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Kohelet: The Big Picture

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The soul has five levels, nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya, and yechida. All of these aspects signify different level of awareness. Neshama is where inspiration comes from. Ruach is the part of us that creates self -definition and makes choices. Nefesh is that which is experienced through the senses. The nefesh has both spiritual and animal aspects. The animal soul takes materialism and adorns it with fantasy and then drives us to make decisions that are antithetical to our spiritual side. When Hashem gives a person resources he can decide to build with it. Alternatively, he can do meaningless things with it so that he becomes progressively more empty and dissatisfied.

One who spends his life chasing after money and material gain is sacrificing this world and the next. Desiring honor makes a person a prisoner of every person in the world. He loses his sense of self. The more prestige a person has, the more he wants it, and the less control he retains. In olam habah he’ll have to face that none of these things had value.

Eating is one of the greatest tests a person may face. People attempt to feed their souls with food. The soul craves consolation and meaning and will never be satiated with material things. The Sefer Charedim says before one eats one should say vidui (the confession). There are hidden sparks of holiness in food. There’s nothing absent of Hashem. If you say a bracha once a day with focus you can develop a relationship with the spiritual source of food. This is birur-finding holiness within. If a person does this continually, he elevates the animal soul and it is analogous to offering a sacrifice.

If life inevitably ends with death, is a wise man better than a fool? What you’ve done with what Hashem gave you is judged and there’s no difference between a rich or poor person. What you are is what you will stay with you in olam habah. Hashem has given us a lot, easy access to Torah, wise people who can guide us on the right path, but we need to give it definition. A person must ask himself, not what do I want or have, but what am I doing to give my life meaning.

The years of a person are like a shadow. There’s no one who could tell us we’re on the right track. We have to figure that out for ourselves and it’s not always easy. If we try, Hashem will open his hand to guide us. We have to extend ourselves and show that we want to take what Hashem wants to give us.  

Torah is a person’s true wealth and honor. You could go to classes, read, learn, and study. But in the end you always have to ask yourself, “What did I learn and what will I do with it?”  If a person doesn’t struggle to acquire what he learned he’ll be left with nothing. The body is meant to return to the earth. In the case where it prevails over the soul it may not happen. A person should allow their mind to confront their fantasies and ask questions. The part that develops from asking these questions will be the source of their ability to experience both worlds.


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