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According to Chabad.org,

Yechidah connotes the essence of the soul--its unity with its source, the singular essence of G-d. For the essence of the soul of man is "literally a part of G-d above"3--a piece of G-d in us, so to speak.

Did Jews in the first century or even before that have consciousness of Yechidah or is it a belief which developed in Talmudic times? Is there any place where this is mentioned in the Tanakh?

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Yechida is one of five levels of the soul often described in the teachings of Chassidus, which were only revealed about 250 years ago - which is likely when the concept (named as such) became mainstream. The soul's five names are mentioned in Midrash Rabba (Bereishis 14:11, Devorim 2:26), written in the 4th - 5th century - the earliest source I could find. Although not explicitly mentioned in Tanach, it is connected with a verse in Psalms (22:21):

הצילה מחרב נפשי מיד כלב יחידתי

Save my soul from the sword, my "Yechida" from the grip of the dog.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains in Kuntres Inyona Shel Toras Hachasidus (in English "On the Essence of Chassidus") that the five levels of the soul correspond with the five levels in Torah: Peshat, Remez, Drush, Sod and Chassidus. Thus, on one occasion the Zohar does not even list Yechida when enumerating the levels of the soul, and the Midrash just brings it in passing. It is specifically in the teaching of Chassidus that the concept is explained.

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In the Midrash, they are not described as levels, but names. –  Menachem Oct 7 '12 at 2:43
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@Menachem True, but different names for the same things is indicative of different qualities. –  Michoel Oct 7 '12 at 3:03
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This concept was stated earlier than 250 years ago. The Alshich (16 century) wrote that these are different aspects/parts of the soul, not merely different names for the soul (Commentary to B'reishis 43:34). –  Fred Oct 7 '12 at 3:52
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Pardesach? When did Chassidus get added to the list? –  Double AA Oct 7 '12 at 5:33
    
@DoubleAA Indeed, the linked discource discusses the fifth dimension of Torah in length - Wikipedia has quite a good summary. –  Michoel Oct 7 '12 at 7:25

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