, somewhere holy and very close to G‑d. Then it enters this physical world, which is a realm of struggle. Through this struggle it eventually achieves something specially beautiful and pure. Through life in this world, the soul attains a higher level of holiness than when it began.

This is the idea, in a nutshell. Let us see what the Parshah of the week has to say about it.

For in this Parshah there is a special passage, called a song. This is the Song of the Well (Numbers 21:17–18). The well is the well of Miriam, which provided water for the Jewish people during their long journey of forty years through the wilderness. Near the end of their journey, on the point of entering the Holy Land of Israel where the journey of normal life would begin, the Jewish people sang this special song of thanksgiving to G‑d about the well.

What has this got to do with the soul? Well, Jewish teaching is often expressed in terms of images. For example, there is the image of water: a spring of water among the gardens, a well with pure water, living waters. These images of water represent the soul.

The soul is our spiritual dimension. It links us with realms beyond the here and now, beyond physical flesh and bones, beyond earthly life. At the same time, through looking more closely at the soul we can discover just how precious physical, earthly life really is.

The soul before it enters our world is seen in terms of the image of the spring of water among the gardens. The gardens are the garden of Eden, and there is a flow of water, which expresses the quality of the soul.

Then the water of the soul trickles underground. Down, down, down from the garden of Eden. It is flowing down in order to enter this world. It enters the body of a person. There are many stages. The person has to be born, and to grow up, little by little. The sacred soul is there within, surrounded by different and unsettling forces. One is called the animal soul, which is filled with all kinds of passion and desire. Then there is the body itself, with its own appetites. Then there are all the events of life, ups and downs. Nonetheless, here in this world, the person tries to keep the precepts of the Torah and express his or her Jewish quality. This brings out the inner nature of the soul.

Eventually, after a long period flowing deep underground, purified by the layers of different kinds of rock and shale, the water of the soul starts to emerge. It is now described as the water of a well. It has endured many things, but now it is incredibly and beautifully pure. Its progress through life in this world has brought out an inner potential, an inner holiness, that was not apparent before. It has the quality of living waters, which purify and elevate the world, making it, too, holy.

This is the journey of the soul, our journey. All of Judaism is in a sense a journey, ever since G‑d commanded Abraham to leave his birthplace and to travel to the Land of Israel. Eventually, his descendants entered it. And there, in the Land of Israel, there is the journey of life, step by step, for each of us. At every step forward in our earthly, physical lives, through Torah study and observance of the precepts, the waters of the soul become ever more pure, ever more holy, with a greater effect on the world, transforming it into a sacred dwelling for the divine.1