Respecting Our Souls

The soul stems from the Divine essence.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

HaShem - the Compassionate and Life-Giving One - has given us the gift of the high human soul, which is known in Hebrew as neshamah. The Book of Psalms occasionally refers to the neshamah as "honor" or "splendor" - a reminder of the great regard that Jewish tradition has for our soul. The following verse can serve as an example:
The human soul is called "honor"... because "she is the daughter of God."

"Therefore my honor will sing to You and not be stilled; HaShem, my God, forever will I thank you." (Psalms 30:13) "Therefore my neshamah will sing to You," according to the commentary of Metzudas David.

Another example is found in the following passage:

"What is the frail human being that You should remember him, and the child of humankind that You should be mindful of him? Yet, You have made him but slightly less than the angels, and crowned him with honor and splendor." (Psalms 8:5-6)

"And crowned him with honor and splendor" - through the neshamah, the higher soul, that You gave the human being, according to the commentaries of Radak and Ibn Ezra.

In his explanation of the above passage, the commentator Malbim explains that the reason the human soul is called "honor" is because "she is the daughter of God." This is a beautiful description which reveals the intimate relationship between the soul and her Creator.

The soul is called "daughter of God" because the soul stems from the Divine essence, and a reference to this idea is found in the verse which states, "God created the human being in His image." (Genesis 1:27) In this spirit, the Talmud states: "Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, is pure, so the neshamah is pure." (Brochos 10a)

Each morning, we chant an ancient prayer which reminds us of this truth, and it opens with the following words:

"My God, the neshamah that You placed within me is pure. You created her, You fashioned her, You breathed her into me. You safeguard her within me, and eventually You will take her from me and restore her to me in the future that is to come."

The uplifting and hopeful message of the above prayer was stressed(1) by Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, a leading sage of the previous generation who was the head of the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva. For example, his disciple, Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, the founder of Yeshiva Sh'or Yoshuv in Far Rockaway, New York, told his own students that Rabbi Hutner stressed the following message:

"That is what we are. We are neshamos, pure incorruptible neshamos."

"The neshamah is pure. It cannot be sullied. It cannot be stained no matter what you do, no matter how we fail, no matter what mistakes we make or rebellious acts we commit. The neshamah cannot be stained. It is always pure." (Rabbi Freifeld Speaks, Mesorah Publications)(2)

Rabbi Freifeld then added his own commentary on his teacher’s words:
"That is what we are. We are neshamos, pure incorruptible neshamos. We're not just people. We're not IQs. We're not test results. We're not measured by material standards. We're pure and holy neshamos." (ibid.)

The above insights can give us a deeper understanding of why we refer to the High Holidays as a season of teshuvah - "return". During this period of repentance and renewal, each of us is to return to the purity of our neshamah, the daughter of God.

1) A moving melody which is sung to the Hebrew words of the above prayer about the purity of our souls was composed by Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner in honor of the wedding of his disciple, Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld. The melody and the words of this song are on an old record produced by the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, titled Torah Lives and Sings!

2) For information on the book Rabbi Freifeld Speaks, visit