This Shabbat falls on May 5th, celebrated by many as Cinco de Mayo, commemorating a great battle of the Mexicans against the French, and generally observed today as a celebration of all things Mexican. We did go with Mexican flag colors for the tablecloths at Shabbat dinner, and added some Mexican twists (salsified Gefilte Fish, nice fresh guac, taco seasoning on the chicken and fajita on the rice etc) but the focus we’re going with is Cinco de Neshamo or 5th Level of the Soul. Neshama is one of the words for soul.
According to Kabbalah and Chassidus, the soul has 5 levels, and the 5th level is its quintessential, highest, innermost level, our core identity. The technical term for this 5th level is “Yechidah” but it may be better know as “Pintele Yid” or Jewish spark, or pilot flame. It’s the indestructible inner core, a tucked away microchip, hidden so deeply within that we often don’t even know it is there, but sometimes a raw nerve strikes it right and it is revealed in all of its glory. Sometimes its a visit to the Kotel, or a raw act of local antisemitism, something deeply penetrating, that opens up that hidden buried core inside.
There’s a lot to be said about this Yechidah level of the soul, but for now let’s focus on how it is reflected in the three colors of the Mexican flag: Red, Green and White.
Usually, think of red, green and another color – and yellow comes to mind. Traffic lights are a universal symbol, everyone knows that green means go, red means stop and yellow is some form of caution (some speed up, others slow down). Most of the time with traffic lights, it is either red or green, it is unusual to make it through a bunch of yellow lights. But in life it is different. Most of our lives are the figurative yellow light – unclear, indecisive, gray areas that don’t decide things for you.
With much of 5 soul levels it is the same way. There’s a lot of ambiguity, nuance, complex decisions. But not with the 5th level of the soul. Once Yechidah is in play (which isn’t all that often), once that core identity shines bright, there’s revealed clarity and focus in an incredibly sharp way, we know with certainty what is in and what is out. The reds and greens are clear. No yellow. In fact, instead of yellow it is white, which represents purity, holiness, surrender and subservience to that which is above us.