The Soul's Season


Noah benShea

“Don’t let the past kidnap your future.”

– Noah benShea

This is a season when the word “soul” seems to be on a lot of tongues. While a lot of us are saying the same thing, I’m pretty sure we don’t all mean the same thing. And without a doubt, I certainly can’t square the meaning of soul with what everyone else means.

So, since so many of us talk about the word of God but don’t look at the words or only mouth the words, I thought I’d t take another look at the word “soul” in ancient Hebrew as the language itself profoundly impacts the Judeo Christian experience.

I also wanted to think on how this word soul might give meaning and direction in our lives today. The past isn’t always a lantern on the future but some candles defy logic and burn, and burn, burn. Sometimes offering both light and warmth.

There are three words for soul in ancient Hebrew: Ruach, Nefesh, and Neshuma. And since the number 3 is linked to the Divine – the past, the present, and the future, the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – an exploration of these 3 words might be a worthy beginning of a soulful journey.

The word “Ruach” means both wind and soul/spirit. This is understandable when we remember that when God blew His breath into the red earth (by the way, the word for “red” in Hebrew is Adom and the name Adam is drawn from this) God gave the spirit of life to the first human being.

It is also a good reminder that when we are inspired this means to literally be filled “with breath.” And since none of us can hold our breath indefinitely, all breath, from the first breath, is shared, and the Divine first breath of God is still in circulation. Of course this also means that we are all inspired by God; something to keep in mind every time we take a breath.

As an added visualization, try this. Every time you see the wind blowing imagine you are watching God breathe. And when you feel the wind on your face, perhaps imagine it is God blowing you kisses.

The verbal root of the word ‘Nefesh” means to breathe/sigh, but could also mean to desire a thing. This of course is the soul’s course. At our deepest core, at our soul center, who among us doesn’t desire to slip the bounds of our mortality, know the unknowable, be embraced by the Divine?

The soul’s wish is to be at one with all other souls and in this unity be at one with the One Soul. Conversely, the soul’s anguish is to feel isolated from this union. All experience of isolation, angst, depression arise from the fracture or absence of this unified “feeling”  which is not absent but only waiting for our acknowledgement of who we truly are and what we are at one with but have forgotten.

God has not forgotten us except as we forget to know God is us.

Throw yourself a spiritual homecoming. Come home to the Divine within. A late friend of mine, Father Virgil, liked to say, “the most difficult thing for people to know is that God loves them.” Who among us doesn’t desire to know this. Amen.

The verbal root of ‘Neshuma’ means ‘to pant,’ or – and the lover in all of us will love this – ‘the deep and strong breathing of a woman.’  The human soul is not an intellectual business. It is not bounded by the mind for our heart knows what our mind only thinks it knows.

Our soul is a passion without which our life has no driving force. Freud calls the urge to sex a primal force in all of our lives. To the extent he is true, it is only true because human beings, like all living things, are driven to replicate and reproduce. The urge to continue, to carry on, to persevere is a soul issue and without which the whole game is at stake.

But because soul is connected to the Divine, and what is referred to in mystical Jewish teaching asthe Ein Sof/Without End the infinite passion is not to be confused with finite lust.

Lust debases both the giver and receiver, while the soul’s passion lifts, and gives life, and carries on when you don’t think you can take one step further and every blind step forward is an act of faith.

In “the deep strong breathing of a woman,” the classic maternal life giver, we can see the rise and fall of the universe, we can see the wavelength of God, a wavelength without beginning or end.

Be endlessly passionate in your caring for yourself. From there you can reach out to others, and be forever enveloped in the embrace of God.

May you grasp that you are in God’s grasp. May you know that God is never so with you as when you feel alone. May you know the soul of these truths in your soul.  And may you pass the word.

God only gave us two arms. If you’re busy hugging the past you won’t be able to embrace the future. Don’t let the past kidnap your future. Happy New Year.



Post word: This brief piece could not have happened without the help of my scholar son, Adam Joseph. And my gifted daughter Jordan Arin who posts these words. And I am soul grateful.

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