Psalm 139


It was You who created my kidneys/conscience; You fashioned me in my mother’s womb. (139:13)

When your conscience tells you that you have done something wrong, where is the feeling located in your body? For me it is usually deep in my belly, but I can image that it is sometimes deep enough that it could be considered to be within my lower back, approximately around my kidneys where the Biblical writers imagined it to be. The human body is a miraculous organism. We are neither solely body nor solely mind, but a complex interaction of both. While Judaism absorbed the notion of an eternal soul, it never gave up on the sanctify of the embodied human being.

Being both soul and body, resurrection became a central tenet of Jewish thought. A body without a human soul is less than an animal, incapable of communication and emotion and connection to the world around it. A soul without a body could not exist. The Zohar envisions supernal bodiless angels dressing themselves in flesh as they descend into the world because things in this world need flesh to function.

At conception, a midrash teaches, the soul is placed in the fertilized drop. Over the next 40 weeks, the container for that soul is slowly built until it can survive independent of its mother. Over the next 25 years it continues to develop, first body and then finally brain, until it is physically mature. Over the next 60, 80, 100+ years the body slowly ages but the soul continues to grow. Sometimes the progression of death blocks the expression of the soul and sometimes body and soul continue to nurture each other right up until the moment that the heart stops beating, the lungs stops breathing, and the body “gives up the ghost,” to use the King James expression for the soul departing from the body.

Your body may be yours alone, physically disconnected from all others, but your soul is a part of the soul of all humanity. Lead a soulful life and when humanity is in pain, you will be in pain. Nourish your body with good nutrition and nourish your soul with an intellectual and spiritual life. Exercise your body and challenge your soul by struggling to understand something completely new to you. Lead a soulful life and when any portion of creation is shining brightly your being will shine as well.

2 thoughts on “Psalm 139

  1. Me thinks this what the major religions are talking about when they refer to “Eternal Life.” You (your soul) will live forever. So pick your future living circumstances: Heaven or Hell?

    I always have wondered –What happens to the souls of aborted babies?


    • You question would also apply to pregnancies that end in miscarriage or stillbirth. I can think of two possibilities off the top of my head:

      1. Souls which did not get a chance to be born are given another chance in a different body.
      2. Such souls go immediately to heaven, bypassing bodily existence.

      I prefer option 1, but I am not familiar with a source which answers your question, nor would I necessarily believe that such a source, if it does exist, is authoritative when speaking about matters of the world to come.


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