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Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes in his essay Immortality and the Soul that the Neshomo is effectively the data of our "memories, thought patterns and personality traits" and discusses the idea of transferring it to a computer or a new body. He also explains that Hashem is omniscient, so contains all of this data and never forgets it, thus making our Neshomos immortal. He then clarifies that...

[In a Kabbalistic sense, we are here speaking about the lowest level of the soul, the Nefesh Behamis or "animal soul". This most probably can be identified with the information contained in the human brain. However, this interacts with the higher parts of the soul, Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah.]

Unless I'm misunderstanding this, that means that the Nefesh Behamis is immortal and continues to exist after we die? I find this a bit surprising because I thought that it was a "lowly", physical world thing, sort of like firmware for our bodies?

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  • @User123 interesting gemaras, but I don't see where it says that? Nov 30, 2023 at 8:10
  • The body can still feel the pain of decomposition
    – User123
    Nov 30, 2023 at 10:13
  • @User123 I understand that as it is emotionally painful for a soul to see its body decomposing, not that it is physical pain Nov 30, 2023 at 10:26
  • From the fact that the Gemara describes the feeling to be like that of a needle in flesh it seems like something physical…
    – User123
    Nov 30, 2023 at 10:41

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Rabbi Kaplan translated Derech Hashem, and seems to have explained things here as Ramchal explains them in Part 3:1:1-2, i.e. that the Vital Nefesh of a human is of the same kind as animals, but different in many respects, such as imagination, memory, intellect and will (similar to Rabbi Kaplan in his longer quote). The Vital Nefesh is the feeling and intellect of the creature, the life of the creature, unique to its species.

Ramchal also enlightens us there (3-5) to the fact that you and me are unaware of the presence and reality of the other soul we have that you allude to in the question; the higher spiritual one. This is because we are totally locked to the point of view of our Vital Nefesh, and that's the specific "who we are" he is talking about - the one that we experience in this life. The Vital Nefesh is who the Higher Soul is encouraging (through occasional unnoticable prompts of thoughts, images and will) to do Mitzvot, and who is earning Olam Haba in so doing.

That's who the Ramchal explains will be resurrected and live forever, but transparent to the higher soul that will shine brightly in Olam Haba (ibid 1:3:9-10).

On this topic of the two souls, Ramchal's explanation isn't hard to fit with other attempts to explain it that I've seen; it's not particularly controversial. Therefore B'EH my attempt at explaining Rabbi Kaplan - something impossible to do with certainty - is a good educated guess:

So yes, the nefesh Rabbi Kaplan is talking about can be immortal.

According to what I've seen in chassidus, the nefesh is indeed naturally mortal, but earns immortality and Olam Haba by Torah and Mitzvot, and connecting to Hashem through our Higher Soul, who seeks to do them and connect to Him by their very Godly nature. It also explains that this "lowly" world is going to become higher than the heavens at that time, and that this "lowly" nefesh is very important to Hashem, to say the least.

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  • Is that the same thing as the Nefesh Behamis? This is probably a separate question, but if the Nefesh Behamis is immortal, doesn't that mean that we will still have physical desires as that sounds like torture to not be able to fulfil them? Nov 30, 2023 at 7:52
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This answers your question indirectly. I don't know that term, it's not one I encounter in Sefarim that I like. And I don't care if anyone thinks that's immature or whatever, get kakn oyf der yam.

Now souls -- Neshanmot, rauchs, Neshamminies, they all have one source, Tzaddik - Chai Almin -- literally "that Liveth Forever." (T. Zohar and Zohar) He is the Way the Truth and the Life. By attaching to the true Tzaddik you have Immortality in him, in all parts and whatever terms you want. So actually this is an umbrella answer that covers your question as well.

Conversely, those who reject or are not attached to the Tzaddik have an aspect of death. This is found in Sefer Hamidot, section Tzaddik, which is sourced in the L. Moharan. Na Nach. Live Nanach and prosper.

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