web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Ami Magazine Forcing Gilgulim Down our Throats

Trying to explain Holocaust deaths as tikkun and a way of cleansing a soul is offensive.

A nightmarish vision titled "Blood Is The Best Sauce," from the Portfolio "God with Us" by German artist George Grosz.

A nightmarish vision titled "Blood Is The Best Sauce," from the Portfolio "God with Us" by German artist George Grosz.

Ami Magazine published an article by Sara Yocheved Rigler that would have many of our Geonim and Rishonim turning over in their graves. In a nutshell, the article describes strange phenomena such as fear of Nazi related imagery or fear of situations that might be similar to Holocaust experiences. The people experiencing these things are not able to explain why they have these fears.

According to the article, these are manifestations of reincarnated souls from the Holocaust. That is the only explanation given for these oddities (which are not very odd at all). In fact, the article goes so far as to suggest that non-Jews are also reincarnated with Jewish souls from the Holocaust and this is what draws them toward conversion. Of course this is problematic because those who believe in reincarnation and recycling of souls also believe that souls only transmigrate from Jew to Jew and non-Jews are given new souls with each birth. This is waved away by a rabbi quoted in the article who says if you wanted to be a non-Jew in a previous life you come back as a non-Jew.

I have three basic issues with this article.

1. It is disingenuous because it uses anecdotes from people who do not necessarily agree with the article as support for the article’s ideas. For example, Rabbi Berel Wein is quoted at the beginning of the article. He related that the Ponevezher Rav once said to a group of young couples in Miami that their job was to repopulate the world with Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust. That is a common Jewish sentiment from the mid-20th century. The problem is that it is being used as some sort of support for the idea that Jews born in America are reincarnations of people who perished in the Holocaust. He said nothing of the sort. He meant nothing of the sort. There is simply no reason to think he did.

Another similar example is using R’ Lau’s recollection of the Holocaust. He famously said that experiencing the Holocaust as a child left him with three strong memories. Dogs, boots, and trains. This is somehow used as support for the idea that someone who is afraid of boots is reincarnated from someone who perished in the Holocaust.

Neither of those stories has anything to do with reincarnation. But it gives the article “credence” to toss a few familiar names into the article to prove irrelevant, agreed upon points.

2. Stay away from the Holocaust. Trying to explain Holocaust deaths as tikkun and a way of cleansing a soul is offensive. We don’t know why people die. We don’t even know if there is always a reason that people die. To try to make death feel better because it’s part of a giant soul reincarnation cleansing plan is no better than saying they died because of their sins. It’s ugly.

But more importantly, it demonstrates that the real reason reincarnation is being discussed in this context is to make us feel better. We don’t understand death and destruction so we explain it with reincarnation. We don’t understand how millions could die for no reason so we explain it with reincarnation. We can’t explain a fear of showers or boots so it must be reincarnated souls from the Holocaust. There might be better answers to these questions. But the article does not explore them. Using the emotional appeal of the Holocaust to draw us into a reincarnation narrative is inappropriate.

3. Most importantly, reincarnation is a very controversial subject in Judaism. It’s not mentioned in Tanach. It’s not mentioned in the Talmud or Medrash. It’s rejected by most of the Geonim. It is rejected or ignored by many of the mainstream Rishonim. It serves no theological purpose other than to explain things that might be able to be explained in another way.

The article jumps right into reincarnation without a moment’s consideration of the very prominent Torah authority figures that reject reincarnation. This is at worst a lie and at best ignorance. But either way it is incomplete. Gilgul is not a necessary belief in orthodox Judaism. In fact, it might be worst to believe in it than not to believe in it. Why are we normalizing this kind of thing? Why are we discarding the valid opinions that don’t hold of gilgul? Why is it okay to just side with the Arizal on everything and forget about everyone else?

I don’t need to make the complete case against gilgul here. But I will make a couple of points.

The Ancient Greeks believed in reincarnation. We did not. We knew their beliefs and we rejected them in the time of Chazal. It’s impossible to say that Jews did not talk about reincarnation because they just didn’t know that it could exist. It was known and it was not accepted. It began to be accepted by a select few Rishonim after being rejected by the two most prominent early Rishonim that discuss Hashkafa, Rambam and Rabbi Judah HaLevi. The one prominent Rishon who does mention gilgul is Ramban and he does so at the expense of an interpretation on the verse that is in Chazal. In other words, they had a different explanation for the verse. The interpretation of Ramban contradicts Chazal.

In the 15th and 16th century there was a renewed interest in this sort of thing. Dybbuks also became more popular in this period. (See: Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism ) But it’s no fait accompli that gilguls and dybbuks are part of Judaism. We have no idea if it’s true and our early sources say that it’s not.

It’s not a positive development that these beliefs have gone mainstream. They are too easy to reject and cast aspersion on the more vital parts of Judaism. We don’t need this stuff in Judaism and it doesn’t improve our lives. Why are we so willing and eager to embrace it in our publications without question? This is my little protest. Don’t force these beliefs down our throats. It’s not integral to Judaism.

(Note: Reincarnation at the times of Messiah has nothing to do with this discussion.)

Read the article here: PDF

Visit Fink or Swim.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

9 Responses to “Ami Magazine Forcing Gilgulim Down our Throats”

  1. Maybe it would be better not to say anything at all

  2. How about as the culmination of centuries of Christian hate for Jews? Tiqqun is getting the hell away from them instead of assimilating.

  3. The Nazis drew on medieval Christian anti semitism in their campaign of terror against the Jewish people, but their philosophy owed just as much to racial theories and Germanic paganism. I think the Nazis had an ambivalent relationship with Christianity. Hitler hated the side of Christianity which he felt that it had been emasculated by “the Jew Paul”, but he also felt Yoshke was an “Aryan” who fought against “Jewish poison”.

  4. One Nazi Youth song was “Down with the Rabbi and the priest, we want to be pagans once again”

  5. But I agree with you that Christian anti-semitism definitely laid the groundwork for the Holocaust to a certain extent. Without centuries of Christian hostility towards Jews in Europe sanctioned by the Church, it would have been much harder for the Nazis to rouse hatred against the Jews. They already had a dormant network of anti-Jewish sentiment to tap into

  6. Yes, I’ve tried to study this. We always mention Hitler, the opportunist and worse, but the people themselves deserve just as much blame. Reading the Nuremberg Laws directly drawing from Church law seems to tie it all together nicely. And the nationalist ‘volk’ worked the other angle. Seems there’s always evil coming from two angles and the Church worked with secular components for centuries.

  7. Benny Gamal says:

    Dear Rabbi Fink:
    Hey, you are no fink!
    You are right … that article was pure pop-philosophy horsechips
    What is this "Ami" magazine … it's probably the only magazine I don't get because you can't find a deal on it, anywhere!
    I'll stick with Maxim and Playboy … because at least there honest and don't resort to sick ersatz philosophical "mind finks"!
    Tizku Le'Mitzvot.
    Sincerely,
    Benny Gamal -"HaKohein Hashamein" (The Fat Kohein)

  8. Rochelle Pudlowski Eissenstat says:

    Alas, this is consistent with other writings of this author. If I see her name, I do not read the article. That is my advice to others here as well.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS in Quneitra
Updates from Kuneitra, Syria [video]
Latest Blogs Stories
The Palestinian Authority backed by EU funds, has sent Bedouin into the E-1 area of Maaleh Adumim to claim it is part of their fictional history.

The new “Begin Plan” is an impending nightmare, it rewards the Bedouins for brazen land-grabbing.

its a deal

There is absolutely nothing for Israel’s security in this American document.

A Jewish wedding.

Is it because of corrupt values and lack of meeting opportunities that we have a shidduch crisis?

Islamic Law

Israel is fighting the war that none of the Western world has the ability or courage to fight.

Finish the job! Sayyem et a missima!סיים את המסימה!

Life after 50? You better believe it! Tips on how to prepare and enjoy life after retirement.

While I am no fan of the two-state solution, I think I have a solution for the Gaza strip. Let me make it perfectly clear that in no way do I believe a Palestinian people, nation or Arab State ever existed in the history of the world and certainly was not occupied by Israel. If […]

Hamas targeted the Erez Crossing when it knew that Gazans and Israeli Arabs would be there, out in the open…

Does it really take Jewish innovation to come up with this idea?

If you don’t know who’s behind The terror in your mind The answer’s not hard to find, Blame the Jews

If feminism is mentioned at all, it is usually to condemn it as an anti Torah ideal.

“…people making jokes about turning this into a shelter rave, taking #bombshelterselfies…”

Marriage is not just about emotional fidelity but about financial fidelity as well.

So you want to blame Israel? First answer these 5 simple questions, and see if you even have a leg to stand on…

Hamas’s online Jihadi supporters and groupies are desperately trying to differentiate between their support for Hamas and supporting ISIS.

We all got degrees. We got married. We had families. We worked. We and were Koveih Itim

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?

Are donations from immoral people acceptable?

Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism.

There is no song that tells the story of freedom like Shir HaShirim.

It is unfair to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world.

Adegbile was not making a moral statement by representing a man convicted of killing a cop.

Women learning Torah is becoming increasingly permissive, but women wearing tefillin is becoming increasingly stringent.

When the “offensive” statements in our Talmud were stated, no one thought they were offensive.

Both communities value using books to study their texts, and digital devices are a less preferable way for younger people to study.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/ami-magazine-forcing-gilgulim-down-our-throats/2013/10/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: