If animals don't have spirits (Does anyone have a proof text that animals *don't* have spirits?), then what is the meaning of nishmat ruach chayim in Bereshit 7:22? And in what way does it differ from the nishmat chayim of humans?

See Derekh HaShem here paragraph beginning with "והנה". A partial quotation:

כי אין נפש הבעלי חיים אלא דבר גשמי, מן הדקים שבגשמיות ― Although animals may have a soul, it is not a spiritual entity, it is the most fine of physical entities.

If so what is meant by 'the most fine physical entity'? And if only the human soul is spiritual, what does it mean? Cause aren't both humans and animal soul non-physical (non-touchable, not visible etc.)

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    Hello and welcome! May I ask: How do you translate Nefesh? How does that differ from the definition of Neshama? Mar 9 '15 at 14:16
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    Maybe its best if I don't translate those; so I can try to understand the whole thing true the eyes (definition) of others. Personally i think that the Ruach, Nefesh and Neshamah are all part of the same inner being that animates the body.
    – J.Levi
    Mar 9 '15 at 17:23
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    According to chassidus all existence has souls just different types. But all spiritual.
    – mroll
    May 1 '15 at 19:11
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    One can distinguish between different "layers" of the soul. I recommend this as a preamble: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/56325/… Conceptually, I would posit that the mechanisms are the same as the lower levels of the human soul, but the Nefesh and Ruach aren't given the opportunity to become elevated as they are in a human. Feb 11 '16 at 13:30
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    believe it or not some scientists are coming around to some sort of animal "soul". etc. michael denton. see youtu.be/DuNuH5pckMw he calls it higher order causal factors.
    – ray
    Feb 11 '16 at 17:21

in chovos halevavos shaar bechina

"It is proper that you should know that the whole world (even inanimate things - Tov Halevanon) is synthesized of the physical and the spiritual, so intimately mixed and fused, that each of them sustains the other, like body and soul in living creatures."

pas lechem commentary there on the words "like body and soul (nefesh) in living creatures":

the soul prolongs and sustains the body. When the soul leaves the body, the body immediately inanimates and decomposes. Likewise, the body sustains the animal soul in animals, and when the animal soul leaves the animal's body, it (the animal soul) ceases and nullifies.

Likewise, for the nefesh tzomachat (plant soul) in plants. For the nefesh medaberet (human soul) we can say the same regarding its existing in this physical world, because immediately after the human soul leaves the body, it returns to its place in the higher worlds [as written (Eccl. 12:7) "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto G-d who gave it."].

hence the animal soul is lower level than human soul and cannot exist independently of the animal body unlike human higher soul which is independent of the human body and can continue to exist without it.



Clearly by means of logic and reason, not every Rabbi/Sage of ancient past can be correct since there are so many disagreements and both diverging and conflicting opinions can be found in all matters. So by means of logic and reason: not every Rabbi is correct.

That being said, if I am not mistaken, according to Kabbalah there are only two things that exist: 1.) the Creator, and 2.) the Creation which includes the universe and everything that it contains including all physical Creation(s) and all spiritual Creation(s) which preceded the physical Creation(s).

Since we are all One Being (i.e. the Creation), we are all one interconnected Being. According to Torah, everything that has life has Nishmat Ruach Chayim, i.e. the Breath of the Spirit/Wind of Life. And Who is the Source of Life, if not the Creator, HaKadosh (Baruch Hu), the Holy One (Blessed Be He)?

We all have the Breath of Spirit of Life within us, and this includes every creature that exists that breathes.

So if this one Rabbi Derech HaShem says that animals do not have souls, I would challenge him that he contradicts something that is written in the Written Torah that says otherwise. And it is likely that another Rabbi could be found in ancient history who would disagree with Derech HaShem's opinion.

Shabbat Shalom.


The "animal soul" is entirely subjective and atheistic. It exists entirely in a physical, instinctual, hedonic, and sensory world. While (at least in higher life forms) there may be a fair level of social cognition and even altruistic behavior and empathy, there is no possibility of ever attaining human levels of consciousness of truth and morality. Arguably, this is represented by the unique human level of language, whereby which all of reality, including theology, can be labeled and conceptualized.

This isn't to say that the distinctly human aspects of cognition have no roots in more primitive animal roots, or that there aren't many humans who don't really elevate themselves actually above the basic animalistic instincts. Nonetheless, actual animals don't even have the potential for the distinct moral and rational worldview and behavior that makes humans the ultimate goal of creation.

See also e.g.: http://www.daat.ac.il/encyclopedia/value.asp?id1=3624

*see e.g. Targum Onkelos on "נפש חיה" which he translates "רוח ממללא".

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