This post is dedicated to the memory of the three Jewish youths murdered in Eretz Yisrael – Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach. May HaShem comfort their families in their time of mourning and bring about justice on their behalf.
Something Required of the Soul
The year was 2005. I was a senior in high school and very active in multiple Christian ministries, but despite that, one of my very best friends was a Pakistani Muslim. One day during lunch period, my Muslim friend took a bite of food. As he chewed the food, he overhead someone saying that the meal for that day contained pork. As soon he heard this, his chewing stopped, his eyes grew large and he spit the food back onto his plate. This behavior was odd to me, as I didn’t understand Islam. I asked him what the problem was.
“Muslims aren’t allowed to eat pork. It’s against the Qur’an.”
This very simple statement floored me and flooded my veins with spiritual jealousy. The jealousy wasn’t necessarily about wanting to learn more about Islam but rather having a faith that required something of me. I expressed this jealousy to my Muslim friend. It was as though someone had flipped a switch inside me and just as he was spitting out food, I grew spiritually hungry.
“Doesn’t your Bible forbid you from consuming pork?”
“I don’t think so. I’m a Christian. All we pretty much have to do is believe.”
“Are you sure? I think it does.”
After that challenge, I set off on a quest to prove my Muslim friend wrong. That afternoon, I immersed myself in my Bible. What do you know? He was right – it did, as plain as day. Not only that, but it said that this commandment against eating unclean animals to be a statute that would remain forever.
That little story was just a bite-sized piece (no pun intended) of my move away from Christianity and towards Judaism. As a Christian, my soul felt incomplete. I always felt like there was something I needed to be doing in order to please my Creator. Little did I know that many years following that, a rabbi would explain this feeling of incompleteness as being the symptom of having an “ivri neshama” – a Hebrew soul. A Hebrew soul is hungry for the mitzvot – the commandments – of the Torah. Some people feel compelled by their own soul to keep the commandments of the Torah. Some simply do not. This doesn’t necessarily make them any more or less holy – it just makes them hungrier for the instructions given to Israel at Mount Sinai. This craving for distinctively Israelite commandments as a means of satisfying the appetite of soul is a sign that this person had an ivri neshama, a Hebrew soul, all along – simply trapped in a non-Jewish body.
“My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times.”
– Psalm 119:20
As human beings, we’re allowed to step out of our box and explore what food most feeds our spirit. Depending on what actually satiates our appetites speaks volumes about the identity of our souls.