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The Emergence of Self

by Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson

  

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There are days when we live honestly and genuinely and desire to engage in noble deeds. At other times, we are consumed by animalistic passions, while we struggle to control the impulses burning within.

Why does this constantly happen, and how are we to deal with this fragmented psyche?

"The children clashed inside her," is the way the Torah describes our matriarch Rebecca's pregnancy. Whenever Rebecca would pass a house of prayer or study, the Midrash explains, "Jacob would struggle to come out; when she passed a house of idol-worship, Esau would struggle to come out." In her womb, Rebecca was experiencing the conflict that human beings experience within their hearts on a daily basis.

When the clashes in her womb persisted, Rebecca, asking "Why is this happening to me?" went to seek an answer from G-d.

G-d told Rebecca "two nations will separate from your womb." Indeed, Jacob’s descendants became the nation of Israel, who served as the spiritual compass of the world, while Esau fathered the nation of Rome and its culture of self-aggrandizement.

When there are two distinct people living within the same brain and heart, it is hard to expect the inner workings to be an inviolable whole
Although the struggle within her womb did not cease, Rebecca went home satisfied because she received the gift of clarity with the awareness that not one, but two nations lived in her womb.

The response presented by G-d to Rebecca remains the eternal response to our own search for identity and question of “who am I?”

From the moment we are born until the moment we die, we operate on two levels of consciousness. We possess not one, but two souls. The first soul, or the Esau soul, propels our physical life and focuses on the self. Its actions and desires are motivated by the quest for self-preservation and self-gratification. The second consciousness, or the Jacob soul, is drawn to its Divine source, striving to become one with the all-pervading truth of G-d.

When there are two distinct people living within the same brain and heart, it is hard to expect the inner workings to be an inviolable whole. As they both have the same body at their disposal, the perpetual struggles of life between selfishness and selflessness; idealism and self-centeredness; beastly impulses and spiritual aspirations, wages war daily.

the animal soul grants the divine soul a boundless creativity and passion that it could never attain on its own
The implications of this Kabbalistic doctrine of "two souls" are binary: a) there is no need to agitate over the struggle; it is to be expected, b) the moments of spiritual numbness do not invalidate the moments of spiritual growth. Esau and Jacob are both very real parts of our lives.

Why is Esau more powerful than Jacob? Why are even the most spiritually refined people vulnerable to earthly, animalistic cravings? Why is it so much more difficult to talk to G-d than to gossip?

The animal soul embodies a deeper, higher G-dly energy than the divine soul. In a process known in Kabbalah as the “cosmic explosion,” an intense G-dly energy became the animal soul. Consequently, there remains within it an intense yearning to connect to G-d, disguised as a drive towards physical fulfillment.

The animal soul desperately needs the continuous guidance and discipline of its divine counterpart for cultivation and refinement, until it regains its original splendor, as it was in the pre-explosion state. But in this very process, the animal soul grants the divine soul a boundless creativity and passion that it could never attain on its own. Though uniting these two souls in a single body exposes both of them to a never-ending battle, it is only through this union that they can reach their ultimate potential. It is in the collaboration of the twin souls that man fulfills the objective for which he was created.

Yosef Y. Jacobson is the author of the widely acclaimed tape series on the Tanya entitled, “A Tale of Two Souls.”


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Esau and Jacob souls

Posted by: Anonymous on Nov 04, 2004

In Judaism, is the basis of Jungian depth psychology. These two souls are the struggle between the negative and positive poles of the archetype , the superior and inferior functions of the personality, the addictive urge and its relationship to spiritual fulfilment....
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.
Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
Tanya
Foundation text of Chabad chassidism. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, and first published in 1796. Considered to be the "Bible" of Chassidism.
Kabbalistic
(adj.) Pertaining to Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Esau
Rogue son of Patriarch Isaac and Matriarch Rebecca. Elder twin of Patriarch Jacob.
Rebecca
Second of the Jewish Matriarchs. Wife of the Patriarch Isaac, and father of Jacob. b. 1675 BCE, d. 1553 BCE.
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.