Nephesh/Soul as reflected in the Jewish prayer known as the Shema: animating force of life, breath of life.

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What is a soul? It’s like electricity …
we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.
— Ray Charles

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.
It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.
— Judy Garland song

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. — Rumi

SONGS about NEPHESH-SOUL

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll;
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
— William Ernest Henley


Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul –
and sings the tunes without the words –
and never stops at all.
— Emily Dickinson


All of them wondered what it was
When first they felt it push:
Some said it was a body-thing
Others, a burning bush

The soul is really bread and drink;
The drink is wine, the bread is black.
A person has to take the two —
He cannot give one back.
— James P Young

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NEPHESH/SOUL REFLECTIONS

Its basic meaning is “breath,” and is thus equivalent to the Hebrew nephesh and Latin anima (as in English “animal” and “animate”). One of its uses is as the New Testament version of what Genesis 2:7 calls “the breath of life,” that is, the vital force that makes a body live. — Richard Attenborough

The command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind & strength is the greatest commandment. It is part of the Shema, the “pledge of allegiance” that Jesus and all Jews since him have said morning and evening to commit themselves to follow the Lord. When we think about those words, we tend to pass by the phrase “heart and soul” quickly — probably thinking that it means that we should love God with our spirit and emotions, and very passionately. Our understanding can be enriched by understanding the word nephesh, “soul,” better. Nephesh means life as well as soul. So the Jewish interpretation of “love the Lord with all of your soul” is actually that we should love God with all of our lives — every moment throughout our lives, even the point of sacrificing our lives for him. — Lois Tverberg

The Bible shows that [a human] does not have a soul, but that [a human] is a soul. [A person] has a spirit, and has a body, but only when God breathed life into Adam [and Eve] did [people] become a living soul (nephesh; Genesis 2:7). — William Gray

What all these differing Jewish beliefs share in common is the faith that we are more than our bodies and that a dimension of consciousness, soul, survives death eternally. — Rabbii Elie Spitz, My Jewish Learning

It is no accident that freedom occupies a central place in the Hebrew Bible but only a tenuous place in the annals of science. The relationship of soul to body or mind to brain, is precisely analogous to the relationship of God to the physical universe. If there is only a physical universe, there is only brain, not mind, and there is only the universe, not God. The non-existence of God and the non-existence of human freedom go hand in hand. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind & strength is the greatest commandment. It is part of the Shema, the “pledge of allegiance” that Jesus and all Jews since him have said morning and evening to commit themselves to follow the Lord. When we think about those words, we tend to pass by the phrase “heart and soul” quickly — probably thinking that it means that we should love God with our spirit and emotions, and very passionately. Our understanding can be enriched by understanding the word nephesh, “soul,” better. Nephesh means life as well as soul. So the Jewish interpretation of “love the Lord with all of your soul” is actually that we should love God with all of our lives — every moment throughout our lives, even the point of sacrificing our lives for him. — Lois Tverberg

The Hebrew word “nephesh” translated into English as “soul” appears more than 700 times in the Old Testament.  A word that prominent needs to be understood but our perception of soul doesn’t do the Hebrew intent justice. “Soul” indicates a non-physical, immortal essence of a person that is released at death. The meaning comes from Greek philosophers. But that is not what the Hebrews meant when they talked about a person’s soul. The literal translation of “nephesh” from Hebrew is “throat.”  While that is a specific part of the body, when the Hebrews used the word they were referring to the entire person because your whole life and body depends on what comes in and out of your throat. — Bob Ditmer, ChurchLeaders God is the soul of being in whose freedom we discover freedom, in whose love we discover love, and in whose forgiveness we learn to forgive. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

We often think of our souls as being the spiritual part of us, as opposed to our physical being. However, that’s not how the Hebrew people thought of the soul. They saw the physical and non-physical as inseparably related. The Bible is clear that our bodies are more than just a container for our souls. They are an essential part of who we are. Only when we see our bodies as an important part of who we are can we live our lives aligned by God’s love as he intended. — B4Church

Though the survival of the soul after death is hinted at in the Hebrew Bible, it became an explicit doctrine only in the early centuries of the Common Era.— Rabbi Elie Spitz

In our communities we value people not for what they earn or what they buy or how they vote but for what they are, every one of them a fragment of the Divine presence. We hold life holy. And each of us is lifted by the knowledge that we are part of something greater than all of us, that created us in forgiveness and love, and asks us to create in forgiveness and love. Each of us in our own way is a guardian of values that are in danger of being lost, in our short-attention-span, hyperactive, information-saturated, wisdom-starved age. And though our faiths are profoundly different, yet we recognize in one another the presence of faith itself, that habit of the heart that listens to the music beneath the noise, and knows that God is the point at which soul touches soul and is enlarged by the presence of otherness. We celebrate both our commonalities and differences, because if we had nothing in common we could not communicate, and if we had everything in common, we would have nothing to say. You have spoken of the Catholic Church as a creative minority. And perhaps that is what we should all aspire to be, creative minorities, inspiring one another, and bringing our different gifts to the common good. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Opening address for Papal Visit, Twickenham, 17 September 2010

MUSINGS on SOULS: Personal and Communal

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. — Ferdinand Foch

Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. — Moshe Dayan

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. — Dorothy Day

A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living— Rudolf Steiner

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. — Eleonora Duse

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul. — Alfred Austin

Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation. — Michael Jackson

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself. — Plato

Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place. — Rumi

If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. — James Herriot

Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. — Gilbert K. Chesterton

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. — John Muir

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. — Mahatma Gandhi

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. — Nelson Mandela

Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it. — Frances Wright

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. — Henry Ward Beecher

All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,and I intend to end up there. Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks. I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way. Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home. — Rumi

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