Q: Dr. Guterson, you talk quite a bit about the soul. Can you help me understand what the soul is? A: For the past 14 weeks, we have discussed the features and structure of the soul. Our understanding of the soul starts with the knowledge that human beings (unlike everything else) were created in G-d’s image, that G-d breathed into us His Essence. Therefore, we all have an actual piece of Divinity within us. And that explains our yearning for transcendence, a longing to connect. To put this soul into action so that it affects ourselves and the world, Chassidic philosophy talks about ‘garments’ of the soul. These ‘garments’ are our thoughts, speech, and actions. They are called garments because, like the clothes that we wear, they can be changed. And change they must if one desires to grow spiritually! As life goes on and as we hopefully get more in touch with the purity of our soul, we have the opportunity to refine these ‘garments’: Thought: we think ALL the time, even while we’re sleeping. We simply cannot stop thinking - but we have the power to decide what we want and what we don’t want to enter our mind. Speech: Since speech reveals what one is thinking about, it too is under our control. How much we talk and what we talk about is within our free choice. Action: Except perhaps those who suffer from severe mental illness, Chassidic philosophy says there is no such thing as “I can’t help myself”. Excuses are excuses. We are capable of choosing our response to whatever comes our way. All of this, of course, is incredibly difficult but also incredibly empowering. Our soul is pure goodness because it is Divine; it is immutable. Our garments, meaning our thoughts, speech, and action can change, must change, and become more refined. As such, we are able to navigate the waves of life. We have marriages and families and friendships that are more whole. We live with purpose and help reveal the holy sparks that are all around us. To be continued….
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