Reincarnation in Judaism

The Floating Clouds

Reincarnation is one of the thirteen Principles of Faith of Judaism. It states: ‘I believe with a perfect faith that the Holy One… in the future will bring the dead back to life…’ It is also a core element in the tale of the ‘Ten Martyrs’ in the Yom Kippur liturgy, who were killed by Romans to atone for the souls of the ten brothers of Joseph. Jewish mystical texts (the ‘Kabbalah’), from their classic Medieval canon onwards, teach a belief in ‘Gilgul Neshamot’ (lit. ‘soul cycle’).

It is a common belief in contemporary Hasidic Judaism, which regards the Kabbalah as sacred and authoritative, though unstressed in favor of a more innate psychological mysticism. Kabbalah also teaches that ‘The soul of Moses is reincarnated in every generation.’ Other, Non-Hasidic, Orthodox Jewish groups while not placing a heavy emphasis on reincarnation, do acknowledge it as a valid teaching.

Jewish music Isaac Luria (the Ari) brought the issue to the center of his theological articulation, and advocated identification of the reincarnations of historic Jewish figures that were compiled by his disciple Haim Vital in his ‘Shaar HaGilgulim.’ Gilgul is contrasted with the other processes in Kabbalah of ‘Ibbur’ (‘pregnancy’), the attachment of a second soul to an individual for (or by) good means, and ‘Dybuk’ (‘possession’), the attachment of a spirit, demon, etc. to an individual for (or by) ‘bad’ means. In Lurianic Kabbalah, reincarnation is not retributive or fatalistic, but an expression of Divine compassion, the microcosm of the doctrine of cosmic rectification of creation. Gilgul is a heavenly agreement with the individual soul, conditional upon circumstances.

Luria’s radical system focused on rectification of the Divine soul, played out through Creation. The true essence of anything is the divine spark within that gives it existence. Even a stone or leaf possesses such a soul that ‘came into this world to receive a rectification.’ A human soul may occasionally be exiled into lower inanimate, vegetative or animal creations. The most basic component of the soul, the ‘nefesh,’ must leave at the cessation of blood production. There are four other soul components and different nations of the world possess different forms of souls with different purposes. Each Jewish soul is reincarnated in order to fulfil each of the 613 Mosaic commandments that elevate a particular spark of holiness associated with each commandment. Once all the Sparks are redeemed to their spiritual source, the Messianic Era begins.

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