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Does Judaism believe in a soul?

By NASCK Staff
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To understand the nature of the soul, we need to go back to the beginning: the beginning of the Torah and the beginning of the world. 

When G-d created man, He first created an inanimate physical being: G-d formed the man from the earth (Genesis 2:7). Only after creating the physical form of man did He infuse that being with a soul: And He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

The use of the expression “breathed into” is significant — and puzzling. G-d does not have a body, so obviously He doesn’t breathe. The Torah uses human action as a metaphor for G-d’s actions, and in this case, the metaphor of “breathing into” teaches us about the nature of our soul.

When we “breathe into” a balloon to inflate it, we are filling it with something that comes from inside of us. The Torah is telling us that G-d ”breathed into” Adam from within Himself. With this act, He infused Adam with G-dliness. 

This G-dliness is not merely metaphorical. The human soul is literally the only component of creation that is not an actual creation; our sages explain that it is a “part” of G-d. It imbues each of us with infinite value. No matter who we are, no matter what we do, we always possess that element of divinity.

Because it is divine, the soul is also eternal, just as G-d is eternal. Our soul continues to “live” even after death. The G-dly nature of the soul has implications that resound throughout our life — and beyond.

This understanding of the divine nature of our soul underlies every aspect of Judaism: every aspect of Jewish ritual and practice; every aspect of how Jews understand their obligation to G-d, to other people, and even to themselves; and every aspect of how Jews view life —  and what comes after life.

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