THE THREE SOULS
***Footnotes have been placed in-line with the texts italicized and in bold with brackets [ ].***
2. NESHAMA AND NEFESH HAYYAH
(Zohar Hadash, Bereshit, 10c-11a, Midrash ha-Ne'elam)
Rabbi Eleazar met him. He said to him: Come and see what is written, "He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life (nishmat hayyim)" (Genesis 2:7). This is the holy neshamah hewn from the supernal King's Throne of Glory. What then is written of him? [7. I.e., of the man who has this "neshamah".] "And man became a living soul (nefesh hayyah)" (ibid.). Rabbi Eleazar said: This is the faculty that is given to animals, to beasts, and to fish, and which is created from the earth, as it is written "Let the earth bring forth a living soul (nefesh hayyah) after its kind" (Genesis 1: 24). [8. The "nefesh hayyah" is the "animal" or "vital" soul of the philosophers, and is the faculty of life in living creatures. This soul, which is connected to the body and keeps it alive, is created like the body from the earth.]
Rabbi Isaac said: The Torah grieves over Adam, and says: The Holy One, blessed be He, created man and gave him a holy neshamah, so that he might have life in the world to come. [9. The life of the world to come is the life of the "neshamah".] But because of his sin he has reverted to the nefesh hayyah (the vital soul), which was taken from the earth for animals and beasts. [10. Because of his sin Adam lost the holy "neshamah", and descended to the level of animals and beasts who have only a "nefesh hayyah".]
Rabbi Judah said: Since Scripture says "And man became a nefesh hayyah," and it does not say "He made him [a nefesh hayyah]," but only "man became a nefesh hayyah," it teaches us that it was his own fault that he reverted to the soul that is taken from the earth.
Rabbi Johanan said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: When I created you, Adam, I made you superior to all My other creatures, and I breathed into you the nishmat hayyim, which gives life to those who possess
it, and which was hewn from My Throne. But you have reverted to the nefesh hayyah, that I created from the earth for the animals. I swear! that, henceforth, whoever studies My Torah and observes it will receive from Me the neshamah that is hewn from My Throne and that gives life to those who possess it. [11. Because of Adam's sin, man no longer receives the holy "neshamah" at birth. He must earn it through application to the Torah and the commandments. Otherwise he has only the "nefesh hayyah".] But whoever does not study My Torah will have a portion in the nefesh hayyah that they will have chosen, so that they will perish with it. [12. The animal soul perishes with the body after death.]
Rabbi Isaac said: Come and see what is written: "Who knows whether the spirit (ruah) of man go's upward, or whether the spirit (ruah) of the animal goes downward to the earth?" (Ecclesiastes 3:21). "Whether the spirit of man go's upward"-this is the holy neshamah of the righteous. "The spirit of the animal"-this is the nefesh hayyah, which is taken from the earth for the animals, and descends and perishes, disappearing from the world. Rabbi Hiyya said: If this is so, do the non-Jews not have a neshamah, but only a nefesh hayyah?
Rabbi Johanan said: Correct.
The Wisdom of the Zohar The Wisdom of the Zohar: An Anthology of Texts (3 Volume Set) by Isaiah Tishby and David Goldstein (Oxford University Press) ISBN 978-1-874774-28-0