We will now explain the difference between a righteous person and an evil person. This will allow us to better understand the differences among the verses and the things discussed by our sages.

Sometimes we see that a person only reincarnates three times, according to the esoteric meaning of the verse, "Behold, G‑d does all these things, two or three times with a man" (Job 33:29). There is also the esoteric meanings of the verses, "For three sins of Israel, but for the fourth I will not return…" (Amos 2:6), and "…Who visits the sins of the fathers on the children unto the third [generation] and unto the fourth [generation]" (Ex. 20:5). Yet, it says in Sefer HaTikunim (69) that a righteous person reincarnates up to one thousand generations, and there are other sources similar to this.

Thus, the question is whether a soul reincarnates up to three times and no more, or whether it can reincarnate as many as a thousand times and maybe even more?

The "four generations" refers to evil people

The verse itself answers the question. The "four generations" refers to evil people, as it says, "…Who visits the sins of the fathers… to those who hate Me." In contrast, to whom is He "…doing kindness for a thousand generations" (ibid. 6)? The same verse answers, "…to those who love Me and keep My commandments."

Those who hate G‑d are the evil people, to whom the four-generation limit on reincarnations applies. Those who love G‑d are the righteous people, to whom "a thousand generations" of reincarnations applies.

The explanation is as follows: When the Nefesh of a person comes into the world for the first time and sins, becoming blemished and forcing it to reincarnate into another body to become rectified, this is its first reincarnation. If it doesn't become rectified, then it returns in a second reincarnation. If it is not rectified then, it returns in a third reincarnation, but from then onward he will not be able to attain rectification by reincarnating again. It is then said about it that "the Nefesh will be cut off from his people," completely (Gen.17:14).

This verse in Genesis is the first of many times in the Torah that the penalty of excision of the souls of the wicked is stipulated.

However, this is only when a person failed to accomplish any rectification over the course of the first three gilgulim. On the other hand, if at some point during those three [reincarnations] he began the process of tikun, even a little, then he will not be cut off. It is even possible that he could return to achieve rectification over the course of a thousand generations, if necessary.

In effect, the difference between the righteous and the wicked has been explained. The completely wicked will not be allowed to reincarnate more than three times. The righteous may reincarnate as many as a thousand times in order to increase merit and rectification.

One who rectifies even a little is called "righteous"…

Hence, one who does not achieve any rectification at all is called "evil," but one who rectifies even a little is called "righteous." All his subsequent gilgulim will complete the rectification process.

To what are these words applicable?

I believe that I heard from my teacher that all this is only true regarding the Nefesh, since it is from the world of Asiya that is immersed in the kelipot. That is why excision [karet] is only mentioned with respect to the Nefesh, because only it can be cut off from holiness and remain immersed in the kelipot.

The verses that talk about excision always talk about the Nefesh being cut off, G‑d forbid. The Ruach and Neshama are never mentioned in connection with excision.

G-­d…devises stratagems in order that no Nefesh should descend into the kelipot … never to be redeemed…

However, the kelipot do not have such a strong hold over the Ruach and Neshama, which are from Yetzira and Beriya. Therefore, a person is able to rectify them without failure, although there are those that accomplish tikun quickly, and there are those who do it over a longer period of time after many reincarnations.

How is excision possible?

How is such a thing possible? We have already discussed the verse (Samuel II 14:14) where it is written that G‑d "…devises stratagems in order that the banished ones should not be banished," that no Nefesh should descend into the kelipot and be cut off there, never to be redeemed.

However, this matter can be understood in the following way: The good that was accumulated during the three reincarnations is dispersed among others. The evil that is now left isolated and alone is dissipated and destroyed.

[Commentary by Shabtai Teicher.]