There are quite a few different types of reincarnation; the exact same soul never comes back twice, but becomes a sort of 'admixture' of many different souls...
Recently, I’ve been reading a great book by Arieh Trugman called “Return Again”, which explains a lot about the Jewish concept of reincarnation. We all know, broadly, that reincarnation means that someone dies, and then their soul gets kind of ‘recycled’ into another body.
That’s the idea of reincarnation at its most basic. But did you know that there are quite a few different types of reincarnation? Did you know, for example, that the exact same soul never comes back twice, but becomes a sort of ‘admixture’ of many different souls.
This occurs because a Jewish soul is made up of five levels (as explained in Return Again):
- nefesh (or animal soul) – related to instinctual and behavioral drives
- ruach – related to emotions
- neshama – the seat of the intellect
- chaya – refers to the interaction between consciousness and its super-consciousness origin
- yechida – relates to the Divine aspect of the soul
So for example, when we’re reincarnated the next time round, we may have the same nefesh, but we’ll have Joe’s ruach and Sharon’s neshama. G-d never does the same thing twice.
In “Return Again”, Reb Trugman says that: “The Arizal explains that the soul, in order to complete itself, must perfect all five levels.” And if that wasn’t enough, each of the five levels themselves have five levels, which means there’s an awful lot of perfecting that needs to happen until a person can consider themselves to be well and truly fixed.
What’s more, we don’t get to the next level of soul until we’ve completed the previous one, which is why this whole process usually takes many, many lifetimes. The levels that are fixed don’t need to reincarnate again, but the levels that aren’t fixed come back down again. And again. And again.
But there are other types of reincarnation, too, like:
This is when a soul gets to ‘piggy-back’ off an already existing person, to complete a specific task, or to bring the ‘host’ a particular talent or strength. The host doesn’t know that they have another soul sharing their body (at least consciously).
This is a prime explanation of why you can achieve such great spiritual uplift by the graves of tzadikim.
Teshuva / Travel / Moving
When people experience many different ‘incarnations’ in one lifetime, that is also a form of reincarnation. Some examples:
- Making teshuva
- Making aliyah
- Getting divorced
- Moving from one place to another
- Becoming a different person after an accident or traumatic experience, or illness etc
The Arizal teaches that if a soul is making some progress towards purification, however minimal, it’s then given up to 1,000 chances to reincarnate and get properly fixed. But if it makes no progress after three lifetimes, or slides into increasing evil, then the soul’s nefesh is ‘cut off’ from its people – that is, it can’t return to the world and it won’t rise at the time of techiyat hameitim (resurrection of the dead). BUT – the upper levels of that soul can still be distributed to other people for rectification.
What does all this mean for us, practically? One of the things it might explain is why modern life is so incredibly fast-paced, and fast-changing. In the four decades I’ve been alive, for example, I’ve lived in three countries, moved more than 30 times, gone through many different jobs, had two ‘official’ name changes, and changed my wardrobe, in entirety, probably at least five times, to reflect my new religious ‘level’.
That’s a lot of change. It’s a lot of fixing. It’s a lot of starting all over again, from scratch. I like to think that I’ve ‘fixed’ at least eight lifetimes the last few years’, maybe more. Who knows? What I can tell you, is that there’s never a dull moment (did I mention I’ve also been through one big and two mini wars, since I’ve lived in Israel?)
There’s a lot happening in my life, and I think also in most people’s lives today. In the past, you could live in a village with the same 50 people for all your life, and the most exciting thing would be when someone would buy a new prize bull. They’d still be talking about that down the market for the next 20 years…
Every age has its challenges, and its advantages. Maybe at this period of time, when the world is moving so fast it literally makes your head spin, the biggest challenge of all is to slow down long enough to ask ourselves a couple of fundamental questions in life, like: ‘Where is all this leading to?’ and: ‘where is all this stemming from?’ And once we have those answers, we’ll be ready to move up again, to the whatever the ‘next stage’ is going to be.
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You’re welcome to write Rivka Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org