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TOPIC TITLE: Mental Illness and Judaism
Created On 6/10/12 9:05 PM
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itsallgood
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Just wondering if there's any books or something out there about about Judaism and mental illness.

I'm trying to understand how mental illness is explained in terms of the soul. I know that mental illness can be explained scientifically, but I wonder sometimes it has something to do with your soul since it seems to strike the personality. I sometimes wonder if mental illness means you're a bad person.


And I am bothered by the fact that there is mental illness, or any illness. What's the purpose? I know people say you grow from your struggles, but going through life is a struggle in itself, and illness just makes it worse.

I also wonder if Moshe and others who talked to G-d were really psychotic, and as time went on people understood mental illness better-like shabsai tzvi. If a rabbi said he talked to G-d now ppl would probably think they were psychotic.

I don't mean to sound like an apeikorous, but these things really disturb me. Is there an "ask a rabbi on here"?
 
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gad
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here are some possible thoughts:

there are different levels of the soul. the higher levels encompass (so to speak) the body. the lower levels integrate directly with the body. when there is a deficiency in the body, such as a weakness in the eye, then the soul can't function optimally with the eye. the same can happen with thought and emotions. a deficiency can prevent the soul from interacting with the brain in an orderly, optimal fashion. this deficiency is not in the soul. but the soul still suffers from the weakness.

it doesn't mean that someone is a bad person, just as a weakness in the eye doesn't mean that the person is bad.

we don't know why people suffer. when moshiach comes, then we will appreciate and understand.

Moshe did open miracles, (10 plagues, split sea, revelation on mt. sinai) which convinced the people that he spoke to G-d and was a true prophet.

these days we generally don't find great rabbis who claim that they speak to G-d. but there were a number of rabbis in our generation who did miracles, and many people are convinced that these rabbis had ruach hakodesh (holy inspiration).

sometimes people may experience too much 'illumination', more than the average person.
here is an interesting thread in this regard:
http://www.frumsupport.com/forums/textthread.cfm?catid=104&threadid=460&FTVAR_MSGDBTABLE=


in 'getting up when you're down' (chapter 2) dr. twerski discusses depression, and he notes that the discussion applies to other conditions too. he explains that it is very often due to a chemical imbalance within the body, and that there is much evidence to support the concept that the primary cause ... is biochemical.
he writes that even freud wrote in his 'introduction to psychoanalysis' that all his hypotheses would eventually have biological explanations.
twerski continues, that there is no more reason to feel ashamed of having a depression than for having any manifestly physical disease, such as arthritis or diabetes.
he writes that just as a disturbance of the body chemistry can result in joint disease, digestive disorders, or in respiratory dysfunction, all conditions over which a person has no control, so it can also result in dysfunction of the emotions, and this dysfunction is not amenable to voluntary control. the brain is every bit an organ as is the heart, the pancreas, the spleen, or the kidneys...
he compares treatment of manifestly physical disease with depression, that just as treatment of diabetes, for example, relieves the symptoms, so too with depression there is a chemical imbalance that affects the brain, the organ that is responsible for ideation and emotion, with the resultant symptom being those of thought and emotions; and when proper treatment corrects the chemical imbalance, the symptoms are relieved.


Edited: 6/11/12 at 8:53 AM by gad
 
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gad
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just to explain a bit with regard to the soul (as i understand it):

the soul has 10 general categories (3 intellectual, and 7 emotional). the soul also has 613 powers.

these powers of the soul are, within the soul itself, on an equal level, and not separated. (similar to how it is when a person sleeps, the soul's powers become elevated and equal)

when (certain levels of) the soul comes into a body, its powers interact with the body. so, for example, the soul's power for sight interacts with the physical eye.

when there is a problem in the physical eye, then the soul cannot interact smoothly with the physical eye. but there is no deficiency in the soul's power for sight, per se.

(i remember hearing, that a doctor related that they were operating on a patient, and that they lost her, and then brought her back. the patient later described what she saw in the operating room (looking from above). she described the colors of the doctors' clothing, and other details. but the patient was blind.
the conclusion is, that although the patient couldn't see with her physical eye, but when the soul left the body, then she was able to see, since the soul's powers are whole).
 
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itsallgood
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Thanks, gad-this really helps. I guess I also have to accept that some questions have no answers.
 
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gad
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hope to hear good news
 
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HopefulMommy
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I also found this helpful. Thank you.
 
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gad
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you're welcome

may we soon merit moshiach's coming, and we will have the answers and only happiness.
 
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Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
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amein. thanks Gad. my understanding is that mental illness, like any other illness presents challenges and opportunities for growth for the person "afflicted", as well as those around him
a lynn
 
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wishtobehappy
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Thanks so much gad for taking the effort to clarify matters. I love what you said in the other thread about elevating all the science and research, it lends so much meaning to all that pain. I love to read things related to the soul, spirit world, kabalah etc. for this reason. It makes me feel less hopeless and more connected. Where do you take all your info from? Are there any particular seforim or books you'd recommend? preferably in english.

Also, about mental illness being just like a physical ailment, I always have a hard time accepting that. Someone who has diabetes cannot control his blood sugar levels with any kind of cognitive restructuring, while someone with mental illness can often get better by changing their thinking patterns. Furthermore, even with meds, it's far from enough, we always need to work hard to push ourselves, revamp our thinking patterns, use coping skills etc. while someone with an ailment of physical origins, merely pops his pills and continues on his merry way.
 
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gad
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i think that we draw inspiration from wherever we happen to be. the baal shem tov said that from everything that we see and hear, we can learn a lesson in serving Hashem. our general approach is based on torah and chasidus, and then we enhance it and integrate it by learning from our environment.

your analysis of physical vs mental is interesting. it's also interesting to note that even with physical ailments, thinking patterns (like optimism etc.) can be quite beneficial. and with mental conditions, meds can often work wonders. This highlights how there is an intrinsic unity in creation, that everything (like spiritual thinking and physical medicine) is connected, because it is all created by G-d Who is One (Hashem Echad) with creation. (this is another example of the above teaching of the baal shem tov, that we can learn from everything that we see and hear.)

also with judaism we find a similar unity: torah and mitzvos bring physical blessings, and physical well being (health, livelihood etc.) enhances our ability and enthusiasm in keeping torah and mitzvos.

hope to hear good news in all matters physical and spiritual together.
 
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gad
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Originally posted by: Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
my understanding is that mental illness, like any other illness presents challenges and opportunities for growth for the person "afflicted", as well as those around him


it's a delicate subject. but here some possible thoughts, based on what i've heard and studied over the years:

sometimes we discern certain benefits from suffering. but since we're not G-d, we can't say with certainty that this is why the person is suffering.

furthermore, granted that everything that G-d does is for our benefit. but G-d can do everything. so He can accomplish the benefit without the suffering.

so until moshiach comes, we can't understand why people suffer (though we believe that everything that He does is for the best, and for our benefit, even if we don't understand how).

but when the geula comes, then we'll understand and appreciate it. that's why the verse "oidcho Hashem ki onafto bi" (i will thank You, G-d, that you showed anger to me) is in the future tense. because right now we can't understand. but in the future, then we will be able to understand, and then we will thank G-d.


Edited: 6/19/12 at 2:03 AM by gad
 
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gad
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Originally posted by: wishtobehappy
Are there any particular seforim or books you'd recommend? preferably in english.


there are many interesting options on chabad.org

here is a suggestion:
http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/6237/jewish/Lessons-in-Tanya.htm



 
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gad
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the second section in tanya (shaar hayichud viemuna) is a good place to start, since it quickly gets into discussion of creation etc.

here is the link:

http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/45263/jewish/Shaar-Hayichud.htm

hope to hear good news.
 
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wishtobehappy
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thanks a lot for the links, Gad. I've learnt some tanya here and there and found it really uplifting and inspiring. I just lacked the motivation to really delve into it but hope to do so now.

Your explanation about the effects of positive thoughts on physical illness is absolutely true. Now that you mentioned it, I recall reading about this topic in the past. Guided imagery, the Sarno method, biofeedback, etc. They all prove how the mind and body are intimately connected.
 
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HopefulMommy
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I like Rabbi Steinsaltz' books on the Tanya. He explains it really well.

I also like In All Your Ways by Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter, Thoughts for a Jewish Heart by Rabbi Ezriel Tauber, Transforming Darkness into Light by Rabbi Yitzchak Gibsburgh (although you have to be careful with this one, because he talks about anxiety, but not the kind that requires medication).

Also the Bilvavi series is powerful. As an aside, the author talks about how he discovered his ideas (there is a video on Bilvavi.net, in Hebrew), and what he experienced sounds very similar to depression. He talks about a sense of emptiness, when nothing would make him happy, and he would close himself in a room and cry and ask Hashem to help him. How do you know when these feelings come because of a spiritual void or because of a chemical imbalance?
 
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gad
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" How do you know when these feelings come because of a spiritual void or because of a chemical imbalance?"

i think that if the person isn't functioning, then it's a good chance that they need medical help (talking therapy and/or meds). but even then, the spiritual outlook can affect things.


 
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Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
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Unfortunately, often regarding chemical imbalances, it is determined by whether the person responds to medication. I hope in the future, we will have more predictive wisdom, and not just be stuck with trial and error. When people come to my office with complaints of depression and/or anxiety that has not been successfully treated with meds, I ask if the person has had trauma. Trauma is not a biological problem, yet many docs do not do a thorough history, or the patient, out of feelings of shame, do not disclose the info. The result is that people get medication prescriptions for a non-biological problem, and don't get good results.
a lynn
 
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HopefulMommy
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That's interesting. Thank you for that information.
 
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HopefulMommy
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Can trauma cause a chemical imbalance? What causes a chemical imbalance in general? Is it genetic?
 
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wishtobehappy
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Edited: 9/1/12 at 10:32 PM by wishtobehappy
 
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wishtobehappy
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hopeful mommy, I see you're on now. I've been trying to PM you for a while but can't seem to do it for some reason. I know it's a public forum, but is there some other way to reach you?
 
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HopefulMommy
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I'm also having trouble with pms. I tried to pm you, but it just got me back to my inbox. Can somebody help us with the technical side?
 
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wishtobehappy
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Edited: 6/25/12 at 10:38 AM by wishtobehappy
 
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Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
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You can contact the administrator regarding pm's.

Hopeful- I loved your questions! Most "biological" mental illnesses tend to run in families, and are considered genetic, at least to a large degree. It is not a foregone conclusion that offspring will have the illness, but it is more likely. Consider medical illnesses like cancer and heart disease- I think it functions the same way. Since I am a believer that the mind and body are integrated, I believe trauma CAN cause changes to a person's physiology. There is evidence in the medical research for example that PTSD has become a predictor for heart disease. Therefore, I believe that PTSD can activate the neurotransmitters in such a way that the person's chemistry is imbalanced. The most salient issue I was trying to address above is that the CAUSE of PTSD is not biological, and therefore, I believe the CURE is not achieved chemically. At best, I have seen meds dull the symptoms, but I would hardly consider that a cure.

Wish- Thank you for sharing your experience. It is very painful to be tried on so many different meds, and sometimes people develop the feeling of "what's the matter with me?!".
a lynn
 
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gad
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Quote

Originally posted by: wishtobehappy
hopeful mommy, I see you're on now. I've been trying to PM you for a while but can't seem to do it for some reason. I know it's a public forum, but is there some other way to reach you?


Quote

Originally posted by: HopefulMommy
I'm also having trouble with pms. I tried to pm you, but it just got me back to my inbox. Can somebody help us with the technical side?


dr lynn suggests contacting the administrator. in the meantime, in the hope of perhaps pinpointing the problem, i can send a pm to both of you, and see if it goes through.
 
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gad
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i just sent the pms, and it says in my sent folder that they were sent.
 
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wishtobehappy
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thanks gad. I got your PM but can't seem to respond with a PM. I can only post on the forum for some reason.
 
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gad
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here's one more suggestion you may want to try

to click: profile, allow private messages - off, update profile, profile,
allow private messages - on, update.
 
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gad
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if that doesn't work, another possibility is to register a new user name and password which you can use just for private messages.

(maybe you can use wishtobehappy2 and hopefulmommy2)
 
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wishtobehappy
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thanks so much gad. I tried the profile. didn't work. Guess I'll try the username.
 
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wishtobehappy2
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Still doesn't work but thanks for the suggestions though.

Now that I have a 'split personality,' it opens up new vistas.... endless opportunities... the sky is the limit.... or heaven in my case...


Edited: 6/26/12 at 10:05 AM by wishtobehappy2
 
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gad
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have you emailed the administrator?
 
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HopefulMommy
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Originally posted by: gad
just to explain a bit with regard to the soul (as i understand it):

the soul has 10 general categories (3 intellectual, and 7 emotional). the soul also has 613 powers.

these powers of the soul are, within the soul itself, on an equal level, and not separated. (similar to how it is when a person sleeps, the soul's powers become elevated and equal)

when (certain levels of) the soul comes into a body, its powers interact with the body. so, for example, the soul's power for sight interacts with the physical eye.

when there is a problem in the physical eye, then the soul cannot interact smoothly with the physical eye. but there is no deficiency in the soul's power for sight, ).


Gad, what is the source for these ideas and for how the soul interacts with the body? I keep thinking about this and would like to know more. Thanks!
 
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gad
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tanya chapter 3
http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7882/jewish/Chapter-3.htm

tanya chapter 51
http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7930/jewish/Chapter-51.htm


derech mitzvoisecho, (from the tzemach tzedek, the third lubavitcher rebbe) starting 4 lines from the bottom of the page, until the end of the page.
http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=16082&st=&pgnum=17&hilite=


derech mitzvoisecho, starting 17 lines from the top of the page, until the next page (6 lines down from the top of the page)
http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=16082&st=&pgnum=162


sefer hamamorim milukot, vol. 2, chapters 2, 3 and 4.
http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=15918&st=&pgnum=115
 
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HopefulMommy
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Wow! Thanks!
 
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gad
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you're welcome

have a good shabbos
 
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Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
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thanks, Gad
 
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HopefulMommy
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Here's another source: To Heal the Soul, by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, Appendix A. Here's a quote:

"...It is impossible for a person to maintain consciousness of G-d's eminence and greatness unless he first delves into the essence of his own soul... it differs from how G-d interrelates with Creation. Though the soul fills the body as G-d fills the world, G-d is not in any way limited or contained within it. Neither is He affected or influenced by it. The human soul, however, is intimately bound up with and influenced by the human body and animal soul... If a person's physiological, neurological, and cardiological systems are more refined and efficient, then also the soul that is contained within them will be affected for the better. But if these systems are more gross, then the soul will also become grosser. Because of this, even in a single person there will be differences not only in his behavior but also in his soul condition, depending upon his physical state."

I'm wondering if he means that the way the soul manifests and expresses itself in the person will be affected, or if the pure soul itself will be affected.

Gad, the last source you linked to shows vol. 3 of Toras Menachem. Did you mean vol. 2 or 3?
 
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gad
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Originally posted by: HopefulMommy
I'm wondering if he means that the way the soul manifests and expresses itself in the person will be affected, or if the pure soul itself will be affected.


as far as i remember, yechida, the highest level of the soul, stays pure.

i remember that it says that the purpose of gehinom is to 'wash off' the spiritual dirt on the soul. so perhaps dirt clings to the lower levels of the soul, and that needs cleansing.
 
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gad
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Originally posted by: HopefulMommy
Gad, the last source you linked to shows vol. 3 of Toras Menachem. Did you mean vol. 2 or 3?


it is in volume 2 of sefer hamamorim milukot. (those maamorim are arranged in the order that they were originally printed.)

it is in volume 3 of the maamorim which are brought in the link (those volumes are arranged in the order of the calendar)
 
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HopefulMommy
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Thank you, I found it. You mean ch. 2, 3, and 4 of that Maamar on Purim, right?
 
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HopefulMommy
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as far as i remember, yechida, the highest level of the soul, stays pure.

i remember that it says that the purpose of gehinom is to 'wash off' the spiritual dirt on the soul. so perhaps dirt clings to the lower levels of the soul, and that needs cleansing.


Are there different shittos on this? Is this why I'm getting confused?

I learned that yechida doesn't even enter the body.

If dirt clings to the soul that would mean that it doesn't affect the soul itself, but just covers it. What about nefesh? Isn't that a lower level of the soul? Does it get cleansed in gehinom? Or does only neshama to to gehinom? What about the animal soul, in Tanya's terms?

Am I asking too many questions?
 
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gad
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Originally posted by: HopefulMommy
Thank you, I found it. You mean ch. 2, 3, and 4 of that Maamar on Purim, right?


right.

(it's the same maamor. it's just printed in volume 2 of one set, and in volume 3 of another set.)
 
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gad
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i don't know if there are different shitos with this.

correct, yechida doesn't enter the body, it encompasses.

i would also think that the dirt doesn't affect the soul itself, that it just sort of sticks to it, and needs to be 'washed off.'

yes, the nefesh is the lowest level of the soul. i think that it gets cleansed in gehinom.

when you say 'neshomo,' i assume you are referring to 'neshomo' as one of the five levels of the soul (as opposed to the general name neshomo, which is a term that we often use to refer to the soul in general.) i'm not sure which levels need cleansing in gehinom.

regarding the animal soul, i don't know if it is part of the spiritual soul (and its five levels), or if it is more connected to the body.

the questions are fine. (feel free to ask more.) just wish i knew more of the answers.
 
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