Religion & Beliefs

Jewish Reincarnation… Awesome!

I was planning to blog about Gehenna today, but in my search for information on that lovely vacation spot, I stumbled on this: Each individual soul is dispatched to the physical world with its own individualized mission to accomplish. As … Read More

By / April 18, 2007

I was planning to blog about Gehenna today, but in my search for information on that lovely vacation spot, I stumbled on this:

Each individual soul is dispatched to the physical world with its own individualized mission to accomplish. As Jews, we all have the same Torah with the same 613 mitzvot; but each of us has his or her own set of challenges, distinct talents and capabilities, and particular mitzvot which form the crux of his or her mission in life.

At times, a soul may not conclude its mission in a single lifetime. In such cases, it returns to earth for a "second go" to complete the job. This is the concept of gilgul neshamot–commonly referred to as "reincarnation"–extensively discussed in the teachings of Kabbalah.12 This is why we often find ourselves powerfully drawn to a particular mitzvah or cause and make it the focus of our lives, dedicating to it a seemingly disproportionate part of our time and energy: it is our soul gravitating to the "missing pieces" of its Divinely-ordained purpose.13

Wow! Really?

I had no idea reincarnation was a part of Judaism at all.  And I find that it makes me really happy to discover. Inexplicably happy.  I think because so much of our Jewish concept of the afterlife is hard for me to grasp or visualize.  But this… this is a pretty simple idea.  That if I have work left to do on this earth, I’ll get to come back and finish it.

A safety net of sorts.

Of course, my unobservant self can’t help but extend the idea into dangerous realms. I can’t keep from turning the idea of my soul’s need to fulfill my personal mitzvot… into a selfish desire to see my son grow old, or my desire to write an incredible novel, or my hunger to live abroad.  And I get that those things are unlikely to buy me a second trip to earth.

But there’s something in me that finds comfort in this idea overall. 

Maybe because my insane phobia  of death actually stems from the fear I’ll not have finished my life.  Not have done enough, lived well enough.  I’m someone who wakes up every day with a humongous “to do” list, and there’s a constant nagging worry in me that my life will be too short. 

So I find this reincarnation idea really settling, and I wanted to share it with you, in case you might find it settling too.

There’s a much more complete explanation of Gilgul Neshamot over here, and I find it interesting.  In particular, the idea that we aren’t supposed to know much about the reincarnation clause, because:

 God wants man to be completely free to do whatever he wants, so that he can be totally responsible for his actions. If a person were to be explicitly told that he will surely reincarnate if he fails to rectify his actions, he might remain indifferent and apathetic. He might not do all he could to accelerate his personal evolution.

And this rings true to me.  It makes sense that a person needs to live well for the sake of living well.  But now and then, it’s nice to find a little security blanket, to hold on to for a minute.