We heard a wonderful Dvar Torah today at the Downtown Jewish Center Chabad in Fort Lauderdale by one of my absolutely favorite Rabbis, Schneur Kaplan, about reincarnation and there being a reason for everything in life.
That’s right, Judaism believes in reincarnation!
Reincarnation actually makes so much sense, especially when you understand that G-d can and does bring people back to the world when they still have life lessons to learn and growth to be achieved. It’s part of our preparation and our soul’s purification process to go back to Hashem.
Rabbi Kaplan told a story about the Baal Shem Tov and his student, the Maggid of Mezeritch. The Maggid asked the Baal Shem Tov to explain reincarnation so as to understand reward and punishment as it relates to the Torah portion this week, Mishpatim, which is all about the Jewish justice system.
Sometimes in life, we ask why something happens to us, but you really need to see the big picture, the context of your life in this world, and that everything is connected to what you do.
The Baal Shem Tov told the Maggid of Mezeritch to look out the window of life. He sees a man riding on a horse. The man stops, drops his money bag, and rides off, leaving it on the ground. A second person strolls up, sees the money bag, picks it up, and puts it in his pocket. Then a third person comes and sits down to rest in the very same spot.
Well what happens next?
Of course, the first man who lost his money bag, realizes it’s gone and that he dropped it when he stopped and got off his horse. He goes back to the spot that he had previously stopped at and sees the third person sitting there and asks for his money back. The third man responds that he doesn’t know what he is talking about and doesn’t have his money, whereupon the first man starts beating him up. The Maggid of Mezeritch asks, like any of us would, how is any of this fair?
To this, the Baal Shem Tov explains, when you look at what’s happening out the window of life, you need to see the big picture of G-d’s planning. Here, in a prior life, the first person borrowed money from the second person and never repaid him, so when he dropped his money bag and the second person found it, it was true justice for the loan that the first person never repaid the second person in a prior life. So why did the third person deserve to get beaten up? The third person was the community rabbi in the prior life and he didn’t judge the case of the unpaid loan fairly, and didn’t make the first person pay the aggrieved second person, so in this life, he gets beaten up for it. In the end, everyone got what they deserved.
Certainly, this is not meant to ever blame the victim, but rather to add a deeper context to what may seem otherwise impossible to understand. Sure, there are unspeakably horrible things that happen like the Holocaust, and these cannot easily be understood or even rationally discussed because of how terrible they are. Yet, we do know that from the ashes of the Holocaust, we were reborn again into the Garden of Eden of Israel, with a renewed strength, life, and hope.
While we can’t directly connect the dots, there is magic to the mystery happening in the course of humankind. We didn’t just get to where we are today without lots of causes and effects and a G-d that not only creates, but sustains us, and manages world events every moment of every day, even while maintaining free choice for each of us.
Obviously, we are not G-d, and don’t have the time and event perspective of Hashem who was, is, and will be. However, if we understand that G-d has a plan, everything is connected, and there is a reason for everything, then we can go through life inspired to do the right thing ourselves even when we are challenged by our circumstances. Because even as we get scars going through life today, we also grow new muscle that strengthen us for tomorrow. We are here to learn and grow until we’ve completed that which G-d wants us to fix in ourselves and the world. Hashem is waiting for us in Heaven, and all we have to do, is right our wrongs, and return to bask in His Divine presence and Heavenly awesomeness.