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Are there any references to reincarnation in the Bible or Talmud?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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Reincarnation is part of an "afterlife", and the Bible does not speak clearly of an afterlife. See Why isn't the afterlife mentioned explicitly in the Torah?

While the Talmud does mention the afterlife in general it does not mention reincarnation specifically. As a result the notion of reincarnation in Judaism has been both embraced and rejected.

Esoteric topics are generally left to "Kabbalah" (oral tradition transmitted from teacher to student). The Kabbalah was closely guarded for thousands of years by those few who were privileged to gain entrance. Those verses in the Torah and Talmud that allude to reincarnation were known to Kabbalists throughout the ages, and passed down as a tradition, from teacher to student. It is thus not surprising that reincarnation is referenced briefly in other works by Talmudic scholars such as the Midrash and the Zohar.1 In one of his commentaries on the Talmud Rashi2 even mentions it, and of course later Kabbalists like Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Chaim Vital (to name a few) write a lot about it.

To those who were not privy to the inner secrets of Kabbalah, including many honorable and acclaimed Jewish scholars and philosophers, the concept of reincarnation seemed foreign and strange.

Therefore, the answer to your question would be yes and no, depending on whom you ask.

Footnotes

  • 1. See for example Pirkey D'Rabbi Eliezer Chapter 47 and Zohar vol. 2 p. 190
  • 2. Talmud tractate Baba Metziah 114b Rashi "Lav Kohein Mar".

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Death » Afterlife

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.