What’s the purpose of our souls descending into this physical world?
Before we are born, we are just souls. Then we are born and our souls enter physical bodies. And then we die and our souls leave the bodies. If they’re right back where they started, why bother?
To top it all off, when the messiah comes, the dead will be resurrected. In other words, the souls will return to earth and occupy their former bodies once again. What’s the point of all this space-time soul travel?
Beis Hillel teaches that one may not immerse a utensil in the mikvah for purification purposes on Shabbos. People, however, may immerse themselves on Shabbos.
Rava explains that immersing a utensil on Shabbos is like repairing it. Yesterday you couldn’t use it, today following immersion you would be able to and so you’re effectively repairing it. Since repairing utensils is generally forbidden on Shabbos and this seems like a kind of repair job, it is prohibited to immerse the utensil.
How about people? They are also repaired by immersing in the mikvah!
The Talmud answers that when you see someone immersing themselves, you don’t automatically think, ‘Oh, he’s doing a repair job.’ Instead, the immediate reaction is ‘Looks like he’s cooling down.’
Repairing ourselves on Shabbos is not forbidden because we must always work on fixing ourselves. We were placed into this world to repair the world and ourselves. The first act performed on a baby – the bris – is a repair job that signals to the child that life in this world is about constantly thinking ‘how can I repair myself? How can I mend my ways? How can I become a more complete vessel for G-dliness than yesterday?’
Sometimes you repair yourself quietly, privately. Other times, you might feel the need to make a more public statement of your new commitment. For example, for years maybe you generally didn’t get to shul on time. But then one day you decide to turn over a new leaf and all of a sudden, you are now the first one there each morning.
How do people react to the new you? When people see you working on repairing yourself, their reaction should be ‘Looks like he was cooling down’ in his spiritual fervor and so he’s doubled and redoubled his efforts for G-d.
The reason our souls descend into the physical world is in order to grow spiritually. The hope is that when they return to Heaven they will be stronger and greater than prior to their descent. By doing G-d’s will in this world, by constantly working on improving ourselves and the world in which we live, the soul attains greater levels of spirituality.
But the soul can’t do it alone. Without the body, it would stagnant. It would be stuck in a certain spiritual plane, unable to go anywhere. With the help of the body, the soul achieves greatness.
That’s why the ultimate reward will be for the reunited body and soul. Since they worked in tandem to achieve spiritual greatness, they both deserve to be rewarded. And so when the messiah comes, the soul will once again descend into this physical world. This time, however, it will be for good. The partners who worked together to serve the Almighty – the soul together with its body – will be rewarded for all eternity.
You were placed into this world to improve yourself. Your job is to repair the vessel and make it a receptacle for G-dliness. Every day, you must ask yourself ‘How am I better today than I was yesterday? Am I passionate about my Divine mission, or am I cooling down?’ Every day that is not an improvement over yesterday is a missed opportunity in your mission on earth!