In the beginning, G‑d created the heavens and the earth... (Gen. 1:1)

In Man himself, we also find "earth" and "heaven". The diaphragm [right below the solar plexus] divides the organs of breathing [the respiratory system] from the organs of digestion. In the larger universe, this [diaphragm] corresponds to the firmament [atmosphere] that is spread out over the earth.

The diaphragm is thus seen as separating between the more spiritual aspects of the body ["heaven"] and the lower, more physical aspects ["earth"]. The Torah indicates clearly that the 'clothes' are not the Man…

Above it [the diaphragm] we thus have the heart, the lungs, the brain, etc., while below, we have the more corporeal and gross physical [organs]. According to this, the upper half of a person is the "heavenly" half, and the lower half is the "earthly" half. Man, in this sense, is a miniature world.

We see this in the verse, "Let us make Man in our image and in our likeness" (Gen. 1:26), wherein the G‑dly Tzelem ["image"] refers to soul of Man. The soul, in other words, is what the Torah calls [the real] Man [Adam]. This is seen in another verse that states, "Do not anoint the flesh of a man..." (Num. 30:32). The Torah indicates clearly that the "clothes" are not the Man.

At the beginning of Shaarei Kedusha, Rabbi Chaim Vital similarly writes:

It is known to the masters of the sciences that a person's body is not his essence [but rather a vehicle for his soul]. The body is therefore referred to as "Man's flesh", as in the verse, "Cover me [my essence] with skin and flesh, and surround me with bones and sinews" (Job 10:11). It is also written, "Do not anoint the flesh of a man..." (Num. 30:32). The inner being is the true self, while the body is merely a garment…

[In both these verses] we find that the inner being is the true self, while the body is merely a garment with which the soul covers itself while [sojourning] in this world. At the moment of death, when the soul departs, this garment is removed, and it is clothed in a pure, clean, spiritual garment. It is thus written, "Remove the soiled garments... and you shall be clothed in fine robes" (Zachariah 3:4); these "fine robes" are none other than the "rabbinical mantle" [in Aramaic, "chaluka d'rabbanan", or spiritual energy body with which the soul is clothed when it enters the Garden of Eden].

Just as a tailor makes a suit of clothes to fit a person's physique, so did the Holy One blessed-be-He make the body as a garment to clothe the soul. And just as a suit is cut and tailored according to the exact proportions of a person's limbs, so did the Holy One make the body according to the pattern of the soul. The body thus has 248 organs/limbs, along with 365 blood vessels which connect them and transport life-giving blood from one to the other, similar to a system of pipes.

With regard to the body, the verse states, "Let us make…" [indicating the level of Asiya]. For, indeed, the body is made from materials provided by the physical world. The same is [partially] true of angels. When they descend to our lower world, they too must "dress up" in a body that conforms to the laws of this material plane.

Concerning the ability of angels to "dress up" in a physical form, the Zohar states: "It has been established: These [angels are able to exist in this world because they] appear to humans in human form. And if you should ask: How do they transform themselves thus? They transform through many colors [energy frequencies]. When they are ready to actually descend, they dress up in [take on the molecular structure of] the earth's atmosphere, and they appear as humans." (Zohar I:58a)

In another place, the Zohar makes an important connection between the way angels descend into our world and the way that we (our souls) ascend into the spiritual dimension: "[At the moment of death] the spirit [Ruach] separates [and divests itself] of the lower soul [Nefesh] in order to [rise up and] enter the lowest level of the Garden of Eden [the world of Yetzira]. There it 'clothes' itself in the atmosphere of that Garden, in exactly the opposite manner that the supernal angels 'clothe' themselves in physicality when they descend to this world." (Zohar I:81a) The soul…dresses up in the atmosphere of the worlds…

These angels are of the level of Ruach [the world of Yetzira] about whom it is written, "He makes His Messenger-Angels Spirits" (Ps. 104:4). This means that He makes the Messenger-Angels of Yetzira descend to the world of Asiya-Action [the physical world] as messengers. The Ruach-Spirit of Man, on the other hand, goes up from the physical world to the lowest level of the Garden of Eden and 'wears' the garb of that dimension. She [the soul] is refined there and has tremendous pleasure...

This is why the three angels who visited Abraham appeared to eat.

The Zohar (I:102a), Talmud (Bava Metzia 86b), and Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 48:14; Shemot Rabba 47:5) all cite the famous teaching that, "One should never deviate from the customs of the place he visits" (the Jewish equivalent of: "When in Rome do as the Romans"). Concerning Moses, it is written, "He remained there with G‑d [on the mountain] for 40 days and 40 nights without eating bread or drinking water" (Ex. 34:28), and "I remained on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights, without eating food or drinking water" (Deut. 9:9). The Midrash asks: Is it possible for a human being to go without food and drink for so long [and not die]? Rather, Moshe went up to heaven where there is no food, so he did not eat. [The Midrash adds at the end of 47:5: So how did he survive if he didn't eat? He was nourished by the radiance of the Divine Presence. And do not be surprised. For the Angels above that carry the Divine Throne are similarly nourished from the radiance of the Divine Presence.] Conversely, when the angels descended to Abraham, they seemed to eat and drink, as it is written, "He stood over them and they ate under the tree" (Gen. 18:8). The Midrash and Zohar both exclaim: Do you think that those supernal beings really ate? It only seemed that they were eating! Since angels are fire, the food was consumed as they put it in their mouths. All the while it seemed that they were eating like normal humans.

The same is true of the soul of Man. [In order to be born] it must dress up in the atmosphere of this-world.

This explains, as well, why the verse is spoken in the plural, "Let us make…." The soul is from the Blessed One. [In order to be born] it descends and dresses up in the atmosphere of the worlds [or actually dresses "down" in and through the various atmospheres of each lower world/dimension, each of which contributes another garment which the soul dons as it approaches our gross physical plane of existence].

[Speaking to these various levels and their angelic inhabitants, G‑d] thus says, "Let us make a garment for man, i.e. the soul, with which he will be able to descend into the dimension of Asiya". Man will then be "in our image" [in Hebrew, "be'tzalmenu", from the word "Tzelem"], referring to the spiritual image of the angels, and "in our likeness" [in Hebrew, "ki'demutenu"], referring to the physical garments within which they [the angels] clothe themselves when they enter the atmosphere of this world.

We thus see that Man consists of two aspects: Adam Elyon, Superior Man - the soul, and Adam Tachton, Inferior Man - the body.

[Translation and commentary by Avraham Sutton; Likutei Torah (Chumash HaAri, Bereishit, p. 6)]