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The Keys to Life

The Effect of Colors on the Human Psyche - Rabbi Zamir Cohen

What color are you particularly drawn to? What does that imply about you? Why is green the color of the plant world? In a fascinating article Rabbi Zamir Cohen expounds on the impact of the different colors on our personalities, based on Torah sources

The Effect of Colors on the Human Psyche - Rabbi Zamir Cohen

From the outset, the human soul can sense the root sources of the various colors within the spiritual systems, as discussed in this chapter. For this reason, the colors in a person’s environment affect his mood.

Studies have recently found that the involuntary part of the human nervous system is composed of two opposing systems. The first is the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the body’s fight-or-flight response. When a person is frightened, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and arouses a sense of stress and urgency. The second system, the parasympathetic nervous system, allows the body to rest and recharge. It has also been discovered that the first system mainly responds to red-colored stimuli, while the second one mainly responds to blue stimuli. When a person looks at a red surface, he stimulates his sympathetic nervous system, which prompts the body to exert effort. This stimulation is intensified when the person is suddenly exposed to a red light. If a person sits in a dark room and suddenly has a red light shining in front of him, his blood pressure rises, his breathing rate increases, and he experiences palpitations. But when he’s exposed to a blue light, the result is completely different.[1]

It has also been found that people who are drawn to the color red will generally have a hard time tolerating it for too long. If they sit for a few hours in a room where red is the dominant color, they will become agitated. Similarly, those who have an affinity toward blue will begin to feel uncomfortable when exposed to it for a long period of time. A blue environment generates a certain coldness that may make a person feel drowsy. Even staying in a room where white is the dominant color will cause a person to feel overwhelmed by the intense light. On the other hand, black, which possesses the quality of absorption, produces an atmosphere of gravity and seriousness. This is why the traditional attire of people who hold important decision-making positions, which require a certain level of seriousness, such as judges, adjudicators, and heads of government, is black. However, a room that is entirely black emits a depressing atmosphere that takes the joy out of life.

Greens and blues impart a soothing and pleasant atmosphere, especially when they are close to one another. Therefore, natural places of abundance (which have the attribute of kindness) are usually covered in green, and bodies of water transform into blue. Therefore, the blue-green natural expanses spread before us on the bottom, while a blue canopy extends on top. All of this occurs as part of the Divine approach by the Creator to bestow good onto all His creations. Can you imagine how we would feel if leaves, branches, tree trunks, grass, oceans, rivers, and all the other elements of nature were red? Many medical settings have learned to appreciate the soothing effect of green; medical staffs wear green scrubs and walls are often painted similarly, all in order to promote relaxation.

The benefits of the natural colors can also be used to help the mentally ill. This can be achieved by taking daily nature walks with a patient and talking to him about his interests. Nature-related activities together with pleasurable and relaxing conversations can balance the spirit and accelerate healing.[2]

A Person’s Affinity toward a Certain Color

There are good reasons why certain people are attracted to certain colors while others are attracted to different ones. Each individual gravitates toward a specific color based on his spiritual state. It may even be possible to evaluate a person psychologically based on the color he’s attracted to. The fact that a man would choose to buy a shiny bright red car instead of one painted mellow blue is no accident.

As a general rule, men and women have different color preferences. The woman is more drawn toward vibrant, red-toned colors, while men prefer calmer blue shades. This is because in the upper realms, the root of the female is situated on the left—the channel of the Spheres of Judgment, while the root of the male is located on the right, the channel of the Spheres of Kindness.[3]

When an adult man has an obvious tendency toward red, it shows that he is prone to sentimentality and other traits not typically characteristic of most men. This kind of person may encounter hardships and suffer from such tendencies in various areas in his life, as the role of the man is different than the role of the woman in this world. Therefore, he must learn to balance himself in the proper way.[4]

On the other hand, when a woman is inclined toward red, it is not a flaw in any way, as both man and woman received specific roles unique to him or her, similar to soldiers who serve in different military units—they are all important and necessary in order to execute their mission. Some belong to the Marines, while others are part of the Armored Corps. Therefore, the woman can use her inclination toward colorful shades in the most optimal way while properly maintaining her spirituality. She must be very careful, however, of standing out in an immodest way and causing people to stumble, G-d forbid, by wearing red or any other color that attracts the eye. (Further reading on this topic can be found in HaTzofen in the chapter on the letter hey. A section in this chapter discusses the reason why the letter yud is present in the word ish (man) and why hey is present in the word ishah (woman). It talks about each person’s special talents and their roles in the world, how they complement each other and merge into one being. Moreover, according to the mystics, the woman is naturally more spiritual than the man and can attain her spiritual perfection easier. This is why she is not obligated to observe the positive mitzvot that are contingent on time.)[5]

The difference between kindness and judgment, left and right, blue and red, all of which make up the secret of the male and female roots, can even be seen in how people relate to babies; baby boys are dressed in light blue, while baby girls are dressed in pink—a softer form of red.

The Significance of Colors in Jewish Law

In light of everything that was discussed in this chapter regarding the roots of the colors within the spiritual system, we can now gain greater insight in understanding the reason for the restrictions the Torah imposes on us for our own good. For example, we were commanded in the Torah, “Do not cook a goat in its mother’s milk.”[6] The prohibition of combining meat and milk does not only pertain to eating them together, it also pertains to cooking them together. One of the mysteries behind this prohibition relates to this discussion.

Every element in the physical world is connected to its spiritual source. This is true for the human being in particular. As the crown jewel of creation, the human being is compared to a ladder that is situated on the ground while its top reaches the heavens. Every positive or negative action that man performs down here on earth is prompted in the upper realms as well. Therefore, a person who cooks meat with milk (meat is judgment, which is why it is red, and milk is kindness, which is why it is white) forms a “short circuit” in the upper worlds, causing damage and spiritual destruction that radiates onto the whole of creation. On the other hand, before we make a blessing over wine during the Kiddush, it is best to mix the wine with water in order to sweeten the judgments with kindness. (Like meat, wine is also rooted in judgment, but wine is a lighter, more delicate form of it as its root comes from the world of vegetation. On the other hand, the root of water is kindness, but it is softer and more delicate than milk, which comes from animals.)

The reason for this connection is because of the ranking system that exists in the “Hierarchy of Judgments,” and its corresponding revelation in the physical world. These are the levels of hierarchy: absolute prohibition, prohibition only under special circumstances, and permissibility.

The consumption of blood is absolutely forbidden, which is why it is not enough to eat meat that was slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law—where the blood is removed more efficiently than other slaughtering processes around the world—but it must also be salted or roasted until the blood is fully removed. (This is in direct opposition to white milk, which is also a product of an animal, yet is allowed to be consumed.) Even though meat is red, it may still be consumed but it must be eaten without milk; red wine, whose root comes from the world of vegetation, is permitted. Moreover, it is best to mix the wine with water (which is clear), as it is rooted in the Sphere of Kindness. This may be done in order to sweeten the judgments with kindness.

The efficacious implications of observing the laws, which were set by the Creator of the universe in accordance with the spiritual roots of the creation that He has created, are clearly apparent in the physical realm as well. Studies show that the blood of meat becomes quickly infected and spoils fast due to the proliferation of bacteria. Therefore, the meat of an animal that was slaughtered and salted according to Jewish law preserves its freshness more than other meat. So relative to other meats, the chances of kosher meat being detrimental to one’s health are highly improbable.[7]

The Various Colors of the Human Body and Their Meaning

The majority of the human body is composed of white bones covered by red flesh. Thus, the human being is made up of an inner layer of kindness and an outer encasing of judgment. It is remarkable, however, that it is the white bones in particular that produce red blood. This shows us that from a spiritual perspective, judgments always derive from kindness. The properties of judgment, which cause suffering in the world, originate from a graciousness that resembles the attribute of kindness. It is through judgment and hardship that man is cleansed from his sins and can elevate himself to have the proper outlook on the purpose of life.

As it says, “Hashem [attribute of mercy]—He is the G-d [attribute of judgment]!”[8] The judgment itself is the mercy.

However, the function of the red blood cells is to protect the body against harmful pathogens. The red blood cells supply nutrients and oxygen to the other cells of the body in order to sustain them. This falls under the attribute of judgment. After all, the Creator is supposed to sustain His created beings with the attribute of judgment (seemingly). The white blood cells, however, whose job it is to destroy the pathogens, are acting with kindness. So not only does the Creator sustain His creations, but He also ensures their safety by protecting them against their enemies that come as a result of their deeds.[9]

The Significance of the Colors in the World of Vegetation

Today, the correlation between the colors of the various elements in nature, their properties, and their connection to the spiritual system is being discovered. Researchers have been noticing that like-colored fruits and vegetables contain similar nutrients critical to a person’s immunity and well-being. For example: Red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, red peppers, watermelons, pink grapefruits, strawberries, pomegranates, and black grapes[10] are good for the heart and support the blood because they contain high levels of antioxidants. White vegetables such as onions, radishes, turnips, and garlic support the immune system and destroy pathogens—especially garlic, which is referred to in alternative medicine as “the natural antibiotic.” From here we see that the actions of red versus white in the world of vegetation align with the red and white blood cells. They are all in harmony with their spiritual roots.

Anyone who reflects upon the world of nature will find an interesting clue in the relationship between the colors of the various fruits and vegetables, and the benefit they provide to the different parts of the human body.

Yellow vegetables like corn, yellow beans, and yellow peppers benefit the eyes, as their yellow color resembles the color of the light through which the eyes see.

Green vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, and parsley stimulate certain enzymes in the body that fight malignant diseases. As with all that’s green in nature, they detoxify and purify the air through photosynthesis, thereby protecting the environment.

Orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, apricots, and mangos support the health of the skin, whose color is close to orange.

It’s amazing that even the shapes of the fruits structurally resemble the organs they benefit. This side point is discussed at length on the following pages, which illustrates the oneness of G-d.

G-d created all the elements of nature and embedded clues inside them that can be revealed to anyone who examines them closely. This indeed is a harmonious and wondrous world that unanimously declares, “How abundant are Your works, Hashem; with wisdom You made them all.”[11]

For centuries, people have noticed that there is a striking resemblance between the shapes of the fruits, vegetables, and some medicinal herbs, and the organs in the human body that they benefit. This idea was researched hundreds of years ago by Galen, Paracelsus, and Bohme and is known as the “Doctrine of Signatures.” Later on, ​​extensive use of this principle was made in the medical system known as homeopathy.

Today, according to Dr. Bradley Bennett from the International University of Florida, even though the Doctrine of Signatures doesn’t necessarily “prove” that a particular plant can benefit its corresponding organ, it still serves as an important universal mnemonic in helping people remember the beneficial properties contained in plants.[12] Especially among populations in developing countries that don’t have access to scientific sources, the Doctrine of Signatures is very important to help them remember the health benefits of each individual plant, fruit, and so on.

Here are some examples:

Carrots: A sliced carrot resembles the human eye. You can clearly see the pupil, the iris, and their surrounding lines. Medical science has proven that eating carrots improves blood flow to the eye and is very beneficial to its overall functioning.[13]

Tomatoes: A natural tomato is red in color and contains four sections. Similarly, the heart has four chambers and is red in color. Indeed, studies that were conducted on the effect of tomatoes on the human body showed that they are beneficial for the health of the heart—specifically because of the lycopene it contains and because it cleanses the blood.[14]

Grapes: Each red grape looks like a red blood cell under intense magnification, and clusters of dark grapes have the color and appearance of the color and shape of the heart. Studies have clearly shown that dark grapes play a significant role in the health of the heart and the detoxification of the blood.[15]

Walnuts: The resemblance between the shape of a walnut and that of a brain is absolutely remarkable. The walnut looks like a miniature brain divided into two parts—the right cerebral hemisphere and the left cerebral hemisphere, as it sits inside a “skull.” Astonishingly, even its folds and creases resemble the cerebral cortex. The walnut also includes the upper and lower parts of the brain. Today we know that the walnut contains serotonin and vitamins essential for optimal functioning of the brain. It’s also been proven that walnut extract has been effective in the improvement of brain function in patients with Alzheimer’s.[16]

Kidney Beans: This bean is shaped like a kidney, and according to Chinese medicine, it strengthens kidney function in healthy adults. However, patients with kidney disease should refrain from eating these beans, as they contain natural substances called phosphates, which cannot be consumed by patients with kidney disease.

Sweet Potato: This vegetable resembles the pancreas, and indeed, sweet potatoes are healthy for diabetics (whose disease stems from a dysfunctional pancreas), as it helps to stabilize and regulate sugar and insulin levels in the body.

Onions: Under intense magnification, onions resemble a single human cell. In natural medicine, onions are used as a natural remedy to detoxify the cells of the body.

Avocadoes: The avocado with its pit inside resembles a fetus inside the uterus—one half looks like a uterus with a fetus and the other without. Indeed, in natural medicine, avocadoes are known to prevent women’s cancers, while regulating hormones and accelerating healing after delivery. It is interesting to note that from the time the avocado flower buds in the spring and until it matures in the winter is exactly nine months.

Figs: Figs grow in pairs and are full of seeds. Eating figs has been found to prevent sterility in men.

 

Notes and Sources

[1] Ayin Roah, p. 107. It should be noted that in Eastern medicine, as in Chinese or Japanese medicine, every organ and pathology is associated with a different color. For example, the liver is associated with green, the heart with red, kidneys with black, the lungs with blue, the stomach with yellow, and so on.

[2] See more on this in “Wellness of the Mind.”

[3] Further reading on this topic in the chapters “The Secret to a Happy Marriage” and “The Status of a Woman in Judaism,” and in HaTzofen, “Mivneh HaSfirot VeHishtalshelut HaOlamot.” A man who is not married is considered to be “without a protective wall” (Yevamot 62b), as the woman is “judgment” and she encompasses the man like a wall, inhibiting him for his benefit—both in physical matters as well as in spiritual matters—protecting him from stumbling upon sin and from excessive giving to the point where it becomes self-destructive.

[4] Refer to Q&A Nezer Kohen, Even HaEzer, siman 5.

[5] This is discussed in more detail in the chapters “The Secret to a Happy Marriage” and “The Status of a Woman in Judaism.”

[6] Devarim 14:21.

[7] See The Coming Revolution, “Jewish Slaughtering.”

[8] Melachim I 18:39.

[9] After all, the fact that we were given the ability to repent and rectify our spirituality (followed by our physical correction), is nothing but a kindness from G-d.

[10] Red and black are closely related in their spiritual roots; see above.

[11] Tehillim 104:24.

[12] Bradley C. Bennett, “Doctrine of Signatures: An Explanation of Medicinal Plant Discovery or Dissemination of Knowledge,” Economic Botany 61, no. 3 (2007): 246–255.

[13] A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8.

Another study that concluded that the vitamins and antioxidants contained in carrots do not affect the eyes turned out to be wrong, as they conducted their research on subjects that already had sufficient amounts of these substances in their system, making the amount that was added to their diets in the research insignificant as it could not have had an effect to begin with. (This is Dr. Sachin M Salvi’s response to an article in the British Medical Journal on October 15, 2007)

[14] See L. Kohlmeier et al., “Lycopene and Myocardial Infarction Risk in the EURAMIC Study,” American Journal of Epidemiology 146, no. 8 (1997): 618.

[15] A. M. Rimando et al., “Pterostilbene, a New Agonist for the Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Alpha-Isoform, Lowers Plasma Lipoproteins and Cholesterol in Hypercholesterolemic Hamsters” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53, no. 9 (2005): 3403–3407.

[16] Neha Chauhan, “Walnut Extract Inhibits the Fibrillization of Amyloid Beta-Protein, and also Defibrillizes Its Preformed Fibrils,” Current Alzheimer Research 1, no. 3 (2004): 183–188.

Adapted from "The Keys to Life" by Rabbi Zamir Cohen