Does the title of this post bring Jewish beliefs to mind? Modern Judaism shies away from these topics, yet they all exist in Jewish theology and have been written about for ages in our religious texts.
Astral Projection: In Jewish thought the neshama (soul) leaves the body while we sleep and reunites with Source (GD) where it is spiritually recharged.
Have you ever dreamed you were speaking with deceased loved ones? Jewish Mystics said we can communicate with our deceased loved ones when our souls travel to Olam Habah while we sleep. Your soul returns to its corporeal vessel upon the onset of awakening.
…when they sleep their souls ascend to Him… in the morning He restores one’s soul to everyone.Midrash Rabbah / Deuteronomy 5:15
The soul fills the body, and when man sleeps it ascends and draws life for him from aboveBereishit Rabah, 14:11
GD breathed the “nishmat chayim” (living soul) into humankind, making life-force of the soul eternally connected to its Divine Source. (Torah)
Reincarnation/Gilgul Neshamot (Wheel of Souls): Our eternal souls can transmigrate into a different host body after we depart this mortal coil.
A number of key figures in the Torah are believed to have received the transmigrated souls of those who passed before them.
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, believed Lilith (Adam’s first wife) had many incarnations, reflecting the many interpretations of Torah.
Jewish mystics believed the soul of Abel/Hevel entered the body of Moses/Moshe, while Cain/Kayin transmigrated into the body of his father-in-law Yitro— thus rectifying the disasterous relationship between Cain and Abel.
Reincarnating in non-human form is a possibility, but was considered by the Kabbalists to be a lower form of Gilgul Neshamot. I disagree. I’d rather come back as a tortoise, plant or tree, than a human.
There are two basic types of reincarnation in Jewish beliefs.
1. Gilgul Neshamot: The soul of a deceased person reincarnates into a host body in Olam Hazeh (this world).
2. Ibbur: The soul of a righteous person (tzadik) leaves Olam Habah (The World To Come) to help elevate another soul that is already inside a host body. The ibbur isn’t there to mess around though. It will be outta there in a New York minute if the soul in the host body refuses to do the work.
Why do souls reincarnate? To ascend to a higher level as a human being, rectify and correct.
Is there a Heaven in Judaism? Yep. Olam Habah is a celestial Paradise where the souls of the departed return to Source (GD). Other names for heavenly realms are Shamayim and Gan Eden.
Sleep is 1/60 of death, fire is 1/60 of hell, honey is 1/60 of manna (from heaven), Shabbat is 1/60 of the World to Come and dreams are 1/60 of prophecy. Dreams are the buds of prophecy.Talmud and Midrash / Brachot 57b
In the verse above we can see the intersection of two beliefs: The ascension of our souls to Olam Habah after death and our souls to traveling to Olam Habah while we sleep, rooted in the concept that sleep is 1/60th of death.
Is there a Hell in Judasim? Hell yes! Most contemporary Jews believe the concept doesn’t exist in Judaism, but it has been around for millennia.
Sheol: “The land of gloom and deep darkness” (Job 10:21). The Torah describes Sheol as a place where all souls go after death. Around the Second Temple period (500 BC – 70 AD) Sheol shifted to a realm for wicked souls, in contrast to Paradise, the realm for the virtuous.
Gehinnom: A punishing place where sinners and wicked souls go, that evolved into a “cleansing” place for souls before their debut in Olam Habah.
What the hell happens in the Jewish concept of hell? It’s only a temporary stopover (unless the deceased was incorrigibly evil), typically referred to as “purgatory” in modern Jewish terminology. Souls can serve a maximum sentence of 12 months in Gehinnom, before ascending to Olam Habah to be with GD.
What happens to truly evil people? Incorrigibly evil souls (people who committed heinous crimes and atrocities on earth) are said to be incinerated out of existence in Gehinnom, making it more like a mix between hell and purgatory. Helgatory.
Does Judaism profess to be ‘the one true faith’ or ‘one true path’ to GD or Heaven?’ NOPE! We don’t roll like that. Judaism is simply considered to be the Jewish path. In Jewish thought, people of all faiths have their own path to GD and an equal share in Heaven. No soul is ‘unsaved’ based on religious beliefs or lack thereof.
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I feel it’s important to provide a holistic Jewish view on these topics, even though mainstream Judaism has taken these topics off the table, in favor of an emphasis on life in This World. It’s a worthy emphasis, but I’ve found that people need to believe there’s more than our transitory experiences on this mortal coil. My class members were comforted to discover we have a heaven for dearly departed souls and even a place where souls atone for harm caused in this world. It was like the missing piece that completed the picture and fulfilled a basic human need.