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.

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