The Anatomy of the Human Soul (Part 1, Nephesh נָפַשׁ)


The Anatomy of the Human Soul (Part 1, Nephesh נָפַשׁ)
By: William J Jackson

There is an age old question that plagues believers and non-believer alike, and it goes like this “what happens when it’s all over?” Well we do know one thing, the body will end one day, so the question then becomes “is there a soul that will live on?” Just remember “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body” (unknown author). Conceding to the fact we are a soul, most of us have a limited understanding of this crucial creation.

Many of us think that our souls are just one, a simple single unit.  But when we study Torah we find that we have three distinct components. If we take the challenge of understanding the soul’s dimensions it will unlock an invaluable code that will gives us important insight on how we are influenced by good and evil.  Additionally by following the journey of the human soul we can take a gimps into the afterlife.

The 3 parts of the soul are as follows (1):

1. Nephesh is the soul as the engine of physical life.

2. Neshamah is a G-dly soul with a desire to reconnect with its Source.

3. Ruach is the emotional self and “personality.”

Part 1 Nephesh

The first component of the soul is the “nephesh”.  It is first mentioned in Genesis 1:20 on the fifth day of creation.

Genesis 1:20 states, “And G-d said, ‘Let the waters swarm a swarming of living creatures (nephesh), and let fowl fly over the earth, across the expanse of the heavens'”.

We also see in verse 24 of the same chapter on the 6th day of creation HaShem gives “nephesh” to other living creatures, beasts, livestock, etc.

Now lets skip forward roughly 1600 years (2). Here the great flood recedes and Noah’s ark comes to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  At the beginning of Genesis chapter 9 G-d tells His covenant to Noah.

Genesis 9:12 And G-d said: “This is the sign of the covenant, which I am placing between Me and between you, and between every living soul (nephesh) that is with you, for everlasting generations.”

So we see here both man and creatures have “nephesh”.

Other areas that confirm human’s have nephesh are Genesis 2:7, 35:18, Exodus 1:5 and Isaiah 38:17.

One of the more profound verses that supports all people having a nephesh was written by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 18:4;

“Behold, all souls (nephesh) are Mine. Like the soul (nephesh) of the father, like the soul (nephesh) of the son they are Mine; the soul (nephesh) that sins, it shall die.”

Obviously this is referring to the “nephesh” and means that all souls belong to G-d not just the Jew or the righteous but all.

Simply said, nephesh is our life force (3). It is the seat of desire, appetites, emotions and passions (4).

When we do things out of habit, instinct or necessity it can be considered the nephesh side of our soul.

Of the three nephesh is considered the lowest form of the soul, it is sometimes called the “Animal – Soul” (5)

As we know, many people like evolutionist and humanist believe humans are nothing more than animals.  These skeptics of G-d’s divinity probably assume that humans posses only a nephesh with no inner spark. This “inner sparks” creates the uniqueness of the human soul and separates us from animals.  This spark can be refereed to as “Neshamah”.  To understand neshamah please refer to “The Anatomy of the Human Soul (Part 2, Neshamah נְשָׁמָה) next Thursday:

To be continued:

Part 2, Neshamah: Thursday 16 July

part 3, Ruach: 23 July


(1) Yanki Tauber, What is a Soul?

(2) Bible Time line

(3) Body & Soul Indispensable partners for doing life’s sacred work,

(4) Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon Number H5315

(5) R.L. Kremnizer, Building Block No. 6 Nefesh HaBahamis (Animal Soul) Nefesh HoElokis (G-dly Soul)

2 thoughts on “The Anatomy of the Human Soul (Part 1, Nephesh נָפַשׁ)

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