Chapter One (Part 3)
Letís return now to our subject at hand: an exploration of the parts of
the human Spirit in order to know what we're all about and how we can
change for the better. As we'd said, our one Spirit is comprised of five
component parts: the digestive system, the senses, the imagination, the
emotions, and the intellect.
Now, as most of us know, in Rambam's words, "the digestive system
encompasses the processes of ingestion, retention, digestion per se,
excretion of waste, growth, procreation, and metabolism". We obviously
won't be getting into the physiology and biology involved, since that's
beside our point. And it's also well known that our senses include the
senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. What *will* concern us
about these, though, is the role they play in our free choices, which
we'll discuss later on.
What's less known or perhaps less thought about is the make-up of our
imaginations. Rambam defines it as "the capacity to retain impressions of
experiences (in our minds) when theyíre out of range of the senses
involved, and to compare and contrast some to others", which is
But the imagination is also what enables us to "combine certain
experiences (we'd) had along with others (we'd) never had nor ever could",
which is significant for our subject. Because it's this aspect of our
imagination that can get us into trouble. For it sometimes enables us
to "imagine" what isn't there, rather than "envision" what very well could
be, but isn't yet. The distinction will prove to be vital when it comes to
using our imaginations toward personal growth.
Our emotions, as we all know, "encompass the capacity to either love
something or despise it", or feel somewhere in between about it. What's
especially significant about our emotions, though, when it comes to our
spiritual well being is that itís also "the capacity that enables (us) to
seek something out or avoid it, to be sympathetic toward something or have
reservations about it, and to become angry or satisfied, fearful or brave,
cruel or compassionate, loving or hateful, and the like". That's to say
that it's our emotions that have us * react* one way or another to what's
before us, and it's often enough under our control. This will matter a lot
when it comes to acting out on our impulses or not, as we'll see.
Our intellect also affects the way we react to things, since it
encompasses our ability to "reason, speculate, acquire knowledge, and
differentiate between good and bad behavior". It's just that, as most of
us know, intellect-based reactions tend to be more dispassionate and
detached. And this too will play an important role in our search for
The intellect, of course, also has more practical applications in that it
enables us to "acquire skills like carpentry, agriculture, medicine, or
navigation" and the like, and it also allows us to "think about when to do
something (we'd) like to do, whether itís feasible or not, and how to do
it", but that's basically besides our concerns here.
Rambam then treads very delicately upon a rather recondite idea about the
Spirit, as we'll see.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org