I have heard many times about Jews having a "special soul" or a "Jewish soul" - a soul which is either lacking and/or fundamentally different than that of non-Jews.

However, the sources which are pointed to in support of this claim are all later (i.e. more recent) sources which bring no support from Hazal.

My question is: Is there really a special "Jewish soul"? And if so, where is this idea found in the texts of Hazal?

  • 1
    possible duplicate of Do gentiles have neshamot?
    – Shalom
    Dec 19, 2013 at 14:15
  • 4
    You should probably define Chazal more precisely
    – Double AA
    Dec 19, 2013 at 14:18
  • are you looking for a kabalistic source?
    – ray
    Dec 19, 2013 at 20:05

2 Answers 2


My knowledge and expertise are certainly not profound enough to answer this question as a real scholar would do. However, let me answer with an in-your-face provocative counter-question:

Is there a distinct "Amalekite" soul? So to say: is a soul bound by its alleged nature to a destiny? Is the free will shadowed by a predestined nature of our soul which we will follow anyway?

The mystical discussion about the soul's essence is interesting. It can, however, become a rather dangerous terrain. To state that there is a distinct Jewish soul bound and attracted by its nature to the Torah's righteous wisdom implies that there must also be the counterpart of such entity, i.e. a soul who is destinated to contrast the divine values and those who represent them. An extreme conclusion of such a scenery would be that there is no right nor wrong. No matter how righteous or wicked you are, no ultimate justice is needed since you ultimately only follow the ways of your soul in a cruel play dictated by a higher entity. I would have no desire to be part of such world.

What if a so-called Jewish soul feels the need to explore other spiritual paths or if such a soul turns against its own "soul group" and begins to contrast the Jewish values? What if a soul that follows the ways of Amaleq comes to realise how futile this uphill battle is and begins to explore the paths of righteousness?

The mystical thought elaborates largely the idea of a Jewish soul vs. a gentile soul reaching ideas that can be described with the r-word; many of these ideas have brought really bad reputation to the Jewish theology. Take for example the end part of the 1st chapter of Likutei Amarim in Tanya:

כי בישראל נפש זו דקליפה היא מקליפת נוגה, שיש בה גם כן טוב... מה שאין כן נפשות אומות העולם הן משאר קליפות טמאות שאין בהן טוב כלל... כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים שער מ״ט פרק ג׳: וכל טיבו דעבדין האומות לגרמייהו עבדין

(For in Israel the soul k'lipah comes from the k'lipah called nogah, which also contains good...The souls of the nations come from the unclean kelipot which have no good in them whatever...as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 49, ch. 3: and all the good that the nations do is out of selfish motives.)

This daily Tanya lesson can be found [here][1] on Chabad.org

As long as the path of the Torah is seen as The Truth with a specific soul type bound to it by nature the division between Jewish and non-Jewish souls would imply that there is no freedom of choice, no progress, no justice/injustice, only a predestinated play where you are born, live and die as a helpless puppet driven by an uncontrollable instinct. Such a scenery would mean an endless downfall and finally to be condemned to Gehinnom for an unsuccessful "Jewish soul" who cannot fulfil the Torah's requirements he's bound and that he/she cannot get rid of. Such a scenery would mean for the other souls that the "Torah is indeed beoynd the ocean and I cannot do anything to reach it".

The Tanya, aside from describing the animal soul (mentioned above), which albeit different is common to all humans, discusses a godly soul that only Jews have. A large part of Tanya is the discussion of the conflict and battle between those two souls in a Jew.

[1]: http://m.chabad.org/dailystudy/tanya.asp?tDate=11/28/201 3

  • 1
    Can you please enhance your answer by providing sources ?
    – eramm
    Dec 25, 2013 at 12:43
  • There are souls of non-Jews that come from klipat nogah as well - Chassidei Umot haOlam.
    – EhevuTov
    Sep 4, 2015 at 19:02
  • The Rambam (Hil. M'lachim 6:4, as elucidated by the Kesef Mishne) indicates that 'Amalek does have free will, and can choose to be righteous and thereby achieve the status of any other Ben Noach.
    – Fred
    Feb 9, 2020 at 4:54

This question has been discussed extensively by many great Rabbis throughout Jewish history with the majority saying that there really is a distinct "Jewish soul".

I suggest you learn the original sources yourself.

To get you started here is the Ramchal:

ואמנם כיוון שיש בהם בחינה אנושיית, אף על פי שהיא שפלה, רצה הקב"ה שיהיה להם מעין מה שראוי לאנושיות האמיתית, והיינו שיהיה להם נשמה כעין נשמות בני ישראל, אף על פי שאין מדרגתה מדרגת נשמות ישראל אלא שפלה מהם הרבה.

However since these nations (Gentiles) still have the human aspect, blemished though it may be, so G-d desired that they should at least have a part of what was actually appropriate for the true mankind. He therefore granted them a divine soul somewhat like that of the Jew, even though it is not on the same level as Jewish souls are, but on a much lower level.

  • 3
    The Ramchal lived 250 years ago. Isn't there anything more original than that? You know, from that big part of Jewish history before 1000 CE? You did say "throughout".
    – Double AA
    Dec 19, 2013 at 17:57
  • 1
    1) I consider the Ramchal a prime source for these types of questions as he devoted many of his works to make the ideas of kabbala more understood. 2) The answer is not my own but someone elses (see the link !) I only brought the Ramchal to make the answer more complete and it's the only source i could easily find online (not in pdf). 3) I am neither a Rishon or Artscroll so I don't think there is a need to be so exacting in my choice of words. If the person asking the question is satisfied that should be enough otherwise it seems like just asking questions for the sake of asking a question.
    – eramm
    Dec 19, 2013 at 18:25
  • I don't have time for a longer response other than precision in words is something you should always do as a human. You aren't an animal; God gave you the ability to speak. Use it.
    – Double AA
    Dec 19, 2013 at 18:28
  • 2
    I don't have time to go through every part of that long link, but the translations are highly suspect and selective, using misleading words, on a few that I noticed. The overall point is fine as a listing of sources to investigate, but don't accept that translation and interpretation, it is way over-strident and un-nuanced.
    – Yishai
    Dec 19, 2013 at 19:23
  • 1
    If you've got a more reliable source for this information, it would improve this answer to edit that in. That site contains a lot of misleading and/or mistaken information. It's telling that they conceal their identity and affiliation. (Or, at least, I can't find anything on their site admitting to who they are.) Dec 19, 2013 at 21:28

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