The phenomenon of reincarnation offers one of the best documented and most compelling proofs for the eternal nature of the human soul. Large numbers of scientifically researched accounts offer credible evidence that human beings can actually remember experiences from previous lives – circumstances in which they lived as a different person in a vastly different time and place. Details of these descriptions have been researched and found to be true, although they contain information that would have been impossible for the individuals relating them to have known. Dr. Ian Stevenson and his staff at the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia are responsible for consolidating a great deal of the data in this field over the past few decades.
Beyond the accounts collected in the files of researchers, popular media also reports incidents of reincarnation from time to time. In the example cited below, a murder victim carries memories of his death to another life, recalling the identity of the murderer in details no one else could possibly have known. (Another approach to topic of reincarnation is based upon “past-life regression” – the return to previous lives via hypnosis. This less-known technique will be discussed below.)
I Remember How I was Murdered at 5:45
From the Press Information Bureau, New Delhi, India
On August 28, 1983 at 5:45 p.m., Suresh Varma, a resident of the city of Agra, India was murdered. A bullet entered his temple and he was killed instantly. The murderer fled.
Four months later, Tito Singh was born in the very same city of Agra. When Tito turned six years old he told his parents: “In a previous incarnation, I had a store that sold radios. I remember how I was killed at 5:45 p.m. in the afternoon. I was on my way home from work when two men with pistols in their hands opened fire on me out of the blue. A bullet hit me in the head. It was the businessman Sadik Yohedian who killed me.”
The most famous parapsychologist in India, Dr. Chateda, examined the child and then ordered that the bones of the murder victim be exhumed for testing as well.
Two bullet holes were located in the skull of the murdered man. As it entered the bullet made a hole approximately one centimeter above the right temple, exiting on the left side of the skull where the ear had been. In comparison, X-rays performed on the child revealed a large crack in the skull from the right temple leading around to the area around the left ear.
Professor Chateda introduced the boy to the wife of the slain merchant. Tito told her about a picnic that he and the woman had enjoyed together during which he had given her a large box of sweets. Only the wife and the husband had known about the picnic. Not only were they the only people to participate in it, but they had not mentioned it to anyone else at all.
The strangest thing of all: The Agra police arrested businessman Yohedian based on the child’s testimony. After a short period of interrogation, he admitted to the crime.
In another amazing account, which was reported in the Israeli press, a Druse-Israeli soldier fulfilling his service requirement with the Israel Defense Force claimed that he was the reincarnation of a Syrian soldier killed in a previous war. He refused to continue serving in the army because of his inner conflict of having a reincarnated soul from an enemy army, as opposed to his desire to serve his own country. A group of experts from the Israeli army carefully examined the soldier’s circumstances in order to verify that his complaint was legitimate, and not some clever attempt to avoid his military obligation. The soldier offered exact details about his place of birth in his previous life, a small village in Syria which he had never visited in his current incarnation. The army experts confirmed the soldier’s claim and he was released from his service due to his “past.”
~The Torah's Explanation of the Phenomenon~~
When the soul leaves the body, complete and pure by virtue of having observed the commandments and overcoming the various obstacles and challenges it faced in the material world (and if not, after proper penitence), then it blooms like a beautiful sapling in the Garden of Eden, in direct proportion to the quality and quantity of its good deeds on earth. The soul then baths in the radiance of the Divine Presence, until the time comes for the entire world to be elevated and itself become like the Garden of Eden, free of negative impulses, suffering, pain, or death. The recomposed body participates in this joy, because it was also a partner in the process of spiritual work and was elevated through it. In the time of the resurrection of the dead, the soul is in “full bloom,” and its status can be recognized through the illumination it brings to the body. But if it arrives in the World of Truth after leaving the body defiled by sin, the Creator must sear and refine it, not in punishment or out of revenge, but as a kind of purification process. (Interestingly the Hebrew word for sin, ^chet^^, is derived from the term for “missing the mark.” That is, did the soul hit the mark of its purpose in refining and perfecting itself in this world, or did it miss its mark by sinning?). The soul is cleansed by the Creator, much as a father cleans a son who has been sullied after disobeying the father’s command. Alternatively, the soul can be returned to the world in order to complete its process of spiritual repair. When its refinement and purification are complete it will receive its reward for all of the commandments it has done.
It is important to note that one reason for reincarnation is to correct the improper acquisition of money and property, such as goods that were taken dishonestly from a victim or his inheritors. For instance, a person who borrows property or money from a friend and dies without having returned it may have to be reincarnated in order to “lose” a similar possession, so that the proper owner or heir can “find” it – although neither is aware of the real reason for this transaction. Similarly, as noted in many kabbalistic teachings, not all souls return to the world. Only those souls who require spiritual rectification return.
Also, according to the kabbalistic teachings of the Arizal, a person does not return to the world with every level of his or her soul intact. Only those portions which are yet to be repaired enter the body. The rest already enter the Garden of Eden. With every incarnation, a person ascends the ladder of spiritual perfection. This explains the custom of visiting the graves of the deceased on the anniversary of their deaths, which brings merit to the dead; for even if they have been reincarnated, parts of their soul may remain above.
The teachings on reincarnation answer many of life’s most enduring questions, and touch upon ancient mysteries: Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? The truth is that only God knows who is truly righteous and who is truly evil. And only He knows what is really good and bad for each person. Even a truly righteous person may have to repay, in this world, a debt acquired in a previous lifetime. This world refines him as well, so that he can achieve the spiritual perfection for which he was created.
Adapted from The Revolution by Rabbi Zamir Cohen