Which experience do you think is more elevated—dancing up a storm at a wedding or talking to G‑d during your morning prayers? Savoring a jelly doughnut on Chanukah or delving into a book of Torah?

If you said talking to G‑d or learning Torah, you’re not alone. Physical experiences are usually seen as superficial, transient, external, while spiritual experiences are seen as deeper, more lasting, more significant. And in a certain way they are.

Kabbalah,Physical experiences are usually seen as superficial however, introduces a paradox: At its source, the body is holier than the soul.1

Let me explain.

Our body’s status has undergone a major re-evaluation in the course of Jewish history and philosophy. In times past, the body was sometimes seen as an obstacle to serving G‑d, an adversary that we needed to battle. But the Baal Shem Tov emphasized that the body can (and should) become our ally. It can be drafted to assist us in serving G‑d. Since the ultimate purpose of creation is to sanctify the physical world, the body offers the means by which to carry out G‑d’s will.

It is for this reason that Judaism fuses spiritual motives with bodily activities. For example, we voice our prayers rather than just reading them with our eyes. The most overflowing heart will not fulfill the obligation—the person has to physically move his lips. Have you ever seen Jews sway while they pray? The phrase “All my bones shall declare”2 means that the maximum energy possible should be expended in studying Torah, in prayer and in performing the mitzvahs—and certainly in the auxiliary joy we exude in their performance!

Likewise, we are meant to be joyful on Jewish holidays. But how do we know that joy is authentic? When it affects us, overwhelms us, involuntarily spilling into physical expression. On Purim, we dress up, we perform, we party, all in good fun and merriment. During the time of the Holy Temple, the water-drawing ceremony on Sukkot was marked by juggling, stunt shows and other fanfare. And of course, Simchat Torah celebrations are legendary! Our joy envelops even our more physical and coarse aspects, down to the heels of our feet, as we dance with abandon! When the physical body participates in this spiritual joy, it elevates the physical inclinations.

And it is not just while doing mitzvahs that we should be joyful. Serving G‑d with joy can extend to every aspect of our lives. The Baal Shem Tov taught that every mundane activity—such as eating, sleeping, conducting business and even enjoying leisure time—can and should be a part of our Divine service, when it is done with the proper intentions. As it says in “Ethics of Our Fathers,” “All your actions should be for the sake of Heaven.”3 So by having the intention to serve G‑d with every action, and by infusing those actions with joy, we are synthesizing body and soul, heaven and earth.

So clearly, Judaism believes in the external expression of our inner joy. But Chassidic philosophy reveals a deeper dimension: the physical reality can actually enhance the spiritual reality, not just vice versa. I’ve coined a name for this fusion of transcendent motives with bodily activities: joyfusion! Joyfusion means hijackingJoyfusion means hijacking the physical in service of the spiritual the physical in service of the spiritual. It means harnessing the passion of the body to increase the joy of the soul.

Kabbalah explains that this world is a reflection of the World of Truth. What appears to be on a lower level here is really on a higher level at its source. So although the soul is incomparably more refined than the body, in the Days to Come the superiority of the body will be revealed.4 There will be no more tug-of-war between material and spiritual desires—the body and soul will coexist in harmony.

Let’s embrace our physicality—let’s dance our hearts out, laugh out loud and bring joy to others. And may these outward expressions of joy elevate our inner consciousness, bringing us closer to the redemption.