QUESTION: "How prevalent is the Jewish belief in reincarnation today? How does it differ from the Asian belief? What do the Rabbis think of it?"
ANSWER: Please see our article: Judaism & Reincarnation.
QUESTION: "What does the Kabbala say about death and dying? Does it say why good people die?"
ANSWER: It explains that at death the body dies and begins to disintegrate, but the soul lives on and ascends back to where it came from (with stops along the way depending on how it performed in its earthly sojourn).
No one can know for sure why a good person dies earlier than "expected"; the Talmud states that even Moses had trouble with this one. Kabbala offers a few possibilities, but it is impossible to know which applies. It could be he accomplished his mission, or residual effect from previous life, or to protect him from future downfalls, or as atonement for his generation, and so forth.
QUESTION: "What happens to the soul of a Jew that wishes to be cremated and is cremated. In other words, what happens to the soul from the time of death to the time of the cremation and then afterwards? It is my understanding that the soul gets obliterated (G‑d forbid) and that all existence ceases for that individual. Is this correct?"
ANSWER: The soul-body connection is obliterated with the cremation/obliteration of the body. The soul is adrift for a while (I can't tell you how long or even if it is a fixed length), and the situation is painful. That body cannot be resurrected. Yes, existence ceases for that individual, because "individual" (and its synonyms) refers to the body-soul combination. But the eternal soul cannot be so easily obliterated.
QUESTION: "If you name a newborn in memory of a deceased relative, does a spark of that particular relative's soul become part of the soul of the baby?"
ANSWER: There is a connection, although it is not always necessarily that strong. It works in the other direction too. We are taught that the parents experience "minor prophecy" so as to be inspired to give a name that is appropriate for the soul.
QUESTION: "What does Kabbala tell us about what happens after we die? My father passed away and I say Kaddish for him every day, because I was told that the soul needs the prayer to reach higher and higher. Can my father hear me, see me, does the soul have the ability to understand our world the same way a living person does?"
ANSWER: It is very rare and usually undesirable for a soul to maintain intense contact with the world. Nonetheless, our good deeds on their behalf cause a tremendous uplifting effect for their souls and they certainly derive pleasure from them. Have you read our article on Saying Kaddish ?
QUESTION: "If a person dies, it is the hand of G‑d and how can we mourn?"
ANSWER: We don't mourn G‑d's decision; we mourn (our loss or) the loss of the person we are hoping to comfort.
QUESTION: "When you die and leave this physical world, are you still aware of what is going in the physical world. For example, do you know what is happening with loved ones?"
ANSWER: As I understand it, while one may not be aware of every aspect of their lives, one can sense their happiness and sadness and derive pleasure from the good deeds they perform.
QUESTION: "In this world your soul is draped in a "physical" body, when you leave this world what type of 'garment' drapes your soul?"
ANSWER: Light, the encompassing light of the mitzvot that were fulfilled.
QUESTION1: "How is it determined which soul goes into which body?"
ANSWER1: Read carefully the Gate of Reincarnations series on our site.
QUESTION2: "In the Resurrection, would I arise from each body? Or, would some of my body (garments) just not rise?"
ANSWER2: The latter.
QUESTION: "Do we live more other lives in various life forms, like one life human, another animal or fowl?"
ANSWER: It can happen, but it doesn't have to happen. Usually incarnation into lower life forms is a punishment or a drastic rectification. This concept is discussed in the Gate of Reincarnations series on our site.
QUESTION: "I recently had a soul reading done by the founder of a group which claims to have links to the Kabbala. I was told that I have three souls in my body, two of which came in at around about the age of 12. I was told that my birth soul was depressed and that she removed it from my body. I am quite concerned about this for I have been left feeling quite disconnected and like something is missing since this occurred. I have searched the internet for information on multiple souls in one body and found this site very informative. I suppose I would like some feedback on what has occurred and whether it is reversible."
ANSWER: My advice to you is to:
1) Stay away from such people and certainly don't be so trusting of them.
2) Pray to the One G‑d, G‑d the Creator, to forgive you for turning to them and for a complete healing. If you do this sincerely I am sure you will almost immediately be answered and that you will feel much better.
QUESTION: "Why don't I remember my past reincarnation?"
ANSWER: Because we are not intended to. There are many things that we cannot have direct perception of because of the limited nature of the human condition. We are not angels and are not expected to try to be. But neither are we animals, and are not supposed to act like that either.
QUESTION1: "When the soul appears before the heavenly tribunal and the soul's earthly life is examined, does the soul have any influence on the decision - i.e. should this soul be sent to Gehinom or should this soul be reincarnated?"
ANSWER1: The soul is the main witness and testifier.
QUESTION2: "After you leave this world and face the heavenly tribunal, what questions are you asked and in what sequence?"
ANSWER2: There are (of course!) different opinions. Major ones from the Talmud are
1) Did you have fixed times for Torah study?
2) Did you look forward to the Messianic redemption?
3) Were you honest in money matters?
QUESTION: "I believed the family we are born into would be our family forever. Since Kabbala teaches there are several reincarnations, would I have several families? More than one set of beloved parents and siblings; more than one set of physical offspring? This is confusing."
ANSWER: Think about what you mean by "I".
QUESTION: "When Messiah comes, will the need for return trips end? If he provides the redemption for us, we will be free from self-atoning? That is a lot of work spanning all the sefirot."
ANSWER: At that time (or somewhat thereafter) the usefulness of returning and self-atoning will be greatly reduced. It is not such a big deal when the truth is so clear because of the great light.
QUESTION: "When we die after each incarnation, do we experience the joy and peace of being in the presence of G‑d? If we know everything there, do we still have to become flesh again, and become imperfect again?"
ANSWER: We come back because we are not yet qualified for that joy and peace and are still incomplete.
QUESTION1: "According to what we know, can we safely say there really is no death, because our souls are eternal and have awareness/consciousness of where we are and who we are?"
ANSWER1: There is no death to the soul, only to the body.
QUESTION2: "Do we have a spiritual body waiting for us when we die?"
ANSWER2: "Spiritual body" sounds like an oxymoron to me. At death, the soul sheds its physical body. Souls - even while in bodies! - have garments of light according to their mitzvah accomplishments.
QUESTION: "Will all our Jewish people have a part in the World to Come? Even though we are not exactly perfect, have we in fact sinned? Is G‑d willing to forgive us, even if we are ignorant and do not know to ask for His Forgiveness? Some people have not been fully trained."
ANSWER: Almost all, but there are some exceptions. For this you don't need Kabbala. See Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva, ch. 3-4.
QUESTION: "If we are supposed to have a totally spiritual existence after death based on what we have achieved in this life, what is the point of resurrection, where the spirit is reunited with the physical body? Is it not better to have a total spiritual existence?"
ANSWER: Nice question! But consider: Angels lead a totally spiritual existence. If that is the purpose, G‑d could have made us angels. But we are here for a different reason. The Torah created us as soul-body composites to give us the opportunity to elevate the physical to the level of the spiritual "to the level of" - not "to be purely spiritual and no longer physical". The bodies after resurrection will be very elevated and "spiritualized", but still physical.
To be fair, your position has considerable backing. It is an old dispute - which comes first: "Olam Haba" ("The World-to-Come") or "Techiyat Hametim" ("Restoration of the Dead")? Or rather, in terms of our discussion, which comes second? Which is the ultimate? If you think "total spirituality", then Olam Haba, the World-to-Come. If you think "the elevated spiritual", then Restoration of the Dead. Ramban and nearly all Kabbalists and Chasidim take the latter position, but Rambam and many other very great rabbis proclaim the former.
QUESTION 1: "I am 33 years old and 4 weeks ago lost my husband to cancer. I have been consoled by countless people who have told me that my husband's soul is still around "watching" over me and my 2 young sons. Is this true? If it is, then, does his soul retain his mind?"
ANSWER 1: Maybe, maybe not. There is no one rule that applies to all souls. But we do know that his soul takes pleasure when you feel and do good and is certainly prepared to be a conduit for your and your sons' prayers.
QUESTION 2: "If they can't, then I hope my husband didn't die for me to find my other true love."
ANSWER 2: No, of course not. We presume he died because his soul had finished its assigned tasks for this lifetime.
QUESTION 3: "If the answer to any of these questions is reincarnation, well then, where is my husband now, and when does reincarnation actually take place?"
ANSWER 3: No way to know. No one answer fits every case.
QUESTION4: "Also, I have always been told that a person has only one soul mate. I love my husband so much that the thought of loving another is incomprehensible. Can a person have 2 soul mates?"
ANSWER4: The Ari says that sometimes a person has a double soul mate: that is, the soul is split between two others.
QUESTION1: "I was wondering if there were any places in Kabbala where it says that non-Jews go through the process of reincarnation."
ANSWER1: I do not know any sources that explain specifically the nature of the souls of gentiles and their transmigrations, but it seems that the answer is probably not, but there are definitely special cases, such as characters that appear in Tanach (for example, Balaam, Jethro, Cozbi, and Nebuchadnezzar).
There are also roles that come back around all the time, such as Amalek, and no doubt individuals can choose to fulfill these roles. There are also gentiles who have Israelite souls because of good deeds, such as the souls of converts (before they convert) and righteous gentiles.
QUESTION2: "Does a gentile undergo the same afterlife spiritual journey as a Jew?
Does he get judged, possibly reincarnated or sent to Purgatory or Hell?"
ANSWER2: YES. Although obviously the standards are different.
Gentiles have souls that correspond to their 7 mitzvot. Definitely these souls have an obligation to serve G‑d and behave morally, and thus they have an afterlife as well. For more information on the 7 mitzvot of gentiles, check out www.asknoah.com .