Three Parts of Soul
What is the difference between spirit, soul, and neshama, according to the kabbala, and how long does the spirit or soul linger after death? Thank you for your help.
Dear Eliezer Shifrin,
A soul is like a chain with one end linked into the brain and the other to a certain spiritual source. There are five levels of the soul like the five links in a chain, each one parallel to the spiritual sphere where it exists. However, we only relate to the three bottom links as we have no understanding about the two top ones. The three are 1) Nefesh 2) Ruach 3) Neshama. The nefesh is the spiritual existence which resides in the body and keeps the physical metabolism working and the person alive. The ruach is a connection between the neshama and the nefesh. It is the cause of feelings and personal qualities. The neshama is the spiritual existence which pulls the man towards G-d, to the performance of good deeds, to be pious and humble and to seek knowledge and achievement in spiritual fields. It resides around the head.
When a person dies, it takes seven days before the parts of the soul understand that it's all over and leave the body. Until then they hover around the grave and travel to and fro between the grave and the house of the deceased, waiting for the body to start functioning again. The nefesh does not completely leave until the body is decomposed.