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What's the Story with Reincarnation?

What's the Story with Reincarnation?

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Question:

I have a question (rather a big one!).

What's the story with reincarnation? Who is reincarnated, and why?

Answer:

Imagine you are a volunteer for a humanitarian organisation. Your boss sends you on a five year assignment to an underprivileged community. Your mission: to bring hope and meaning in life to as many people as possible. You are given a list of goals to achieve, provisions and a budget with which to get it all done. You will miss your family and friends, but your sense of responsibility pushes you to accept the challenge.

As soon as you arrive in the community, your work begins. Every day has its specific tasks, and you carefully assess and divide your time appropriately, aware that there is much to achieve and little time to achieve it.

The five years go by very quickly. It is very hard for you to leave; you have become attached to the many people with whom you have come into contact, you have enjoyed the sense of achievement, and you can't help feeling that there is so much more to do. But your time is up. Your family is waiting. You have to go home.

Upon your return, even before you are allowed to reunite with your family, you are taken to your boss to give a detailed report of your trip. He has been following your progress from afar and wants to go over it with you. He smiles as you recount your small victories — the hope you brought to lonely families, the new life you showed to forgotten souls. He cries with you over your failings. Sometimes you overslept, and missed the opportunity to help a hungry child. You spent some of your money on unnecessary indulgences. On the whole your mission was a success, most of your time and money well spent. But there is unfinished work.

Your boss addresses you:

"I know it wasn't easy. You have done a fantastic job, and I am proud of you. But there is some unfinished business. Hand in your left-over money and provisions. We have other volunteers waiting to take over your job. You are free to go home to your family."

You are overjoyed. The reunion with your loved ones is even more emotional than you had imagined. But after you have settled back home, something bothers you. You realize that a part of you was left behind. You feel that your mission is not complete. Things were left hanging, and that prevents you from fully reintegrating into your old life.

Until one day the boss calls. He tells you that the work is done. Building on your groundwork, and taking up from where you left off, other volunteers had been able to give the finishing touches to take the community to where it needed to go.

Now you can truly be at rest. Your mission is fulfilled.


The soul can be defined as the Divine energy invested in us to fulfill our mission. Each soul is made up of pockets of energy, called "sparks," every one of which is to be used to further the cause of goodness and kindness in this world. We are all given specific goals and an allotted time on this earth. At the end of that time, our soul returns to its Maker above. Any sparks that were not used, or were used incorrectly, are given a second chance — they are reincarnated along with another soul. But the soul-sparks that we "spent" wisely, the energy that we used positively — to help others, to make the world a better place — they are free to return to where they belong. They are reunited with their "family" — the souls of those who have passed on — and together they enjoy the Divine presence in Heaven. But their rest will only be complete when the remaining sparks — the unfinished business — complete their mission too.

And the Boss promises one thing — that every soul will reach its resting place, and every spark will eventually be reunited with its family.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Evie Scottsdale May 26, 2016

Reincarnation Thank you for your answer. Yisroel Cotlar. It helped me.
And by the way,Karen J. Is not the problems of someone deceased is the same person who comes back. To repair the wrong doing or whatever he-she didn't finish. Although I read that we inherit the sins of our family till the 4th generation. I don't believe in that. Reply

Rona Leah Israel May 25, 2016

Am not surprised Evie is confused, am sure many people are. There are plenty of quotations in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) that lead one to suppose the writer does not believe in any kind of afterlife. And one generation passing and another emerging is what we see in the course of life, the link to any sort of reincarnation looks pretty tenuous to me.

The Tanach tends to refer to Sheol. Including the Book of Job, if I'm not mistaken. And what about "The dead do not praise God, neither do they who go down into silence". All in all, it's not very encouraging. Reply

Evie Scottsdale AZ May 24, 2016

Reincarnation Hello. I had always believe in reincarnation. But this explanation confused me a little. It means our soul doesn't come back complete, but just some of our soul will reincarnate ? Every time I read about it there is a different theory or explanation about it. And makes me really confused. Thank you. Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary June 4, 2015


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 G‑d's word. G‑d, 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. But for the entire article on the subject, please see
chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/474456/ Reply

Rona Leah Israel May 30, 2015

Re: What's the story with Reincarnation. It's a very interesting idea, although scary (who knows where you will be born next?). My question is, what evidence is there for the scenario you describe? I can't find any reference to Gilgulim in the Tanach, but of course may have missed or misinterpreted something. Thanks. Reply

Anonymous U.S. November 17, 2013

"Sometimes you overslept, and missed the opportunity to help a hungry child." I am offended by the analogy that "Sometimes you overslept, and missed the opportunity to help a hungry child." Oversleeping and causing a child to go hungry is an inexcusable crime, and a ridiculous choice to use as an analogy! What kind of human being on such a mission would cause a child to go hungry?!

No matter how horrible my life has been, and how poor I was, I NEVER overslept causing my children to miss a meal, to miss school, or miss ANYTHING! Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA December 1, 2011

I think we muddy the waters of "one G-d" By delving into this area. I put it along with witchcraft and idol worship. I would hate to think that when I was born, I was born with someone else's dirty laundry and had to fix it for them. In fact, I thought we believe babies are born pure and without sin. If we think a baby is born with the problems of someone deceased, then he or she is WITH sin. Reply

Beverly Kurtin Hurst, TX November 30, 2011

Buddhists? Where do you think the Buddhists got their ideas from? For that matter, have you ever seen a Japanese Shinto priest? They wear a square box on their foreheads. They've no idea of why they wear it, but since Abraham sent his sons who born of his other wives to the East it seems pretty obvious that they got it from us.

My brother is a Jewbu. He eschews Judaism and nothing gives me more nachas than to show him where many of the things he practices is from...where else? Judaism.

BTW, I wonder why people call Judaism "Judyism?" I know who Judah was; Judy? Who was she? The correct was to pronounce the word is to look at the spelling: JUDAH ISM. It isn't Jewism. It is Judah Ism.

We're about 3K years old and they're about 1K years ahead of us, they have been influenced by Jewish ideas and practices. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA December 2, 2010

The concept of finishing a job is faulty because.. In a business, people work on a job in teams. If one person leaves, another one comes and does the work. It does not follow that the work IS the person, or is evidence of the person who left BECOMING the new one who arrives to finish the job. Reincarnation is only a Jewish concept in this way: We say for every birth, there's a death. The reason we only name babies after dead people because...why? We are hoping the LEGACY left behind from those people will live on in the newly born. Not the SOUL. The legacy. A second concept which mimics as reincarnation is that of genetic memory. Sometimes, we have a feeling we've been there or done that before. It is highly probable that some of what was created in the brain while alive becomes a tendency or inheritable trait. Ex: Often, children of alcoholics or addicts will have a gene marker which is the same. Again, this is genetic, not reincarnation. Reply

Editor December 2, 2010

Clarification A few paragraphs explaining the story, which were mistakenly omitted when this article was originally posted, have been added to the end of the article. We hope you find that the meaning is a lot clearer now. Reply

Anonymous Riverside, CA, USA November 4, 2010

So, is the author saying Jews believe in this? Doesn't that make us into Buddhists? My sister paid $5,000 to be hypnotized to find out what she was in a past life. The lady told her it turned out she was a donkey (ass). I could have told her that for WAY less money. This is no joke. It's the truth. She married a Buddhist and believes in that stuff. Reply

Anonymous April 7, 2010

Reincarnation After thinking things over, I think I understand that we are given a certain time to live in this world, with our own personal mission of mitzvot and helping others. Soon the time is up, and we rejoin our Creator in the afterlife, joining with our "family". Since the task was not totally finished, other "volunteers" chip in. Those are the reincarnated souls, who continue the mission wherever sent. Reply

Anonymous April 1, 2010

Reincarnation I also am not sure how this article answers the question. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, Ca March 27, 2010

reincarnation found the story lacking something... or maybe I just don't get it... Is it that if we do return, it's to complete another's tasks?
Maybe it's me.... Reply

Anonymous March 27, 2010

Reincarnation Nice story. Maybe I am dense but how does it apply to reincarnation Reply

John Mullet Des Arc, AR March 27, 2010

Reincarnation If one is truly living and trying their best to do the will of G-d with the understanding He has given, is there then a need to pursue a second chance.
Perhaps the pursuit is an indication of ones own dissatisfaction with their present course.
Your fear is good, for it is the beginning of wisdom. Reply

Benjamin Charlotte, NC March 27, 2010

There are, in fact, several parts of Torah that alude to reincarnation. Before anyone says otherwise, I will remind them that Torah NEVER says anything explicitly about the afterlife. If you say that reincarnation is a lie because Torah doesn't explicitly mention it, then you must also say that we do not go to heaven, or gehinnom, because Torah does not explicitly say so.

To give one example of the evidence:

In Exodus 20, as well as Deuteronomy 5, God says that he visits punishment upon later generations (4 or 5) for the sins of earlier ones.

However, Deuteronomy 24 and Ezekiel 18 say that punishment for an individual's sins lie on that individual alone.

Reincarnation easily clears up this interpretive problem, and sages have said so.

As for the latest subject "reincarnation" post, who said, "Pretty stories based on personal beliefs have no value at all": Shame! No value at all? You don't know that this story is personal, and even so that is like saying that life has no value. Reply

Brenda Horn Memphis, tn March 26, 2010

This is awesome! Reply

Andre Rio de Janeiro March 26, 2010

It´s just me... Sorry my ignorance but... I don´t get it. Reply

JayMar Pittsburgh, PA March 26, 2010

Reincarnation When I read the subject I was quite excited, but was disappointed with the story. I would have preferred a straight-to-the-point answer with proof from the Torah or the Tanakh. Pretty stories based on personal beliefs have no value at all. The story didin't answer the question and left me quite empty. Sorry. Reply

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