The Life of the Soul

Jewish Perspectives on Reincarnation from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period

Leore Sachs-Shmueli (Hrsg.), Andrea Gondos (Hrsg.)

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State University of New York Press img Link Publisher

Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Religion/Theologie


The Life of the Soul surveys the wide-ranging theories Jewish mystics have offered to the vexing question – what precisely transpires after we die? A common element in their theories is that human life is a part of a larger ecosystem of being which also includes plants, animals, and inanimate things, like rocks. They further maintained that the soul does not perish with the demise of the body, but is rather renewed and recycled into new forms of embodied existence in the lower world. Each essay highlights how reincarnation, also known as metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls, is not a marginalized concept but is instead central to understanding a variety of perplexing issues in Judaism, including catastrophic events in Jewish history, theodicy, the rationale for biblical commandments, the complex identity of biblical figures, and the issues of sin, punishment, and redemption. Just as the concept of reincarnation is inherently about boundary crossing, its investigation similarly bridges diverse epistemic fields and disciplines—religion, philosophy, psychology, history, ritual, gender, and cultural studies. Weaving together kabbalistic speculations and Jewish philosophical ideas drawn from distinct geographical regions and historical periods, this book is poised to serve as a point of departure for future comparative investigations on the life of the soul in Judaism and Eastern religious traditions.