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Powers of the Soul

by Rabbi Moshe Miller


Library » Philosophy » Soul | Subscribe | What is RSS?


From the ten sefirot the soul derives its corresponding ten soul-powers, all of which have names identical to the sefirot. The soul is expressed and manifested through its powers, of which there are two general categories -- the transcendent or encompassing powers, and the particular, or immanent powers (corresponding to the transcendent keter and the remaining immanent sefirot, respectively). The transcendent or super-conscious powers of the soul are called delight (oneg) and will (ratzon), corresponding to the inner and outer dimensions of keter mentioned above.

The particular or immanent powers are subdivided into intellect and emotions. The three intellectual powers are Chochmah, wisdom or creative intellect; Binah, understanding or developmental intellect; and Daat, which is knowledge or conclusive, synthesizing intellect.


Chochmah is the creative and generally unpredictable power of the soul which is manifested in spontaneous insights or inspiration -- an intuitive flash of intellectual illumination which has not yet been processed or developed by the understanding power of binah.

The creative power which illuminates chochmah derives from the concealed level of keter -- "and chochmah emerges from nothingness",1 that is, from the hidden keter. The reason that chochmah is able to act as a receptacle for the flash of divine revelation is that in its inner essence is also "nothingness". That is, the inner essence of chochmah is self-nullification (bitul).

This is why the Zohar characterizes the nature of chochmah by one of the permutations of the word chochmah itself -- koach mah -- the "potential to be 'what' (i.e. undefined and therefore boundless)". In this state of bitul, a person will not experience his own being as an independent creation. Rather, his consciousness is focused on G-d's omnipresence.

Daat is not merely another stage of intellect; it enables one to convert understanding into the vitality and inspiration of the emotions and actions

Binah, usually translated as "understanding", is the cognitive faculty that develops and articulates the seminal energy of chochmah so that the latter becomes known, in a detailed conceptual way, through binah. Binah is also the inductive and deductive faculty of understanding (or deducing) one thing from another, thus expanding the point of chochmah into a multi-dimensional conceptual system. The Zohar therefore symbolizes chochmah and binah and their relationship as "the supernal point (chochmah) within its palace (binah)".2 However, binah is not merely an adjunct to chochmah, it involves as well the ability to intuit a more inclusive reality that than encoded within chochmah itself.

Binah is also the ability to explain the concept to another person, thus "reproducing" it. In this sense binah is referred to as "the mother of children".3


Daat (knowledge) is the third faculty of the intellect. It is the ability to integrate and harmonize diametrically opposed views or states of being. As mentioned above, when keter is counted, daat is not, and vice versa. In terms of the soul powers, daat in fact plays a dual role: On the one hand, daat is the power which binds together the powers of chochmah and binah. In this capacity it is called daat elyon (higher daat), which generally remains in a state of concealment. As such it is identified with keter. On the other hand, daat serves as the bridge between the opposing domains of the intellect and the emotional attributes of the soul. In this capacity it is called daat tachton (lower daat). Daat is not merely another stage of intellect; it enables one to convert understanding into the vitality and inspiration of the emotions and actions. In this sense, the Zohar, refers to daat as "the key to the six [emotions]".4


  • 1. Job 28:12.
  • 2. Zohar 1, 6A.
  • 3. Psalms 113:9.
  • 4. Zohar 3, 22a.


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