600,000 Souls by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)
It is said that there are 600,000 souls, and each soul divides into several sparks. We must understand how it is possible for the spiritual to divide, since from the outset, only a single נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, was created, the soul of אָדָם הַרִאשׁוֹן (adam ha-rishon), the first man [see M Sanhedrin (Kaufmann MS) 4:5: “(In the beginning) only one human was created to teach: whoever destroys a single נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life—Scripture considers him to have destroyed an entire world; and whoever preserves a single life—Scripture considers him to have preserved an entire world.” Cf. Nishmat Kol Ḥai; Sefer Yetsirah §19a].
In my opinion, there is indeed but a single soul in the world, as is written, And He blew into his nostrils the soul of life (Genesis 2:7). And that same soul is found within all the Children of Israel, in each and every one, as with the first man, since the spiritual is indivisible and cannot be cut, for that is precisely the quality of material things. Yet, when we say that there are 600,000 souls, and sparks of souls, it seems as though this is separation by means of the power inhering in the body of each individual. In other words, first, the body interferes and denies him the entirety of the soul’s radiance, but through the power of Torah and mitsvot, the body is cleansed, and to the degree of its cleansing, the נְשָׁמָה כְּלָלִית (neshamah kelalit), all-inclusive soul [or: universal soul], shines upon him.
For this reason two facets are made in the material body:
With the first, one senses his soul as particularly special and does not understand that this is the whole of Israel. And this is truly a flaw [cf. Einstein]. With the second, the true light of the soul of Israel does not shine upon him with its entire power of illumination, but only partially, according to the degree he has purified himself by returning to the כְּלָל (kelal), whole.
The sign of the body’s complete נִתְתַּקֵּן (nittaqqen), perfection, is when one feels that his soul is found in the whole of Israel in each and every one of them, and he does not have a sense of himself as an individual, since one depends on the other. Then he is perfect, without blemish, and the soul truly shines upon him with all her power, as it appeared in the first man, in the mystery of “The one who exhales, exhales from within himself” [see Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, Liqqutei Amarim (Tanya), 2. Cf. Naḥmanides on Genesis 2:7; Rabbi Me’ir ibn Avi Sahula, Perush Sefer Yetsirah, 5b (quoting Rabbi Yitsḥaq Saggi Nahor): “Whoever blows into a goatskin puts his own breath in it.”].
A spark of a soul—mystery of sparkling in the secret of permitted and forbidden; an individual soul—one part of 600,000, in the mystery of permanent completion, yet his flaw remains with him. This means that his body cannot receive the entire soul, and he senses himself as distinct, which causes him great sufferings of love.
Afterwards, he is drawn near perfection, mystery of the neshamah kelalit, all-inclusive soul [or: universal soul], since the body has been cleansed and it is totally dedicated to the blessed Holy One, and does not act out of self-interest whatsoever [lit., does not make any שִׁעוּרִים וֽמָסָכִים (shiurim ve-masakhim), measurements and screens], and is entirely included in the whole of Israel….
We learned that “Even if one man came before his Master in complete repentance, King Messiah would come immediately” (BT Shabbat 118b) [cf. JT Ta’anit 1:1; 64:1]. It seems to mean, as they said, “Moses is equal to 600,000” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 4:2). We should understand this, since this would mean that there are 600,000 souls times two—the soul of Moses and the soul of Israel. But the truth is that there is no more than one soul, as is known to the degree each and every soul purifies and cleanses herself of her filth [of self-centeredness]. Hence, when all the souls are perfected, they will draw upon themselves the whole supernal soul of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation—to each and every soul, since the spiritual is indivisible. At that time: And YHWH shall be King over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). Hence, when even a single soul is denied total purity, the emanation of holiness is deficient within every soul of Israel. And when a single soul of Israel is purified of all her filth, she draws upon herself every facet of the soul of Atsilut, Emanation, and through this, perfects the souls of the entire generation. This is the meaning of one being dependent on the other, as is written, “There is one amongst you who is worthy that the Shekhinah should rest on him, but his generation does not merit it” (BT Sanhedrin 11a).
The content of the words is entirely bewildering: the same soul that was rewarded with purification immediately strives to increase the favor of the generation and receive for them, until she elevates the entire generation to her degree. This is the meaning of “Moses is equal to 600,000.” Because he is their Faithful Shepherd, he possesses the same holiness as that of the entire generation. Understand this.
Indeed, the whole is found within each and every בְּחִינָה (beḥinah), facet, since in the end, all the souls will unite into one facet, in the mystery of returning to their spiritual root.
Hence, all the miracles and wonders and journeys they experienced throughout the world during six thousand years must be experienced by every individual. The good soul attracts to herself every בְּחִינָה (beḥinah), aspect, of holiness, before and after. The bad soul acts to the contrary. And the mystery of the changing times are regarded as “generations.” However, each generation acts as its own judge, according to the intellect that judges it, since it receives from the holiness of that time. Therefore, anyone is capable of attracting the souls of Moses, Aaron, Samuel, David, and Solomon.
At the time of the exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah, the soul of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, appeared. And in the seven conquests, the soul of Joshua, and in the building of the Temple, the soul of King Solomon. Understand this. This does not refer to the aforementioned individual souls, but rather according to the rule that we said before, that the spiritual is indivisible. When one is rewarded with a soul, immediately he is rewarded with the soul of the whole of Israel, according to his merit and position however. Hence, at a time when he is rewarded with these wonders, he receives within himself the abundance of the soul in that disclosure, hence the name of the master of that disclosure is upon him, literally.
They said, “All of Israel are sons of kings” (BT Shabbat 67a; Bava Metsi’a 113b). And also, “A king that dies, all of Israel are worthy of kingship” (JT Horayot 3:5). This is a great mystery, for in all the previous generations, which were but a preparation, special vessels of kingship were required for anointment of their judges, such as the souls of Moses and Samuel and so forth. But the ultimate purpose depends on the whole of Israel, since when even a fraction of a spark is missing, the end cannot be revealed. Hence, all of Israel are worthy of kingship, since everyone is truly equal from this point of view [cf. democracy].
For this reason, there is no special vessel for drawing down that perfection, but anyone who cleanses and purifies himself is worthy of drawing down the revelation of מַלְכוּת (malkhut), Kingship, in the world and will be called King David—literally. This is the mystery of [Sanctification of the Moon:] “David, King of Israel lives and will endure” (BT Rosh ha-Shanah 25a), for he has not died at all. And his vessel is found within each and every person of Israel. This is not so with the soul of Moses, which is found only among the wise disciples of the generation, as well as in prophets and priests. And this is the mystery of “A king that dies, all of Israel are worthy of kingship.”
This is also the mystery of “He fulfills on behalf of the many” (M Rosh ha-Shanah 2:5) [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 33b]. And the matter of “In the footsteps of the Messiah impudence will increase” (BT Sotah 49a); The lad shall lord it over the elder, and the worthless over the honored (Isaiah 3:5)—even a proud child will dare to draw down His kingship to the world, as though he were one of the elders and the honorable of the generation. Should the worthless, too—one who has a lowly and deplorable soul at his root—aim his heart and purify his deeds to become worthy, he shall be rewarded with drawing down the entire soul of a holy nation in his soul, with all the wonders that the holy nation has experienced so far.
This is because they were all but preparation for this perfection. Hence, even that individual soul must experience [lit., taste] everything, and he will acquire his world in an hour [cf. M Avot 4:22: “(Rabbi Ya’aqov) used to say: Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than all the life in the world to come. Better one hour of bliss in the world to come than the whole life of this world”; BT Berakhot 17a: “May you see your world in your lifetime”]. This is due to the ability of that generation to drawn down the crown of His kingship, blessed be He, which includes the whole: “All are dependent on the master of wheat [i.e., the master of Torah who knows how to determine authentic traditions]” (BT Berakhot 64a–b; Bava Batra 145a–b), and each and every element is bound to him. Understand this.
And this is as they said, “Even if one man came before his Master in complete repentance, King Messiah would come immediately.” Meaning that whoever it is, even if it is only one man in the generation who is rewarded with drawing down that soul to himself, he is able to reward his entire generation, since all who are bound, “fulfill on behalf of the many,” and he can increase prayer and remain steadfast until he rewards his entire generation. This is not so with regards to other redemptions, which were only in the form of preparations and did not belong to one and all. For example, the giving of the Torah belongs only to the generation of the wilderness and to Moses. However, any other generation, even if they were more worthy, would not affect this, and neither did any other person besides Moses, for this depends on that. Yet, the Messiah is prepared for every generation. Therefore, it is possible for each and every person to draw down the Messiah, as in “all who are bound,” as was said before. And the reason is that anointments concern the תִקּוּן הַכֵּלִים (tiqqun ha-kelim), repair of the vessels, but the image of all the vessels is equal, since any division between them is only in their wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, according to their qualities. Hence, from the prince who sees the King’s face to the one who sits behind the millstones (Exodus 11:5), all are equal servants in restoring the former glory, and in that, there is no distinction between one and his fellow.