Jewish Thought

Reincarnation

16.06.16

Question

 the questioner forgot to add that there is a clear verse in the Torah that says “They sacrificed to demons” (Deuteronomy 32:17). This shows that the Torah itself testifies that demons exist, so how could Maimonides not believe in them? Another question is how could Rabbi Saadiah Gaon not believe in reincarnation? He even says that people who believe in it are fools who are need of Hashem's mercy. Maimonides didn't even mention reincarnation in his writings and his son Avraham ben Harambam spoke sharply against this belief: “The final reward is in the World to Come. Some of the primitive nations had a hard time accepting this idea, so they began to believe in the concept of reincarnation, that when a person dies and a soul leaves the body, it goes into a different body. A wise person and someone who is true to the Torah will not believe this, but the primitive nations do, and they are the ones that Hashem erased their names from this world.” How could this be?
Another question is that Maimonides in Guide for the Perplexed calls the angels that were revealed to the prophet “a chizion- hallucination”. What, Maimonides doesn't believe in angels? However, in the Laws of Foundations of the Torah he does talk about “angels”!
Another question is that the Arizal commanded his student Rabbi Chaim Vital not to go the graves of righteous people on Shabbat and holidays because at these times the souls ascend on high and they are not resting on the grave. So how could it be that people do go to these graves on the Eve of the holiday and even stay there on the holiday itself?
 

Answer

Thank you for your questions.
The verse in the Torah about “sacrificing to demons” is talking about idol worshipers, who believed in false gods, and who also believed in demons. Instead of praying to the Creator of the world and worshiping Him, they prayed to idols and demons- so this verse doesn't prove that demons exist.
In any case, Maimonides didn't write that demons don't exist. He meant that since their reality no longer has any relevance to our lives, he didn't acknowledge their existence in his works.
Rabbi Saadiah Gaon didn't oppose the idea of reincarnation as expounded in kabbalah, but rather the childish notion of reincarnation that many people believe. For example, the stories about how the soul of a dog could end up in a human body, as if an animal and a person are spiritually equivalent. It's important to remember that the idea of reincarnation is very popular with the idol worshipers of India, who believe that a worm can reincarnate as a human and a human can reincarnate as a worm, repeatedly forever, without any belief in reward and punishment from G-d. Our Torah leaders warn us to stay away from the idea of this kind of reincarnation. 
Most of the writings of Avraham the son of Maimonides were discovered by the proponents of the Enlightenment movement, and were not passed down directly. Many people therefore doubt their authenticity. 
Maimonides obviously believed in angels, and wrote extensively about them in Guide for the Perplexed, and explained that they are messengers to do the will of Hashem in His world.
When Maimonides wrote “chizion” he didn't mean, G-d forbid, a hallucination. Rather he meant a true vision of angels that only the righteous can see with prophecy, and simple people cannot see. It is not imagination but rather a spiritual vision that Hashem shows only to His prophets.
A graveyard is an impure place and it is forbidden to visit on Shabbat and holidays according to Jewish law. I don't know what those who do differently are relying on.

 

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