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Transmigration of Souls, Part One
by Gedalyah Nigal
An Excerpt from Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism
[Continued in Part Two]
The doctrine of gilgul (transmigration)(1) is a classic example of a kabbalistic doctrine that was absorbed by Hasidism from the esoteric literature, especially from Lurian Kabbalah. Unlike, however, the various kabbalistic elements that stimulated only theoretical hasidic thought, but that only marginally penetrated the hasidic story, the subject of gilgul made deep incursions into both the hasidic homiletic literature and the hasidic storytelling genre. Already during the Safed period, the subject of gilgul, similar to other kabbalistic ideas, had become a popular topic, as is attested to by the stories on this subject, from the period of Rabbi Isaac Luria on. The founders of Hasidism had learned of these stories, along with the theoretical kabbalistic thought regarding transmigrations, both orally and from manuscripts and printed books, and they have stimulated the hasidic storytelling genre from then to the present.
The hasidic gilgul stories are an instructive example of the way in which the hasidic storytelling genre absorbed earlier subjects and motifs, especially those of the kabbalistic hagiographic literature. This chapter attempts to encompass the hasidic story material, citing at the same time prehasidic sources and parallels. Needless to say, it shall not deal with the doctrine of gilgul per se, but rather as it is reflected in the storytelling realm.
In general, it may be stated that the hasidic stories about transmigrations, which were first printed in the book Shivhei Ha-Besht (Kapust 1815) and later in the hasidic storytelling genre, are based on, and revolve around, four basic situations:
- Souls (or sparks of souls) that already had been in the world, which return and revive the bodies of humans.
- Disembodied souls that have not come to rest, which come to the tzaddik to request their remedy.
- Souls that have transmigrated into inanimate objects, flora, or fauna and that await their ascent-correction.
- Disembodied souls (dybbukim) that enter the bodies of humans with souls of their own in anticipation of their correction through exorcism (the fourth situation will be discussed later,(2) and therefore this chapter concentrates on the first three basic story situations only).
1. Like the kabbalistic story,(3) the hasidic story assumes that the tzaddikim have knowledge about their own transmigrations and those of others.(4) It was related that the Baal Shem Tov was the transmigration of Rav Saadiah Gaon,(5) or that of Enoch.(6) A report, the purpose of which is to explain the disagreement between the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nahman of Kosov, relates that the Baal Shem Tov was a spark of the soul of King David, while Rabbi Nahman was a spark of the soul of Saul.(7) Rabbi Yudel, a relative of Rabbi Nahman of Kosov, was the gilgul of the prophet Samuel,(8) and Rabbi Ze'ev of Zbarazh was the gilgul of the prophet Jeremiah.(9) Rabbi Jacob Isaac, the "seer" of Lublin, said to Rabbi Zelka of Grodzisk that their love for each other was due to their having been father and son in a previous gilgul.(10) Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apta said "that he was now in the third gilgul, and that in the first gilgul he had been a nasi, and in the second an exilarch."(11) According to another story tradition, he claimed that he had already been in the world ten times and that he had been a nasi, a king, and the like.(12) Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, author of Yismah Moshe, said about himself that he was present in this world for the third time. In the first gilgul, he was one of those who left Egypt (and his name was written in the Torah); he preferred not to reveal the second gilgul. When Rabbi Isaac Eizik Taub, rabbi of Kallo, was told of this, he said the second time Rabbi Moses had been the prophet Jeremiah.(13) The son of Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin said that his father was then in the world for the third time and that he never "had been in such a state of perfection as now." (14) Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Rymanow said that he had already been in this world one hundred times and that this was the last time, for he would return no more.(15) The tzaddik Rabbi Bertzi Leifer of Nadworna, who died in the Holocaust, also said about himself that he had been in this world three times:
The first time he was a nasi of a tribe in the generation that wandered in the desert, and his name was Kemuel the son of Shiphtan. The second time he was a tenant-farmer (arendar), and he was shown the place of his burial in the cemetery when he was a tenant-farmer. This third time, he is now in this world. He added, "I most perfected myself when I was a tenant-farmer."(16)
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch of Zhidachov said to his brother Rabbi Moses of Sambor that in one of his transmigrations he had been the Riba (Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha), the High Priest.(17) The soul of the Maharal of Prague (Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel) transmigrated to Rabbi Aryeh Leib, the "grandfather from Shpola."(18) Rabbi Shalom of Belz knew all the transmigrations of his son,(19) about whom it was related that he was from the root of Cain.(20)
Rabbi Isaac Eizik Safrin of Komarno recorded an exceptional story about his gilgul in his intimate diary: "I was the firstborn of my father, and due to the accusation ... he [Satan] caused me to have perverted transmigrations, for if he had corrected my soul, I would not have needed to come to this world.... I was not in this world for more than a year." According to him, he had been the firstborn of his father but had died at the age of one year. His soul came to the world a second time, in his [Rabbi Isaac Eizik Safrin's] body. "And as soon as I came to my mother from the upper world, I said to her, 'Mother, return me to you, for thus it has been decreed.'"(21)
All of these stories deal with the past and the present. The tzaddikim, however, also have knowledge of future transmigrations. The Baal Shem Tov prophesied, close to his death, that if in the meantime the Messiah did not come, he would return to this world in a transmigration within sixty years.(22) These pieces of information are usually an isolated detail in the story and not the subject of the entire plot. They appear in order to explain a certain fact and mainly to show that religious-moral problems, such as "It is bad for the righteous, while the wicked benefit,"(23) can be resolved if we know the essence of the gilgul (see later).
2. We have included the disembodied souls among the transmigrations, even though the term "gilgul" presumably assumes a return entry into some body and renewed contact with the material reality. Regarding the souls that came to the Baal Shem Tov to request their correction, he told his brother-in-law, Rabbi Gershon of Kutow: "I engaged in mystical meditations of the Unity, and then dead souls came in the thousands and myriads, and I have to speak to each and every one, why it was rejected from its place. I make its correction for it, pray for it, and cause it to ascend." Rabbi Gershon, who also sought to "cause souls to ascend," fainted when he saw "that the dead came to him, like a great flock of sheep."(24) Yosef Dan has already noted the closeness of the story to the hagiographic sources of Rabbi Isaac Luria.(25)
It should be emphasized that the description in Shivhei Ha-Besht, which takes place during prayers in the synagogue, is much more delicate than the plastic description from the time of Rabbi Isaac Luria. The latter also emphasizes what is lacking in the story about the time of the Baal Shem Tov: that the souls with whom
Luria spoke had already transmigrated into the bodies of people,
but they had not yet received their correction.(26)
A contemporary tzaddik regards the conversation with the souls of the dead and their correction as one of the unique qualities of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and of hasidic tzaddikim in general. He writes:
The most sublime level is that the soul itself of the person of whom we are talking tells the tzaddik about the deeds he did; this is the level of the disciples of the holy Baal Shem Tov, may his merit protect us, who spoke with the souls of those who came to them and revealed to them what had happened to them since they were on the earth, and what was defective in their previous transmigrations, and the root of their correction. This was widely known among all the congregation of hasidim and in the books of the tzaddikim.(27)
3. According to the kabbalistic theory, souls transmigrate into the inanimate, flora, and fauna.(28) Obviously, there will not be many stories about transmigration into the inanimate,(29) and there are few stories about transmigrations into flora.(30) In contrast, there are many transmigrations into various animals. One of the reasons for this may possibly be that it is difficult to cause a soul that has transmigrated into the inanimate to be brought up, it is easier to correct it with a blessing(31) if it transmigrated into flora, and it is easier still if it transmigrated within a fish, a permissible fowl, or a permissible beast, for its correction consists of being eaten. Rabbi Jacob Isaac, the "seer" of Lublin, emphasized the great responsibility resting upon the Jew who eats foods containing transmigrated Jewish souls. If this person sins, he also presumably causes the transmigrated souls to sin, and instead of causing them to ascend, he causes them to become even more defective.(32)
Rabbi Zusha (Meshullam Zusya) of Hanipoli and his servant were traveling. On the way they saw birds striking a tree with their beaks. Rabbi Zusha understood that a transmigrated soul was in the tree, and he made its correction.(33) Rabbi Ze'ev of Zhitomer, a disciple of the Maggid of Mezhirech, had previously been a tenant-farmer in a village. Once a Jewish coachman came in to him and wished to drink whiskey without reciting a blessing. Rabbi Ze'ev explained to him that people labor greatly until they produce the whiskey and that many people are transmigrated into inanimate objects. Know, Rabbi Ze'ev said, that your father is transmigrated in this whiskey and awaits the correction of his soul by the recitation of your blessing! The coachman recited the shehakol blessing [" . . . for everything was created with His speaking," recited over whiskey], and the tzaddik responded, "Amen."(34)
As was stated, most of the stories are about transmigrations in animals, from amphibians to mammals. The first printed hasidic story is the story of a transmigration into a frog, two versions of which appear in Shivhei Ha-Besht. In the first version, the Baal Shem Tov encountered the frog on his return from his unsuccessful attempt to immigrate to Eretz Ysrael. The following is the text of the second version ("And some say"):
Once the rabbi entered a state of great profundity and went in this state of contemplation for three days and three nights, and he was totally unaware of this. After this, he realized that he was in a great wilderness, very far from his place. He was quite surprised that he had strayed to this wilderness; this certainly was not without meaning. In the meantime, there came before him a frog so very large that he almost did not know what kind of creature it was, and he asked it: "Who are you?"
This Torah scholar did indeed commit further transgressions, until he had violated almost the entire Torah. His punishment, accordingly, was to have the possibility of repentance withheld from him. Since his sin began with the washing of the hands and in the wake of which he became a total drunkard, his punishment was to transmigrate into a frog, "which always is in the water, and to be in a place where no humans are to be found. For when a Jew would pass by and recite a blessing or think a good thought, he could thereby extract good from evil. The Baal Shem Tov effected a correction for his soul and caused it to ascend, until the frog died."(36)
It said that it was a Torah scholar who had transmigrated into this frog. [And the Baal Shem Tov said: "You are a Torah scholar." This speaking raised it up greatly.](35)
It told him that for five hundred years he had been transmigrated in it and that even though Rabbi Isaac Luria, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing, had effected correction for all souls, his sin was so great that he was sent away to wander in a place where there are no human beings, so that they would not effect a correction for it.
He asked him, What was his sin?
He replied, Once he had made light of netilat yadayim [the washing of the hands before eating bread], and he did not wash his hands properly. Satan accused him, but they replied to him that he was not to be accused for this transgression; however, "one sin leads to another," and if he could cause him to commit one [more] sin, then this one also would be held against him.
The aim of the story is quite clear: to show the greatness of the Baal Shem Tov in correcting transmigrations. The Baal Shem Tov, as Rabbi Isaac Luria in his time, corrected all the transmigrations, even those for which no correction had been effected during the time of Luria. The didactic aim of the story is to emphasize the importance of the observance of the commandments, a warning against making light of presumably "minor" commandments, giving thought to the well-known principle of "one sin leading to another" and of "measure for measure" in the realm of sin and its punishment. It cannot be ruled out that this contains a barb directed against certain types of Torah scholar whose wisdom is greater than their piety and who do not observe minor obligations such as netilat yadayim. An additional conclusion to be drawn from the story is that any fit Jew is likely to attain merit for the transmigrated soul with a good deed or even with a good thought.
Also visible in this story are traces of kabbalistic thought, no less than those of the Safed hagiographic storytelling genre. Rabbi Hayim Vital writes:
Also the one who makes light of netilat yadayim is transmigrated in water; this is the hidden meaning of "[Who has not] given us as a prey to their teeth,"(37) for the initial letters of [this verse,] netananu teref le-shineihem spell out the word natal [to wash]. This is what those of blessed memory said: "The one who eats without washing his hands is uprooted from the
world"(38) and is sentenced to water, as those of blessed memory said.(39)
It seems that under kabbalistic influence, Hasidism accepted the opinion that "most of the righteous transmigrate into fish."(40) This is the source of the obligation to eat fish on the Sabbath, for the consumption of them in sanctity and purity constitutes their correction.(41) Already in Sefer Ha-Hezyonot by Rabbi Hayim Vital, a spirit that entered the daughter of Rabbi Raphael Anaf relates, "Behold, I am not like other spirits, for I am a sage and a righteous one, and I came [here] only because of a minor sin which remains for me to correct...I entered a fish...and his daughter ate me, and I entered her."(42)
The reason for the gilgul of the righteous into a fish is that a kosher fish is always fit to be eaten, and it cannot be disqualified by improper slaughtering, for the laws of ritual slaughtering do not apply to it.(43) Rabbi Isaac Eizik Safrin of Komarno writes that the Messiah son of Joseph accepts upon himself exile "for the righteous ones transmigrated into fish."(44) Rabbi Simha Bunim of Przysucha related, "Once I went to the river, and there was a large fish there [which] threw itself on the vessel. I took the fish, and I effected its correction by myself [by] conducting over it Kol Nidrei."(45) During a period in which there was a shortage of fish, a non-Jew brought a fish to the "gitter yid" (Rabbi Aaron of Neustadt, the son of Kalman Kalonymus of Cracow, author of Meor Ve-Shemesh). The latter ordered "not to remove its skin nor to cut it up, rather to cook it whole ... and there was a great gilgul."(46) Ten people, who ate at the table of Rabbi Barukh of Medzibezh, consumed a fish in its entirety.(47)
Once the Maggid Rabbi Abraham of Trisk purchased a fish and carefully supervised its preparation. He ordered his sons to participate in eating it, stating that the person whose soul had transmigrated into the fish had been erudite in his lifetime in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, Sifri, Sifrei, and the Tosefta.(48)
Rabbi Joseph, father of Rabbi Yudel of Chudnov, appeared in a dream to his son on the Sabbath night and revealed to him that he was transmigrated into a large fish that the householder had purchased for the Sabbath.(49)
A rare case is that of the story of a scholar guilty of pride who was transmigrated into a fish, about whom the tzaddik of Kallo said, "there was no possibility of effecting a correction."(50)
There are some transmigrated souls in birds(51) and others in geese or chickens.(52) The latter are permitted to be eaten, and the (proper) slaughtering and consumption of them constitute, in most cases, their correction.
During the time of Rabbi Isaac Luria, a young man choked during the wedding meal. Luria was not grieved by this, explaining, "There was a gilgul in the chicken, and the choked one effected its correction and thereby completed his mission in life."(53) As was stated above, the proper ritual slaughtering of the fowl is of great importance, for if the fowl is disqualified by improper slaughtering, this is a sign that the soul has been condemned by the Heavenly Court, and, at any rate, it must continue its transmigrations.(54) One Sabbath eve, the wife of the "seer" of Lublin had a question regarding the kashrut of the chicken. The seer was in the ritual bath at the time. His disciple, upon whose ruling the tzaddik relied, was present at the time, but he told her that it was not possible for him to declare it fit. The woman preferred to wait for her husband, who permitted the use of the chicken, based on the principle that disqualifying it would cause "a great loss." When he saw the questioning look on his disciple's face, the seer explained, "Know that the sorry soul transmigrated in this chicken has already been waiting for many years, and it asks and pleads that we eat the chicken on the holy Sabbath, thus effecting its correction."(55) A judge declared a goose unfit, even though he could have permitted it because of "a great loss" and in honor of the Sabbath, thereby preventing the correction of the transmigrated soul it contained. The correction of this soul was eventually effected by the Baal Shem Tov.(56)
The same applies to beasts of pure (i.e., of permitted) species, "If it is present in a pure beast, and if it merited to be slaughtered by a fit knife and to be eaten by a tzaddik and servant of the Lord."(57) A bull that contained a gilgul was declared unfit by the local rabbi, but Rabbi Jacob Joseph ben Judah Leib declared it fit, thereby effecting the correction of the transmigrated soul.(58)
Transmigration into an impure fowl(59) or into an impure beast negates from the outset the possibility of correction of the soul by the proper slaughtering and consumption of the slaughtered animal and therefore constitutes a much more severe punishment than the aforementioned transmigrations. A Jew who sold the meat of an animal that had become unfit as kosher meat was punished by transmigrating into impure animals for four years - measure for measure.(60) But a soul transmigrated into an impure beast (61) also is capable of being corrected, for example, if a fit Jew makes a garment from its hide. (62)
Continued in Part Two
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[All references to other chapters - e.g., "See chap. 4" - refer to the original book from which this is excerpted, Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism, by Gedalyah Nigal.]
(1). For the gilgul doctrine, see Gershom Scholem, Pirkei Yesod Be-Havanat Ha-Kabbalah U-Semalehah (chap. 1, n. 22, above), chap. 9: "The Gilgul" (Hebrew).
(2). See chap. 4. Also see my article "The Dybbuk in Jewish Mysticism" (Hebrew), Daat 4 (1980): pp. 75-100, and my books Ha-Sipporet Ha-Hasidit (chap. 1, n. above), pp. 185-203; Sippurei Dibbuk Be-Sifrut Yisrael (chap 1, n. 20, above), pp. 229-263; Al Ruhot Dibbuk Ba-Sifrut Yisrael (On Dybbuk Spirits in Hebrew Literature), Bar-Ilan Annual 24-25 (Ramat Gan, 1989), pp. 51-60.
(3). See, e.g. Sefer Ha-Gilgulim (Vilna, 1886), pp. 128-129; Shaar Ha-Gilgulim, Introduction, 22: "And several times I already was with my master, of blessed memory, walking in the field, and he would say to me 'Here is a man who is called such-and-such ... and for the reason of a single sin . . . he is transmigrated now.' . . . and my master, of blessed memory, had never met him." For Rabbi Hayim Vital's occupation with his own gilgul, see Sefer Ha-Hezyonot, ed. A. Z. Eshkoli (Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1967), Index.
(4). In the book Pe'er Yitzhak, by Rabbi Isaac Braver (Lvov, 1928), sect. 1, it is related that Rabbi Isaac Eizik of Zhidachov would reproach people who interfered during his sermons, threatening that if they did not act with the proper manners, he would reveal to them who they had been in previous transmigrations and what deeds they had done then. The same holds true for nonhasidic personalities. In the book Maasiyot Peliyot Nora'im Ve-Nifla'im (Lemberg, 1883), sect. 2, p. 34, it is related that when Rabbi Naphtali Katz, head of the rabbinical court of Ostraha, Poznan, and Frankfurt, was on his deathbed in Constantinople, he said to each person "from which gilgul he is." He said about himself that he was the gilgul of King Hezekiah of Judah, and he ordered that he be buried next to him in Hebron. See the extensive discussion about him in my article "About Rabbi Naphtali Katz of Poznan" (Hebrew), Sinai 92 (1983): pp. 91-94. In the book Maasiyot Mei-Tzaddikei Yesodei Olam (Podgorze, 1903) (its source: She'eilot U-Teshuvot Parshat Mordekhai, by Rabbi Mordecai Banet [Signet, 1889], 134a), it is related that Rabbi Mordecai Banet received 'a decree from heaven," which was "regarding the principle of the transmigration of the soul of Mordecai the Jew," and that he had to convene one hundred rabbis in order to battle the heretics. Regarding the transmigration of the soul of Queen Esther, see Pinhas David Weberman, Maaseh Nissim (A Miraculous Deed) Jerusalem, 1966), p. 62.
(5).See Shivhei Ha-Besht, ed. S. A. Horodezky (chap. 1, n. 5, above), p. 108.
(6).See Rabbi Dov Ehrmann, Devarim Areivim (chap. 1, n. 152, above), "Stories
from the Besht" (Hebrew), sect. 8. Cf. the testimony of Rabbi Isaac Luria that Rabbi Abraham Ha-Levi Berukhim was the gilgul of Jeremiah, Kav Ha-Yashar, chap. 93; M. Benayahu, Sefer Toldot Ha-Ari (Jerusalem, 1967), 228; Simha Asaf, "Letters from Safed" (Hebrew), in Kovetz Al Yad 13 (Jerusalem, 1940), p. 123.
(7). See Shivhei Ha-Besht, p. 92; Beit Avraham, by Rabbi Abraham of Slonim (Jerusalem, 1973), p. 161.
(8). See Shivhei Ha-Besht, p. 177. Rabbi Hayim Meir Jehiel, Saraf of Mogielnica, was called "Jeremiah" by his grandfather, Maggid of Kozienice, "because he said that he saw that he was the gilgul of Jeremiah" (Rabbi Israel Moses Bromberg, Toldot Ha-Niflaot [Warsaw, 1899], p. 6). The Saraf called his brother Moses (who died at the age of seven) "mein bruderel Moshe Rabbeinu (my little brother Moses [the lawgiver])" (ibid., p. 4); it was related regarding the grandson of the Saraf, the child Bereleh, that he had the soul of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezhirech [ibid., pp. 39-401. Rabbi Eliezer Zeev of Buchach also said this about himself (Raza De-Uvda (Jerusalem: Moriah, 1971], Gate of Letters, p. 9), as did Rabbi Samuel Shmelke of Nikolsburg (Ta'amei Ha-Minhagim U-Mekorei Ha-Dinim [The Reasons for Customs and the Sources of Laws] (Jerusalem: Eshkol, 19571, citing the book Nezir Hashem).
(9). See Devarim Areivim (chap. 1, n. 152, above), pt. II, "Stories from His Reverence, Our Master, Rabbi Naphtali of Ropshitz" (Hebrew), sect. 8. This was also said about Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum (D. Ehrmann, Pe'er Ve-Kavod, in Devarim Areivim Ha-Shalem [Israel, 1973], p. 208; Toldot Ha-Niflaot, p. 6).
(10). See Rabbi Abraham Hayim Simha Bunim Michelson, Ohel Elimelekh (Peremyshlyany, 1900), sect. 141.
(11). See Rabbi Samuel of Shinova, Ramatayim Tzofim (Warsaw, 1181), pt. II, 58a. Cf. Devarim Areivim (chap. 1, n. 152, above), pt. II, "Stories from His Reverence, Our Master, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apta" (Hebrew), sect. 3 (Devarim Areivim Ha-Shalem [n. 9, above], pp. 131-132): "During the recitation of the Temple service [on Yom Kippur], he would say, 'And thus I would say,' instead of [the usual text in the prayerbook] 'And thus he [the High Priest] would say.' And he said about himself that during the time of the Temple, he was a High Priest ... and in his youth he was one of the young men of the priesthood, and he remembers all this!" Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Rymanow also said such things about himself. See Rabbi Abraham Hayim Simha Bunim Michelson, Ateret Menahem (Bilgoraj, 1900), letter 143; Zvi Moshkowitz, Otzar Ha-Sippurim, pt. XX (Jerusalem, 1956), p. 27.
(12). See Isaac Landau, Zikaron Tov (chap. 2, n. 59, above), chap. Me-Avdut Ha-Tzaddikim, sect. 6. Cf. Rabbi Yoetz Kim Kadish Rakatz, Siah Sarfei Kodesh, pt. II (Lodz, 1927); Devarim Areivim, pt. II, "Stories from His Reverence, Our Master, Rabbi Abraham Joshua of Apta" (n. 11 above), sect. 3; Avraham Yitzhak Sperling, Taamei Ha-Minhagim U-Mekorei Ha-Dinim (n. 9 above), p. 339; Shlomo Yosef
Zevin, Sippurei Hasidim (Stories of the Hasidim) [for the holidays] (Tel Aviv: Ziyoni, 1957), p. 89. This is in contrast with the kabbalistic opinion that there are no more than three transmigrations of a soul. "Sinners do not come more than three times" [Zohar 3:216a]; "It is said of sinners who do not repent in three gilgulim, 'That soul will I destroy'" (Leviticus 23:30) ... [Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 32, 76b]; "All the souls which have come three times and were not corrected are called transgressors of Israel, a mixed multitude" [ibid., Tikkun 70, 138a]. There is no connection, however, between the number of gilgulim and the number of years that the soul is likely to be transmigrated. It is stated in Shaar Ha-Gilgulim, Introduction, 22, that the wicked transmigrate "twenty years, or one hundred, or one thousand." Rabbi Hayim Vital attests there that his teacher Rabbi Isaac Luria saw a gilgul "from the time of the generation of the Tannaim." Cf. Israel Dov Ber Gelernter, Revid Ha-Zahav (Peremyshlyany, 1866), 14a: "In a beast, or in other things, he can be transmigrated even several times, while in a human he cannot be transmigrated more than three times." On the other hand, there are stories telling of fifteen gilgulim (Menahem Mendel Bodek, Pe'er Mi-Kedoshim [Lvov, 1865], sect. 2), one hundred gilgulim (Maasiyot Peliyot [Cracow, 18961, sect. 24), etc. See also Rabbi Eleazar Azkari (Azikri), Sefer Hareidim (Lublin, 1897), p. 58; Hemdat Ha-Yamim, pt. IV, chap. 4 (n.p., 1763), 55d; Scholem, Pirkei Yesod Be-Havanat Ha-Kabbalah U-Semalehah (chap. 1, n. 22, above), pp. 321-322.
(13).D. Ehrmann, Pe'er Ve-Kavod, in Devarim Areivim Ha-Shalem (n. 9 above), p. 208.
(14).Reuben Zak, Keneset Yisrael (Warsaw, 1906), p. 39.
(15).Ateret Menahem (n. 11 above), letter 143; Zvi Moshkowitz, Otzar Ha-Sippurim, pt. XX (n. 11, above), p. 27.
(16).Raza De-Uvda (n. 8 above), Gate of Letters, p. 84.
(17).See Israel Berger, Eser Kedushot (Piotrkow, 1906), Maarekhet Moharaza
Mi-Zidachov, p. 39.
(18). See Yehudah Yudel Rosenberg, Tiferet Maharal (Piotrkow, 1912), p. 92. The "Grandfather" from Shpola said that in all his gilgulim his name was Leib, and before the last gilgul he wandered for three generations and did not want to descend, until the Baal Shem Tov compelled him.
(19).See Rabbi Jacob Sofer, Sippurei Yaakov, pt. II (Lvov, 1913), sect. 55.
(20).See Menahem Mendel Bodek, Seder Ha-Dorot He-Hadash (Lemberg, 1865), 35b; Dov Ber Ehrmann, Pe'er Ve-Kavod, (Munkacs, 1911), 18b.
(21). See Isaac Eizik Safrin of Komarno, Megillat Setarim (Jerusalem, 1944), pp. 7-8. It should be mentioned in this context that, according to many stories, there are souls that transmigrate immediately upon a person's death and enter the body of a baby about to be born; e.g., it is related about Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin: "And the holy rabbi saw with divine inspiration that this man who was about to die, immediately after his passing away, his soul would enter that fetus of the woman [who had difficulty in giving birth], and as long as that man did not die, the woman could not give birth" (Eliezer David Giman, Sifran Shel Tzaddikim [chap. 2, n. 40, above], Maarekhet 12, sect. 13). A similar situation is described in a story about Rabbi Moses Sofer (the Hatam Sofer), who refused to pray on behalf of a woman who had difficulty in delivering, claiming, "I do not wish to shorten the days of another righteous person" (Avraham Yellin, Derekh Tzaddikim [Piotrkow, 1913], p. 10). Once two notes came before the Kotzker Rabbi: "One was about a person who is dying, heaven forbid, and one is about a woman who is having difficulty in delivering, and one is waiting for the other, and a word to the wise is sufficient." The tzaddik of Strykow advised the Kotzker Rabbi to ask of the Lord a new soul for a fetus that was about to be born (Siah Sarfei Kodesh, pt. II [n. 12 above], sect. 417).
(22). Shivhei Ha-Besht, p. 169. Cf. the statement by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch of Zhidachov cited in Megillat Setarim, p. 15: "For our master the Besht is once more in this world, and greater ... and he does not know where he is." Cf. Shivhei Ha-Ari (Ostraha, 1794), 25a: "For before his [Rabbi Isaac Luria's] death, he said that he would shortly return to this world."
(23). Scholem, Pirkei Yesod Be-Havanat Ha-Kabbalah U-Semalehah (chap. 1, n. 22, above), pp. 311-312, 317.
(24).Shivhei Ha-Besht, p. 105.
(25).See Yosef Dan, Ha-Sippur Ha-Hasidi (chap. 1, n. 1, above), pp. 68ff. See also
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch of Kaidanov, Kav Ha-Yashar (chap. 1, n. 59, above), chap. 5; Yesod Yosef, chap. 5; Rabbi Aaron (Areleh) Roth, Shomer Emunim (Jerusalem, 1959), pt. I, "Divine Providence" (Hebrew), pp. 103b, 107b.
(26). Sefer Toldot Ha-Ari (n. 6 above), p. 236: "And those who were rejected returned ... and were transmigrated in humans, and there also nothing was of any avail, for they had not repented at all"; Ha-Sippur Ha-Hasidi (chap. 1, n. 1, above), p. 69.
(27).Shomer Emunim (n. 25 above), "Concerning Gilgulim" (Hebrew), p. 141a. For the thousands of souls that would come to the author of Hidushei Ha-Rim to be corrected, see Y. Alfasi, Gur (Tel Aviv, 1954), pp. 173-174.
(28). See G. Scholem, Pirkei Yesod Be-Havanat Ha-Kabbalah U-Semalehah (chap. 1, n. 22, above), pp. 334 ff., for gilgul into animals.
(29). Shaar Ha-Gilgulim, Introduction, 22: "Know that the person who speaks slander, etc., is transmigrated into an inanimate stone." Cf. Sefer Ha-Gilgulim, p. 129: "My teacher, Rabbi Isaac Luria, may his memory be for the eternal life to come, said that a person may be transmigrated even into trees and into stones." See also ibid., p. 135; Sefer Toldot Ha-Ari (n. 6 above), Index, q.v. "Gilgul in a Stone" (Hebrew).
(30). Shaar Ha-Gilgulim, Introduction, 22: "The person who feeds improperly slaughtered animals to Israelites is transmigrated into a tree leaf"; Sefer Ha-Gilgulim, 135; Sefer Toldot Ha-Ari (n. 6 above), p. 250.
(31). See Kav Ha-Yashar (chap. 1, n. 59, above), chap. 6: "For there are souls which are rejected and transmigrate and cleave to herbs and vegetables and fruits; when a person recites a blessing over the fruit, or engages in words of Torah, by means of that good deed these souls enter them [the words of Torah], and they leave the imprisonment of the gilgul through the words of Torah." Cf. ibid., chap. 88: "When the grasses and the herbs begin to come forth from the earth, then the souls of the wicked cleave to the herbs, so that animals will eat them, and afterward if one eats the meat, or the herbs, and if one is fit, in this manner the soul transmigrated into the herb, or into the meat, will be corrected, and the soul is brought closer to holiness by a blessing." Cf. also Rabbi Yehudah Moshe Ye-hoshua Petayah, Minhat Yehudah (Baghdad, 1933), 20a.
(32). Judah Aryeh Teomim-Frankel, Oholei Shem (Bilgoraj, 1911), p. 52 [citing the book Zikaron Devarim, 6b].
(33). Reznik, Mora'im Gedolim (Peremyshlyany, 1876), sect. 4, p. 8. See also Eliezer Brandwein, Degel Mahaneh Yehudah (Lemberg, 1913), sect. 89; Rabbi Avraham Stern, Hutim Meshulashim (chap. 2, n. 46, above), pp. 22-23. Cf. the Baghdad story about gilgul into a pomegranate: Minhat Yehudah 45b, 46a.
(34). See Aaron Zeilingold, Me'ora'ot Ha-Gedolim (Bilgoraj, 191I), Kedushat R. Ze'ev Mi-Zhitomer, sect. 24, p. 26 [according to my pagination: p. 56]; Hayim Libersohn, Eretz Ha-Hayim (Przemysl, 1927), sect. 167, p. 53. Cf. Moses Hayim Kleinman, Mazkeret Shem Ha-Gedolim (Piotrkow, 1908), pp. 35-36.
(35).The brackets are in the original. Michael Levi Rodkinson notes in his book Toldot Baalei-Shem-Tov (Koenigsberg, 1876), p. 13, that the brackets in the first edition (Kopys, 1815) were added by the printer, Israel Jaffe, to denote "exaggerated stories," a comment that cannot withstand critical analysis.
(36). Shivhei Ha-Besht, p. 48. Isaac Dov Ber ben Zvi Hirsch, Kahal Hasidim He-Hadash (Lvov, 1902) (the book appeared in Lvov in 1908 entitled Emunat Tzaddikim), sect. 28; Hayim Palagi, Torah Ve-Hayim (Salonika, 1851 [1846?]), 10b-11a; Rabbi Aaron (Areleh) Roth, Shomer Emunim (n. 25 above), pt. I, "Regarding Gilgulim" (Hebrew), 152b. Cf. Moses Reidener, Kitvei Kodesh Ramam (Jerusalem, 1966), sect. 754, p. 136. See a slightly different version: Sippurei Anshei Shem (Podgorze, 1903), sect. 8. This version was copied from the book by Joseph Shabbetai Farhi, Oseh Pele, pt. II, Maaseh Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (Jerusalem, 1959), pp. 196-198 (Leghorn, 1845-1869). For a Jew who sinned with a non-Jewish woman, converted to Christianity, was transmigrated in a frog, and was corrected by the "Holy Jew" and the Kotzker Rabbi, who studied on his behalf, see: Eleazar Bergmen, Kotzker Maasiyos (Yiddish) (Warsaw, 1924), pp. 77-80. See also Solomon of Radomsk, Tiferet Shlomo (Warsaw, 1867-1869), for the Sabbath of Hanukkah, cap. "La-Oseh." For a derisive mitnaged response, see the satire by Isaac Etter (from 1845), Gilgul Nefesh, in which a soul is transmigrated seventeen times into a cat and a frog and more. For more on the corrections of gilgulim by the Baal Shem Tov, see Devarim Areivim Ha-Shalem, pp. 22, 25.
(39). Shaar Ha-Gilgulim. Introduction, 22. Cf. Sefer Ha-Gilgulim, 134-136. See
Eimek Ha-Melekh (Amsterdam, 1648), 17b: "And the righteous Torah scholars ... their sentence is in fish.... Therefore it is a choice obligation to eat fish on the Sabbath." According to Or Ha-Hayim on Genesis 1:26, exalted souls are transmigrated in fish. A lower level is to be transmigrated in a fowl. After this came transmigration in a beast, and after that transmigration in inanimate objects and in flora. Transmigration in insects and swarming things is the lowest transmigration, for there is no possibility of correcting them. See also Menahem Menli Sofer, Sheloshah Edrei Tzon (Peremyshlyany, 1864), p. 21; Devarim Areivim, Luah Tikkun; ibid., "Stories from His Reverence of Lublin" (Hebrew), sect. 6; Shomer Emunim, pt. II, "Reward and Punishment" (Hebrew), 317a; Taamei Ha-Minhagim U-Mekorei Ha-Dinim, pp. 144, 534.
(40).Moses Teitelbaum, Yismah Moshe (Lemberg, 1849), 39b.
(41).Devarim Areivim Ha-Shalem (n. 9 above), p. 89.
(42).Sefer Ha-Hezyonot (n. 3 above), pp. 19-20.
(43).See Beit Avraham (n. 7 above), p. 134: "For it always is fit." Rabbi Meir Rosenbaum of Kretchinev thought that the opinion that a large fish meant that a very important righteous person was transmigrated in it was incorrect. To the contrary, the fact that the gilgul was not corrected until the fish matured and added to its weight does not speak well for the gilgul. See Raza De-Uvda (n. 8. above), Gate of Letters, p. 124.
(44).Megillat Setarim (n. 21 above), p. 27.
(45).Ramatayim Tzofim (n. 11 above), pt. II, 154 (sect. 43).
(46).Siah Sarfei Kodesh (n. 12 above), pt. V, p. 101.
(47).Mora'im Gedolim, sect. 5, pp. 10-11 (this was the gilgul of a person who drowned himself, so that his evil urge would not overcome him). Cf. Jekutiel Zalman Lemberger, Magdil Yeshuot Malko (Jerusalem, 1955), pp. 7-8.
(48). See Isaiah Wolf Tzikernick, Maasiyot U-Maamarim Yekarim (chap. 1, n. 146, above), p. 32. Cf. Sefer Ha-Hezyonot (n. 3 above), 6a.
(49). His gilgul in a fish was his punishment for persecuting an informer. The son corrected his father's soul by crying over the drowning of the dog (the gilgul of the informer) and apparently also by eating the fish. See Megillat Setarim (n. 21 above),
p.39. Cf. Abraham Hazan, Sippurim Nifla'im (Jerusalem, 1934), p. 25.
(50). See Degel Mahaneh Yehudah (n. 33 above), sect. 4; Devarim Areivim Ha-Shalem (n. 9 above), Luah Ha-Tikkun, 14; Beit Avraham (n. 7 above), p. 134.
(51). See Hayim Libersohn, Tzeror Ha-Hayim (Bilgoraj, 1925), sect. 70;____, Eretz Ha-Hayim, sect. 48, p. 27.
(52). In Kav Ha-Yashar, chap. 2, it is stated: "If a person looks at women, his soul will be transmigrated in a fowl." In Kuntres Maasei Avot, in Torat Avot (Jerusalem, 1971), p. 279, Rabbi Mordecai Melchowitz points to a kosher fowl; he seeks to catch it, slaughter it, eat it, and thereby correct it. The fowl contained the gilgul of one of the company of the tzaddik who was guilty of looking at fowl engaged in relations. See also, for transmigration in a goose: Taamei Ha-Minhagim U-Mekorei Ha-Dinim (n. 9 above), p. 535.
(53). See Menahem Mendel Bodek, Maaseh Tzaddikim (Lemberg, 1864), sect. 2, p.6 (= Sippurim Hasidim, ed. Gedalyah Nigal [Tel Aviv, 1991], pp. 27-28).
(54).See Shlomo Gavriel Rosenthal, Hitgalut Ha-Tzaddikim (Warsaw, 1901), p. 13.
(55). See Pe'er Ve-Kavod (n. 9 above), 28b-29a. Cf. Sippurei Yaakov, pt. II, sect. 39 (in Ha-Sippur Ha-Hasidi, pp. 245-246).
(56). Megillat Setarim (n. 21. above), p. 39. Isaac David Rosenstein, Pe'er La-Yesharim (Jerusalem, 1921), 17b, about Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Polonoye, who disqualified a goose, containing a gilgul, by improperly slaughtering it, and about the obstruction of his prayers for two weeks.
(57). See Hesed Le-Avraham, Eye 5, River l7; Shomer Emunim, pt. II, "Reward and Punishment" (Hebrew), 317a. It is stated in Taamei Ha-Minhagim U-Mekorei Ha-Dinim (n. 9 above), p. 533: "The reason why ritual slaughtering requires an examined, flawless knife: because the souls of the righteous are transmigrated in a beast or in a fowl."
(58). See Eliakim Getzel Rabinowitch, Shivhei Rav Yaakov Yosef ben Yehudah Leib (Jerusalem, 1966), pp. 28-29. After a female goose was disqualified by improper slaughter, the tzaddik of Alsk requested a little of the fat. He melted it down and made a Hanukkah candle out of it, in order to recite a blessing over it, thereby correcting the gilgul (Taamei Ha-Minhagim U-Mekorei Ha-Dinim, p. 535). About a person who was transmigrated in a bull in Castille and who asked his son to redeem the bull, slaughter it, and feed its meat to poor Torah scholars, so that the soul would transmigrate to the body of human, see Sefer Hareidim (Venice, 1601), 41a; Hemdat Ha-Yamim (n.p., 1763), pt. IV, 56b; Midrash Talpiyot (Izmir, 1736) letter Gimmel, branch Gilgul, 89c; Shevet Mussar (Jerusalem, 1893), chap. 18. See also Sefer Toldot Ha-Ari (n. 6 above), pp. 111, 115, 232.
(59). For gilgul in a raven, see Sefer Toldot Ha-Ari, lndex, q.v. "gilgul in a Raven." Also see Shomer Emunim, pt. II, "Reward and Punishment," 316a; Rabbi Naphtali Bachrach, Eimek Ha-Melekh, Gate "World of Chaos" (Hebrew), chap. 31 (ed. Amsterdam, 1647, 20a), writes, "And our master, Rabbi Isaac Luria, may his memory be for the eternal life to come, the Holy Light, motioned to his disciples that they should know these souls. He said, 'When you see people who are arrogant and have no shame before people, know faithfully and clearly that before this time they were transmigrated in an impure beast, animal, or fowl; just as those have no shame, so do these have no shame, and they follow their first tendency.'" See also Minhat Yehudah (n. 31 above), 38a: Rabbi Petayah dreamed, at the beginning of the century in Baghdad, that Nathan of Gaza was transmigrated in a raven.
(60).Kahal Hasidim He-Hadash (n. 36 above), sect. 203.
(61).See Toldot Ha-Niflaot (n. 8 above), p. 22.
(62).See Beit Avraham (n. 7 above), p. 134.
As published in Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism, by Gedalyah Nigal.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Jason Aronson, Inc.,
Northvale, NJ. Permission was also obtained from the author. To
order: The Jason Aronson Home Page
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