Holocaust: Reincarnated Souls?

I live in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, and I enjoy reading your Ask the Rabbi column.

In my local paper today, it was reported that a leading rabbi in Israel said that the Jewish victims of the Holocaust were reincarnated souls of great sinners. This confuses me on two points.

Is the belief in reincarnation a central Jewish belief? And if so, how can the victims of the Holocaust, so many of which have been documented to be loving and gracious people, be reincarnated souls of great sinners who are being punished?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Everyone agrees that when taken out of context, these statements sound awful. However, in context this rabbi was explaining the idea that souls enter this world in order to correct their mistakes from previous lives. This idea not only refers to those murdered in the Holocaust, but in every generation.

The great kabbalist, the Arizal, says that there is almost no one alive today who is not reincarnated from earlier generations. This includes a large portion of souls from previous times, from those who sinned with the Golden Calf and on through history.

Did they die for naught? No, these reincarnated souls accepted upon themselves all the punishments, hardships and the deaths of those who were murdered in the Holocaust.

By the way, this wouldn't be the first time that the newspapers have quoted something out of context to create a controversy which helps sell newspapers.

It was not merely the Holocaust connection, but rather the entire idea of reincarnation which disturbed the media. An editorial in Haaretz lambasted Judaism and religion in general:

"The transmigration of the souls of sinners" (reincarnation) is a concept that is difficult for an enlightened person, religious or secular, to relate to seriously."

Let's see: The majority of the world's religions, and not just Judaism, holds the belief of reincarnation. What if the Buddhist Dali Llama, who also believes in reincarnation, were to speak of it - would the media insult him, or praise him? Why then do they act with such contempt towards a fellow Jew, even more so a leading Torah Sage?

This all gives us much to think about.

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