A

Meeting
of Minds
The Two Levels of
the Intellectual Soul
BASED ON THE TEACHINGS OF

THE REBBEIM
CHABAD

OF

A Tale of Three Souls
Based on the teachings of the Rebbeim of Chabad

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‫זצוקללה"ה נבג"מ זי"ע‬

Compiled and adapted

by Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

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A Tale of Three Souls
Based on the teachings of the Rebbeim of Chabad

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

All Mankind is Created “In the Image of G–d”. 2
The Intellectual Soul.......................................3
Bittul: The Key to Objectivity..........................6
The Jew’s Superior Intellectual Soul................8
The Jew’s Responsibility to Elevate the Nations
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ALL MANKIND IS CREATED “IN
The1 Mishnah states:2

THE IMAGE OF

G–D”

Beloved is man, for he was created in the
image of G–d; it is by special divine love that
he was informed that he was created in the
image of G–d. As it is stated: “For G–d made
man in His own image.”3
The Tosafos Yom Tov notes that the Mishnah
cites a verse addressed to Noach and his
descendants, who were not Jewish. He interprets
that “beloved is man” refers not only to Jews,
but to all mankind. All mankind is created “in the
image of G–d,” and is therefore beloved to G–d.
And since human beings are beloved to G–d, all
mankind should also respect, value, and love
one another.
1

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 15, pp. 58-61.

2

Avos 3:18.

3

Bereshis 1:17.
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A Tale of Three Souls
Based on the teachings of the Rebbeim of Chabad

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Of course, although in this context “man” refers
to all mankind, not only the Jewish people, it
surely includes Jews as well. Although Jews
possess an additional soul that is “literally a part
of Hashem above,”4 they too were created “in
the image of G–d.”
THE INTELLECTUAL SOUL
What indeed does it mean to have been created
“in the image of G–d,” and why is this “beloved
to G–d”? To state the obvious, G–d has no image
or form, neither material nor spiritual.5 Rather,
echoing the Rambam,6 Chassidus explains7 that
“the image of G–d” refers to the Nefesh
HaSichlis, the Intellectual Soul.
The Intellectual Soul is the mind, the spiritual
faculty that enables a person to think in a
4

Tanya ch. 2.

See the Yigdal hymn: “He has no semblance of a body,
nor is He corporeal.” Cf. Derech Mitzvosecha, Shoresh
Mitzvas HaTefillah ch. 2.
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uniquely human way. Its goal is to transcend
personal interest and pursue abstract, objective
truth. This is alluded to in the verse, “The
spirit ... of man rises upwards”8; i.e., man—and
the faculty that defines man as different from
6

See Guide for the Perplexed 1:1:Now man

possesses as his proprium something that is very
strange in that it is not found in anything else that
exists under the sphere of the moon, namely,
intellectual apprehension. In the exercise of this,
neither sense, nor any part of the body, nor any of
the extremities are used; and therefore this
apprehension was compared to G–d’s apprehension,
which does not require an instrument, although in
reality it is not like the latter apprehension, but only
appears so at first.
It is because of ... the divine intellect conjoined with
man, that it is said of man that he is “in the image of
G–d” and “after His likeness”—not that Hashem, may
He be exalted, is a body and possesses a shape.
Likewise, Rashi explains kidmuseinu, “after our likeness”
to mean “with the power to comprehend and discern.”
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A Tale of Three Souls
Based on the teachings of the Rebbeim of Chabad

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animals, the Intellectual Soul—naturally yearns
upward, to transcend itself.
Both Jews and non-Jews possess an Intellectual
Soul. However, the Jew’s Intellectual Soul is
higher than the non-Jew’s, for it “senses spiritual
refinement, so although it is by nature human
intellect, it has a feel for spiritual refinement.”9
This sensitivity to spiritual refinement enables
the Jew who follows Torah properly to truly
transcend his own self-interest in his intellectual
strivings.
By contrast, the non-Jew’s Intellectual Soul
naturally relates to the world in a coarse,
materialistic way, lacking the Jew’s natural

7

Sefer HaMa’amarim 5702, p. 104 ff.

8

Koheles 3:21.

9

Ibid.
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sensitivity to the spirituality that underlies the
world.
The non-Jewish Intellectual Soul comes fully
manifest in secular wisdom, which is the
culmination of the intellectual efforts of the
finest of non-Jewish minds.
This wisdom naturally fosters a feeling of
arrogance; in fact, it fosters a feeling of the
utmost arrogance.10 Thus, ongoing study of
secular wisdom without the spiritual fortification
that Torah study provides will spoil the student
spiritually until he or she ultimately degenerates
to a state of spiritual and moral coarseness.11
BITTUL: THE KEY TO OBJECTIVITY
Now, as mentioned, the purpose of intellect and
of the Intellectual Soul is to bring the person to
Put differently, there is no greater arrogance than that
of secular intellectuals.
10

11

Sefer HaMa’amarim 5709, p. 52 ff.
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A Tale of Three Souls
Based on the teachings of the Rebbeim of Chabad

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transcend his own narrow self-interest and
prejudices, and discover the truth of whatever
subject he examines.
But if so, how is it possible that the Intellectual
Soul of the non-Jews does the very opposite—it
drags the person down into a state of
coarseness?
The answer lies in the key to objectivity, bittul—
which means self-effacement or humility.
When a person is consumed with the desire to
promote his own self-interest, and freely
indulges his preferences, desires, and lusts, then
no matter how intelligent he may be, and how
much of an effort he makes to set aside his
personal interests and be objective in his
analysis of a moral dilemma, he is simply
incapable of attaining true objectivity—although
he may well convince himself and others that he
has. And so the moral judgments that he
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renders will inevitably be hopelessly biased, and
hence most likely incorrect.
How can one transcend personal bias and
thereby attain truth? It starts with fostering an
attitude of bittul—humility before Hashem and
one’s fellow man.12 This underlying philosophy
then becomes manifest in one’s approach to
worldly matters. The humble person will eschew
hedonism and embrace a lifestyle of moderation
and restraint in which fulfilling his
responsibilities to Hashem and his fellow man is
primary and material pleasure is secondary.
Although this order of priorities may necessitate
sacrifice and hardship, it opens the person up to
realize and connect with a higher truth. Since
pleasure and personal comfort are not the goal
of life, the person is willing to forgo them when a
higher cause requires it of him.
12

Cf. Tanya ch. 30.
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A Tale of Three Souls
Based on the teachings of the Rebbeim of Chabad

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THE JEW’S SUPERIOR INTELLECTUAL SOUL
But if so, how is the Intellectual Soul of a Jew
any better? It too consists of worldly, human
intellect; by what virtue does it also “sense
spiritual refinement”?
Rather, the Jew’s Intellectual Soul itself is not
inherently different from the non-Jew’s.
However, since the Jew possesses the Divine
Soul (a.k.a., Nefesh HoElokis) that transcends
the world completely, and the Nefesh HoElokis
becomes vested within the Nefesh HoElokis, this
proximity subdues the Nefesh HoElokis’ natural
sense of ego and enables it to “sense spiritual
refinement” in a way that makes it possible for
the Jew to attain true objectivity in intellectual
judgments, and thus fully fulfill the potential of
the Intellectual Soul. It emerges that the verse,
“The spirit ... of man rises upwards” refers
primarily to the Jew’s Intellectual Soul.
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Perhaps this is comparable to the difference
between two people of equal intelligence. One
constantly keeps the company of a very
spiritual, inspired, and sagely rabbi, while the
other keeps no such company, and so he is left
to live a life focused on materialism. All things
being equal, the former will be much more
spiritually inclined than the other.
This explains the double expression in the
Mishnah cited above: “Beloved is man ... it is by
special divine love ... ”
The first phrase refers to the Intellectual Soul
within all mankind, while the second refers to
the Intellectual Soul within the Jewish people.
“Beloved is man ... ” tells us that the non-Jew is
beloved to Hashem because of his Intellectual
Soul. In contrast, “it is by special divine love that
he is informed that he was created in the image
of G–d” tells us that a Jew is beloved to Hashem
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A Tale of Three Souls
Based on the teachings of the Rebbeim of Chabad

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because of his Divine Soul. Because of this
belovedness, Hashem also gives the Jew an
Intellectual Soul.
THE JEW’S RESPONSIBILITY TO ELEVATE THE NATIONS
This is also the reason that Torah instructs and
even obligates the Jew to influence non-Jews
positively by teaching them the Noahide laws, as
the Rambam rules explicitly: “Moshe was
commanded via a direct divine revelation [to tell
the Jewish people] to compel all the world’s
inhabitants to undertake the laws commanded to
Noah’s descendants.”13 The Tosafos Yom Tov
explains14 that the expression “compel” also
includes the imperative to use verbal persuasion
to explain the necessity to adhere to the
Noahide laws even to someone resistant.

13

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, 8:10.

14

Tosafos Yom Tov, Avos 3:14.
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Of15 course, at the same time one should be
careful to influence non-Jews in a pleasant,
peaceful manner, for the Torah’s “ways are ways
of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.”16
Why is the Jew in particular assigned with this
mission? Because provided that the Jew is
refined and G–d-fearing, his more sensitive
Intellectual Soul enables him to serve as a true
guide for the non-Jew, elevating him above the
limitation of his Intellectual Soul, and bringing
him to relate to the world, and to the moral
choices he is constantly called upon to render, in
a manner that is truly objective, and therefore
truly correct and truly ethical.

15

Hisva’aduyos 5747, Vol. 1, p. 82.

16

Mishlei 3:17.
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