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What is the Jewish view on Reincarnation?

by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Library » Philosophy » Afterlife | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A soul descends to this world from “beneath the throne of glory”—a place much higher than the highest angels—to accomplish her mission in this physical world. After her allotted time, the soul returns to be judged. She may need to be cleansed in gehinom. But eventually, she is able to reap her reward, which is to experience the Divine light that she generated through all her good deeds.

But usually the entire mission of that soul does not get accomplished in a single lifetime. There may also be some mess that needs to be fixed up, left over from a previous life. So that aspect1 of the soul that still needs completion must return. And so, souls return again and again, until their job is complete. By now, almost all souls that come here are returnees.

Eventually, all souls will return in the resurrection of the dead at the end of days. Then we will all receive the complete reward of experiencing the luminous and beautiful world we have all built through the sum of all our good deeds.

For an in depth treatise on the topic of reincarnation read Gate of Reincarnations by the famed Kabbalist Rabbi Chaim Vital (based on the teachings of his master, the Holy Arizal).


  • 1. Every aspect of the soul has the ability to become a complete soul and be a life source for a new body. With the advance of modern sciences we can understand this through the analogy of a cell. Although humans consist of approximately 100 trillion cells, each cell can potentially become a completely new human.


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reincarnation in animal or human body?

Posted by: Jan C on Apr 27, 2007

So when a soul comes back to fix a mess or to complete a mission, does it return as a human soul in another human or as a human soul inhabiting an animal's body? Could it be either/or? Under what circumstances would a human soul inhabit an animal's body, and when then would it be released? After its mission is complete? Or must the soul stay there until the animal dies?

Editor's Comment

The return of a soul to life is almost as diverse as life itself. Generally speaking a human soul will return in a human body. However, on occasion and for one reason or another, a human soul might need to correct a problem of the past through doing a stint in the body of animal. When that happens the soul usually ascends to heaven as soon as the mission is accomplished. See also Can an animal have a human soul?, and When one is reincarnated, do they always come back as the same gender?


Life Cycle » Death » Afterlife

Rabbi Isaac Luria, the 15th Century founder of Modern Kabbalah.