Originally published in Studies in Rationalism, Judaism and Universalism, ed. Raphael Loewe (Humanities: 1966), 87-114.
The belief that there is a special mystical ‘spark’ in every human breast can be traced back, in western mysticism, at least to Jerome in the fourth century. Both Bonaventura and Bernard of Clairvaux speak of this mystical organ; the latter, calling it scintillula, a small spark of the soul,  and speaking of the nearness of God, said: ‘Angels and archangels are within us, but He is more truly our own who is not only with us but in us.’  However, both these mystics are anxious to prevent an identification of this mystical spark with the divine. Eckhart, on the other hand, embraces the identification, calling the spark, among other endearing names, das Kleidhaus Gottes,  ‘the house in which God attires Himself ’. This and other pantheistic tendencies in Eckhart’s thought were condemned in the papal Bull of 1529. 
In Eastern mysticism the identification of the mystical spark with the divine is frequent. In the Upanishads Atman is Brahman, the soul of man is identical with the universal principle, tat tvam asi, ‘That art thou’. ‘This my spirit within my heart is greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than the heavens, greater than all worlds. The all-working, all-wishing, all-smelling, all-tasting one, that embraces the universe, that is silent, untroubled—that is my spirit within my heart; that is Brahman. Thereunto, when I go hence, shall I attain. Who knoweth this, he, sooth, hath no more doubts.’  Sankara (c. 788-820), the famous Hindu mystic, describes the identification in these terms:
‘That same highest Brahman constitutes—as we know from such passages as ‘That art thou’—the real nature of the individual soul, while its second nature, i.e. that aspect of it which depends on fictitious limiting conditions, is not its real nature. For as long as the individual soul does not free itself from Nescience in the form of duality—which Nescience may be compared to the mistake of him who in the twilight mistakes a post for a man—and does not rise to the knowledge of the Self, whose nature is unchangeable, eternal Cognition—which expresses itself in the form ‘I am Brahman’—so long it remains the individual soul. But when, after disregarding the aggregate of body, sense-organs and mind, it arrives, by means of Scripture, at the knowledge that it is not itself that aggregate, that it does not form part of transmigratory existence, but is the True, the Real, the Self, whose nature is pure intelligence; then knowing itself to be of the nature of unchangeable, eternal Cognition, it lifts itself above the vain conceit of being one with this body, and itself becomes the Self, whose nature is unchanging, eternal Cognition.’ 
In Islamic mysticism the idea appears, from Hallaj, with his ana ’l-haqq, ‘I am the Truth [which is God]’, Jallal Ud-Din Rumi’s proclamation that the soul’s love of God is God’s love of the soul, and that in loving the soul God loves Himself, for He draws home to Himself that which is in its essence divine.  In an ode this poet says: 
‘O my soul, I searched from end to end: I saw
In thee naught but the Beloved:
Call me not infidel, O my soul, if I say that thou
Thyself art He.’
It is generally assumed that in every version of Judaism the distance between God and man is so vast that ideas such as the preceding can have no place in the Jewish faith. Salo Baron, for instance, makes the following generalization: 
‘But while Muslim fatalism tended to reduce greatly the distance between the Creator and the universe or man created by Him, thus opening the road to unrestrictedly pantheistic identification, Jews (even the Sufis among them) had retained enough of their traditional awe before the divine Holiness and its inherent transcendence to draw a sharp line of demarcation between them. Exclamations like that by Hallaj, ‘I am He whom I love, and He Whom I love is I’—that is, ‘I am God’, would have sounded as execrable blasphemies in the ears of the most confirmed Jewish followers of Sufism. This did not mean that they did not venture to argue with God about certain alleged injustices and imperfections in His world order. This had been done with perfect equanimity by Job and many aggadic homilies. But in their most daring dialogues and visions they never forgot the chasm which separated the Infinite from all His creatures, even those belonging to the highest emanations, which alone the ‘Descenders of the Chariot’ dared to approach. In the ultimate sense, even these mystics resigned themselves in their diverse ways to the acceptance of the inscrutable tortuousness of the divine guidance of man and history. Individually, too, they sought mere communion, not actual union, with the Deity.’
It should be made clear that Baron is correct only if his observation is limited to the Merkavah (chariot) mysticism with which he deals. The categorical statement that Judaism, in any of its forms, knows nothing of the identification of the ‘divine spark’ with the divine can be maintained only by ignoring a considerable portion of the evidence we shall here adduce. Consequently, R. C. Zaehner’s remarks are true only of ‘normative’ Judaism, not of Judaism in all its manifestations:
‘It can be maintained that the strictly monotheistic religions do not naturally lend themselves to mysticism: and there is much to be said for this view. Christianity is the exception because it introduces into a monotheistic system an idea that is wholly foreign to it, namely, the Incarnation . . . Such an idea is as repulsive to the strict monotheism of Islam as it is to that of the Jews. Judaism, on its side, never developed a mystical tradition comparable to that of the other great religions because it held that union with a transcendental God who manifests himself in history could not be possible to a finite creature.’ 
Zaehner quotes Scholem as his authority:  ‘The Creator and His creatures remain apart, and nowhere is an attempt made to bridge the gulf between them or to blur the distinction.’ But Scholem, too, is here speaking of ‘Chariot’ mysticism alone. Our evidence prevents us applying the rule to every type of Jewish mystical thought.
David Baumgardt  is on surer ground in remarking with regard to the ‘divine spark’ idea:
‘The way in which similar ideas about an inner well of mystical religious life emerge in movements which had hardly any contact with Christian religious thought, may be inferred from the sayings of the founder of the Habad Society or Lubovitcher Hasidim, Shneur Zalman of Ladi in Lithuania (1745-1815),  who was called the ‘Rav of Reussen’ or ‘alter Rebbe’ (the old Rabbi). He taught in his Sefer Tanya that in every Jew there is a spark of divinity (according to popular Jewish thought ‘a small point of Jewish faith’ [dos pintele yid] by which religious Jewishness can, on principle, always be rekindled, no matter how hidden it may be or how dead it may appear to the eye of the observer).’
We shall see that Baumgardt is certainly right in finding this idea in Habad. But it has its antecedents in earlier Jewish thought. It is the purpose of this essay to consider the doctrine of the ‘divine spark’ in the form it assumes in a number of important Jewish sources and to demonstrate that its prominence in Habad comes at the end of a long process.
It is hardly necessary to state that there is no hint of the idea in the Bible. The verse: ‘Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ (Gen. 2: 7), though used as a proof-text for the notion of the ‘divine spark’ by Philo and others, really means no more than that God blew the spirit into Adam.  ‘The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord’ (Prov. 20: 27) means, of course, a candle kindled by the Lord. ‘And the dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it’ (Eccl. 12: 7) similarly means no more than that God gave man his soul, not that it is a part of God.
Philo, writing at the beginning of the first century CE, was the first Jew, so far as we know, to teach that there is something divine in the human soul:
‘For the essence or substance of that other soul is divine spirit, a truth vouched for by Moses especially, who in his story of the creation says that God breathed a breath of life upon the first man, the founder of our race, into the lordliest part of his body, the face, where the senses are stationed like bodyguards to the great king, the mind. And clearly what was then thus breathed was ethereal spirit, even an effulgence of the blessed, thrice blessed nature of the Godhead.’ 
Philo reverts to the idea of the soul as an ‘effulgence of the blessed nature of the Godhead’ in a number of passages in his works. Thus in his comment to Gen. 2: 7  he says:
‘Breathed into’, we note, is equivalent to ‘inspired’ or ‘be-souled’ the soulless; for God forbid that we should be infected with such monstrous folly as to think that God employs for inbreathing organs such as mouth and nostrils; for God is not only not in the form of a man, but belongs to no class or kind. Yet the expression clearly brings out something that accords with nature. For it implies of necessity three things, that which inbreathes, that which receives, that which is inbreathed: that which inbreathes is God, that which receives is the mind, that which is inbreathed is the spirit or breath. What, then, do we infer from these premises? A union of the three comes about, as God projects the power that proceeds from Himself through the mediant breath till it reaches the subject. And for what purpose save that we may obtain a conception of Him? For how could the soul have conceived of God, had He not breathed into it and mightily laid hold of it? For the mind of man would never have ventured to soar so high as to grasp the nature of God, had not God Himself drawn it up to Himself, so far as it was possible that the mind of man should be drawn up, and stamped it with the impress of the powers that are within the scope of its understanding.’
Thus, according to Philo, the human mind would be incapable of knowing God were it not that God had permitted the abyss to be crossed by infusing the mind with something of Himself. Elsewhere  Philo states that the gift of a divine part of the soul to Adam is shared by his descendants, albeit in fainter form. Every man, he says, in respect of his mind, is allied to the divine Reason, having come into being as a copy or fragment or ray of that blessed nature. In the later literature the ‘divine spark’ is frequently limited to Israel. In Philo the more universalistic tendency prevails. All Adam’s descendants share in his nature and have something of the divine within them.
If we turn to the rabbinic literature  we find references to the purity of the soul  and its heavenly origin.  Just as the woman of royal lineage who marries a villager is never satisfied with all that her husband provides because she is accustomed to life in the royal palace, so the soul’s immortal longings are never satisfied because it derives from ‘those above’ (ha’elyonim).  In a famous passage  it is stated that the soul resembles God in that it is invisible, it sustains the body as God sustains the world, it is pure, it fills the body as God fills the world, and, like God, it dwells in the innermost chambers. In all this there is not the slightest hint at any identification of the soul with God. The nearest we get to such identification in the whole of the rabbinic literature is the saying of R. Eleazar (3rd c.) that a man should consider himself as if the Holy One dwells within him;  but even if this is what R. Eleazar really means (and this is by no means certain),  it is clear from the context that he is simply stating in picturesque fashion the need for man to take care of himself, since his bodily needs are also God-given. It would be exceedingly precarious to deduce from this isolated saying that there are rabbinic echoes of the Philonic idea.
Nor is there any clear attempt at the identification of the soul and God in the classical medieval philosophers. These agree that the soul is not material, and the Aristotelian threefold division of the soul into vegetative, animal and rational is frequently found. Under the influence of the Arabic Aristotelians the doctrine of the Active Intellect was adopted by thinkers like Abraham Ibn Da’ud, Maimonides, Gersonides and Crescas. By means of the Active Intellect, which emanates from God, man can gain an acquired intellect through the exercise of his mind in study and comprehension of metaphysical truth. This alone is the immortal part of man.  All this has little to do with the doctrine that there is a divine spark hidden in the recesses of the human psyche. However, a Neoplatonist like Gabirol (d. 1058) can refer to the soul as a pure radiance from God’s glory: 
‘Who can contain Thy might when from the abundance
of Thy glory Thou didst create a pure
radiance, hewn from the quarry of the Rock,
and dug from the mine of Purity?
And on it Thou didst set a spirit of wisdom,
and Thou didst call it the Soul.
Thou didst fashion it from the flames of
the Intelligence, and its spirit is as fire
burning in it.
Thou didst send it into the body to serve it and to
guard it, and it is as a fire within, and yet
it does not burn it.’
It is in the teaching of the kabbalah, with its strong Neoplatonic influences, that the doctrine of the ‘divine spark’ comes into full prominence in Jewish thought. The zoharic teachings on the nature of the soul are exceedingly complex  but at least in one passage  it is clearly stated that the highest part of the soul—neshamah—comes from the sefirotic realm, from the ‘body’ of Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man), the world of the sefirot—the ‘qualities’ or ‘attributes’ which emanate from Ein Sof, the Infinite: God as He is in Himself.
‘R. Judah began his discourse by quoting the verse: ‘Let every soul praise the Lord’ (Ps. 150: 6). We have been taught that all souls are derived from that Holy Body and they animate human beings. From which place are they derived? From the place that is called Yah. Which place is that? Said R. Judah: It is written: ‘How manifold are thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all’ (Ps. 104: 24). We have been taught that all things are contained in that wisdom the spring of which flows into thirty-two paths, all things above and below are contained within it.’
In the zoharic scheme the highest Sefirot are: Keter (Crown), the divine Will; Hokhmah, the divine Wisdom; and Binah, the divine Understanding. In the above passage the soul is said to derive ultimately from the divine Wisdom. This means much more than that God in His wisdom created the soul. The Sefirah of Wisdom is in zoharic thought an aspect of the Deity. Consequently, the soul comes from God Himself. In other zoharic sources it is suggested that the soul comes from the Sefirah of Understanding.  The author of the Zohar, remarks Professor Scholem,  on the whole holds the view that only the nefesh, the natural soul, is capable of sin. The neshamah, the spark of the divine in man, is beyond sin. Indeed, Moses de Leon, identified with good reason by Scholem as the author of the Zohar, discusses in other works of his how it is possible for the soul to suffer in Hell since neshamah is substantially the same as God!
Nahmanides (1195-1270), in his Commentary to the Pentateuch, on the verse: ‘Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’ (Gen. 2: 7) gives an interpretation in the spirit of the kabbalah, which bears remarkable affinities with Philo’s interpretation of the same verse. Nahmanides observes  that the verse provides us with a hint of the soul’s most elevated nature by using the complete divine name— ‘the Lord God’. By stating that God ‘breathed’ the soul ‘into his nostrils’ the verse teaches that the soul has its origin neither in the four elements nor as an emanation from the disembodied intelligences, the angels, but is from the very ‘mouth’ of God. In support, Nahmanides quotes for his purpose: ‘Out of His mouth cometh knowledge and discernment’ (Prov. 2: 6). The soul is thus a spirit which comes from God Himself. For when one blows into the face of another it is of his own breath which he blows.  Quoting ‘But it is a spirit in man and the breath of the Almighty that giveth them understanding’ (Job 52: 8), Nahmanides refers to the kabbalistic doctrine that the soul comes from the divine Understanding, i.e. from the Sefirah of that name. He then goes on to discuss the different parts of the soul under the conventional medieval categories. At all events, according to this author, there is a portion of the divine in the soul of man.
Nahmanides was the first Bible commentator to make use of the kabbalah for exegetical purposes. In this he was followed by Bahya ibn Asher (d. 1540) of Saragossa. After a lengthy exposition of the different views on the nature of the soul held by the philosophers, Bahya turns, in his comment to the locus classicus on the question (Gen. 2: 7), to the views of the kabbalah. 
‘That the soul, after its departure from the body, is immortal is stated in this verse which calls it the “soul of life” [nishmat hayim], namely, a soul hewn out of the Source of life, for the soul is hewn out of the Source of the divine Wisdom [i.e. the Sefirah of Hokhmah, as in the above-quoted zoharic passage] . . . If you will grasp the significance of the verse uttered by Solomon in his wisdom you will understand the soul’s lofty and elevated degree, its foundation and its mystery. Solomon says: “Man’s pre-eminence above the beast is nothing” [Eccl. 5: 19]. He states that the pre-eminence of man over the beast is by virtue of that which is called “Nothing”, that is to say, by virtue of man’s rational soul which derives from Wisdom, represented by the letter yod, united with the divine Will, represented by the letter aleph. Understand this thoroughly. [Bahya here follows the kabbalistic representation of the Sefirot by the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The letter yod represents the Sefirah Hokhmah, the divine Wisdom. The letter aleph represents the highest of the Sefirot, Keter (Crown), the divine Will. The first two letters of the Hebrew word for “nothing”—ayin—are aleph and yod. Hence the human soul derives from the first divine impulse to create, allied to the potential wisdom manifested in creation.] Hence the verse speaks of God as breathing into his nostrils that we might understand the foundation of the soul and its most elevated state, since it emanates from the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that the soul is compared to the Holy One, blessed be He, in five matters.  The soul resembles God in all its qualities and is greater than the angels . . . The conclusion of the matter is that whatever the mouth can utter in precise praise of the qualities of the Holy One, blessed be He, in His role as Creator of all things, can be included in the qualities of the soul as a created thing. The Sage observes: “Know yourselves and you will know God.”  Consider all this!’
The ideas of both Nahmanides and Bahya were drawn upon by Manasseh ben Israel (d. Middleburg, Holland, 1657) in his treatise on the soul.  Referring to the verse quoted by the previous authors he observes  that this calls attention to the spiritual and elevated nature of the soul which emanates from the Holy Spirit—the very words used by Bahya. It is as if ‘the Holy One, blessed be He, as it were, touched the formless lump of Adam and blew the soul into it, thereby imparting to man some of the divine wisdom’. The souls of all other animals were created together with their bodies, but man’s soul, being divine, was infused into him after his body had been created from the dust. Those ‘who prepare savouries’ (i.e. rather fanciful comments to Scripture) are quoted by the author in pointing out that the letters of the word for soul, neshamah, are largely the same as those in the word for heaven,shamayim, to hint at the divine origin of the original soul.
The kabbalist Hayim Vital (1546-1620) elaborates on the theme of the divine soul in his Sha’arei Kedushah (Gates of Holiness).  The true man, states Vital, is not the body, for this is known in Scripture as the ‘flesh of man’. The soul is the real man, using the body as its garment. At death the soul divests itself of the coarse garment of the body to become clothed with pure, refined, spiritual vestments. As a result of Adam’s sin there came about a mixture of good and evil in all things so that even the divine soul, hewn from the four divine elements represented by the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, became surrounded by an evil soul, deriving from the forces of impurity and known as the Evil Inclination. The limbs of the physical body are garments to the spiritual ‘limbs’ of the unclean soul and these are, in turn, garments to the ‘limbs’ of the pure soul, the true man. When man uses his bodily limbs for sin he adds fuel to the forces of the impure soul. When he uses them to perform good deeds these nourish and sustain the divine soul, enabling it to get the upper hand of the unclean soul.
In later parts of the work  Vital describes in detail the whole scheme by which man’s psychic nature is linked to the ‘upper worlds’. One passage in particular deserves a passing notice: 
‘The soul’s greatness has been described, for it is a great light born of the light of the Sefirot themselves, without any intermediary. This is the meaning of “Ye are children of the Lord your God” [Deut. 14: 1] for they are in the category of a son who is completely attached to the father from whom he is descended. This is the mystery behind the saying that the Patriarchs are the Heavenly Chariot  to the light of the Sefirot, which rides above them without the mediation of any other light . . . And this is the mystery of “But ye that cleave unto the Lord your God” (Deut. 4: 4), with real attachment to the light of the ten Sefirot: but it is otherwise with regard to all other creatures. This is the meaning of the verse: “For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto Me the whole house of Israel” (Jer. 15: 11).’
It will be seen that for Vital, as for the majority of the kabbalists, the elevated role of divine kinship is reserved for Israel and is really based on the notion that Israel on earth mirrors the heavenly pattern. Vital was the pupil of the famous Safed kabbalist Isaac Luria (1554-72). An earlier leader of the Safed mystical school was Moses Cordovero (1522-70).  Elijah de Vidas, Cordovero’s pupil, published his own Reshit Hokhmah (The Beginning of Wisdom) as an ethical guide for the mystical adept,  in the spirit of his master. Here the doctrine of the divine spark in man is treated in elaborate detail and, like much of de Vidas’ work, owes a great deal to Cordovero.  Claiming that his ideas are based on the Zohar,  though it is only through considerable homiletical ingenuity that the passage quoted can be made to yield the thought, de Vidas states that an actual spark (nitsuts) of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shekhinah (Divine Presence) is contained within man.
De Vidas writes: ‘Souls are flaming threads drawn below from on high, their vitality stemming constantly from their Source.’ In his view death is caused by God drawing up to Himself the thread by which the soul is bound to Him, just as the scent of an apple is drawn away when one smells its fragrance. This is why Scripture says: ‘For the portion of the Lord is His people, Jacob the lot of His inheritance’ (Deut. 52: 9). The soul of an Israelite is an actual portion of the Deity (taking the word ‘portion’ not in the sense of a part belonging to God but to mean a part of God). This does not mean, however, that there is any kind of separateness or division in God but rather that the source of the soul on high is a part of God. Souls inhabiting individual bodies are naturally separate entities but in their source in God they are one with Him. ‘For the portion of the Lord is His people’ can be read as ‘For the portion of the Lord is with Him’ (imo for amo), that is, God’s portion of the soul, the part that is divine, is ‘with’ Him as part of His being with its branches here below. Hence the verse speaks, too, of Jacob as the ‘rope’ (hevel can mean ‘rope’ as well as ‘lot’) of His inheritance; for the soul and God are united like the strands of which a rope is composed. Furthermore, the illustration of a rope is given to denote that the soul, even after its descent into the body, is still attached to God, so that one end of the ‘rope’ is in God’s hands while the other inhabits the body. ‘The meaning of the love of God and “cleaving” to Him is that man attaches himself to God by means of this link, binding himself to the root of his soul which is attached to God, blessed be He.’ Just as man’s soul loves his body to which it is joined and the body the soul as the source of its life, so should man love God, with whom his soul is united.
Shabbetai Sheftel Horowitz the Elder (b. ca. 1565, d. 1619) flourished in Prague and was the author of the famous kabbalistic book Shefa Tal.  At the beginning of the work Horowitz writes: 
‘It is known that the souls of the people of Israel are a “portion of God from above” (Job 51: 2).  The verse “For the portion of the Lord is His people” (Deut. 52: 9) hints at this. The term “portion” is to be taken literally. A portion separated from some thing is in every way like the thing from which it has been taken, the thing being the whole and the total, which is naturally greater than the part separated thereof. But in essence the whole and the part are identical. In the same way there is no difference or distinction between the soul and God, may He be exalted and may His name be blessed, except that God, may He be exalted and may His name be blessed, is the whole. He is the all-embracing light, the infinite, unending, great light, whereas the soul is a portion and a spark separated from the great light, blessed be He and blessed be His name. As king Solomon, on whom be peace, says: “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord” (Prov. 20: 27). He means to say that man’s soul is a candle, a spark deriving from God’s light. He takes particular care to speak of the “candle [ner] of the Lord” rather than the “light of the Lord” in order to hint at the truth that all three degrees of nefesh, ruah and neshamah in the soul are a portion and a spark of God’s light. This is hinted at by the use of the expression the “ner of God”, since the word ner has the initial letters ofnefesh and ruah.  The meaning is that nefesh, ruah and neshamah, the three degrees of the soul, are all holy sparks which come from God’s light. Hence the verse says, “The neshamah of man is the ner of God.”’
It can be seen that Horowitz draws almost entirely on his predecessors. He is extraordinary only in giving such prominence to the doctrine of the divine spark, placing it right at the beginning of his lengthy treatise. Horowitz was not unaware of the offence-giving nature of his contention. No sooner had he written this first paragraph than he added a cautionary note which reads:
‘O student of this work, be not astonished at this idea; for my master and teacher, Rabbi Moses Cordovero has written even more than this in his holyPardes,  Gate of Hekhalot, Chapter 15, where he remarks: “The Patriarchs are more elevated than the Sefirot for they are not limbs but they are Divinity Itself in Its extension to creatures here below.” You see that he states explicitly that the Patriarchs are Divinity Itself. His words there and ours here will become perfectly intelligible to you when you reach the Gate of nefesh, ruah and neshamah of this work. But I request the student to study this treatise in the order of its Gates and Chapters, for each Gate and each Chapter is the key, introduction and commentary to the Gate and Chapter which follows it. Do not, therefore, permit your thoughts to skip immediately to the middle of the work, for this will be of no advantage to you. But if you study the work in the order we have mentioned, the gates of light will be revealed to you without mental fatigue. However, as a preliminary thought and first postulate you may grasp this idea and understand it.’
Horowitz’s Shefa Tal was no sooner off the press than it was widely acclaimed as a basic kabbalistic textbook; but the fears of the author that his notion of the divine character of the soul would give offence were not unfounded. It appears, indeed, that so fierce were the protests that it evoked that the author resolved to write a special work of defence against his critics. This little book, entitled Nishmat Shabbetai Halevi (The Soul of Shabbetai the Levite), has the avowed aim of removing the misconceptions to which his formulation in the Shefa Tal had given rise.
In the preface to his apology Horowitz states that the work deals with the mysteries of the holy soul which were revealed as a result of the difficulties raised by his sons, pupils, colleagues and teachers—a formidable list. The author claims, in his introduction, that mysteries still left concealed in his Shefa Tal are now revealed so that the new work must be seen as an appendix to the earlier one. In fact, he remarks, he has now decided to give a new name to both books so that they can be treated as one. The new title, significantly enough, is Galeh Razaya (Revealer of Mysteries). Horowitz claims further that, so far from being in any way original in his notions concerning the divine character of the soul, he has four great authorities—he calls them ‘pillars’—on whom he relies, four earlier teachers of the highest renown who had taught the same truth. The first of these is none other than Moses himself, the second Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, the traditionally reputed author of the Zohar, the third Nahmanides, the fourth Elijah de Vidas. The last two references are, of course, to the works we have mentioned previously. The book is divided into thirteen brief chapters corresponding, the author informs us, to Maimonides’ thirteen principles of the Jewish faith. They provide the reader with the basic principles concerning his psychic life.
In a special introduction to the ‘gates’ of the treatise Horowitz proceeds to describe its purpose. His pupils and teachers, he observes, raised a ‘tremendous objection’ to the ideas on the nature of the soul contained in the Shefa Tal. Sure of the value of the latter work, and perhaps being sensitive about the criticism it had inspired, he calls it ‘a holy work, holy in all its parts, containing words of truth and uprightness, words of the living God, without any blemish’. The objections raised are then stated fairly. How can it be maintained that the soul is an actual part of God since this would mean that there are as many parts in God as the total number of Jewish souls, thus compromising traditional Jewish monotheism? All the kabbalists agree that the Infinite—Ein Sof—has neither parts nor divisions. Furthermore, every Jewish child is taught to praise God for creating his soul, and the rabbis speak of God creating the souls of Israel before the creation of the world. If the soul is created how can it be a portion of the Creator? 
After a general introduction to the basic kabbalistic principles regarding the relationship between Ein Sof (God as He is in Himself) and the Sefirot—God in the process of revealing Himself to others—the author begins his reply in Gate 4. He first calls attention to the note of warning inserted at the beginning of the Shefa Tal. Here he has reminded the reader of the dangers inherent in a superficial understanding of the notion of the divine spark. Denying emphatically that he is in any way recanting, he goes on to say that all along he had meant to say that the soul was a portion of the sefirotic realm—God in His aspect of self-disclosure—not a portion of Ein Sof. Ein Sof is God as He is known to Himself alone. Of this aspect of Deity nothing whatsoever can be postulated. It is not mentioned in the Bible, it is utterly beyond all human comprehension, of it nothing can be said, it is entirely remote from the slightest attempt at comprehension. It follows that it is quite improper to speak of the soul as a portion of Ein Sof, since it is really improper to speak of Ein Sof at all. How then can one speak of a ‘portion’ of Ein Sof? Horowitz denies that he had ever suggested that one could. Of the Sefirot, however, one can speak. Moreover, these are ten in number. Here there is division, for God, as He reveals Himself to others, has varying attributes and aspects. Consequently, it is quite proper to speak of the soul as a portion of the sefirotic realm, for here there is division; and there can be no harm in extending the divisions to include the totality of souls.
This possibly lessens the difficulty. It does not abolish it. It is true that in the kabbalah the distinction between Ein Sof and the Sefirot is made, but the kabbalists felt bound to demonstrate that somehow there is no degeneration into dualism. Consequently, various illustrations are used by them in their attempt to convey the thought that there is a basic unity of Ein Sof and the Sefirot. Among these illustrations are those of water poured into bottles of different colours, which partakes of the colour of the bottles without really suffering change; or of the human soul which is one and yet which possesses different characteristics; or of the multi-coloured flames proceeding from the one glowing coal. It follows that the doctrine of the divine spark—even if it comes from the sefirotic realm—is still exceedingly bold. Hence Horowitz, in the next three chapters, quotes his four ‘pillars’ in support of his radical viewpoint.
Gate 5 gives an account of Nahmanides’ views to which we have referred. In chapter 6 the second ‘pillar’, Elijah de Vidas, is quoted. Chapter 7 relies on the zoharic passage quoted by de Vidas. As we have seen, the idea of the soul as a portion of God is far from explicit in this passage, although, since Horowitz now admits that he is thinking only of the sefirotic realm, it is rather strange that he does not quote the zoharic passages in which it is stated clearly that the soul comes from either the Sefirah of Wisdom or that of Understanding. Finally, the strongest proof of all, Moses himself is asserted to have referred to the doctrine in the Shema, Israel’s declaration of faith: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One’ (Deut. 6: 4). Horowitz is here somewhat obscure, but, if my reading of what he says is correct, he appears to interpret the verse with a boldness bordering on blasphemy, as some of his critics would surely say, in this way: ‘Hear! Israel and the Lord our God are one Lord’! ‘Israel’, observes Horowitz, ‘are united with God in the upper worlds.’
In the sources mentioned hitherto the doctrine of the divine spark in the soul is accepted, occasionally with qualifications, and it forms a more or less significant part in the spiritual outlook of the various authors. Nowhere, however, do we find such a highly developed metaphysical system based on the idea as we do in the writings of Schneor Zalman of Liady, mentioned above, the founder of the Habad group in Hasidism. Schneor Zalman relies mainly on the kabbalists of the Lurianic school, Hayim Vital in particular.  Following Vital, Schneor Zalman speaks of the two souls which every Jew possesses. The first, the ‘animal soul’, is the vital force by which man lives. It is the source of all his desires and appetites. It is constantly at war with the ‘divine soul’, the portion of God within man. Here is Schneor Zalman’s description of the divine soul :
‘The second soul of Israel is an actual portion of God from above, as it is said: “And He breathed into his nostrils the neshamah of life” [Gen. 2: 7], and “Thou didst breathe it into me”.  As the Zohar comments:  “When one blows it is from himself that he blows”, that is to say, from his most inward essence, for man ejects his most inner vitality when he blows powerfully. In the same way the souls of Israel ascended in God’s thought, as it is written: “Israel is My son, My firstborn” [Ex. 4: 22], “Ye are the children of the Lord your God” [Deut. 14: 1]. This means that as the child derives from the brain of the father,  so, as it were, the soul of every Jew is derived from God’s thought and wisdom . . . Even though there are myriads of different degrees of soul, one higher than the other, for instance, the most elevated state of soul of the Patriarchs and of Moses above the souls of these generations of the “heels [i.e. harbingers] of the Messiah”, which are in the category of the “heel” in comparison with the brain and the head. So, too, in each generation there are the heads of Israel, whose souls belong in the category of “head” and “brain” in comparison with the souls of the masses and the ignorant, and there are, too, divisions among souls into nefesh, ruah and neshamah. For all that, the root of every nefesh, ruah and neshamah, from the highest of all degrees to the lowest, in which the soul is clothed by the body of the ignorant man and the lowest of the low, derives from the Supernal Mind, the Supernal Wisdom, as in the illustration (if it is permitted to say this) of the child who stems from the brain of his father. Even the child’s finger- and toenails are formed from the actual drop of semen which remains in the mother’s womb for nine months, there descending from stage to stage until it changes so much that nails are formed, and yet, nonetheless, it is still bound to and united with, in marvellous fashion, its first essence when it was part of the brain of the father.’
Prominent in Habad thought is the idea of bitul hayesh—‘annihilation of the self’. From one point of view God is the only true Being—yesh(‘somethingness’)—whereas all creatures, including man, are nothing—ayin (‘nothingness’). But from another point of view it is God who can be referred to as ‘Nothing’, because He is so far above all human comprehension that of Him nothing can adequately be said, whereas man can be referred to as yesh, ‘that which is’, that which is evident to the senses. Since the human soul is a part of God it longs to return to its source in Him, but the human ego in its separateness creates a barrier between the soul and its source in God. In technical Habad terms, man’s yesh, his ‘somethingness’, acts as a screen before the divine ‘Nothingness’, ayin. The screen can only be removed by self-abnegation or self-annihilation. When man’s ego is set at naught, when he attains to bitul hayesh, complete abandonment of his ‘somethingness’ as a being apart from God, he becomes ayin, ‘nothingness’, and he is then able to achieve contact with the divine ‘Nothingness’ that is God.  The veils of the senses and the ego are then stripped away and the soul in its naked ‘nothingness’ is in touch with its source in God. This is a tendency to be observed in much mystical thought, ‘that the spark of the divine cannot be described because it contains nothing but the All, that the vacuum is the richest fullness, the negative the highest degree of positivity.’  As the Tao-te-King puts it: 
‘Thirty spokes meet together in a single hub.
The wagon’s usefulness depends on their
Nothingness [on the empty space between them];
Clay is moulded into vessels;
The vessels’ utility depends on their nothingness.
To build a house, holes are made in the walls for doors and windows;
On their nothingness depends the usefulness of the house.
Hence: Being yields possession, but Non-being utility.’
It is well known that Hasidism found its strongest opponent in Elijah the Gaon of Vilna (1720-97). The opposition was on various grounds, not least of them the pantheistic viewpoint of Hasidism. The divine was seen by the adherents of the new sect in the most mundane matters. The famous disciple of the Gaon, Hayim of Volozhin (1749-1821), treats of kabbalistic matters in his Nefesh Hahayim.  The mystical ideas of this work are not very different from those of Schneor Zalman, whose writings were certainly familiar to Hayim, but, for obvious reasons, greater caution is used in such an anti-hasidic work. The author accepts, for instance, the idea of the divine spark in the soul but is far more qualified than Schneor Zalman in his acceptance. Hayim admits that the ‘essence’ of the soul is divine, but he states that this ‘essence’ never enters man’s body. Before Adam sinned he did, indeed, possess this ‘essence’ but when he ate of the fruit of the tree it was taken from him, remaining only in a state of suspension over him. Moses alone had the great merit of possessing the ‘essence’ of the divine soul while still in the body, hence he is called ‘the man of God’ (Deut. 55: 1). No other human being is in possession of it, but sparks flash from it over the heads of the saints, each according to the spiritual degree he occupies and according to his spiritual capacities. 
Thus, for Hayim, the divine spark has become a spark from the soul, not a spark of God, and even this is not a basic part of every man but is earned through saintly endeavour. A far cry this from the categorical statement of Habad that there is an actual portion of God in every Jewish soul. If the opponents of Hasidism gave only a grudging recognition to the doctrine of the divine spark, the followers of Schneor Zalman of Liady furthered the powerful and influential Habad movement with the doctrine as a central plank in its platform.
One of the most remarkable mystical testimonies in the whole literature of mysticism is that of Schneor Zalman’s son and successor, Dov Baer of Lubavitch (1775-1827). This work, entitled Kunteros Hahitpa’alut (Tract on Ecstasy), is in the form of a long letter, sent by the master to his followers soon after his assumption of the leadership of the sect, offering them the guidance they had sought on the role of ecstasy in prayer.  Dov Baer teaches that two types of ecstasy are possible in prayer. There is the power of man’s two souls, the ‘animal’ or ‘natural’ and the ‘divine’, in his prayer life. The force of the ‘divine soul’ is strong or weak according to man’s nearness to God in his daily life and the amount of divine grace granted to him. Dov Baer describes the difference between the manifestations of the two souls in prayer as the difference between the ‘essential’ and the ‘separate’. This means that an experience by the divine soul, though it is expressed through the normal channels of human will, thought and emotions, is, in reality, an experience of the divine by the divine, as it were. It is an ‘essential’ experience—divine essence responding to divine essence, the spark drawing near to the flame. An experience of the ‘natural soul’, on the other hand, through the channels of human will, thought and emotions, is a ‘separate’ experience. It involves an encounter with the divine by something not itself divine. Ecstasy induced by the divine grace extending to awaken the ‘divine soul’ is referred to as ‘serving the Lord with the soul’, whereas ecstasy induced by contemplation through the channels of the ‘natural soul’ is called ‘serving the Lord with the body’. The whole tract is a profound analysis of ecstatic states, spurious and authentic, but its detailed investigation does not belong here. 
We have tried to trace the doctrine of the divine spark in the soul from its beginnings in Philo, through the kabbalists, and down to its significant place in the Habad system. Admittedly, the doctrine is a highly unconventional one for Jewish religious thinkers, but the evidence we have adduced in this essay demonstrates convincingly that there were subterranean currents in Jewish thought on the soul which occasionally burst to the surface. For all the emphasis in normative Jewish teaching on the impassible gulf between God and His creatures, these currents carried across the centuries the daring idea that in the soul of man the abyss had been bridged.
- David Baumgardt: Great Western Mystics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), p. 54 and p. 81 n. 74. The references, given by Baumgardt, are to Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel, liber I, vers. 6, 7 (P. L. 25, 22B (scintilla conscientiae)); to Saint Bernard, Opera (1781), tom. IV, p. 521b, In Cantica Canticorum, sermo 18, 6; to St Bonaventura’s Opera omnia, Quaracchi, v (1891), Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Chapter II, 15.
- Evelyn Underhill: Mysticism (London: Methuen, 1950), p. 504.
- Baumgardt, p. 82 n. 78 where a full list of the sources in Eckhart is given.
- Baumgardt, p. 54 and p. 85 n. 79. Cf. Jeanne Ancelet-Hustache: Master Eckhart, in the Men of Wisdom series (London: Longman, 1957), trans. Hilda Graef, who says: ‘He [Eckhart] also calls it “the ground” (der grunt), the “little castle” (bürgelin), above all “the spark of the soul” (scintilla animae, das fünkelin der sele), an expression that comes from Peter Lombard, who borrowed it from St Jerome; but it has so often been cited with reference to Eckhart that it has almost become his special property’ (pp. 65-6).
- The Chandogya-Upanishad (III, 14) quoted by George Foot Moore: History of Religions, i (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1914), p. 273 f.
- C. Hartshorne and William L. Reese: Philosophers Speak of God (University of Chicago Press, 1955), p. 171, from The Sacred Books of the East, trans. George Thibaut, ed. F. Max Miiller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1890), XXXIV, 14-15, pp. 185-6. Cf. Chapter VII, ‘Some Hindu Approaches’, in B. C. Zaehner’sMysticism Sacred and Profane (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), pp. 129-52. Aldous Huxley in his The Perennial Philosophy (London: Fontana Books, Collins, 1958), Chapter I, pp. 14-55, gives some interesting illustrations from mystical writers of various ages on this theme, though it is doubtful, to say the least, if his interpretation of Hillel’s famous saying, quoted on p. 28, is correct. A useful translation of the Upanishads dealing with the theme is: The Upanishads Breath of the Eternal, trans. Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester, Mentor Religious Classics (New York, 1957). However, Rudolph Otto’s comparative study of Sankara and Eckhart in his Mysticism East and West, trans. Bertha L. Bracey and, Richenda C. Payne (Meridian Books, 1957), reminds us that not all mystical statements regarding the scintilla animae and its identification with the Ground of being mean the same thing.
- R. A. Nicholson: The Mystics of Islam (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1914), Chapter IV, pp. 102-19, and Chapter VI, pp. 148-68.
- Nicholson, p. 119.
- A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 2nd edn., viii (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), pp. 112-15.
- R. C. Zaehner: Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (University of London: Athlone Press, 1960), p. 2.
- Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 3rd edn. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1955), pp. 55-6.
- Op. cit. (note 1), p. 85.
- There are a number of solecisms in this note of Baumgardt. Ladi or Liady is in Russia, not in Lithuania; the town is Lubavitch, not Lubovitch; the work is known as Likutei Amarim or Tanya, after the opening word, not Sefer Tanya, which simply means ‘the book Tanya’. Baumgardt quotes the later chapters of the work but, in fact, there is a detailed exposition of the ‘divine soul’ at the beginning of the book, Chapter 2 (ed. Vilna, 1950), pp. 11f.
- Cf. J. Skinner, Genesis, in I.C.C., pp. 56-7.
- De Specialibus Legibus, IV, 24, Eng. trans. F. H. Coulson and G. H. Whitaker (Loeb Classical Library), p. 85. For Philo’s views on the nature of the soul, cf. H. A. Wolfson: Philo, i (Harvard University Press, 1948), pp. 589-95.
- De Legum Allegoria, I, 15 (Loeb Classical Library), p. 171.
- De Opificio Mundi, 51 (Loeb Classical Library), p. 115.
- I. Broyde in Jewish Encyclopedia, xi, pp. 472-6; Julius Guttmann in Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, ix, pp. 655-4; George Foot Moore, Judaism, ii (Harvard University Press, 1927), Index, s.v. ‘Soul’, pp. 448-9; K. Kohler: Jewish Theology (New York: Macmillan, 1928), pp. 212f.
- BT Shab. 152b.
- Sifrei, Deut. 506.
- Midrash Kohelet Rabbah on Eccl. 6: 6 (ed. Vilna), fo. 17a, vol. ii.
- BT Ber. 10a. Cf. Bahya, Duties of the Heart, ‘Sha’ar Hayihud’, Chapter 10 (ed. Warsaw, 1875), p. 87. English translation by M. Hyamson (New York, 1925), p. 51.
- BT Ta’an. 11a-b.
- Rashi s.v. ke’ilu, and Tosafot. The note of Samuel Edels (Maharsha) ad loc. is, of course, homiletical.
- Isaac Husik: A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1940), pp. xlv-xlvii. A good popular account of mediaeval thought on the soul is Ahad Ha’am’s essay on Maimonides entitled ‘Shilton Hasekhel’, in Collected Essays, iv (Berlin, 1921), pp. 2-11.
- Keter Malkhut, XXIX, trans. Bernard Lewis (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1961), p. 49.
- Hillel Zeitlin: ‘Mafte’ah Lesefer Hazohar’, in Hatekufah, ix (Warsaw, 1921), pp. 287 f., and I. Tishbi: Mishnat Hazohar, ii (Jerusalem, 1961), pp. 5-124.
- Zohar II, 174a.
- G. Scholem (see n. 11), p. 241 and notes.
- Ibid. Cf. R. J. Z. Werblowsky: ‘Philo and the Zohar’, Journal of Jewish Studies, x (1959), pp. 58-9.
- Ed. C. B. Chavel, Mosad Harav Kook (Jer. 1959), pp. 55-4.
- This saying, with reference to the divine origin of the soul and its identification with the divine, is frequently quoted in the later literature in its semi-Aramaic form—man denafakh mitokho nafakh. Schneor Zalman of Liady in his Tanya (Vilna, ed. 1950), Chapter II, p. 11, quotes it as a saying of the Zohar, but there is no such passage in the Zohar. Chavel, in his notes to this section of Nahmanides (p. 55), gives the source as the Sefer Hakanah but fails to give the reference.
- Commentary on the Pentateuch (Amsterdam, 1726), f. 12b.
- BT Ber. 10a. Cf. supra, pp. 92, 109, n. 22.
- Cf. A. Altmann, ‘God and the Self in Jewish Mysticism’, in Judaism, iii (1954), pp. 142-6, and the same author’s ‘The Delphic Maxim in Mediaeval Islam and Judaism’ in Biblical and other Studies, ed. A. Altmann (Harvard University Press, 1965), pp. 196-252.
- Sefer Nishmat Hayim (Stettin, 1851).
- Ma’amar I, fo. 2b.
- Sulzbach, 1758, Part I, Sha’ar 1, fos. 3a-4a.
- Part III, Sha’ar 2 and 5, fos. 25b-29b.
- Part III, Sha’ar 2, fo. 27b.
- Genesis Rabbah, 82, 6, ed. Theodor Albeck, vol. ii (Berlin, 1915), p. 985; ed. Vilna fo. 154b, vol. ii.
- On Cordovero see my translation with an introduction and notes of his Palm Tree of Deborah (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1960). On the Safed circle see Solomon Schechter: Studies in Judaism, Second Series (Philadelphia, 1908), pp. 148-81. Cordovero’s views on the soul are exceedingly complex. In his Elimah Rabati (Brody, 1881), III, part 4, Chapter 62, p. 151, he states that the neshamah is the result of the ‘copulation’ of the ‘Holy One, blessed be He’ (= the Sefirah Tiferet) with the Shekhinah (= the Sefirah Malkhut), but this is further qualified to suggest an even ‘higher’ source for the soul. Elsewhere (Pardes Rimonim (Koretz, 1786), Sha’ar I, Ch. 7, fo. 8a) he writes that souls are hewn out from under the Throne of Glory although they actually come from a ‘higher’ source. (On the medieval development of the ‘Throne of Glory’ as the source of the soul from the rabbinic notion of the ‘Throne’ as the soul’s destiny, see B. J. Z. Werblowsky (above, n. 50), p. 59, n. 75.) Cf. Pardes, Sha’ar VIII, Chapter 22, pp. 52a-55a, and the whole of Sha’ar XXXI, pp. 162b f.
- Amsterdam, 1717.
- ‘The Gate of Love’ (Sha’ar Ha’ahavah), Chapter 5, pp. 67-9.
- Zohar III, 68a.
- Hanover, 1612; Frankfurt, 1719.
- Introduction, par. 1.
- So far as I have been able to discover Horowitz is the first author to use the verse in Job to denote the idea that the soul is a portion of God. In Habad literature this quotation is very frequent.
- These are the two lowest degrees of the soul; obviously the highest stage of neshamah is included as well.
- i.e. Pardes Rimonim (above, n. 42).
- Prague, 1616, during the author’s lifetime, and Jerusalem, 1850(?) (the only two editions of the book). I am grateful to Rabbi Solomon David Sassoon for calling this fascinating little book to my attention.
- In Chapter 8, in the reply to his critics, Horowitz records a further objection to his theory which his colleagues had put to him (Prague edn., p. 12a). This is that if every Jewish soul is a part of God it must follow that God has numerous parts, and this is an even greater offence against pure Jewish monotheism than the Christian doctrine of the Trinity—‘for believers in the Trinity, even though they speak of the three, say at the same time that there is one’; i.e. in the author’s view there allegedly are in actuality as many parts of God as there are Jewish souls. Horowitz replies by softening still further the boldness of his concept. (It should be noted that the kabbalists frequently have cause to defend their central notion of the Sefirot against the charge of ‘decatheism’. It is clear from their apologies that the charge was often made by their opponents in connection with the Christian doctrine, see Responsa of R. Isaac b. Sheshet (Ribash), no. 157. Cf. M. H. Luzzatto’s famous dialogue, ‘Hokeru-mekubal’, ed. A. Abi Oded (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1952), Part I, init., p. 8. Cf. the distinction made by Leon de Modena between the doctrine of the Sefirot, which are attributes, and that of the Trinity, which is comprised of persons, in his Magen vaherev, ed. S. Simonsohn (Jerusalem, 1960), Part II, 1, p. 21.)
- E.g. in Tanya, ed. Vilna (1950), Part I, Chapter 1, pp. 10-11, and Pt. III, Chapter 5, p. 19. Cf. M. Teitelbaum: Harav Miladi, ii (Warsaw, 1915), Chapter 6, pp. 127-55.
- Tanya, Part I, Chapter 2, pp. 11f.
- BT Ber. 60b, where it is said that man on rising in the morning should say: ‘My God, the soul (neshamah) which Thou hast placed in me is pure. Thou hast fashioned it in me, Thou didst breathe it into me, and Thou preservest it within me and Thou wilt one day take it from me and restore it to me in time to come. So long as the soul is within me I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, my God, and the God of my fathers, Sovereign of all worlds, Lord of all souls. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who restorest souls to dead corpses.’ This declaration was adapted as part of the morning service, see Singer: Authorised DailyPrayer Book, p. 5, new edn. p. 6. See Baer’s note (Sidur Avodat Yisra’el, Pnodelheim, 1868, p. 59) to the effect that one should pause after the words ‘My God’ in order to avoid the suggestion that the soul is God. David Abudarham (14th c.), in his commentary on the prayer book (Lisbon, 1489; Jerusalem, 1959), p. 59, had made the same point centuries before Baer.
- Actually there is no such passage in the Zohar, see above, n. 52.
- i.e. the semen is drawn from the brain.
- See Schneor Zalman’s Likutei Torah, ‘Genesis’ (Vilna, 1884), p. 2, where he remarks that in ‘external’ contemplation the thought in the mind is that God created the world out of nothing – the world is yesh and is created out of ayin. This leads to ‘inner’ contemplation, in which the thought is reversed – God is the true yesh and He created the world which is really ayin. Cf. Likutei Torah, Deuteronomy (Vilna, 1878), Shir, p. 64, Tanya, ‘Igeret hakodesh’, 20, p. 258, and H. J. Bunim’s ‘Mishneh Habad’ (Warsaw, 1956), Chapter IV, pp. 104–55. In Likutei Torah, Gen., p. 98, Schneor Zalman writes: ‘The many waters of concern regarding one’s livelihood and of worldly thoughts cannot quench the love that is in the category of hidden love in the soul of every Jew by nature. This is the category of the divine soul, whose nature it is to ascend and be consumed upwards as the flame flies upwards of its own accord.’ Cf. Likutei Torah, Numbers (Zhitomir, 1866), pp. 59, 89. A vivid account of the origin of the divine soul is given in Tanya, ’Igeret Hateshuvah’, Chapters 4- and 5, pp. 186-90. Horowitz, as we have seen, denies that he had ever said that the soul is a portion of Ein Sof; but here (though he does not actually go so far as to say that the soul is a portion of Ein Sof) Schneor Zalman speaks, nonetheless, of ‘the soul of man which derives directly from the category of the inner vitality and influence which Ein Sof, blessed be He, pours out’ (p. 187). The divine soul is situated in the brain whence it is diffused through the rest of the body, Tanya, Part I, Chapter IX, pp. 26 f. In Likutei Torah, Deut., pp. 75-6, there occurs Schneor Zalman’s homily to Deut. 21: 15 concerning the man who has two wives. The ‘two wives’ are man’s two souls, the ‘divine’ and the ‘natural’. These are rivals and they engage in war, particularly at the time of prayer, when the divine soul yearns for God and the natural soul seeks distraction in worldly thoughts. If man emerges victorious from the struggle, the firstborn ‘child’ is that of the ‘hated wife’; i.e. the love and fear of God, which stem from the struggle within, are far greater than they could have been were it not for the opposition of the natural soul and the need for the divine soul to fight temptation. The love and fear are far more powerful when the natural soul is also coerced into loving God and fearing Him. On the doctrine of the two souls in Habad cf. the elaborate homily of Menahem Mendel of Lubavitch, the third leader of Habad and Schneor Zalman’s grandson, in his Derekh Mitsvotekha (Poltava, 1911), ‘On the Command to be fruitful and multiply’, pp. 1-8.
- G. Van der Leeuw: Religion in Essence and Manifestation (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1958), Chapter 45, pp. 299-507.
- Tao-te King, 11, quoted by Van der Leeuw, loc. cit. On this theme in the mystic life see Evelyn Underhill, op. cit. (note 2), pp. 547 f., who quotes the following from Rumi’s Divan (quoted, too, by Nicholson, op. cit., note 7, p. 116):
This is Love; to fly heaven-ward, To rend, every instant, a hundred veils.
The first moment, to renounce life;
The last step, to fare without feet.
To regard this world as invisible,
Not to see what appears to oneself.
- Vilna and Grodno, 1824.
- Nefesh Hahayim, Gate I, Chapters 15-16, pp. 15 f. Another non-hasidic 19th-century author who accepts (without qualification) the doctrine of the divine spark is Israel Lipschiitz (1782-1860) in his homily, Derush Or Hahayim, printed at the end of vol. iv of his famous commentary on the Mishnah, theTiferet Yisra’el (Vilna, 1911), pp. 279 f. Lipschiitz gives the rather crude illustration of a balloon which receives its shape from the breath of the man who blows it up. Cf. his curious observation, in his commentary on Avot, f. 264b, that only Jews possess this divine spark, and this is the real reason for the so-called ‘Jewish’ appearance: since the face is the soul’s window.
- See my English translation of the Tract on Ecstasy, with an Introduction and Notes (Vallentine, Mitchell, London, 1965). The best Hebrew text is the rare Warsaw ed., 1868, with notes by the author’s pupil, Hillel ben Me’ir of Poritch.
- For similar descriptions of mystical prayer see F. Heiler: Prayer, trans. and ed. by Samuel McComb with the assistance of J. Edgar Park (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 190-1.