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Baba ben Buta returned as the reincarnation of Rav Sheshet.

Story of Rav Sheshet

Story of Rav Sheshet

"Gate of Reincarnations": Chapter Four, Section 8

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Story of Rav Sheshet
Baba ben Buta returned as the reincarnation of Rav Sheshet.

The statement of Rav Sheshet, mentioned above in Section 4, is clarified by explaining who his previous gilgul was, and thereby the concept of Double Gilgul will be illustrated.

Earlier we spoke of the gilgul of Rav Sheshet when discussing the concept of Double Gilgul. The Talmud says that Rav Sheshet was blind. When he studied Torah he was joyous and he would say, "Rejoice my Nefesh! Rejoice my Nefesh! For you have I read … for you have I learned!"

The concept of Double Gilgul was introduced in Section 4 of this Chapter, where the statement of Rav Sheshet was also mentioned briefly. In order to understand the Ari's explanation of Rav Sheshet it is necessary to examine the original argument in the Talmud (Pesachim 68b). Do we study Torah just for ourselves…?

In the Talmud, Rav Elazar challenges Rav Sheshet's statement according to its first understanding. Do we study Torah just for ourselves, as seems to be implied by Rav Sheshet, or do we study Torah, Rav Elazar asks, because it is a commandment and a form of worshipping the Divine, as it is written "If it were not for My covenant [i.e., the Torah,] day and night, then I would not have put the laws of heaven and earth in place" (Jeremiah 33:25)? The Talmud answers that at first a person has in mind that he is learning in order to improve himself, and then afterwards he comes to study for cosmic and altruistic reasons, like the contention of Rav Elazar.

Not only the answer, but the question as well, is difficult for the Arizal, who will now explore the case of Rav Sheshet (c. 250 CE) in greater detail. This will serve as a further illustration of Double Gilgul.

It seems hard to understand when they say that he was benefiting himself and not others!

It is easier to understand when we contemplate the verse:

"If you have become wise, you have become wise for yourself…"(Proverbs 9:12)

In addition, why did he specifically say "…my Nefesh"? And, why is all of this recorded regarding Rav Sheshet and no one else?

Consequently, the statement of Rav Sheshet "Rejoice my Nefesh…" still needs to be clarified. The Rabbi will now present a new insight into Rav Sheshet's statement.

The letters that spell Baba change into the letters that spell Sheshet

To answer these questions we require an introduction regarding his gilgul. Baba ben Buta the Pious was a student of the elder Shammai. All of his life he daily brought a Doubtful Transgression Offering.

A Doubtful Transgression Offering [in Hebrew, 'Asham Safek'] is the name of a sacrifice that a person might offer in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It is offered when a person is not sure whether he sinned or not and is explained in the Talmud, Kritot 26a. Baba ben Buta, as a consequence of his great piety, assumed that he was always in need of such atonement. He brought the offering continuously, every day, although he probably never sinned in any significant way. The main point here is to show that Baba ben Buta was an extremely pious person.

It was Baba ben Buta who returned as the reincarnation of Rav Sheshet in order to complete some tikun that was required of him. Since King Herod had taken out the eyes [of Baba ben Buta], therefore he [Rav Sheshet] was also blind, as is known.

The story of King Herod blinding the eyes of Baba ben Buta is related in the Talmud, Baba Batra 4a. The Rabbi is mentioning it here in order to indicate that Rav Sheshet, who was also blind, is the reincarnation of Baba ben Buta.

In the form of gematria called "AT-BaSh" the letters that spell Baba change into the letters that spell Sheshet.

The Gematria called "AT-BaSh" is a method of permutation of letters. It is derived by writing the first eleven letters of the Hebrew alphabet in a column in a descending order. The next eleven letters are written in a column next to the first column, but in ascending order. See the table below.

1

Alef

Tav

11

2

Bet

Shin

10

3

Gimel

Reish

9

4

Dalet

Kuf

8

5

Hei

Tzadi

7

6

Vav

Peh

6

7

Zayin

Ayin

5

8

Chet

Samech

4

9

Tet

Nun

3

10

Yud

Mem

2

11

Caf

Lamed

1

Now we can arrive at the explanation. A person who does not complete his tikun in his first gilgul, even if only by a small amount, must come back to complete it in a second gilgul. When he completed his Nefesh in the first gilgul except for a small amount, and he reincarnates a second time, then all the reward for the Torah and mitzvot performed during the second gilgul are for the sake of the Nefesh that came to complete its tikun. At the time of the Resurrection, the Nefesh will return to the first body within which the majority of Torah and mitzvot that were required of him were performed. It had only come into the second body in a "borrowed" way.

In other words, the Nefesh that was nearly complete in its first gilgul was "borrowing" the body of the second gilgul to complete the finishing touches of its tikun.

The mitzvot that he performed were for that Nefesh, and not his…

Rav Sheshet knew that his Nefesh had first been in the body of Baba ben Buta, a man of great learning and well known for his piety. He only reincarnated a second time to rectify a small amount that had been left incomplete. This made his body sad, because it meant that all of his efforts were for the sake of that Nefesh, which in the end would return to that first body in the time of the Resurrection. All the benefit of the Torah that he studied and the mitzvot that he performed were for that Nefesh, and not his body. It was the Nefesh that had to rejoice, and not the body. Thus, he [Rav Sheshet] would say, "Rejoice my Nefesh…" and not me. "For you I read, for you I studied." It was for your benefit, and not my own.

At this point the Rabbi has explained the statement of Rav Sheshet, and he has illustrated Double Gilgul. Let us review:

Double Gilgul occurs when the entire Nefesh is nearly completed in the first gilgul. In order to achieve the finishing touches that it needs, this Nefesh reincarnates into a second body. In that body there is a spark of a Nefesh to whom that particular gilgul rightly belongs. However, the reward and merit of the Torah that is studied and the mitzvot that are done in that gilgul will go to that Nefesh that previously inhabited another body. In the time of the Resurrection that Nefesh will arise with the body of the first gilgul, where the majority of its Torah and mitzvot were done, and it will also take for itself all the merit that was earned in the second gilgul. The spark of the Nefesh that was the true identity of that second gilgul will be left, seemingly, with nothing.

For this reason Rav Sheshet was sad. He knew that the merit of his learning was going to the Nefesh of someone else, and it will arise in the time of Resurrection with Baba ben Buta, and not with Sheshet. Therefore, it was the Nefesh that had to rejoice, and not the body, and he would say, "Rejoice my Nefesh…" and not I. "For you I read, for you I studied." It was for your benefit, and not my own.

Rav Elazar demurs. Why should Rav Sheshet be sad! Do we not study Torah for altruistic reasons, and not merely to benefit ourselves? Accordingly, it is appropriate that the merit should go to someone else. Why is Rav Sheshet sad?

The Talmud answers that in the first place a person also wants to benefit himself, as well as others, with his hard work and effort.

[Commentary by Shabtai Teicher.]

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Elohi Rabbi Yitzchak, the
G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Elohi [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Yitzchok bar Chaim is the pseudonym of the translator, an American-born Jerusalem scholar who has studied and taught Kabbala for many years. He may be contacted through: webmaster@kabbalaonline.org. He translated the Ari's work, "Shaar HaGilgulim;" his translation into English (but with much less extensive commentary than offered here). Information about his translation in book form may be obtained through www.thirtysevenbooks.com
Rabbi Chaim Vital c. 5303-5380 (c. 1543-1620 CE), major disciple of R. Isaac (Yitzchak) Luria, and responsible for publication of most of his works.
Shabtai Teicher, a descendant of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Reshab, was born in Brooklyn in 1946 and settled in Jerusalem in 1970. He studied for over 7 years with one of the outstanding and renowned kabbalists of our generation, Rabbi Mordechai Attieh, and also studied deeply in various other fields of Jewish scholarship. He was a specialist in Lurianic Kabbala, edited and annotated the first eleven chapters of our English rendition of "Shaar HaGilgulim," and completed his manuscripts for "Zohar: Old Man in the Sea," in both Hebrew and English, shortly before his unfortunate passing in November 2009.
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