Returning Lost Souls

Kabbalah explains that there are 3 major reasons for reincarnation.

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

G‑d, in His great pity for His creatures, has made thoughtful provisions so as not to totally cast out a sinner. This is why He established the principle of re-incarnation, or transmigration of souls. By allowing a soul to return to earth once more, it is given a "second chance" to rehabilitate itself and recapture its original place in the world of the spirits.

This principle of transmigration of souls is applied in three different ways, corresponding to the attributes in which our three patriarchs excelled respectively.


Some souls do not return to earth because they have to rehabilitate themselves for positive commandments neglected, or for negative commandments which they transgressed when they were on earth previously. The only reason they return to earth is in order to perform acts of kindness for the people of their respective generations. Details of this are explained in Sefer Haflia, Sefer HaTumuna and Sefer Livnat Sapir. The Torah alludes to this in the verse: "And G‑d passed over me for your sake." (Deut. 3:26) The Hebrew term for "pass over me", "avor", is compared to gilgul [reincarnation], both meaning a kind of "transfer". Moses [in the above verse] is in effect telling the Jewish people that his being transferred from this world at that time and place was for their own good. This parallels the attribute of kindness in which Abraham excelled.

Some souls are forced to undergo a second round of life in This World as…rehabilitation for sins….

Some souls are forced to undergo a second round of life in this world as a punishment, i.e. rehabilitation for sins committed in this life which cannot be atoned for in the purely spiritual regions. This is the way the King of Kings has arranged it. When one has broken a number of covenants, one may have to return to earth for each covenant one has broken during a previous life on earth.

This is the mystical dimension of the deaths of infants or small children. They obviously did not commit a sin in their most recent incarnation, yet they may have to experience death a second time to expiate having broken G‑d's covenant with Israel in a previous incarnation. All of this occurs when the sinner failed to repent properly while he lived on this earth. This is why it is appropriate even for a person who is not knowingly guilty of any major sins in his present life on earth to repent thoroughly for any sins he may have been guilty of in a previous incarnation and for which he had not then obtained forgiveness. If such a person engages in thorough repentance in this round of life on earth, the vicious circle of transmigration will be broken and his soul will find eternal rest in the Hereafter, not needing to return to life on this earth again.


A different fate awaits those who have failed to take advantage of their third round of life on earth, as we know from the words of Elihu in Job (33:29). During the first two or three incarnations the souls are reincarnated in the bodies of human beings. If they have failed to rehabilitate themselves, they will be reincarnated as "pure" animals, i.e. the kind of animals fit for consumption by Jews; their eventual fate may be reincarnation as impure animals.

chanoch adds: First Kosher animals and then the 4th incarnation is as a non kosher animal.

G‑d arranges for the 'lost object' to be restored to its owner….

Anyone who has failed to understand Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai [the author of the above description in the Zohar] properly, believes that he explains that G‑d puts ever greater distance between Himself and the sinner. In fact, the reverse is true; G‑d arranges for the "lost object" to be restored to its owner. This kind of reincarnation is based on the attribute of fear, the outstanding characteristic of Isaac [meaning not relying on or appealing to G‑d's attribute of Mercy. Ed.]


The third category of transmigration provides an opportunity for the souls in question to perform those commandments which they had been unable to in a previous incarnation due to lack of opportunity. This kind of reincarnation could theoretically continue for one thousand generations under the aegis of the sefira of tiferet, the outstanding characteristic of Jacob.

Thus far Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

A Taste of the World to Come

The soul of every Jew has access to the Hereafter.

Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

[The Shelah – Rabbi Horowitz comments on a central Jewish prayer, the Shema, found in this week's Torah portion. Editor comment]

I have found amongst the various writings of the Arizal that he describes the differences in the levels of the Hereafter as follows: "Know that the righteous enters into a marriage (union) both in this world and after his death. Every tzadik does so in accordance with his individual spiritual powers. There are also tzadikim, such as Benyahu ben Yehoyada (King David's chief body-guard, as mentioned in Samuel II, chapter 23), who enter into a union (embracing the Hereafter) in this world.

Some enter into a union with the Celestial partner, i.e. Abba and Imma, already while in this world, since in those regions unions can be consecrated only through what we know as martyrdom by glorifying the name of G‑d. An example of this kind of union (zivug) with ones partner in the Hereafter, were the Ten Martyrs tortured to death by the Romans including Rabbi Akiva. The same rule applies during any period Jews suffer religious persecution and defiantly go to their death as Jews.

When the Holy Temple was standing, G‑d's majesty consisted of twenty-four letters…

When we recite the Shema prayer we experience a faint echo of such an affinity to the Hereafter. The name of Benyahu ben Yehoyada also alludes to the emanation of bina [and the divine names] yud-hei-vav and yud-hei above. This is the deeper meaning of Benyahu being described in Samuel II (23:20) as "ben ish chai", literally "son of the [aspect of] the living man", i.e. someone who had established his claim to life in the Hereafter. Benyahu is reported as having killed the lion (in Hebrew "ha'ari"), the numerical value of which is 216, equal to three times the fully spelled Ineffable Name (72 or Ab). The prophet describes this encounter with the lion as having occurred on "Day of the Snow", which has its own mystical dimension.

When our Sages say in Talmud, "Each Jew has a part in the World to Come", (Sanhedrin 90) they mean that the soul of every Jew has access to the Hereafter. When the sages use the expression that someone is "invited", they refer to the future when the light of the moon will become as brilliant as the light of the sun. This is the future we have in mind when we add to the words of the Shema Yisrael the twenty-four letters (in Hebrew) of the formula, "May the Majesty of His glorious kingdom be blessed forever".

Editirs Comment:[The number twenty-four is written in Hebrew as the letters kaf (= 20) dalet (= 4).]

Nowadays, when we are in exile, the twenty-four in that formula are reversed i.e. have become "dach" [spelled "dalet-kaf", as opposed to the normal way of describing the number twenty-four, "kaf-dalet"]. This is the mystical dimension of the verse "Let not the downtrodden (in Hebrew, "dach") turn away disappointed." (Psalms 74:21)

chanoch adds: “dach” can also be translated as “Your Doorway ...”

When the Holy Temple was standing, G‑d's majesty consisted of 24 letters; when it will be rebuilt it will again consist of 24 letters. This is what is meant in the verse "I shall make your battlements of rubies [in Hebrew, "kadkod ", which can be understood as meaning 'twice 24']." (Isaiah 54:12)

...the Jewish people, whose fate is compared to the fate of the moon

During King Solomon's reign the moon was considered as having reached its zenith, i.e. in the history of the Jewish people, whose fate is compared to the fate of the moon. This is what is alluded to by the twenty-four letters in the formula we recite in the Shema, when we express our absolute faith in this future display of G‑d's majesty. This number twenty-four equals one third of the possible amount of light. In the messianic future the full extent of the light, i.e. the other two thirds, alluded to in Isaiah (54:12) as "kadkod" (= 48) will be revealed. When combining the three times 24 we have the number 72, i.e. the Ineffable Name spelled fully as words. In other words, G‑d's name will be whole when this light will be displayed in all its power.

chanoch adds: Did you realize that “Baruch Shem as the second line of the Shema connects to the 24 letter Name?

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

Info about Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz [5320/1560 - 11 Nissan 5390/1630] served many years as chief rabbi in Frankfurt and then Prague, his birthplace. In 1621 he moved to Israel and became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem. He is best known as the author of Shenei Luchot HaBrit, a work of Scripture commentary and Jewish Law, and is usually referred to as "the SHeLaH", the acronym of its title.

He lived the last years of his life in Tzefat although his burial place is in Tiberias, only a few meters from the tomb of the Rambam. It is a popular pilgrimage site, especially on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, which he himself recommended as a propitious time for saying the special prayer for success in educating one’s children that he composed.

Moses and the Leap Year

The Jubilee year reminds us to not accept converts indiscriminately.

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

I have found the following comment among the writings of a great Kabbalistic scholar, Rabbi Chaim [Vital], the leading disciple of the Arizal [paraphrased by the editor]:

As a consequence of Moses' accepting the Mixed Multitude as converts, he became involved in the calculations pertaining to leap months, leap years, etc. One of these calculations involves determining when a Jubilee year occurs [the fiftieth year after the conclusion of seven cycles of seven years].

Not only did Moses fail to truly convert them but they also infected the Israelites proper with their lack of faith….

G‑d had not wanted to accept this Mixed Multitude as converts. Had they not been accepted, Israel would have experienced neither death nor exile, since acceptance of the Tablets would have signified everlasting life, as our sages said:

"Do not read 'engraved' [in Hebrew 'charut'] but rather 'free' [in Hebrew, 'cheyrut', i.e. from death].

Moses had not consulted G‑d [regarding the acceptance of the Mixed Multitude, which had been Abraham's lifework]. In addition he had developed a personal interest in the conduct of these people, as he had hinted when he referred to them as "the people amongst whom I find myself." (Num. 11:21) He had also foretold that these people would convert when he told Pharaoh that "all these people who sit at our feet will bow down to me." (Ex. 11:8) This meant that Moses was anxious to convert these people.

chanoch adds: In advanced reincarnation we learn that these are souls connected to Abraham and Adam and Moshe. They will ultimately convert yet Moshe was rushing the process.

Alas, not only did Moses fail to truly convert them but they also infected the Israelites proper with their lack of faith during the episode of the Golden Calf, so that G‑d told Moses: "Go and descend, for your people have become corrupt." (Ex. 32:7)

These people and their offspring by now made up the majority of the Jews in the desert. This is why Moses was forced to insert an extra year [the Jubilee year] after every 49 years. This extra year serves as a warning that Israel must not again err by accepting converts wholesale and being misled by them.

[Translation and commentary by Mr. Eliyahu Munk]

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz