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Read This First

Part 1:

Part 2:
Secrets of the Married Soul

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

   Chapter 4:
Clothing of the Soul

Chapter 5:

Chapter 6:
Bitterness and Depression

Chapter 7:
Criticism The Acid that Eats Away Love

Chapter 8:

Chapter 9:
The Mitzvos of Mikveh

Chapter 10:

Chapter 11:
Ahavas Yisroel But We Are Married


The Second Ladder Up
Secret Steps to a Happy Jewish Marriage

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

Chapter 4:
Clothing of the Soul

R. L. Kremnizer

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The human soul is made up of ten levels. Three are intellectual, seven emotional. The three which are intellectual are chochma, binah and daas (see Chapter 2) and represent three out of the ten levels (see Chapter 3). The remaining seven levels are levels of emotion and the main three of these are chesed (kindness), gevurah (strictness) and tiferes (compassion/perfection) (see also Chapter 3).

These ten levels of the soul are called the ten sefiros and exist because they mirror ten levels in G-dliness. It is this fact that causes the Torah to describe man as having been created in the likeness of G-d.

Since every person has a soul it is a wonder that our society spends so little time in trying to understand something about its make-up. It is even more of a wonder in relation to a married couple that the parties remain oblivious to the fact that since they are both parts of the one soul, these ten general levels are deeply personally relevant.

A human being needs clothing for the obvious two reasons of modesty and warmth.

As will be repeated many times in this book, everything in the physical realm is a result and a reflection of that which exists in the spiritual realm. The fact that a person needs clothing is a reflection of a spiritual need of the soul. Because the soul has clothing, the body needs clothing. An animal has a life force without clothing and therefore the animal does not need clothing.

In a human being the clothing of the soul takes three separate levels:[17]

thought, speech and action each more remote than the one before.

Thought is the most inner garment, with speech the next, and action the most extraneous garment. This is a fundamental reality which, without Chassidus and Torah training, makes for lifelong confusion. Until a person learns to understand that his essential make-up is clothed in these three levels of thought, speech and action, he does not understand how to utilize these three levels of garments and in fact learn to change them.

Changing the garments of the soul is available to everybody. Although the most inner garment of thought is continuous (we even think uninterruptedly while asleep, dreaming) the content of what a person thinks about is in fact under his control. It is an astonishing thing to most beginners in Chassidus to learn that the content of their thought process is entirely a matter of free choice. So although a person cannot choose whether he thinks or not, what he thinks about remains his prerogative. There is a wonderful story of a chassid who complained to his Rebbe of being plagued by foreign and mundane thoughts entering his davening. The Rebbe sent him on a long and arduous journey to meet a person who would teach him the great skills of holiness while praying. The chassid arrived at his destination in the dead cold of late night and banged repeatedly on the door with no success at entry despite the householder's obvious presence. When he was finally given entry in the morning, the owner of the house explained to him that as he was the master of his house, he chose who could enter and who could not, and when they could enter and when not. The chassid then understood that a person is equally a gate-keeper to his thoughts.

The second level of garment is speech. Speech is a revelation of one's thought process and too can be controlled. We will see elsewhere (Chapter 7) that speech is a very great power in creation both negative and positive. We will see later that a husband and wife can effect not only their relationship but their lives by speech. Meanwhile it is sufficient to understand that speech (being a more extraneous garment), although a revelation of thought, is more easily within the control of the speaker. Both the quantity and content of the speech are totally within the domain and free choice of a person.

Finally, action is the most obvious of the three garments because it is the most external. It is therefore most easily controlled. It is no surprise to most people that their actions can be controlled, although the media and some modern foolish belief systems would have the populace believe that often a person "simply couldn't help it". Nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that action, like speech and thought, can be controlled and controlled absolutely. There is no such thing as "couldn't help it". There is no true concept that it was "bigger than both of us". A person forges an action because he chooses to do so. Equally a person refrains from action because he chooses to do so.

As explained briefly in Chapter 3, emotions are fixed and those levels of the soul which are referable to emotion cannot be changed in most people (tzaddikim are an exception).[18] In ordinary people, the soul makes the descent into a body with a pre-determined spiritual DNA. That spiritual DNA is made up of the three intellectual levels of chochma, binah and daas, and seven levels of emotion (as explained earlier). These ten levels of the soul remain immutable but it's garments (thought, speech and action) can and often must be changed.

One of the tests of any spiritual growth is the extent to which these garments are examined and, where necessary, changed. The Rebbe often spoke of people not necessarily being the age on their passport. The implication is that some people achieve spiritual growth commensurate with their years and some do not. Spiritual growth involves the ability to understand one's intellectual and emotional make-up and choose appropriate garments to enclothe that essence. Often, if this is achieved, the result of this will be that it will seem, at least to the outside world, that the person has in fact changed his intellectual and or emotional essence.

For example, let us suppose that a man is an incorrigible miser. When asked for charity he is in literal pain at the thought of donation. Giving away his money is more difficult than tearing away his flesh. His greatest joy is to hoard his wealth, secrete it from the rest of the world and quietly pore over it, licking his mental chops at each and every glinting coin and strangely beautiful colored note. Now let us suppose that this miser realizes that this trait (which he cannot help as it is part of his emotional spiritual DNA) is ugly, cruel and contrary to his religious belief system. Let us further suppose that every day of his life, no matter how painful it is, he makes it his business to give charity in an apparently generous manner. It becomes known that every beggar that goes to him, leaves rewarded; it becomes known of him that every institution for the poor or deprived is supported by him. At no time is the pain of giving lessened; the action of giving is pure duty. Now when that man dies and is buried in the cemetery, he will be remembered as a generous donor of charity. The question is, was he really? The answer to that is that the question is irrelevant. In terms of his emotional make-up, the man is a miser. Of what importance is that to anybody other than him and G-d? In real life he is a hero. He has thought out the necessity for change and actualized this necessity by the physical fact of repeatedly giving charity at generous levels. He has clothed his miserly tendencies with generous garments. The example holds true across the whole spectrum of the soul's garments.

Just as one can change one's actions, one can change the next inner garment of speech. If tempted to shame or degrade, one can desist and hold one's tongue.

On an even more sophisticated level, one can train oneself to control one's thoughts, and by so doing even influence mood (see Chapter 6).

What does all of this have to do with marriage? The answer to this is everything. Two people contract to live together for a lifetime. They know in advance that they are going to spend a lifetime peppered with joy, pain, wealth, poverty, strength, frailty. They know that they are going to have intellectual and emotional needs and equipment to deal with those needs. No matter how negative any of those needs may be however, they have the power to change the garments that they wear with each other. Each party to the marriage has the ability to control the way they behave. At a deeper level, each party to the marriage has the ability to control they way they speak to each other. At the deepest level, each party to the marriage has the ability to think out for themselves that the negatives of their partner are not important in the scheme of things, and the positives of their partner are worth appreciating. Husband and wife can act, speak and think supportively and with loyal appreciation of each other because they can control this. Even if none of these things come to a person naturally a great life skill is the laundering and arranging of these garments.

It should give a person great confidence to know that irrespective of whether he is stupid or clever, passionate or quiet, kind or severe, giving or selfish (all immutable essences of the soul) he still can change the way that combination thinks, speaks and acts. If a person has the will (and nothing stands in the way of will) he can achieve a level of thought, speech and action that is entirely satisfying to his spouse and to himself. In a marriage where there is real shalom bayis (peace in the house) the parties have learned either instinctively for the lucky few, or with education for the greater majority, to launder and beautify their thought, speech and actions, discarding the soiled and ugly for the fresh and attractive.



  1. (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 4.

  2. (Back to text) See above footnote 14.

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