Andy Blumenthal
Leadership With Heart

Reincarnation: Try, Try Again

AI generated image via Designer

Life is not easy. Like building blocks, we try to build up a stable and secure future for ourselves and our loved ones. And then, “life happens,” and those building blocks can come tumbling down, and we are challenged to rebuild and go on with our lives. Yet as challenging as having to rebuild when calamity strikes, it can even be more so when you have to start a whole new life from scratch again, like in reincarnation.

One of the great issues in dealing with life is what happens when we die. Is it “game over” and we are gone for good, or as Jews we believe that while our bodies die, our souls live on in eternity with Hashem. However, another scenario to deal with is if we still have imperfections that we need to work on, does G-d bring us back again through the reincarnation of our souls (“Gilgul Neshamot”) to continue the process of learning, growth, and perfecting ourselves?

Recently, I was watching 90 Day Fiance, The Last Resort, about couples that go on a retreat to have therapy and try to fix their troubled relationships. In the end, they must decide whether to stay together or break up.

In one scene, Ed Brown, who is short and stocky and in a troubled relationship with someone much younger than himself, closes his eyes, and in a session of past life regression, he sees himself from a prior life hundreds of years before, as a leprechaun in the circus, always seemingly tormented and unloved, and his challenge to overcome is whether in this life he can be in a real loving relationship and attain the unconditional love that his soul has been looking for over his many lifetimes.

Ed’s past life regression got me thinking more about the reality of this in our own life journeys and the progression of the maturation of our souls. At its core, reincarnation certainly has an element of poetic justice, where people are compelled to come back to right the wrongs that they have done to others in prior lives. For example, if you were born rich in one life but acted like a miser and were not charitable or gave to others in need then you may come back in another lifetime as a poor person to see what it means to be needy and to have to ask for or rely on others for help. This is what it means to reincarnate, to work on your soul’s imperfections, and to keep coming back in different lifetimes and life forms until you finally learn and “get it right” in terms of what it means to be a mensch!

In a sense, reincarnation can provide answers to many complex questions about life. For example, we may think we see what looks like injustice in this world, where good people may suffer and bad people may thrive, but with reincarnation, because this lifetime is not the end of the story but just a chapter in the journey of the soul over many lifetimes, there is ample opportunity for the meting out of Divine justice. Beyond this, reincarnation of the soul provides the context for a world of meaning and purpose for our very creation, where G-d in His ultimate loving-kindness, gives us the ability to work on ourselves as long as it takes under varying circumstances to correct our deficiencies and to work to “perfect our souls.”

On one hand, being able to come back reincarnated is an exciting prospect for us as healthy human beings driven to “cling to life.” Moreover, with all the beauty that G-d created for us in the world and the opportunity that life affords us, it is a blessing to be able to partake of it, experience it, and enjoy it, as well as, of course, learn and grow with each round of the soul coming back down for another go at it!

On the other hand, it can be an overwhelming to contemplate “being forced” to come back and “start all over again,” lifetime after lifetime, as if one life wasn’t hard enough to get through. If you think for a moment, can you really imagine, after working all your life to finish school, earn a living, deal with difficult people, confront various health issues, and cope with the multitude of life’s small and large challenges, that in the end, you basically lose everybody and everything and have to start essentially from zero all over again (and maybe again and again)?

Not to be flip, but it’s almost like in a game of Monopoly, where you’re merrily running around the board picking up and building properties, only then to pick up the card of Chance and have to “Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200.” Essentially, when you’re reincarnated, you’re yanked from the board and sent to the jail of life to start again on the board, and you see what transpires this next time around.

So stop for a moment and forget your current life, everyone in it, and everything you’ve done and achieved, and here goes the next reincarnation:

  • Will you be born in a free and prosperous civilized country or a constrained, third-world “banana republic”?
  • Will you have a healthy and loving family or a broken, dysfunctional, and abusive one?
  • Will you be born Jewish or perhaps into another religious denomination?
  • Will you have good, positive friends and influences, or will you end up in a “bad crowd?”
  • Will you have the choice and opportunity to pursue your dreams, or will you be pigeonholed to even get a basic education, a humdrum career, and go nowhere in your life pursuits?
  • Will you be blessed with good health and fortune, or will you have to deal with illness, accidents, disability, or disasters?

Of course, the list goes on and on, and it is scary to know that we not only have to face the challenges in our current lives but perhaps in many other variations of life to come.

Sure, we can’t know the future, and we shouldn’t get bogged down worrying about it, but like Sisyphus having to roll the rock up the hill simply for it to roll back down and have to start pushing it up all over again, reincarnation is a challenging concept even when we believe that “everything is ultimately for our best.”

In the end, reincarnation is not meaningless like Sisyphus, nor is it a threatening last resort for our relationships and souls, but is an opportunity given to us by G-d to try again to improve our character by experiencing the error of our ways up close and personal so that we can become holy and whole souls.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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