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As I have seen here, some say that only Jews have a neshama, others say that all humans have one. There was a reference there only of the former opinion (Jews only), and I know from elsewhere that that is indeed what the book of Tanya says.

Are there indeed kabbalists (as this meaning of neshama is specific to the Kabbala) who hold that all humans have neshamot? If yes, is there a specific division (e.g., Sefaradim / Ashkenazim)?

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As Sholom points out in his answer, Tanya does not say that they do not have souls, just that their souls are different. – HodofHod Jan 14 '12 at 23:34
The meaning of neshama is specific to Kabbala??? – Double AA May 27 '13 at 17:10
@DoubleAA, see the link inside the question. – Lev Jun 2 '13 at 8:27
Funny, I just stumbled across an article on this very topic. The full article isn't online (sorry), but you can see the executive summary: hakirah.org/Vol%2016%20Balk.pdf – Bachrach44 Jun 1 '14 at 2:55

See "The Soul of a Jew, the Soul of a Non-Jew: Two Views "(mp3) by Rabbi Chanan Balk.

Tanya posits that all humans possess a nefesh bahamit ("animalistic soul") whereas only Jews possess a nefesh elokit ("G-dly soul"), whatever that means. But there are other opinions.

Rabbi Balk consulted several major rabbis, all of them affiliated with the Beth Din of America, regarding the question: "do Jews have entirely different souls than non-Jews?"

  • One rabbi replied: "of course, what's the question?"
  • Another replied: "Of course not, what are you talking about?"
  • A third replied: "Believe it if you like, not if you don't; it's not one of Maimonides' Thirteen Fundamentals."
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This is awesome. Thank you! – Labanino May 26 '14 at 17:42
There's another option - people obtain souls when they become monotheists - that's always how I've taken the verse in Genesis that talks about the souls that Abraham made. – Robert S. Barnes Aug 14 '14 at 11:19
The best post I've read. This view would do so much for the bnei Noach movement. Please see my answer as well for some insights from a Chassidic/Tanya perspective. If you read Tanya, Likkutei Amarim Ch.4 and you pick up on the nefesh haAdam, the same things happens within Chassidus, in that non-Jews can receive a nefesh Elokit. – EhevuTov Feb 1 '15 at 8:02
@RobertS.Barnes: There is support for your idea in a Zohar Chadash (Margaliyot Hayam on Sanhedrin 105a in note 16 quotes it) that people who discuss the Kabalistic view tend to overlook. The gist of the Zohar is that it is not that important where you came from, because if you do teshuva by believing in one G-d and becoming moral (i.e. The 7 mitzvoth), your soul transforms. – Emet v'Shalom Apr 30 '15 at 3:14

I don't think there is a conflict. Each human has a neshama, however, Jews have two neshamot - one that all the nations have, and an extra one that only Jews have. Additionally, there is a third neshama that only Jews Receive on shabbat.

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That is racist. – Collin Merenoff Sep 2 '11 at 10:49
Any race could be Jewish. I know many Jews that are Hispanic, Black, Russian, and Asian... And, I'm pretty sure Judaism is the only religion where every human being could receive a portion of the world to come without converting to that religion. – zaq Sep 2 '11 at 20:29
@zaq "every human being could receive a portion of the world to come" - how is that? By being Ben Noah? – Lev Mar 1 '12 at 21:08
@CollinMerenoff if the gentiles only have a Neshama, how is that racism? – Ben Sep 23 '13 at 22:47
@Lev I don't think the Tanya ever mentions a Jewish soul, but rather a G-dly soul, which any human soul an obtain. See my answer. – EhevuTov Jan 28 '15 at 6:56

To read more about the Rebbe Schneerson's view that Gentiles do have a neshamah, please see: http://portraitofaleader.blogspot.com/2009/12/soul-of-gentile.html

I cannot see where there could have been any difference of opinion on this matter, inasmuch as it is explicitly stated in various sources, and statements are also found in various sections of Tanach (Isaiah 42:5, 57:16), to the effect that Gentiles also have a neshama . . . . It seems to me, therefore, that you may have been arguing at cross-purposes, and that perhaps the question related more to the fact that there are different levels and qualities of soul. Now if this was the point of contention, then it is true that the soul of the Gentile and the soul of the Jew differ in their nature, this being connected with one of the basic principles of the Torah – the fact that the Jews are a people chosen from among the nations of the world. This chosen-ness originates in the fact that when G-d was about to give the Torah at Mt. Sinai, He first offered it to all the other nations of the world, who refused to accept it. The Jewish people did accept it. Needless to add, this is in no way inconsistent with the statement of our Sages, to the effect that the righteous among the Gentiles have a special status and, according to the Rambam, also have a share in the World-to-Come.

Judging by your letter, it is surely unnecessary for me to emphasize to you what has already been indicated above, namely, that our belief in the chosen-ness of the Jewish people is not a matter of chauvinism or fanaticism, but rather the deep-felt realization that this uniqueness carries with it great responsibilities and special obligations. This is why, for example, Jews have to fulfill “Taryag (613) mitzvoth,” whereas Gentiles are not obligated to observe kashrut and various other restrictions connected with the idea of holiness, holiness being the essential aspect of the Jewish soul.

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That answer there is just wrong. It represents that the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that the level of Neshamah is not present with non-Jews. In fact, the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that all 5 levels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and Yechida exist in all human souls. The distinction between G-dly and not is precisely in the additional soul (which is what Tanya speaks about - a whole separate one - in other words a divine connection and influence necessitated and determined by the additional Mitzvos required of a Jew over a non-Jew, and the corresponding ability to actualize those requirements).

In other places it speaks about the language of Ger Shenisgair - a convert who converts - rather than a non-Jew who converts, that actually the potential for conversion was pre-existing (he was a convert before he actually converted). Thus that very same influence and connection can exist with someone who is currently non-Jewish. My own observation is that this influence is often seen in many conversion stories - a pull and attraction to Judaism that just seems to come out of nowhere.

I think the misunderstanding comes from the fact that Neshamah (in the Kabbalistic system) refers primarily to the intellectual capacity of the soul, and the G-dly soul is described as primarily intellectually motivated, thus Neshamah can be thought of as being more associated with the G-dly soul. But that is a general association (the Neshamah aspect is more predominant in one over the other), not that it doesn't have it.

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Yishai I could not find in that quote from the Rebbe zt"l where he mentioned that gentiles also have all five levels of the Nefesh Elokis – Jewels Aug 14 '14 at 8:34
@Jewels, I never made that claim in the answer. – Yishai Jun 8 '15 at 13:57

Peshat of the pesukim in chumash seem to be saying that. Vayivra Adam B'Tzelem Elokim, or Vayipach B'Apav Nishmas Chayim, are both talkiung about Adam, and Adam was not Jewish. And don't bring me "atem nikra'im adam", as that's a halachic principle, not applicable to the peshat of the text, which is talking about the specific person, Adam. Adam was not Jewish, he was not part of the Brit Sinai, and did not recieve the Torah. Furthermore, all humanity, including non-Jews, descend from him. To say that non-Jews don't have souls at all is to ignore chumash. Additionally, The Gemara in Sanhedrin 37a says "why was man created alone, to tell you that anyone who destroys a life, is as if he destroyed a whole world, and whoever saves a life, is as if he saved a whole world". The girsa that appears in our texts of a life "in Israel" is not in the yerushalmi version of the same mishna, and appears to be incorrect. The message about the importance of an individual's life is clear

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Importance of a life doesn't equate necessarily with having a soul. Can you provide support for your implied claim that it does? Otherwise, the only thing in your answer that's relevant to the question AFAICT is the quote about nishmas chayim. – msh210 Feb 29 '12 at 21:02
The quotes about tzelem elokim and nishmat chaim are the main sources. The authors of "Torat Hamelech" who allowed the murder of non-jews, adduced proof from their assertion that there is a qualitative difference between Jewish souls and non-Jewish souls. I do not think that approach works in the sources. – Aqibha Y. Weisinger Etc Mar 1 '12 at 3:39
If Adam has a soul,everyone has a soul. – Eagle Jan 30 at 13:52

You're confusing a nefesh elokit(G-dly soul) with a nefesh Yehudit(Jewish soul). I have yet to see a description in Tanya of a nefesh Yehudit. Tanya is describing a nefesh elokit (G-dly Soul), a nefesh haAdam (human soul), and a nefesh bahamit (animalistic soul).

The nefesh haAdam(human soul) which everyone has, if it loses itself completely in the study of Torah and "grasps" Torah as defined by Tanya, then the seichol(intellect, which is the upper 3 attributes/sefirot) grasp the inner essence of G-d and therefore grasp a nefesh Elokit (G-dly soul).

All humans who have the nefesh haAdam(to my knowledge) can grasp a nefesh Elokit. Non-Jews should only grasp their seven mitzvot at first if they so desire, but maybe more to complete the seichel(one should be talking with an orthodox Rabbi at this point). Also, one cannot fully grasp the 613 organs of "the King" as Tanya describes, without fully grasping the 613 mitzvot.

The translations that it's a "Jewish soul" is wrong. It's a G-dly soul, not necessary a Jewish soul that the Tanya describes. All nefesh Yehudit(Jewish souls) are nefesh Elokit(G-dly souls), but not all nefesh Elokit(G-dly souls) are nefesh Yehudit(Jewish souls).

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shaarei kedusha part 3 shaar 2 brings the distinction basically he says the soul of a jew is connected with the mystical worlds while the soul of a non jew is not.

Afterwards, the Jewish man was created. Purer in all the soul levels than all other creations, whether in the souls of Domem (earth), Tzomeach (water), Chaya (wind) or Medaber (Fire).

In being more pure than all the creations, he is elevated even higher because he is also included and tied in with all the 5 worlds and in all their details. How? After the lower soul, a soul enters him from the firmament of Vilon, and from there and above, all the way up to the highest firmament in Asiya, all this together is called the soul of Asiya. This is called the Intellectual soul, the holy soul in a person. It is divided into the 5 soul levels...

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I don't see in the quote brought here where the distinction is made between the Jewish and Gentile soul. – Jewels Aug 14 '14 at 8:30
@Jewels see it in context – ray Dec 10 '14 at 19:36

The baal hatanya explains that gentiles have animal souls, whereas Jews have both animal and godly souls.

However, some non-Jews who are especially righteous have a godly soul too IIRC.

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Would you happen to have a citation for the righteous non-Jewish soul? I'd appreciate it. – EhevuTov Jan 28 '15 at 7:01
It's in one of the first few chapters of tanya (might he a Footnote in the version I'm using)...I'll try to find it at some point. – andrewmh20 Jan 28 '15 at 12:13

protected by Monica Cellio Dec 10 '14 at 18:37

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