[Avodah] Gilgul Hanefesh

Lisa Liel lisa at starways.net
Tue Nov 7 02:43:04 PST 2017

On 11/7/2017 9:30 AM, Richard Wolberg via Avodah wrote:
> Is there a definitive Jewish belief?
> I have even heard some believe in "Transmigration of the Soul" which
> is even more scary. As an impressionable kid, I once had a rabbi tell me
> that if you don't wash netilat yadayim prior to eating, you will come 
> back as a dog.

As I understand it, gilgul neshamot is not the same as the eastern idea 
of reincarnation, where one person's soul literally incarnates again in 
another body and lives another life.  Rather, on a spiritual level, the 
soul of one person can "match" the soul of someone who lived 
previously.  Either by harmony or dissonance, to use a musical metaphor.

In Seder HaDorot, it talks incessantly about how some person or other 
was the gilgul, or tikkun, of a previous person.  But it sometimes has 
multiple people as the gilgul or tikkun of a previous person, which 
makes more sense given the "match" concept.

Kabbalistically, at least according to R' Aryeh Kaplan, the spiritual 
dimension is one of similarities and differences.  Two things that are 
more similar are "closer" and two things that are less similar are 
"further apart".  So if your soul is very similar to that of someone who 
lived before, you could have such a "match". You might even dream 
memories that the previous soul experienced. That doesn't make you that 
person.  And since the state of a person's soul changes throughout their 
life, their "match" to someone who lived previously can come and go as well.

To give an example, Seder HaDorot says that Rabbi Akiva was the 
gilgul/tikkun of Zimri ben Salu.  The 24K Bnei Shimon who died in the 
plague following Zimri's actions match the 24K talmidim of Rabbi Akiva, 
for example.  But while Zimri took Kosbi b'issur, Rabbi Akiva married 
the wife of Tyrannus Rufus b'heter, after she converted. Hence restoring 
a balance that Zimri had violated.

I don't buy the "reincarnated as a dog" or "as a fish" stuff.  Those who 
do, I suppose they have on whom to rely, but you don't have to buy into 
it yourself.

(NB: While Googling to see if there was a website that talked about 
this, I found this article from Aish, which was very interesting. It 
included Shechem and Dina in the equation as well. 


More information about the Avodah mailing list