75 words for 75 years of Israel – Neshama/Soul

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!

Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!

נְשָׁמָה

NESHAMA

NE-SHA-MA

SOUL

“The soul of man is the candle of God, revealing all his innermost parts.” (Proverbs 20:27)

נר יהוה נשמת אדם חפש כל חדרי בטן.

“God formed the human from the dust of the ground, blowing into his nostrils the breath of life: the Human became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

וייצר יהוה אלהים את־האדם עפר מן האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה.

When describing the creation of Adam, the first man, the Bible says that God blew “into his nostrils the breath of life,” a gift no other living being received. Jewish tradition teaches that each time we breathe, the original act of God breathing life into us is repeated. 

Man’s very breath came directly from God, infusing his being with a lofty soul capable of being conscious and aware of God’s presence in the world. Neshima, the Hebrew word for “breath,” is composed of the same letters, in the same order, as neshama, the Hebrew word for “soul.” Our precious souls, the very essence of our being, are truly the breath of God.

“The soul of man is the candle of God, revealing all his innermost parts” (Proverbs 20:27). Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, an early Hasidic master, teaches that the human soul is literally a “piece” of God from above that is placed into each and every person. This Godly presence within us allows us to reveal our “innermost parts,” helping us recognize the strengths that God blessed each of us with, as well as our incomplete parts that need further development and fixing. 

The word neshama appears in the very last verse of the very last psalm in the Book of Psalms. “Let all souls praise God, Hallelujah!” (Psalms 150:6). Praising God and recognizing that everything God does is for the good is the highest expression of the soul.

The Israel Bible Team

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