Ask the rabbi

  • Torah and Jewish Thought
  • The Resurrection of the Dead and World to Come



Rabbi Ari Shvat

Iyyar 7, 5781
I read somewhere that if youre evil you can be reincarnated into an animal or even a rock! Is this true? How can you reincarnate into a rock? A rock doesn’t live and when does it die?
There is a serious difference of opinion among our greatest rabbis whether Judasim believes in reincarnation or not. R. Sa’adya Gaon, R. Yosef Albo, and R. Chasdai Kreskas for example, believe that after life, one goes to the World to Come where his soul enjoys those spiritual pleasures until, if he merits, he reawakens in the Revival of the Dead. They believe there is no reincarnation coming back to this world, as we know it. In contrast, although not mentioned in the Talmud, many of our greatest mainstream rabbis, including the Ramban, R. B’chaye, R. Yizchak Abravanel, and the Zohar explicitly speak of reincarnation based on ancient Jewish kabbalistic sources, where one may be given the choice to return to this world to “try again”, and improve himself and his free will, rather than undergoing the difficult intensive educational punishment of hell (gehinom) for 12 months. According to this opinion, if one returns as an animal or rock (God can do anything), who have no free-will to improve themselves, it serves as a punishment, & could last for a very long time. But don't worry, it's very rare for one to be so bad that he deserves such a serious punishment, and all Jews have a share in the World to Come.
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