The Mishna discusses the five (or six, depending on how you count!) restrictive practices of Yom Kippur:
יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים אָסוּר בַּאֲכִילָה וּבִשְׁתִיָּה וּבִרְחִיצָה וּבְסִיכָה וּבִנְעִילַת הַסַּנְדָּל וּבְתַשְׁמִישׁ הַמִּטָּה. וְהַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַכַּלָּה יִרְחֲצוּ אֶת פְּנֵיהֶם, וְהֶחָיָה תִנְעֹל אֶת הַסַּנְדָּל, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר, וַחֲכָמִים אוֹסְרִין
[On] Yom HaKippurim it is forbidden to eat, to drink, to wash, to anoint oneself, to put on sandals, or to have sexual intimacy. A king or bride may wash their face, and a woman after childbirth may put on sandals, the words of Rabbi Eliezer. But the sages forbid it.
עִנִּיתֶ֖ם אֶת־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶ֑ם – initem et nafsheikhem – (you shall) afflict your souls…
The Talmud then asks the question on the Mishna – where do these practices come from, since the Torah does not mention them?
אסור באכילה הני חמשה ענויין כנגד מי אמר רב חסדא כנגד ה' ענויין שבתורה ובעשור ואך בעשור שבת שבתון ושבת שבתון והיתה לכם
The mishna taught that as per the five prohibited activities on Yom Kippur it is prohibited to engage in eating and in drinking, and in bathing, and in smearing the body with oil, and in wearing shoes, and in sexual intimacy.
The Gemara asks: These five afflictions of Yom Kippur, to what do they correspond? Where is the Torah source or allusion to them?
Rav Ḥisda said: They are based on the five times that the afflictions of Yom Kippur are mentioned in the Torah. It is stated:
(1) “And on the tenth of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall afflict your souls” (Numbers 29:7);
(2) “But on the tenth of this seventh month is the day of atonement, it shall be a holy convocation for you and you shall afflict your souls” (Leviticus 23:27);
(3) “It shall be for you a Shabbat of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls (Leviticus 23:32);
(4) “It is a Shabbat of solemn rest [shabbaton] for you, and you shall afflict your souls” (Leviticus 16:31);
(5) “And it shall be a statute for you forever, in the seventh month on the tenth of the month, you shall afflict your souls” (Leviticus 16:29).
The Medieval Rabbi, Yaakov ben Asher (known as the Baal Haturim (Master of the Columns) – further interpreted that these five restrictive practices correspond to five times that “soul” is mentioned in the single passage about Yom Kippur, Levitcus 23:26-32:
וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃
The Divine spoke to Moses, saying:
אַ֡ךְ בֶּעָשׂ֣וֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ֩ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֨י הַזֶּ֜ה י֧וֹם הַכִּפֻּרִ֣ים ה֗וּא מִֽקְרָא־קֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם וְעִנִּיתֶ֖ם אֶת־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶ֑ם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֥ם אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַיהוָֽה׃
Mark, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall afflict your souls/nafshoteikhem, and you shall bring an offering by fire to the Divine;
וְכָל־מְלָאכָה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ בְּעֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה כִּ֣י י֤וֹם כִּפֻּרִים֙ ה֔וּא לְכַפֵּ֣ר עֲלֵיכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃
You shall do no work throughout that day, for it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the Divine your God.
כִּ֤י כָל־הַנֶּ֙פֶשׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־תְעֻנֶּ֔ה בְּעֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וְנִכְרְתָ֖ה מֵֽעַמֶּֽיהָ׃
Indeed, any soul/nefesh who does not practice self-denial throughout that day shall be cut off from their kin;
וְכָל־הַנֶּ֗פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר תַּעֲשֶׂה֙ כָּל־מְלָאכָ֔ה בְּעֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וְהַֽאֲבַדְתִּ֛י אֶת־הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַהִ֖וא מִקֶּ֥רֶב עַמָּֽהּ׃
And any soul/nefesh who does any work throughout that day, I will cause that soul/nefesh to perish from among their people.
כָּל־מְלָאכָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ חֻקַּ֤ת עוֹלָם֙ לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם בְּכֹ֖ל מֹֽשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶֽם׃
Do no work; it is a law for all time, throughout the ages in all your settlements.
שַׁבַּ֨ת שַׁבָּת֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם וְעִנִּיתֶ֖ם אֶת־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶ֑ם בְּתִשְׁעָ֤ה לַחֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ בָּעֶ֔רֶב מֵעֶ֣רֶב עַד־עֶ֔רֶב תִּשְׁבְּת֖וּ שַׁבַּתְּכֶֽם׃ (פ)
It shall be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls/nafshoteikhem; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall observe this your Sabbath..
The 16th century kabbalist, the Maharal of Prague, expanded on this idea even more by discussing the five different levels of the soul in Kabbalah, and how each level is made uncomfortable through one of the restrictive practices. This discomfort allows for a proactive disidentification from ego.
נפש Nefesh – “Soul” – dimension of our being that remains pure, as in the prayer Elohai Neshamah shenatati bi, tehorah hi – My God, the soul You place within me is pure. It is made uncomfortable through refraining from anointing.
רוחRuakh – “Wind” – lightness, lifting off the ground – made uncomfortable through not wearing shoes.
נשמהNeshamah – “Spirit-Breath” – known as the “Divine Lamp” (Proverbs 20:27). The “light” cannot shine through a dull vessel, and so is made uncomfortable through not bathing.
חיהHayah – “Life Force” – made uncomfortable through not eating and drinking.
יחידהYekhidah – “Oneness” – made uncomfortable through social refraining from sexual intimacy, as intimacy is “becoming one” with another.
These five levels of the soul correspond to five levels of experience:
נפש Nefesh – “Soul” – Sensory awareness
רוחRuakh – “Wind” – Emotion, mood
נשמהNeshamah – “Spirit-Breath” – Thought
חיהHayah – “Life” – Simple Aliveness
יחידהYekhidah – “Oneness” – Unity of Spacious Awareness with Form
Here is an example of how awareness of the five levels can be included in the Three Portals Practice:
Five Levels of Soul in the Three Portals:
רוח Ruakh – “Wind” – Emotion, Mood
(Bring right hand to heart, offering awareness as a gift)
נפש Nefesh – “Soul” – Sensory awareness
(Bring left hand to belly, bringing awareness into body)
(“We will do”)
נשמה Neshamah – “Spirit-Breath” – Thought
(Bring right hand to forehead, bring to mind awareness as field beyond the body)
חיה Hayah – “Life” – Simple Aliveness
(Notice that everything is perceived by this Simple Aliveness that you are)
יחידה Yekhidah – “Oneness” – Unity of Spacious Awareness with Form
(Notice that everything you perceive is also nothing but consciousness)
(“We will hear”)
Learn Integral Jewish Meditation
Get Free Guided Meditation Below:
Daily Meditation on Zoom and Live-Stream:
Experience our Growing Community Here