The Kabbalah of the Neck

The Kabbalah of the Neck

From an engineering point of view, there seems to be something illogical about the way the human body is constructed.

We have this thing called a “head.” Housing the brain, as well as the organs which facilitate sight, hearing, speech and the ingestion of food and oxygen, the head is obviously a crucial piece of machinery.
Why not put this crtical piece of machinery in a more protected place, deep within the body’s bulk?
Yet it is perched precariously atop the body, joined to it via a narrow, vulnerable passage. Would it not have been more judicious to place this critical component in a more protected place, perhaps somewhere deep within the body’s bulk?

On the other hand, if, for whatever reason, it is deemed desirable for the head to be distinct from the body, then perhaps it should have been made an entirely separate entity. We might then have carried our head around in our hands or in a shoulder bag, from where it would communicate with the body via wireless signals. Or we might leave it at home–safe, secluded and aloof in a high tower overlooking the city as we went about our daily scrambles.

Why, then, the neck? Why join the head to the body in such a way that its severance or blockage would spell the person’s demise, and then make that juncture so vulnerable to attack by sword, noose and sundry other implements? Is this some obsolete design quirk, like the layout of the QWERTY keyboard?


The Chassidic masters explain that the body’s physical form actually reflects deeper truths about the spiritual functions of its various parts.

The Chassidic masters explain that the body’s physical form reflects deeper truths about the spiritual functions of its various parts The head is much more than a life-sustaining organ. It is the seat of consciousness, the source of vision and guidance, the implementer of the soul’s will. The head must therefore exist apart from and aloof of the body. Were it to be imbedded within the body proper, it would be too much a part of it to fill its role as the body’s leader and guide.

On the other hand, if the head were to be completely separate and detached from the person–if the body was basically receiving instructions from somewhere outside itself–such instructions would not have much true influence. We would relate to these “instructions” as some sort of external force, not something that comes from within us and truly addresses our existence.

The truly effective leader is both aloof and involved, detached and integrally connected, a cut above but also deeply dependent upon its bond with the entity it leads. And because such is the head’s relationship with the body in the conceptual-spiritual sense, this dynamic is reflected in the body’s physical form as well.

It is the neck that makes the head a head In other words, it is the neck that makes the head a head. The connection it creates, and the very vulnerability of that connection, is what makes the head simultaneously one with the body and distinct from it.


Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you went out of Mitzrayim (Egypt); that he encountered you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; he did not fear G-d…. Do not forget. (“Zachor” reading, Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

The Hebrew name Mitzrayim (“Egypt”) means “narrow passage.” Thus the Chassidic masters explain the spiritual significance of Amalek: “Amalek” is the enemy that attacks the soul where it is most vulnerable, in the “narrow passage of the neck.”

Amalek is the voice of doubt, the chill of apathy, the self-destructive inclination for sub-rational ennui Amalek is the voice of doubt, the chill of apathy, the self-destructive inclination for sub-rational ennui. The head knows that something is the right thing to; but before this knowledge can translate into passion and action, a little evil voice inside us whispers, “so what?” The head knows that there’s a G-d in the world, that there’s a purpose to life, that meaningfulness and happiness is achieved by fulfilling one’s purpose; to which Amalek responds, “so what?”

Amalek does not attack the head–the head knows the truth and is impervious to Amalek’s falsity. Amalek does not attack the body–a body that is joined to its head and follows its lead can resist Amalek’s corrupting influence. Instead, Amalek attacks the neck: the juncture itself, the connection of the head’s knowledge to the body’s wiles and needs. It blocks the “narrow passage of the neck,” thereby subverting the soul’s “objectivity”–its ability to stand outside of itself to apprehend transcendent truths, so that it can then impart them to the subjective self–and recasting it as an Amalekite indifference.


The soul has one defense against Amalek: its supra-rational faith, its primal memory of its bond with G-d
Amalek is an insidious enemy. The intellect cannot combat it, for Amalek operates under its radar. Feelings cannot be mobilized against it, for Amalek freezes the heart with the chill of its indifference. But the soul has a defense against Amalek: its supra-rational reserves of faith, its primal memory of its bond with G-d.

Remember what Amalek did to you… Do not forget. With the soul’s power of memory, Amalek can be repelled and defeated.

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