Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reincarnation Blog

posted by Esti

Reincarnation means that ones soul comes back to the world after the body has died, and enters into a new body. But having this said, doesn’t Hashem know what our reincarnated soul will do, thus taking away our freewill? According to Judaism, reincarnation does not take away our free will, but rather allows us to act on our free will and come back to the world to perfect ‘ourselves/ our souls’ if we did not reach the state of perfection the first time around. The Holy Ari explains that every Jew must complete the 613 mitzvoth and will be reincarnated if he/she did not finish them in his/her first life. According to this understanding, our life is therefore made up of events that will lead us towards the mitzvoth that we have not yet fulfilled.
The torah does not outright write about reincarnation but it does allude to it. Ramban hints to reincarnation in Bereshit 38:8 when talking about yibum. He then says that Yehuda and his sons knew about reincarnation when they acted how they did with Tamar.
Can you think of any other places in the torah that reincarnation is hinted at?
Do you believe in reincarnation?
How would you convince a fellow Jew to believe in reincarnation?

Ramban on Gen 38:8
Yerachmiel Tilles
The Holy Ari


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Ive never really thought about rencarnation in connection to the Torah and I dont think that there is any outward hints to reincarnation. However, just like what Esti wrote about the Rambam, there are probably plenty of instances where rencarnation is hinted to in a subtle way. But maybe not nessarcly the way that Esti was explaining it. I belvie, when people leave this earth, they have completed their mission in life. I dont belvie that anyone leaves this earth without fullfilling what they were meant to do. I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine about the holocaust. She and I were talking and asking how could Hashem let all of those people die? And my thoughts on this matter come back to this idea of a completed mission. The people who died, mission in life was completed. Part of their mission was to be part of the tragic events of the Holocaust. Neverless, this is what they were sent from Heaven to do. But the way I belive in reancarnation is that the reason a soul comes back is because that soul has unfinished buisness not having to do with his/her mission ( esspecially the 613 misvot) but rather in relation to someone else. If someoneelse has buisneess with a certain Neshama, and that person will only fullfill their mission if they get what they need from a certain Neshama, the Neshama comes back. Its a kind of compliacted thought, but I really only belive that the reason a Neshama would come back is not on a personal level, but rather on a communal level.
Thanks ShiraZ!

March 18, 2007 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a very similar opinion to Shira's. I truly dont believe reincarnation related to judaism. When i was studying for my Bat- mitzvah i learnt that each person come on earth to create a dirah betachtonim. We are each on a mission that god gives us and each thing we do will effect the world. Thus how could there be reincarnation. Wouldnt it make sense that your soul is put on earth for the duration of one life time. And then (just how everyone learns) when the soul dies it goes to shamaim to be with god. If there was an idea of reincarnation i think more people would have more issues with death in judasim. If the soul was believed to be reincarnated then the belief system that the loved one who died is goin to dwell with hashem is nullified. Because that soul is really returning to be someone else. Furthermore, what would happen in the time of mashiach when there is tchiyat hametiim what form would the people take? PEACE Iris Wertheimer

March 18, 2007 7:17 PM  
Blogger saragaut said...

As usual i just don't believe. i mean its simple when you die you don't come back . i know this is synical but this is really how i see it. Im not even sure olam haba exists but we won't get into this rite now. I do agree that we die when we have fullfilled our mission but it is contradictory to say that we only come back to help another soul bc if this were so then we would never have died in the first place bc we didnt fullfill our purpose even if it was to help someone else. I just don't buy into reincarnation bc if i believe in someone dieing when their purpose is fullfilled then there is no reason for one to come back. My opinion is that we're here then we die and then well.. i dont really know but we for sure dont come back here.

March 19, 2007 7:46 PM  
Blogger tali said...

So I looked up the definition of reincarnation, because, honestly, whenever I see it, I picture a cow, because in Hinduism (where reincarnation is central to the religion), a cow is the best thing to come back as. Anyway, the three defintions are as follow:

1. the belief that the soul, upon death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form.
2. rebirth of the soul in a new body.
3. a new incarnation or embodiment, as of a person

So I do believe in reincarnation, if that's what we're defining it as. I think that our essence, our neshama, is Godly, and if God is an infinite Being, that why would it make any senes for any part of Her to be limited or stilted?
I don't think a neshama needs an "excuse" such as unfinished business to return to the earth-it's mere existence as a part of a living God is enough to bring it back to this world. Many people say things like "your soul must have been learning in the Beit Midrash of Rebbe Akiva" and "From Moshe (Avinu) until Moshe (Rambam) [and even another Moshe, Mendelsohn, that is, if you want to be slightly scandolous], there has never been such a great person". I don't think these are just nice things to say---like most things, there is definetly a grain of truth in the idea, and that is all that matters.
Personally, I would not find it satisfying if I knew that after I died, that was it for my soul, and up to Shamaim we go. Life is what keeps God involved in our universe, and what better way to continue on if not through reincarnation?

March 19, 2007 7:49 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

I am not sure where I personally stand on the idea of reincarnation, but I have a simple thought I would like to share.
I believe the idea of reincarnation comes very much from the human fear of the unknown, in this case: death. People want to leave thier mark on this world before they leave, and some even want to come back and finish thier work. Some are simply afraid of death. A great example of this is Sir Nearly-headless-Nick from Harry Potter. Nick becomes a ghost, because he does not want to move on to the "next world". Reincarnation could be that idea...never needing to move on, which almost inherently goes against Judaism which affirms that the next world is of GREAT importance.

March 19, 2007 8:15 PM  
Anonymous RachelD said...

I don't believe in reincarnation, so I wouldnt be the person to convince another person to believe in it. If reincarnation did exist, and people would return to the world to perfect themselves, we would see many more near-perfect people in this world. It seems that everyone is flawed in atleast one way or another. Also, the idea of it is creepy and seems like another one of those irrational ideas that I dont believe. What i do believe, however, (on the days that I believe in God), is that there is an olam ha ba where people who died can watch over the world, and sort of re-live vicariously though others. For example, whenever i do something nice,i (try to, atleast) do it in honor of my grandfather who died years ago. I feel that my mitzvot elevate his spirit (which is a jewish belief in the first place), and to me, that is the closest we can get to reincarnation.

March 19, 2007 9:51 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

kinda like what shira and iris were saying....i also heard the opposite of being reincanrated and come back in order to protect ourselves/our souls.
what i once heard what actually the opposite of this. i heard that each person is put on this earth in order to fulfill a spacific mission, and when they are finsihed with what god beleives to be their mission then they are removed from the earth (die). death is a whole seperate issue however i think reincarnation is more of a beleid that fits with other religions rather then within jewdaism. we as jews beleive that each and eveyr individual is put on earth for a reason, and when hashem beleives we have accomplished what we need to do on earht then he takes us and we proceed onto olam habbah. if jews beleive in reincarnation then that would mean our soul/meshama would be taken from us, and reincarnated into someone new. therefore, how would we live in olam habah if our soul was taken and given to someone else. if jews beleived in reincarnation, then how could we also beleive in olam habah? i think the concept of reincarnation contradicts our perseption of olam habah. life is a wonderfull thing and when we are bron hashem gives us our unique and special neshama and yes he "takes" our neshama from us when we die however it still proceeds onward with us (to wahtever happens after death) and i dont believe it is then just given to someone else. hashem gave us our own neshama that will hopefully accompany us to olam habbah.

March 19, 2007 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Suz said...

i thing that like, yeah ive totally heard about reincarnation but like, ive never fully gotten it.

if your neshamah comes back, whats left of you, the person? what if secretly my neshama was someone's from the shoah? who am i? who was this person? whats to keep this person living on? not like living, because theyre dead, obviously, but like, in heaven, whatever heaven may be supposed to be, what of the person exists?

I believe that every neshama is placed on the earth for a particular purpose. what that purpose is I dont know. At funerals rabbi anemer talks about it. if you dont fufill that task, then hashem sends you back, so im told. maybe the neshama gets sent back and all the other people on the neshama come with it and act as yetzer tovs? maybe when that neshama finally completes its task it returns to hashem and the people enter heaven? that seems to go against our concept of hell though, hell being the time period when the neshama? person? goes through cleansing in order to gain admittance to heaven that takes a maximun time of a year butonly for truly evil people. having to stay away from heaven and your loved ones who are already there seems more of a punishment than hell bc lifetimes last longer than a year.

if you can't tell, im personally very confused about this concept, but thanks for making me think more about it!
holy ari?

March 20, 2007 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As most people seem to have already said, reincarnation is pretty hard to grapple with. While I don't say that I understand it, I can say that it it is a metaphysical concept often talked about in Kaballah (as Suzzane mentioned). It is an interesting idea, but at the moment I don't relate personally to it. I don't really believe that I am going to come back as a cat or a cow or a fish or a dog. I can relate more easily to the idea of people's souls returning in later generations because I was raised with this idea.

March 22, 2007 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Amy said...

I used to think that reincarnation was a really cool idea; however, i was always told that it is a pagan , mainly hinduist idea.

so, the only time i have heard of anything in judaism that vagually has to do with reincarnation is from the stories of the mythical "dibuks". since i coulnt exactly remember what they were i found the following passage on a jewish kabbalah site about them:

"The concept of "dibuk" is a concept closely related to ibur, except that whereas an ibur is beneficial to its host, a dibuk is harmful. " Dibuk" may be translated as "clinging". The disembodied soul of an evil person seeks out a vehicle for its wicked machinations. It therefore attaches itself to the soul of another person, hampering the latter's ability to act independently or even rationally. This could occur as a result of a persons transgressing the same mitzvah that the dibuk transgressed. This injurious form of possession typically would result in the death of the possessed, unless the dibuk was properly exorcised. "

This theory could possibly go along with that of others that a soul is put back on earth to make it self better. howvever, the dibuk puts a negative twist on the idea of reincarnation. When thinking about this i realized that if people knew that their soul would be reincarnated until they perfected themselves and completed their mission and could go to hashem, peole would greatly take advantage of the situation. rather than create a perfect world , like rachel d said, people would say "oh, i can sin in this life and make it up in my next". This is why i think reincarnation is not, and should not, be a central idea in juadism. judaism is a religion which makes us strive to be the best we can be for ourselves, for others, and for god, and i think that reincarnation takes away from that.

March 22, 2007 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not think that i can truely judge whether or not reincarnation exists because i am not in a position to do so, because no one is ever really sure. However, i do think that the CONCEPT of reincarntaion is very applicable to judaism and Hashem's faith in us.
Every morning we wake up and say "thank you God for having faith in us", instead of thanking God by giving us faith in ourselves. By saying this prayer, we acknowlege that Hashem gave us life because he believes in us, and by giving us another day to live Hashem gives us another opportunity to fulfill more mitzvot. And therefore this is very much like reincarnation, because Hashem gives us life again in order to fulfill such goal. Conversely, i do not believe that the concept of reincarntaion is the only one we should strive for, because i personally do not believe that religious worship is about the quantity of mitzvot, but rather the quantity. And therefore, i personally believe that there is much more meaning to fulfilling less mitzvot with more kavanah and availabilty, than striving to accomplish all mitzvot which some might seem non-applicable to us.

March 22, 2007 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the purpose of reincarnation is to encourage us to all of the mitzvot. We do not know what mitzvot we have yet to perform so that we can go onto olam haba and stop reincarnating. Therefore, we must continue to do mitzvot and do as amny as we can so we go onto olam haba. I once heard you can reincarnate into an animal and that is why you say berachot over animals so they can get schar/reward since someone is saying a beracha over them...we all connected in the circle of life.


March 23, 2007 1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont get reincarnation because then someone can be like well im gonna come back to teh world again so i might as well enjoy my life now and do x y and z and then when im reincarnated later, ill be a better person, but like that doesnt work so well...i dont get it

March 23, 2007 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think reincarnation is a touchy subject in Judaism. u can choose to beleive in it, or u can choose not to. ive heard people say that they do beleive that neshamas come back to this world to fulfill the commandments they "missed" in their past lives, and ive also heard the argument that there are a certain amount of neshamas in shamayim that are used once, and when they have all been used uo moshiach will come. personally i do not beleive in reincarnation for the following reasons. firt of all, if we do not know what will happen to us after we die, what gives us the right to speculate what happens to our neshmaa after we die? second of all, if a person beleives in gan eden and gehenam, how can he beleive in reincarnation at the same time, because isnt it one or the other? meaning, either u go to gehenam or you are reincarnated. another thing: i do not understand why reincarnation is a violation of free will, so even if i did believe in it, it has nothing to do with free will. once u are reincarnated, u can choose to fulfill the commandaments, or u can choose not to. on the other hand, what if reincarnaion was real? and person x has been reincarnated a few times, and has still not fulfilled what he came back to do. how many chances does hashem give him? one? two? three? as many as he needs? i just dont buy it.


March 25, 2007 7:31 PM  
Anonymous Eliana said...

First of all, it seems to me that Ramban is almost using reincarnation to justify actions that are clearly against the Torah. Yehuda and his sons did not do the right thing when it came to Tamar. Reincarnation is just an excuse for their actions. The concept as explained leaves room for sin and almost propels people to sin, because if you sin in this life, who cares? You have the next life to fix your mess-up! I cannot think of any other place in the Torah where reincarnation is hinted at.
I have recently heard secular ideas about reincarnation. My cousin’s father does past life regression therapy and believes that past lives and “reincarnation” unquestionably exists. For example he had a patient who described a town in great detail: the movie theater, the street names, and many other such details and she had never been there before in her life. He travelled to this place and the everything she had described was there, in exactly the way she had described. This was a town in the middle of nowhere, where she had never been before.
I think that reincarnation is definitely a plausible theory, but I absolutely do not believe that until you accomplish the 613 mitzvot you will be reincarnated. It’s more likely that you will be reincarnated until you accomplish a more specific task, but I think that has other problems as well.

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