the soul with which You endowed me is pure.
You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me,and you protect it within me.
So long as this soul is within me, I will thank You, Adonai my God,
God of my ancestors, Source of all creation, Master of all souls.
We bless You, Adonai, in whose hands are the souls of all the living,and the spirit of all human beings.
What is your soul? The American Heritage Dictionary defines soul as: “The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity.” Encyclopedia Britannica describes the soul as: “the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being, that which confers individuality and humanity, often considered to be synonymous with the mind or the self.”
However you define the soul, do you ever question whether that essence in another human or yourself is good? Do you ever have those days where it feels like everything around you is rotten? It is often difficult to shake such feelings but Judaism provides us a beautiful tool to remind us of the purity of our soul and of all those around us. The Elohai N’shama prayer is great for connecting and reminding ourselves of the good within us and others.
“My God,” we call our attention to God and begin our prayer.
“the soul with which You endowed me is pure.” Just in case you ever begin to question it we remind ourselves daily that our soul is pure. This is to counter the idea that we are full of sin.
“You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me,and you protect it within me.” To remind ourselves of the purity of our souls we acknowledge that God created our soul and each and every day God protects that soul. Isn’t it a beautiful idea that you are pure to the core and that reminding yourself of your relationship with God strengthens your connection.
“So long as this soul is within me, I will thank You, Adonai my God,” Subtly we acknowledge that God can take away our soul, that someday we will die. But until then we will thank God for the essence of our being.
“God of my ancestors, Source of all creation, Master of all souls.” Here we acknowledge that God has given the souls to all my ancestors and we are all interconnected. Not only do our ancestors have souls but all of creation and God is in responsible for it all. Seems to be the classic Rabbinic trick of making sure you realize that you are worthy (you have a pure soul) but you should temper that with the fact that you are no different from anyone else (you are just one of creation and God is Master of your soul).
“We bless You, Adonai, in whose hands are the souls of all the living,and the spirit of all human beings.” This then turns the prayer that was focused on us as individuals and ends it in a communal blessing. Traditionally, this part of the prayer acknowledges that God is so powerful that can resurect us and give us new souls. The idea of resurection seems so foreign to us that we even remove it from the prayer. However, for a good many people it is comforting to know that after we die our souls will be connected and resurected.
Try the prayer. Try to say it each day in the morning. Maybe the positive outlook will cause positive things to happen in your day. Maybe by acknowledging that every person’s soul is pure you will be able to look at each person you meet in a different way.