Kabbalah and Healing: The Healing of Body and Soul – Part 2 – Human Anatomy

The next stage of reflection upon the powers of the soul is to meditate on how classical Kabbalah relates these powers to aspects of the human anatomy. This identification of spiritual powers with limbs of the body illustrates the Kabbalistic idea of hitlabshut (“enclothment”), wherein a higher reality is vested in a lower one. In this instance, a power of the soul is the higher reality that is vested and expresses itself through the medium of a lower reality, such as a physical vessel like a limb or organ of the body.

It is important to note that in the traditional literature of Kabbalah great emphasis is placed on the correlation between the supernal sefirot and the physical limbs and organs of the human body, skipping directly from the plane of the Divine to the plane of the physical. Only at a later stage in the historical unfolding of the revelation of the Torah’s hidden wisdom, did the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples come to reveal and describe in detail the psychological correlates to both the supernal sefirot and their physical parallels. These psychological correlates serve as the spiritual intermediates by means of which the Divine sefirot may in fact become vested and reflected in the physical limbs of the body.

The correspondence presented in Kabbalah between the sefirot and the limbs of the body can be summarized as follows:

Sefirah

Corresponding part of the body

keter

crown

skull

chochmah

wisdom

brain [in particular, the right lobe of the brain]

binah

understanding

heart [related to the left lobe of the brain]

da’at

knowledge

rear lobe of the brain

chesed

loving-kindness

right arm

gevurah

might

left arm

tiferet

beauty

torso

netzach

victory

right leg

hod

thanksgiving

left leg

yesod

foundation

procreative organ

malchut

kingdom

mouth [also associated with the crown on the tip of the procreative organ]

Keter is manifest in the body as the skull. Just as a crown encircles the head, so is the skull the relatively inclusive crown found in the body itself. The skull further suggests the idea of placing a horizon on our field of conscious experience. By giving definition to the mind and limits on its ability to expand and inflate, consciousness is always surrounded by a border of unconscious experience that itself gives shape to consciousness.

Chochmah, of all the mental powers, is considered to be the essential mind or the “mind within the mind.” Consequently, binah relative to chochmah, in addition to referring to the heart itself (the physical seat of emotive experience born from the understanding of the mind), can be regarded as the relative “heart within the mind.” This distinction also plays itself out in the body, where chochmah is positioned in the right lobe and binah in the left lobe of the brain. The third additional element, da’at, is located in the rear lobe of the brain at the point where the brain meets the spine—the position of the occipital lobe.

With regard to the three emotive attributes of the heart, we find that the right arm embodies chesed and the left arm gevurah. This is alluded to in the verse, “His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me” and in the saying of our sages, “let the left arm push away and the right arm draw near.” To “push away” in this context means to disengage, granting the other party a sense of independence (before drawing him near). Similarly, the imagery of “his left arm is under my head” means that he nurtures my consciousness of self-independence (before embracing me with his right arm). The balancing position of beauty, that which ties in all the parts of the body in general and is centered between the arms in particular, is the torso.

Of the behavioral properties of the soul, those of netzach and hod correspond to the legs of the body. Legs represent the first and most continual contact with outer reality. Moreover, the legs facilitate the movement of the body as a whole, bringing a person where he wants to go. Netzach is the quality of putting “one’s best foot forward” in an assertive posture. Hod is the left leg, which keeps a person’s movement on course by monitoring and validating his assertive thrust. Finally, the property of yesod is referred to as the “sign of the Holy Covenant,” which corresponds to the male and female reproductive organs. Referred to as the “conclusion of the body,” yesod is the body’s physical manifestation of its own ability to actualize and fulfill itself, as well as to connect and communicate with others.

The last power of the soul is manifest in the mouth. Malchut (“kingdom”) is the domain of a person’s influence. As it is written, “The word of the king rules,” meaning that the extent of the king’s rule is marked by how far his word travels. The ability of the mouth to speak, to produce self-expression, is the power to affect one’s environment, one’s world.


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