|Ramchal Da'at Tevunot Introduction 3|
|Written by Rabbi Avraham Brandwein|
Again, the essence of the Neshamah is still the Nefesh-Ratzon. Why does it now have a new name, Neshamah? Because that soul is now directed to that which is spiritual. Its quality and value is now spiritual, Godly. So that when Hashem breathed
a Nishmat Chaim into Man, He placed a spark of Godliness in him, a potential that Man could develop to its fullest, to the level of Neshamah.
Now we can understand the Midrash we quoted which states that the Nefesh is called by five names: Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah. All of these names represent the various stages of growth and spiritual development which the Nefesh must pass through on its way to perfection.
If you pay attention, you will notice that three of the five levels are mentioned here. First we have Nefesh Chayah, which Onkelos translates as Ruach Memalela, and we have Nishmat Chaim. Thus, Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah.
Why aren't the last two levels mentioned? Chayah (Living Essence) and Yechidah (Unity). The Midrash does mention five levels. The Gemara (Berachot 10a) also teaches that the five times David HaMelech uses the expression Borchi Nafshi et Hashem (O my soul, bless Hashem), correspond to five aspects of the soul.(3)
Nevertheless, here in Bereshit and in other places, the two highest levels, Chayah and Yechidah, are not mentioned. For instance, in the morning prayers we begin by saying, Elokai, Neshamah She'natata bi Tehora Hee (O my God, the Soul You have given me is pure). Also, in Mishlei, the verse says, "Ner Hashem Nishmat Adam" (The soul of man is the candle of God). [Where, according to the Ari, the word Ner, which is spelled Nun-Resh, is made up of the initials of the words Nefesh and Ruach. So, again, we have Nefesh, Ruach, and Nishmat Adam, Neshamah, but not Chayah and Yechidah.) What is the reason for this? Why are Chayah and Yechidah not mentioned?
We can understand this, however, based on the Ari's teaching (in Etz Chaim) that exalted levels of Chayah and Yechidah surround us and illuminate us from above. They are therefore called Makifim, Envelopments. That is, unlike Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah, which are internalized, Chayah and Yechidah are so exalted that we cannot internalize them and they therefore remain outside of us.
To understand this a little bit better we can add that Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah correspond to three major centers in the body. Nefesh corresponds to the Liver (Kaved in Hebrew), or in other words, the Liver is the mishkan (the main dwelling place) of the Nefesh. The mishkan of the Ruach is the Heart (the Lev), and the mishkan of the Neshamah is the Brain (Moach).
As known, it is in the liver that new blood cells are generated. It is for this reason that the Torah always associates the Nefesh with the blood, as in Vayikra (Chapter seventeen, verses eleven and fourteen), "The Nefesh of the flesh is in the blood," and "The blood of every living creature is associated with its Nefesh."
As we have seen, the foundation of every living creature is the will, the will and desire to grow and develop and preserve its life and the life of its species. This is the level of the Nefesh in the Kaved (Liver).
Next comes the Ruach in the Lev (Heart). Here the heart stimulates the blood to circulate to every part of the body. The heart is thus also a powerful expression of the will. This is seen in the verse, "Do not go astray after your hearts," from which we see that the heart is the seat of very powerful desires.
Above the liver and the heart we have the Brain, the Moach, or the power of thought. It is with the Mind that we must oversee and regulate our various desires. For the Brain is the mishkan of the Neshamah...
Now, paying attention to the initials of the three words Moach, Lev, and Kaved, we see that Moach begins with Mem, Lev begins with Lamed, and Kaved begins with Khaf. Mem-Lamed-Khaf. This spells Melech. A Melech is a King. This teaches us that the person who masters his thoughts, his desires and his appetites is called Melech, King.
And, as we saw, Chayah and Yechidah are not mentioned here because they are Makifim, the Surrounding Levels of the Soul. We therefore usually speak about Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah. The highest level at which a person attains complete internal mastery is the level of Neshamah.
One last point before we begin our text. We asked at the beginning why the author chose to have the Neshamah asking the questions and the Sechel (Intellect) answering? We then saw that Man's Neshamah, his essential will and desire, is to elevate herself to that which is spiritual. Her basic questions therefore all involve how to elevate herself in the service of her Creator. Now we can understand the place of the Sechel in answering the Neshamah's questions.
As we read on in the Hebrew text, we see that the Sechel always addresses the Neshamah as a female. Throughout Daat Tevunot the Neshamah is depicted as a female, while the Sechel, the Intellect, is male. Why is this?
In Hebrew, Female is Nekevah. Nekevah is related to Nekev, an opening, a hollow, a cavity. An empty space naturally desires to be filled. This is exactly the reason for depicting the Neshamah as female. The Neshamah feels her own lack, and searches constantly for a way to fill this lack, to become whole. Without a sense of lack, we would never move, we would have no will.
It is the lack that arouses the will to become more than we are, to be whole. In our context, we are being told that the Neshamah arouses a person to pay attention to his or her own lack. A person who hears his Soul asking questions will never be able to stay in one place. He will be impelled to grow, to rise up higher and higher.