Chapter One (Part 1)
What drives us, at bottom? Most would say it's our motivations, dreams,
fears, surroundings, and the like. But the truth is that it's our Spirit
("nephesh" in Hebrew) that drives us. But -- what's our spirit after all?
The short answer is that it's our psyche, but there's a lot more to it as
we'll learn. For one thing, though, it's not the immortal soul that wafts
aloft to heaven when we pass (though the two are inexorably linked ...
but that's a subject unto itself).
So let's explore the makeup of our Spirit as Rambam explains it and come
to see what we're made of along the way.
Rambam is emphatic about the fact that we each only have one Spirit, which
nonetheless has many different capacities. He apparently needs to
emphasize that since many of the physicians and philosophers who were
respected in antiquity claimed that we each have three, termed
the "native", "dynamic", and "transcendent" spirits respectively. However,
Rambam's larger point is that despite its complexity (which we'll explore)
and regardless of our many inner contradictions, we each have only one
The truth is even we in modernity tend to think we have more than one
Spirit, as when we say things like, "I was *beside* myself" and "I took a
deep look inside myself", etc. which seem to imply multiple spirits that
are each separate and independent of each other. But the truth is that
we're each of one Spirit -- which is decidedly multilayered and dynamic.
Now, it's especially important for us to know that, Rambam emphasizes,
since self-refinement and spiritual excellence only come about when
one "heals his Spirit and its capacities", and because we can only do that
after first becoming familiar enough with the makeup of our Spirit to know
what makes its "ill" in the first place and what would then "heal" it.
So we'll have to settle right now for the notion that our one Spirit is
comprised of five “component parts”: the digestive system, the senses, the
imagination, the emotions, and the intellect. We'll explain that next time.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org