Wisdom of Kahana: The Soul of Man

One of the hardest concepts to appreciate and understand is the soul of man. And to further exasperate the problem, religions have decided to confound the matter even more by ignoring what is clearly defined in Genesis, that the soul was a particular gift from God to man, and to no other species on this planet. For it is clearly written that even after God had created all the other animals he did something different with man at the time of our inception.

7 Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

ז וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה.

This breath of life was different from the the actual act of living which all the other creatures possessed. Man became the embodiment of this soul. We are the vessel to contain it but it is something very different and apart from our own existence. This was an actual part of God which He infused into man to become the soul and our essence. So even though you will have religious leaders today claiming that dogs and cats have a soul and they too will be granted an afterlife, the fact is that man is unique in this attribute. Only man, and man alone possesses a soul. And we don't even really possess it because as God clearely stated, we become part of it, not the other way around.

Now what I am about to say may upset some of you because even though I am a Karaite, and some Karaites would like to believe there is a final reward, my beliefs are those of a Zadokite and therefore I have no concept of an afterlife. And to those that have come to believe that your soul grants you some form of immortality, and that you find some respite from the hardships of this world by finding a place in heaven where you can idle away eternity in discussion with sages and ancestors of the past, I am afraid those are concepts that have little to do with the 'soul' that I am about to discuss. The only reward to life is this beautiful gift of life we already have. And we should choose not to follow God's laws because we expect some reward of eternity or paradise but because it is necessary for the betterment of the soul that we have been gifted with to nourish and protect for reasons I will attempt to explain.

What I am about to relate to you has to do with the Shekinah, or what Moses described as the cloud which contained the presence of God. It was not God but a manifestation of his creative power, or as we might describe in our scientific language of today, an energy 'sink' or 'pool'. And as I have said repeatedly, all things come form the Shekinah and all things return to the Shekinah. It is the Shekinah that provided us with the origin of what we refer to as our soul. Perhaps we should think of it as a library book that we have borrowed for a time, derived great joy and pleasure from it, but when we are done we must return it so that others may also benefit. I know this is a difficult concept to accept but let me explain:

The Soul of Man

Above all things is the greatness of God, but under Him and above all else on this earth is the soul of man. The soul of man is not separate from God but is in itself a part of God by which He has spanned the gulf between Heaven and Earth. It is the chord which binds man to God and why man is the only creature on earth that recognizes its own mortality. Only man understands that he will grow old and succumb to death and pass into nothingness. No other animal on this planet understands that their lives will end in decay and doom.

And it is this nothingness, this sentence of death which frightens man the most and why he has always desperately searched for an answer to immortality. All of man’s superiority and yet mankind is terrified by the ultimate fate that awaits. Born as a hapless babe and dying like a hapless babe, crying for one more chance, one more hour, fearing the unknown and not appreciating the divine plan where the spark returns to its origin through the chord attached.

To the beast of the field, they have no comprehension of time. Each day is like the next. There is no understanding of the changes of life, the span of time or the desire of youth. The carnivore has no understanding that one day itself will be prey to the ravages of time, its bones bleached beneath the blazing sun no different from the animals it has slaughtered. The cow marched through the abattoir has no concept of what awaits in the stunning chamber. Only man can appreciate what happens next and it shakes him to the core of his bones.

The soul must not be confused with life for all creatures have life. That is nothing more than an electrical-chemical spark that infuses the cells with activity, the heart to beat, the nerves to relay their signals through the synapses. But that is not the soul, that essence of spirit that drives us to achieve more than we think ourselves capable of achieving, to contemplate that which we have no knowledge of. The receptors in the nose smell but it is the soul that brings back sweet memories to a particular odour or fragrance that fills us with a longing and desire. It is the stomach that digests, but the soul that makes us savour a particular flavour that makes our heart sing. Our eyes see but it is the soul that gives us that second sight that transmits what we saw into lessons we treasure for the rest of our lives.

All creatures can sense fear, rage, anger and love. These are basic needs that drive life to survive and exist. But other than man, what creature can have a sense of honour and shame, justice and treachery, or chivalry or cowardice. These are qualities that require not only intellect but willpower and the ability to overcome the basic instincts. Only with a soul can a man react in a completely opposite manner to the fight or flight instincts that are hardwired into all living organisms. It is the soul which provides us with the ability to act noble, to appreciate beauty, to act contrary to our animal directives.

The soul is malleable, waiting for us to shape it well beyond the simple spark that was infused within us the day we were conceived. It is ours to beautify, ours to fill with goodness, ours to glorify with love. In the same manner that we can shape it into a thing of ugliness should we choose to follow a path of darkness, filled with vices and hatred. What you do with the soul is within your own power and therefore it is left to your imagination to carve and shape into a final image of your life. The soul thirsts for its final transformation and it is the product of free will which was God’s gift to mankind. God has provided his guidelines by which man is to shape the soul but the determination of whether one does or doesn’t is left to each one of us.

Though man will never know immortality, the soul is already part of the everlasting existence of the universe. It is returned to the Shekinah when life is done, back to the domain which is God, Himself. How it returns to the Shekinah is our responsibility. Glorified, splendiferous, or scarred and damaged, that is within our power. And only when we realize that our existence does have a purpose, that it just isn’t about being born, living a life of toil and hardship, and then dying but in reality is finding ways in which to care and nurture this soul through the love and happiness that life can offer, then and only then do we face death knowing that we can achieve immortality but in a manner different than we assumed it would be achieved. Once we appreciate that throughout our lives we carry the soul like a foetus in the womb in order to give birth to it at the moment of our death then we have also attained an understanding of the meaning of life. The knowlege and experience that we impart to this soul will then either be of benefit or detriment to those already contained within the Shekinah, awaiting to spark another life, another existence. That is within our power. That is how our life is measured and weighed in the balance when we reach our final destiny. Not seeking some personal benefit and reward as we would like to believe, reducing God to some market haggler for our own fulfillment but instead with nobility and honour knowing that we have done our part to shape a better future for mankind and provided and instilled the love for a kinder world with the spark that we have passed on.

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Comments 19 comments

Kahana profile image

Kahana 5 years ago Author

Theology, Alan's response in some ways answers your question but gaining an understanding of the Shekinah as you correctly point out is difficult. The Holy Spirit or Presence is everywhere. It infuses every place and everything. But YHWH is able to manifest that presence into a singularity. A point of reference within the vast cosmos. And though we will never be able to put into words this concept, let me try with what will be a poor example but the best I can do. If we think of our body as the universe, stretching to infinity, then in the far distance I can wiggle my toes. My presnce is manifested there because the act of wiggling my toes was in essence my creative force. But the initiation of that creative force came from a long distance away, in fact the other end of the universe where it began as a thought in my brain. Therefore the dwelling place of my creative spirit was in my brain, but my creative presence was in my toes. Two entirely different concepts but tied together as one. As I said, a poor example but I hope it has helped.

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alanbedford 5 years ago

As you say, the Shekinah is everywhere in the Universe, therefore the rabbinical prohibition against Jews setting foot on the Temple Mount because the Shekinah is still there, is frankly absurd. By that logic, if Jews cannot set foot on any place the Shekinah is present, then the Jews should not walk any place on Earth! The Shekinah manifested itself as a cloud above the Tabernacle as a symobl of God's approval. However, that cloud did not appear over the Second Temple because the Ark was not inside it.

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theology 5 years ago

thx again

Kahana profile image

Kahana 5 years ago Author

True, there is no specific word used in the Tanakh as Shekinah. But that does not make it a Kabbalistic or Hasidic term simply because it was coined by the post-exilic rabbis. In fact it is taken from the word, 'Shakan' or dwelling place and was specifically used as a reference to the 'holy presence' when YHWH dwelled amongst the people. As we see from Numbers 35:34 the Shakan was an established belief. ????? ???????? ???-??????? , ?????? ?????? ????????? ????? ?????? ????? ?????? ??????????: ????, ????? ??????--?????? ???????? ?????? ?????????? And thou shalt not defile the land which ye inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell (shakan); for I the LORD dwell (shakan) in the midst of the children of Israel.'

So the Shekinah, merely being the coined phrase of the dwelling place of the Holy Presence's Shakan, means that as a terminology it was long in existence before Hasids or Kabbalists. And as it therefore derived from the Tanakh then it is a Karaite belief.

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theology 5 years ago


Shekinah is a Kabbalistic and Hasidic concept or there is in Karaism too?

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theology 5 years ago

There is relation between Shekinah and HUACK-HaKodesh?

Flows the Shekinah through the Holy Soul (H. Hakodesh)?

theology 5 years ago


There is relation between Shekinah and HUACK-HaKodesh?

Flows the Shekinah through the Holy Soul (H. Hakodesh)?

Kahana profile image

Kahana 5 years ago Author

Theology, the Shekinah is a difficult concept to explain but I will attempt to do so. In the desert, the Children of Israel saw the Shekinah as the cloud that rested over the Tabernacle. To them, they interpreted it as the presence of God. But it was far more than that. It essentially was a living force, an energy pool, from which all things come and all things return. Scientists would probably say it is the energy sink that pre-existed before the big-bang. That source of energy from which all matter was born. But that would not do it justice since this energy actually has a consciousness, a divine essence. Those that have had near-death experiences say they were drawn to the light and they found it comforting. In my mind, the Shekinah would appear to be brilliant white light because we can only perceive it with our limited senses. But going back into this light is how all of us will end this earthy existence.

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theology 5 years ago

@KAHANA > Still no understand too this concept of Shekinah. Which be it exactly?

Shekinah is as a spiritual essence?

Kahana profile image

Kahana 5 years ago Author

Theology, there in lies the reason that what Saul did was a sin, using a necromancer to tap in to the Shekinah. Nothing is to interfere with the process of materializing from the Shekinah and then returning to it. So this malleable essence, this spark that I spoke of is not for us to tamper with. To do so is a violation of everything that God intended. That which Samuel had shaped, in order to return it enhanced and improved from the time he was first infused with it had now become profaned, contaminated, violated. That is the sin. That was the moment Saul had sealed his fate and that of his family. So don't be confused, Samuel never came back from the dead, only that which he had imprinted with a likeness of his personality, transient at best, because that which was Samuel was still buried very deep below the ground where it would decay and be gone forever.

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theology 5 years ago


And in relation to the story of Samuel's soul who came back from the dead: What's the explanation of this fact in Karaite vision?

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alanbedford 5 years ago

Good clarification! As usual, you put more meat on the bones of the issue. I definitely do not believe in the concept of a hell or a purgatory or any "kingdom" of the devil, that is an invention of certain religions as a way of scaring people into accepting their incorrrect teachings.

Kahana profile image

Kahana 5 years ago Author

Alan, the devil in the context of a ruler of hell is definitely a figment of our imaginations since this is not the context of any of the three quotations. Firstly, the reference is to 'The Shaitan' implying that there is a position held by this angel. The fact that he is nothing more than an angel is confirmed in by the reference in Job to being one of the many angels that were Sons (Child) of God. Also in Job we recognize he has a purpose which is to walk up and down the earth and monitor how things are going and when something is wrong, bring it to God's attention. He does so in the case of making an accusastion against the high priest in Zechariah where in this case he functions as a prosecuting attorney. In Chronicles he gives advice to David to conduct a census, but ultimately, the decision to do so was David's. THerefore we must assume that the translation may have indicated some time of monitor or advisor but definitely not the mythological creature that mankind has developed to the status of a rival to God. So as your correctly have stated, he is nothing more than one of God's creations that serves a definable purpose, controlled and overseen by God and nothing more. Anything beyond this purpose was mankind's imagination running wild.

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alanbedford 5 years ago

The existence of a "Satan" is not the figment of our imagination -- it is found in the Tanach, specifically in the Book of Job, in 1Chronicles ch.21, and Zechariah ch.3. Nevertheless, Satan is certainly not a rival god. Read the first 2 chapters of Job and you will find that Satan is clearly subordinated to God, and in fact, is an instrument of God. In 1Chr., Satan instigated David to number the people of Israel, which was a sin. In Zech 3, Satan is an "accuser" of the Messiah. Although the exact nature of Satan is not defined in Tanach, maybe it could be said that it is something like an "angel" or some other undefinable force created by God for His purposes. Therefore it must never be an object of adoration nor of fear for that matter. Maybe it could be defined in part as a "collective force" of all the characteristics in humans which are contrary to the teachings of the Bible. But as you say, Kahana, we must not try to escape our own responsibility for our sins by simply saying: "The Devil made me do it!"

Kahana profile image

Kahana 5 years ago Author

Shalom Rachel,

I doubt I could have any more clarity than you already provided. All that there is and all that there will be comes from God. But since man is imperfect in the eyes of the Almighty, we needed someone to blame for our iniquities. Someone to point the finger at when we continue to sin. So whereas God created man, we in turn created a devil. But in Karaism we have no place for a trumped up entity of evil. We must accept the blame for our sins and adhere to the Torah so that we do not sin again. Acknowledging our imperfections is what sets us apart from other religions.

Shalom Aleichim

Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana

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Rachel613 5 years ago from China

Shalom, Matthew - the Shaitan (whom you call 'The Devil') is merely a Xtian (dualistic/zoarostrian - "good" v. "evil") construct. It has no part in Judaism as a whole, nor does it have a part in Karaism.

Through and by God are all things created. It is He only who creates and sustains creation. 'Evil' is of our own creation. I'm sure Kahana can give a much better summation of this than I ever could.

You said it ALL in your last sentence........."God is all that is and ever has been".......read your own words, my friend..........

Baruch YHWH le'olam, Amen ve'Amen.

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Matthew Weese 5 years ago from Auburn

I do not agree, for that I plea ...... Not all souls come from god, but some come from the Devil, the Devil.

The devil up high, being higher than I, stares through the world with a collective eye, and waits.

The energy let off, most folks they scoff, yet others they assume to find pleasure.

God is of a current that is of a postive line.

The devils current runs negative through time.

We in life choose our own paths.

Energy, never ending perpetuating energy,

When our bodys wither,

our energy is dispersed into a void of freeze framed time and space.



To take on another body.

The soul is apart of the negative or positive stream that branches off the creator of good or evil.

We are all negative and positive currents.

Never ending always flowing, causing ripples through space and time creating what we percieve as meaningless or meaningfull existances.

We reincarnate!! This body is a shell we will shed leaving our energy to teary until we choose another body to assume.

When our souls are strong enough to take on another course, or realm.....

It must complete all this life, this world, this realms challenges positively.

God is of an illusional mind frame biblical.

God is all we see, the earth under our feet,

The sand at the beach,

The oceans deep.

God is the land that produces the fruit,

God is the bugle that produces the toot,

God is the vocals in voices that sing,

God is all that is and ever has been,

since the beggining, and unto the end.

Abraham 5 years ago

If we read from the first portion of creation and understand- what is blessing? and what is curse? Adam put in the Garden, was this blessing? why?? Adam Punishment for eating the forbidden fruit, Cain Punishment for killing Abel, The Flood " the whole earth, then selectivity of Adom a Gamora,then then sons of Aaron for offering strange fire, all these indications that you get your blessing and youe curse while you are alive no after life.

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alanbedford 5 years ago

Very profound. The only ones who share your analysis of the soul are the Jehovah's Witnesses, although they do believe in an afterlife. Perhaps the essential difference between your concept of returning to God's Shekinah and the traditional concepts of an afterlife are only in the details and the wishful thinking of those who try to characterize the afterlife as a form of spiritual life in heaven (without having any support from the Bible, I may add). My view is that we cannot possibly comprehend what goes on after we die. It is not a secret which God has kept from us, it is simply a matter for which we don't even have a vocabulary capable of expressing nor the mental faculties to imagine. I do have a question for you: what about the babies who die in childbirth or shortly thereafter, or in the womb? They do not even have the opportunity begin to understand the meaning of life let alone learn anything in life, and they don't have the chance to commit sins and repent. What about all of them? Where do they fit in?

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