Sir David Attenborough is a celebrated expert on animal life and nature. His older brother Richard was a well-known actor. The British broadcaster has narrated dozens of films on everything from cuttlefish to coatis, offering in depth and fascinating insight to our planet’s complex ecosystem. He puts a special emphasis on appreciating the many creatures which play crucial roles in our planet’s survival, yet whose names most of us have never heard of. Despite their important roles, they remain largely invisible to us, deep in the sea or far in the jungle.

Similarly, on the values front, there's a world of 'open values' and a world of 'invisible values'. 'Open values' are clearly important and widely recognized, taking center stage in our minds and consciousness. We know bread should be fresh, fruit not spoiled and cars safe to drive. But the world of 'invisible values '- deeper, more fundamental ones - tend to seem invisible.

Corresponding to these worlds of 'open values' and 'invisible values', Jewish mysticism teaches that we each have two distinct parts of ourselves. One part is wired to be in touch with the 'open values', the other with the 'invisible values'.

These two parts are actually two distinct souls: An ‘animating (or animal) soul', and a 'G‑dly soul'. The animal soul is what gives us the energy and drive to eat, have fun and work. It’s called the animal soul because we find similar traits in many creatures. The animal soul is great with the world of ‘open values’ and can even grasp, for example, immensely complicated economic equations.

But when it comes to the invisible values, the animal soul's computing system can shut down. It can insist that the entire world came to be on its own, but would find it ridiculous to say that iPads came to be by simply materializing on Steve Jobs' desk in Cupertino. If one single iPad needs to be meticulously constructed by technology experts, how is it possible that the entire universe, which is infinitely more complex than an iPad, just came to be on its own? The animal soul just shrugs.

The G‑dly soul, however, is in a different league. While the animal soul is busy with where the next meal is coming from, the G‑dly wants to be part of something bigger. It wants to help others, make our world better and connect with G‑d through Torah and Mitzvot. For the G‑dly soul recognizes those 'invisible values' that the animal soul may gloss right over. It recognizes that there must be a creator in the world and strives to connect with that Creator.

While ‘open values’ are important, ‘invisible values’ are crucial as well. Although they may not be given much credit for underpinning much of the progress human beings have made over millennia, they play an outsized role. 

One of the creatures which David Attenborough covers are flying fish. These remarkable ocean dwellers have the ability to glide over the water for hundreds of feet, thereby escaping the tuna and others who’d love to have them for lunch. They need to be careful to not fly too high, however, as there are many birds who’d be very happy to have their prey leave the water instead of having to dive for them. The trick is finding that balance, not too high and not too low.

Both the animal soul and G‑dly soul bring unique abilities to the table which the other does not. Our mission in life is, like the flying fish, finding a harmonious balance between the two. The G‑dly soul helps maintain our core values and makes life meaningful and fulfilling, while the real-world smarts of the animal soul help ground that inspiration in reality.

Rabbi Avrohom