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Does a Stone Have a Soul?

by Rabbi Laibl Wolf

  

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As human beings, it's only natural that we view the animal, plant and inanimate realms as lesser things. Consequently, the human sees himself as the pinnacle of Creation, possessor of mind and the power to reason.

In the deeper insights of Kabbala and Chassidism, there is a teaching that stands our perception on its head. It states, "The stone at the top of the wall falls farthest from the wall." The higher you are, the lower you fall.

We are taught that the human is a "co-creator" of the universe. In partnership with G-d, we have the awesome obligation of completing the unfinished symphony called Creation. We were provided with G-d-like aptitudes of higher consciousness and mindpower. But these came at a price - responsibility and discipline. Gifted as we are, if we act irresponsibly and without discipline, we "fall." The Kabbala tells us that in future incarnations, we can fall to the vegetational life of trees or even the inanimate life of stones.

Why the "punishment?" Because we haven't lived up to our extra responsibility. Kabbala teaches that things at every level of existence possess souls - even stones. However, the soul essences cannot express themselves as effectively in stones as in human beings because the "body" facility of a stone is far more limiting than that of a plant, animal or human.

The price of true progress is gentleness, compassion and purpose. For most of us, these are not innately given traits or insights. Discipline and endeavor are necessary for us to become reflections of the Divine
A plant has limited forms of expression (such as growing towards the sun) and communicative capacities (like recoiling from "hard rock" music while inclining towards classical music). Animals can move about freely and communicate with each other in a rudimentary fashion. But humans possess the most dextrous bodies of all creation, allowing more sublime expressions of the soul through thought, articulate speech and sophisticated behavior. Whereas a dog or a cat acting in an unruly fashion can cause inconvenience, anti-social behavior by human beings upsets the very fabric of society.

Such is the radical conclusion of Chassidic teachings: while the human soul arrives from a lower spiritual source, the soul of the stone - the "lowest" spiritual source - must originate from a higher source in order to "descend" to such a level that it expresses itself as a stone. Or in other words, "the stone at the top of the wall falls farthest from the wall."

We learn in our mystical literature that a time will come when the "stones will testify" against human beings, bearing witness to our time spent "walking upon the stone." The inner essence of the stone will express itself, despite its "body's" limitation. Our actions - our creative purpose or lack thereof - will be "judged" by the stone, due to its innate spiritual superiority.

This is why we are taught to treat all levels of existence with reverence and due care. Everything possesses a presence of inner holiness. The test put to human beings is to learn the art of being gentle and caring for the whole ecological system.

But our experience seems to say otherwise. Why do we go around as if we are the masters and lords over the lower orders of existence? It is because we do not recognize that true responsibility is coupled with humility. The Torah informs us that the human being was created in two stages - matter and then life-form: "And G-d breathed life in the (human) nostril." We were imbued with the G-d-like capacity to lord over the other types of creation.

The price of true progress is gentleness, compassion and purpose. For most of us, these are not innately given traits or insights. Discipline and endeavor are necessary for us to become reflections of the Divine. We must keep ourselves humble by remembering that each one of us is just one more stone in the wall.


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COMMENTS

Question

Posted by: Chani, Cleveland, OH on Jan 11, 2005

1. So in essence the rock is more "spiritual" than us humans? But if it comes from a higher source than us, then why is it so low? 2. Also, as you say, the rock is from higher places so it falls lower, is that kind of like us, that when we fall spiritually we fall sometimes to extremley low levels?

Very good speech!

Editor's Comment

1. Yes and no. On a certain level the soul of the human is higher than its rock counterpart. This complex subject can only be properly understood through a thorough study of the kabbalistic and chassidic teachings.

2. Yes, the higher the person, the greater the fall.


Does a rock have a soul?

Posted by: Magniv, Tucson, Arizona on Jan 11, 2005

Isn't this similar to the Buddhist belief in reincarnation? Do other systems of belief (Eastern in this case) touch on certain truths even if they believe that the Oneness that they also recognize is not a living being but a neutral force? Thanks...

Editor's Comment

The fact that other religions incorperate certain beliefs which can be found in the Torah does not render the belief false.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.