Question: What are the five levels of the soul?
Answer: Nefesh is the lowest level, call it the animal level, the level which animates and gives function to the body.
Neshama is the third level, call it the human level. (I’ll get to level number 2 in a minute). Neshama is what allows one to distinguish between good and evil.
The nefesh could be argued not to be a soul at all. It is the most ethereal of all physicality, like a wisp of air disappearing into a small breeze. All animals and all humans have a nefesh, each programmed with the bodily stimuli G-d wanted for the particular individual or species. Only humans have a neshama. If you want to see the difference, watch the animals. Anything both animals and humans do is of the nefesh, for example, eating an
apple. Anything only a human does, is of the neshama. For example, saying a prayer of thanksgiving before and after eating that apple.
The nefesh and neshama are easiest to understand. Between them is Ruach, which one might call an emotion generator.
Chaya is the next emanation and Yechida is the highest level. Understanding these are beyond our grasp but relate to our closest attachments to G-d.
Regards, Eliahu Levenson