Heredity [#1987]

Question:

Are there rules which explain why a person would have a similar nature to his father’s as opposed to his mother’s, and vice versa? I am referring to the personality of one’s nefesh habehaimis (‘animal’ soul), as well as one’s neshamah, as well as the arrangement of the four elements of one’s soul [fire, wind, water, earth]. Also, if one’s father and mother have very different natures, will this cause contradictions in the soul of the child? Will one aspect of the father or mother’s nature be more dominant in the child? Will the different natures of the father and mother turn into a harmonious balance in the child’s personality, or will the different natures become a bothersome mixture within the child’s personality? And [if this indeed creates problems for the child], how will the child be able to deal with it? Also, does the nature of a grandparent also influence the grandchild’s soul, even if the grandparent’s nature did not contribute to the child’s father or mother?

Answer:

A person receives from his father and mother a “garment” (levush) for his soul, and not his actual G-dly soul (nefesh Elokus). As for one’s animal soul (nefesh habehaimis), this can also stem from the soul of one’s father and mother, and it can also stem from the light of one’s neshamah which has been breathed into him by HaKadosh Baruch Hu. From the viewpoint of one’s neshamah, the parts of one’s nefesh habehaimis are part of the light of the neshamah. However, since there is an admixture of the father and mother’s personality in the soul of the child, there are now “three partners”, and for this reason, many contradictions are formed in one’s soul. This “partnership” of the different aspects of the father’s and mother’s personality will affect the child based on the quality of the union between the father and mother. Therefore, the shaping of a child’s personality is affected by the environment time, and the state of the soul of the parents, at the time of union.

The elements of wind and water in one’s soul mainly come from the soul of the father, for the Gemara [Niddah 31a] says that the father contributes to the “whitening” of the child [which refers to the elements of water and wind, which are colorless and hence they are closer to the color white], whereas the elements of fire and earth in one’s soul mainly come from the soul of the mother, for the Gemara says that the mother contributes to the “reddening” of the child [this refers to the elements of fire and earth, which are denser and hence they are closer to the color red]. The distribution of these elements in the child’s soul will also depend on the dominance of these elements during the time of the parents’ union, for the Gemara says that in certain instances the father will fertilize first, and in other instances the mother will fertilize first. The stronger their connection at the time of the union, the more of an admixture of elements there will be in the shaping of the child’s personality. The same is true vice versa: if one of them is far more dominant than the other at the time of union, this is like a state of war, and this is the implication of the term of the Gemara, “children borne out of hatred.”

The nature of the grandparents can contribute to a grandchild’s personality, even if the personality of the parent was not affected by the grandparent. This is because the personality makeup of the grandparent still exists in potential form within the parent’s soul.

All of these factors together contribute to the makeup of one’s soul, and therefore, there is a complicated process of “clarifying” that one needs to go through in order to become clear about the nature of his soul: What his most dominant nature is, what his second-to-most dominant nature is, etc. In addition, this clarification process also affects the order of steps that one needs to traverse in his personal avodah.

However, it should be noted that all of this does not change one’s avodah. Rather, the role of this clarification process is so that one can gain a proper self-concept, and become aware of the admixture of aspects that exist within his soul, which have become ‘added’ onto his soul. These ‘added’ factors onto one’s soul have either become one’s second-to-most dominant aspect of personality, or third-to-most dominant, or fourth-to-most dominant, etc.