Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review of Lesson Two (SoulQuest)

Thank you for joining us for our first lesson of Soul Quest: The Journey through Life, Death, and Beyond. Here is a quick recap:

After learning about the unique identity that we call a soul in our previous lesson, this week we looked at its origin and its preparation for its mission. We began by briefly outlining the soul’s formation, correlating each stage to the four worlds, as explained in kabbalistic thought. These stages all coexist like the layers of programming in a computer. We also looked closely at how the soul prepares for “dispatch,” as well as the pledge it takes before it is born.

The human soul is unique in that G-d “blew” it into man. Breath originates deep within a person. Thus, the breathing of the soul into alludes to the fact that the soul originates from deep within the essence of G-d. That is why the human soul thus has the capacity to reveal G-d’s essence in everything. This purpose is primarily accomplished through Torah and mitzvot.

Before a person is born, the soul undergoes “basic training,” learning the entire Torah. Finally, right before birth, the soul take a pledge, connecting the soul to its essence, reminding the soul of its mission, and empowering the soul as it embarks on its journey.

Finally, we touched on the experience of birth and how the soul’s fusion with the body marks a new stage in its development, accompanied by a new set of struggles. The soul and the body will now grow and mature throughout life, especially during life’s milestones.

I look forward to seeing you next week, when we will examine the stage after the soul’s mission in the world has been completed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

JLI's SoulQuest Lesson Two: Before You Were Born

JLI's SoulQuest Lesson Two: Before You Were Born from myJLI.com on Vimeo.

Lesson two; Before you were born...

When did your life begin? Did it start on the day of your birth, when you first entered this noisy, chaotic world, seeking the calm of a human embrace? Or did it start earlier, while you were still in utero, when you came to recognize your mother’s voice and the soothing cadence of her heartbeat? Perhaps it began at the moment of conception, when your embryonic cells began the process of rapid division and differentiation. A case could even be made for a beginning far before your parents even met, when the potential of birthig children still lay dormant within them.

Could it be that instead of looking for the earliest antecedents of life, we should be looking for the moment of its full-flowering? Might we say your life did not begin at birth, but when you took your first step, or spoke your first word? Or that it did not start until you began an adult, independent and fully able to determine your own life-course?

Clearly, physical life is marked by a progressive unfolding of potential and develops over time. The soul too must move from a potential state to the moment of its conception, and must gestate and pass through a number of stages before it fully comes into its own.

We’ll talk about the different kinds of beginnings in Lesson Two of Soul Quest, “Before You Were Born.” Looking forward to seeing you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Weekly question by Rabbi Moss:

Question of the Week:

I enjoy reading your emails and figured I would send you a question of my own. I'm 35 and still single. I look around and see all my friends married, and I wonder what I am doing wrong. People love to tell me I'm picky and that I am looking for the wrong things when the truth is I really don't think I am. I think I'm a very level headed and rational person, but I've just been meeting the wrong guys which is why I am always the one to end the relationship. Is it possible that my time hasn't come yet, or am I to blame for being picky and not "settling" with a guy until now?


I don't think you are picky, and I don't think you should just settle for any old guy. It could be that your time hasn't come yet. But if you find that you are always the naysayer, maybe it's time to try a different approach. Though I don't know you personally, here is a wild thought you may not have considered before.

Do you really want to get married? Or is it possible that you are actually too comfortable being single?

As ridiculous as it sounds, I have met many people who on the one hand say they want nothing more than to settle down with a life partner, and they are doing all they can to meet their soulmate, but in actual fact they do everything in their power to make sure no relationship gets too serious. These people go into a date just waiting to find that one reason to say no and let it fail.

This may be as a result of hurts from the past. Previous relationships that resulted in disappointment and heartbreak can leave us disillusioned and jaded. Or it may be an unwillingness to part with the comforts of the status quo. Sometimes it seems easier to stay single and alone rather than make the effort necessary to share a life with someone else. Or there may be deeper personality issues. Whatever it is, if you find yourself sabotaging every promising relationship and ending it before it gets serious, you may need to work on yourself to recapture your faith and open your heart again.

This may not be your problem at all. Maybe you keep saying no because you just haven't met the right guy yet. There are many wonderful people out there, just like you, who have simply not yet found their soulmate. Give your search over to G-d. Recognise that you need Him to guide you. Cry to Him. And then be open. If you are ready, he is ready.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Review of Lesson One (SoulQuest)

Thank you for joining us for our first lesson of Soul Quest: The Journey through Life, Death, and Beyond. Here is a quick recap:

We began by discussing that there is a part of ourselves that goes beyond our physical bodies, giving it its unique identity. We call this part a soul.

Next, we tried to clarify what we mean when we talk about a soul, and in particular, what is meant by the human soul. Maimonides describes the soul as the “program” or “design” of living creatures. Souls by definition are metaphysical and non-corporeal in nature. While all things contain a “program” that gives them form, and all living things possess a soul that gives them life, the unique quality of the human soul is the quality of intelligence: its ability to comprehend abstract ideas and to think about G-d. The mystics characterize the essence of the soul somewhat differently, and describe it as a “spark” of G-d.

We then contrasted the creation of animals and humans to gain additional insight about the function of the human soul. Animals were created in a single step, formed from the earth, with their life force intact. Humans, on the other hand, were first molded from the earth, and only later was their soul breathed into them. They represent a melding of both the highest and lowest part of creation. This feature of human design reflects the unique role of the human soul, which is to infuse G-dliness into the physical world, transforming it until it too is an expression of the divine.

Our final section of the lesson was meant to help you experience your soul as an interface between “heaven and earth.” Every time you make a blessing, you have the opportunity to inject the spiritual and G-dly into the everyday. Sipping a glass of water is often an uneventful experience. But when you drink the water for the purpose of serving G-d, and recite a blessing over the water, then this daily mundane event is transformed into something holy.

I look forward to seeing you next week, when we will look more closely at how souls are created and how the soul prepares for birth.

JLI's SoulQuest Lesson One: Meet the Pilot

JLI's SoulQuest Lesson One: Meet the Pilot from myJLI.com on Vimeo.

Letter introducing Lesson One of SoulQuest

Dear JLI Student,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to JLI’s newest course, Soul Quest: The Journey through Life, Death, and Beyond...

The premise of this course is that we are really all on a very long journey, and this lifetime is just one leg of the trip. But travelers always enjoy the trip more with a good guide book and some preparation so they know what to expect and how to make the most of each stop on the itinerary. Beginning Tuesday, November 3rd at the Chabad Torah Centre, I look forward to serving as your tour guide as we talk about milestones such as birth, death, reincarnation, and the afterlife.

In our first class, we will discuss the question, “Who are we really?” What gives us our unique identity? Is it our thoughts? Our feelings? Our unique mix of DNA? Is there an essential core that precedes our time here and continues long after? Is there soul? If so, how can we define it, and what is its purpose?

I look forward to see you at the first class in this intriguing series.

Rabbi Shmuly Altein

SoulQuest and Near Death Experience

Here is a link to a six part documentary on BBC about NDE:


JLI's New Course-Soul Quest

JLI's New Course-Soul Quest from myJLI.com on Vimeo.