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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
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6 Answers

it's pretty clear that a distinction with difference is implied and that one is closer to G-d- hence superior. It's metaphysical racism- except there is an escape clause which says that you can ascend to personhood via conversion. Citing multiple opinions gives the impression that there is more plurality than there might be.

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I don't think everyone finds it as clear as you do that they feel comfortable making the logical leaps which you take. –  Double AA May 27 '13 at 17:12
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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

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Hello and welcome to Mi Yodeya. Can you edit into your answer a little about what he says? If that link ever goes away (as blog links are wont to do), this answer as it stands won't be very helpful. –  Monica Cellio Jan 22 '13 at 15:28
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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
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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
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@CollinMerenoff if the gentiles only have a Neshama, how is that racism? –  Millthorn Sep 23 '13 at 22:47
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The Rebbe Menachem Schneerson (may his memory be a blessing) taught that gentiles indeed have a neshamah

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Hi Miriam, and welcome to Mi Yodeya! To improve your answer, please consider adding some information about where the Rebbe said this, and how the Rebbe's teaching differs from the other answers already here. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  HodofHod Jul 23 '12 at 4:14
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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
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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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