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Do Jews believe in reincarnation?



RABBI ALEX CARLEBACH, Chabad of Lyndhurst

There are three different types of mitzvot: chukim – statutes, those commandments like kosher shaatnez. These are laws between man and G-d, which have no rational reasons. 
The second is eidut – testimonials – mitzvot like Shabbat, Yomtov, tefillin and tzitzis. Though they are also between us and G-d, they remind us of important historic events. Once commanded, we can understand them

The third of the mitzvot is mishpatim – the ethical laws. They focus on relationships between humans and humans. These commandments given to us by Hashem, is the core of our weekly parsha.  

We know that every action we do, has consequences. A mitzvah carries positive reactions, whereas when someone commits an aveirah or transgression, they “stain” their soul and need to go through a “cleansing”, usually in the afterlife. 

The Zohar teaches us that the “cleansing of the soul”, which is done in the spiritual realm, can only apply to mitzvot between man and G-d.

However, if one wrongs another person, then even G-d, so to say, cannot cleanse our souls from those stains. The ideal way is to “fix” them while we are still alive, by gaining the other’s forgiveness, or returning what we have wrongfully gained from another.   

If for some reason a soul passes away without correcting the wrong they did to another, it cannot be corrected in the afterlife. A soul is then forced to go through reincarnation; that soul is born again into a new person. 

Divine Providence will then arrange for those souls to meet up again in the physical realm and be given the opportunity to rectify any past faults.

An additional explanation of reincarnation is taught by the Alter Rebbe in his famous work Tanya, quoting the Ari Zal, that every soul has to leave the spiritual realm and come down into the physical realm in order to fulfil all 613 commandments.

If one passes away and leaves the physical world before one has fulfilled them all, the soul will then be reincarnated and will be born again, put into the time, place, family, conditions needed to fulfil those mitzvot he or she has not yet fulfilled.

In reincarnation our soul is enclothed in a new and different body than was the case in their previous lifetime. It can take place every time a person is born; we may be reincarnations of different neshamot – souls. This is happening right now and continuously

However, resurrection which is the 13th Principle of Faith as outlined by Maimonides, is very different. This comes after the 12th Principle, the coming of Moshiach.

Torah teaches us that after Moshiach comes, in Olam Haba – the World to Come in the physical world. All the souls who have fulfilled mitzvot, will be resurrected. They will come back to physical life when their same body and soul come back to life together.

At that time Hashem will not only reward our souls, but also our bodies, for the many sacrifices our bodies made to fulfil our Creator’s will. 

Techiat hameisim – resurrection, will only take place after Moshiach comes. May it be soon. may it be today.

Shabbat shalom.

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