At a birthday party this past week, another parent was helping his kid and said something along the lines of, “The most important part of your body is …” and was waiting for someone to say brain. He’s a neurologist so that would likely have been the most obvious answer. But before he could finish his sentence I responded, “The soul, the soul is the most important part of the body, doctor.” And he laughed and challenged me to a debate. Instead we ate pizza and a fire truck cake but it has been on my mind ever since.
Technically I am not sure that I would say that the soul is a part of the body, rather that it is a complementary element to the body as long as we are living. A fundamental Jewish belief expressed in the book of Kohelet is that when we die our body returns to the earth and our soul returns to God who gave it. The Talmud explains it, “When the time arrives for a person to depart from this world, God takes God’s part back and leaves the parts contributed by the parents.”
In our tradition it is the soul, not the brain or heart, which is the seat of reasoning, curiosity, innovation, intuition, emotion and awe. It is what makes us who were are and brings the spark of the divine into our bodies.
They might revoke my chaplain privileges at the hospital for saying it, but the brain is secondary. God forms human beings from the dust of earth, and then blows into our bodies the soul of life.