The Creation of Man and the Animals

In our weekly Torah study session, the question came up why the Torah makes special mention of God’s blowing a soul into Adam after creating him (Genesis 2:7). The animals are living beings as well but their bodies and souls seem to have been created together: as soon as the body was created it seems to have been alive. Why by man was the addition of his soul a separate step?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for sharing the good inference and I wish your study group much success.

The reason for this is because there is a fundamental difference between human and animal souls. Animals have souls, but they are inherently physical – the life force which animates their bodies. This is what the Sages refer to as the “nefesh”.

Human beings have a nefesh as well, but they have a much higher soul as well – the neshama. This is not a part of the physical world at all, but was breathed into man directly from God’s essence. It likewise had to be specially inserted into Adam’s body after its creation. In fact, the Jewish thinkers explain that one of the miracles of creation is that so lofty an entity as the human soul can be made to (at least partially) reside in a lowly, physical body (see Rashi to Talmud Brachot 60b). This human soul is what gives man his Divine essence, his drive for spirituality, and his free will.

(There are actually three primary levels to the human soul. You can see a more thorough treatment of this topic here.)

This is also implied by the spelling of the Hebrew word used in man’s creation. When God created the animals, the Torah states “va’yi’tzer” – “and He created” (2:19), while by man’s creation (2:7) the same word is used, but with two of the letter yud in the middle syllable instead of one, more like “va’yee’tzer”. The Midrash notes this slight discrepancy and explain that two acts of creation were done – “one creation for this world and one creation for the World to Come” (Bereishit Rabbah 14:5, compare to Rashi to that verse). In other words, unlike the animals, man has an eternal soul which remains alive after his body perishes, and if it is worthy, will enter the eternal life of the World to Come.

See also this past response.

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