One of the fundamental concepts found in Torah is that the body by itself is a lifeless entity, called domem, something inanimate and lifeless. It is dead in the sense that it does not sense anything. All of the bodily senses—the sense of sight, of hearing, of touch, etc.—are present only when the body is enlivened by the soul within. We see this from the fact that a dead body will not respond to pain or other sensory input; it is only when the soul is in the body that the eyes see, the ears hear, the flesh feels, etc. Indeed, this concept is widely known and is not a unique insight of Chassidus. In the common conception there are only two general categories: the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. The physical body is lifeless, the spirit within has life. However, Pnimiyus Hatorah, the inner Torah, comes to open our eyes to see greater detail, beyond the over-simplified notion that “there is something spiritual inside”.
Pnimiyus Hatorah explains that the body that we see in this world is merely a material garment and not even truly a body at all. R’ Chayim Vital writes that even the souls of the greatest tzaddikim “when they descend to this world it is impossible for them to stand in it except with this material garment.”10 It is stated in Avodas Hakodesh that “The lower entity compared to the higher is like a body and a garment, and the higher entity is like a neshoma to it…it disrobes and enclothes according to the place where it is serving.”11 So it comes out that the body of man is not the body of this world at all. The body of this world is a temporary garment which conceals the true body which is beneath it. Thus, it is stated in Zohar:
At the time they descend below they are garbed in the garment of this world…. There is a garment that is visible to all, and the fools see man in a garment which appears beautiful, yet they don’t look any further—they think that this garment is a body and they think that the body is a neshoma. (Zohar, B’haaloscha, 152a)
We can explain this distinction between garment, body, and neshoma as follows:
“They think the garment is a body”—this refers to the material body which appears to our eyes. We think it is a body, but this is a borrowed term. It is really a garment.
“They think that the body is a neshoma”—this refers to the “inner man” called the Tzelem, the Intellectual Soul (which itself is the higher aspect of the Natural Soul12). It seems like the neshoma which gives life to the material body, but in truth this soul itself is really a body, quite distinct from the G-dly neshoma which is blown into man.
The neshoma gives life to the exterior garment (the outer man) via the inner body , the Natural Soul. The garment, what we view as the body, is something dead and lifeless, the result of the sin of Adam Harishon:
The sin of Adam Harishon caused exile and klipa to surround the nefesh by dressing in this dead body of flesh, this lowly dust. What was a clean and pure body is now enclothed in klipos, the skin of the snake…how much more will be added after the body sheds its lowliness and its exile once and for all. (Chesed L’Avraham, 1:5)
Thus we find, that the Mitteler Rebbe describes the subject of “all flesh will see” as “the vision of the eye of the Natural Soul in physicality.”13 Not the fleshly eye, but the power of seeing possessed by the soul. Refining the Natural soul is identical with refining the material of the body, since this does not mean the fleshly, external body, but rather “the refinement of the bodily matter (חומר הגופני) of human intellect…the refinement of the material of the Natural Soul.”13 Similarly, the Rebbe makes it clear that the “flesh” that will in the future see G-dliness is the refined Animal Soul:
We will reach ultimate perfection of the process of refinement of the Animal Soul—and then the prophecy will be fulfilled “and the glory of Hashem will be revealed and all flesh together will see, etc.”, that even the “flesh” (the Animal Soul) will see G-dliness with sensory vision. (Sicha Parshas Re’eh, 5742, siman 6)
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The 4 Yesodos from klipa are the aspect of the world that we see, physicality that does not exist forever. As stated in the gemara27, “this world exists for 6,000 years, and then one of desolation”. Explains the Rebbe Rashab: “’One of desolation’ means that in the 7th millennium it will be desolate and empty from physicality.”28
This can be understood in light of what we have learned above: the physical aspect of the world will pass away, but the Divine vitality within it will continue to exist and in fact be elevated: “in truth what is stated ‘one [millennium] of desolation’ is not really disappearance, but rather elevation to a higher level, and all that will be lost is the physicality. This does not mean that they will be nullified completely…[for the Divine vitality which] keeps them in existence now is unchanging.”29 The klipa aspect of the world will end, but the truth of the world endures eternally.
Interesting to note that the gemara there asks what will become of the tzaddikim at the end of 6,000 years. The gemara answers that the Holy One will make wings for them—which recalls the wings of Elisha Baal Knafayim and his “pure body”, and which hints at the pure, refined physical body of the time to come. The Rebbe Rashab explains: “the Holy One makes for them wings, which means their elevation will bring them to the aspect of light”30, which can be understood from the words of the Tzemach Tzedek, stating that “the body before the sin was a holy, refined, clean body, and called ‘garments of light’ .”31
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