Arrived at through Study?

Does it Comply with Torah Sources?

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Alberto: Dear Kavod Harav, Shalom. In the past, we talked about conversion, and the Brazilian Noahide communities, as I got your positive answer to be a Rabbinic reference to us in that time. I'm still checking your web site and learning from it, and also sharing those precious instructions with Noahides and Jews around me.

But I'm still having trouble in understanding your position against Reincarnation. I think it is because my understanding of it is not just from Jewish sources (if I may say so) but from others as well. By this, your criticism does not seem to affect reincarnation itself. To solve this trouble I'm reading a lot about it, as I read your assertions about it.

I know that Maimonides instructed that man should not believe in things unless they are proved logically, apprehended by the senses and received from prophets and sages. I agree with that.

But I noticed that when you mention reincarnation, you mention as metempsychosis, since this is the doctrine attacked by the Vilna Gaon. It seems that for you, reincarnation and metempsychosis is the same thing. But as I understand the thing, Reincarnation is not exactly the same thing as metempsychosis. In fact they oppose each other.

My point is that Reincarnation could be proved via logic. As a spiritualist doctrine, Reincarnation is demonstrated by logic alone, as God Himself, can't be proven "physically", but only by way of understanding or logic. I mean, all spiritualist doctrines cannot be proven, unless by logic, since we have not means to "show" the spiritual world or dimension while we are in this world.

Let me present the answer I received from Rabbi XXXX about it: He says as follows:

"The Torah was given to Moses, by God, accompanied by an oral counterpart. The Oral Torah is just as much God's word as the Written Torah. As the years passed, the sages became concerned that the Oral Torah would be forgotten or garbled if it would not be recorded. Rabbi Judah the Prince and subsequent rabbis committed much of the Oral Law to writing. The oral traditions, combined with the rabbinical enactments, form the Talmud and much of the rest of Jewish literature.

There are many concepts which are alluded to in the Written Law but were only recorded fully in subsequent writings. This does not mean that they are any less God's word. God, in his unfathomable wisdom, decided that they be recorded that way. Reincarnation is one such concept. Allow me to share just a few places where reincarnation is alluded to in the Written Torah. These are not places which shout "reincarnation" in bold letters but they do form part of a greater picture.

Ecclesiastics 1:4: "A generation departs and a generation comes." If this would refer to the normal flow of generations, a generation cannot come after the previous generation has gone. Rather this refers to the same soul(s) returning in consecutive lives.

Job 1:21: "Naked I left my mother's womb and naked I shall return there." Who comes back to their mom's womb? Enter reincarnation.

These are just a few samples. There are a number of such places scattered throughout the Torah. The bulk of what we know about reincarnation is from the Oral Torah and these are just a few places where this dynamic is evident in an almost offhand manner in the written part.

The question remains though: Reincarnation is a major theological issue. Why such a major issue is not explicitly discussed in the Written Torah? Allow me to point out, however, that neither does the Written Torah include any information about what happens to the soul after death, heaven and hell, the nature of the soul--or even much about God for that matter. The Five Books of Moses simply cannot be seen as a theological work. It is principally a practical guide, couched in story form. As for the rest of the Scriptures, even Proverbs and the Book of Job read as commentary on tacitly assumed knowledge.

It is quite apparent from reading these texts that Jewish Theology (which is all that the Kabbalah is), was meant to be transmitted orally, not in writing.

True, many of the ancient cultures transmitted their theology and mystical teachings in writing, including the ancient Egyptians and Hindus. But the difference is quite simple: Ancient Egypt, India and the like were illiterate societies, save for a small number of priestly elite. When that elite wished to transmit secrets for the initiated, they committed it to writing--and such forms of writing that could only be deciphered by the initiated.

The Jews, on the other hand were uniquely a literate society. To read Hebrew, you only needed to master 22 letters--as opposed to the hundreds or even thousands of glyphs used in several ancient scripts. The common Jewish child in the ancient world was expected to be literate. Therefore, those matters that could easily be misunderstood, distorted and misused had to be transmitted orally.

This is especially true of reincarnation. As Rabbi Moshe Cordovero asserted, "Those who know do not tell and those who tell do not know." In other words, the secrets of reincarnation are meant to be held only by those who can be trusted not to spill the beans.

I hope that I've been helpful today.

Yours truly, Rabbi XXXX"

Mesora: Alberto, the Rabbi you quote says, "There are many concepts which are alluded to in the Written Law but were only recorded fully in subsequent writings. This does not mean that they are any less God's word. God, in his unfathomable wisdom, decided that they be recorded that way."

To suggest "God, in his unfathomable wisdom, decided that they be recorded that way" is baseless and arrogant. The only works that lay claim to a God-given status are the Five Books of Moses, Prophets, Writings and the Oral Law – the Mishna. But subsequent to Sinai's Written and Oral Laws...and to the writings of the Prophets, if any human writes his thoughts on these works, such writings in no way obtain a divine character, as this Rabbi wrongly suggests. For if we follow this Rabbi's view, Jesus' writings could lay claim to Divine origin. This point is vital to the continuation of Judaism. This Rabbi abandons the teachings and traditions of our great Rabbis and Prophets. 

The Rabbi also accuses other cultures of illiteracy, when in fact, it is he who is illiterate, as I shall now show you.

The Rabbi quotes Ecclesiasties 1:4: "A generation departs and a generation comes, but the world stands forever."

This means what it says: generations come an go. People are born, they die, and new generations arise...NEW generations of NEW people. We have never witnesses a person or generation dying and then finding those who expired once again roaming the Earth. To suggest this denies reality. An intelligent and plain meaning – also supported by reality – is that generations depart Earth...permanently. It does not say that expired generations return. Furthermore, the Rabbis teach that a Torah verse cannot be interpreted against its plain meaning. Suggesting this verse refers to reincarnation, violates the Rabbis' words. It is contrary to reason, to reality, and leads one on a path where imagination outweighs clear perception.

If this Rabbi were to grasp the context, he would realize that King Solomon is steering man away from following the immortality fantasy. In the previous verse (1:3), the king teaches that one should not seek out fantasy in his labors..."What more is there to man in all his labors that he toils under the sun?" "Under the sun" refers to man's search for a happiness that is earthbound. Man seeks earthbound happiness as he truly denies his mortality. Therefore, the king – in is attempt to direct man away from the immortality fallacy and towards true happiness – warns man against seeking out earthbound happiness by saying "What benefit is there?" King Solomon experimented with all pleasures, luxuries, and pursuits. He did so in order to set an example for all mankind by sharing his firsthand experiences. Having arrived at the conclusion that earthbound pleasures are fleeting and unsatisfying as an end, he warns man against following his fantasies and the foolish masses. He tells man "generation comes and go", meaning, "you too do not remain long on not seek to render this temporal stay, into a timeless destination. Generations come and go."

In fact, this verse teaches the exact opposite of what the Rabbi wished this verse to mean. It teaches that man's Earthly stay is temporal, and occurs but once.

Job 1:21: "Naked I left my mother's womb and naked I shall return there." 

Metsudas Dovid says with these words, Job admits he will die in the same, poor (naked) state being stripped of all possessions...just as he was at birth. Metsudas Dovid says, as our ultimate destination of the grave is understood by all men, the last word of this verse "there" suffices to convey this point. One need not say he shall return to the"grave", but simply, I shall return "there".  From Metsudas Dovid's final remarks, we learn a ridicule of ay person who cannot grasp this obvious destination. But the Rabbi you cited feels this means he will return to the womb! Unbelievable. Why didn't this Rabbi read the Rishonim, our great Sages? Not one offers this opinion.

Declaring this verse teaches reincarnation, this Rabbi also opposes Rashi and Ibn Ezra. Rashi says Job's return to "there" means the dust of the Earth. And Ibn Ezra teaches this means the grave. So what propelled this Rabbi to oppose some of the greatest minds? Certainly, he has not compiled deep and voluminous works like those composed by Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Metsudas Dovid. Of course, these giants hold no monopoly on God's wisdom. Yet, when someone suggests an idea that's not only different, but the exact opposite of the Rishonim's collective view, we are startled. This is compounded by Rashi's statement that "I shall return there doesn't refer to the womb". Rashi wished to make it quite clear hat man does not return to the womb as this Rabbi suggested. So this point is if gravity, and not innocuous.

When any person possesses an emotional wish, he will distort even what is plainly simple, so as to maintain his cherished beliefs. But this is the exact opposite of what is required in true Torah study. Torah study requires the student to display complete humility, leaving all preconceived notions at the door and accept 1) what the words say, 2) what reason dictates and 3) what reality displays.  This Rabbi ignored all three.

One must examine him or herself as to why one enjoys baseless beliefs. Perhaps here, reincarnation allows the person to live irresponsibly and without culpability, since he always has a "second chance". But as we said many times before, Moses (Deut . 30:15,19) offered the Jews a choice and pick life OR death. He did not say they could have both, i.e., earthbound life after death. God too in many cases says that "so and so slept with his fathers". And our great prophets are seen crying for their deceased fathers, embalming them, laying them to rest, mourning them...all knowing that their embalming, mourning and burial were justified. They are not coming back. This being so clearly stated in Torah, it is alarming that Rabbis – those directing others – ignore it.

This type of approach, where Rabbis and Jews parrot others, with no grounds for their positions; where they speak contrary to the Torah's very words...severely diseases Torah and Judaism.  This path strays from God's words, and favors Rebbes and the masses instead. 

"If the Rebbe said it, it cannot be wrong", "If so many Jews do it, it cannot be wrong", etc.  Jews today are so insecure, they cannot act independently, if it means others withdraw their approval. They cannot accept that a man, is a man. A Rabbi errs too. We must not deify man.

The Three Weeks just commenced, recalling the destruction of the original Ten Commandments. What will you do to reverse Torah's decay: will you too follow reputations and masses, or will you consult God's Torah before accepting and spreading ideas?