QUESTION:"If, as indicated in Shaar Gilgulim, women's souls do not reincarnate, are women all new souls then?"

ANSWER: NEW souls are extremely rare, but they could be sparks of the original soul of Adam.

Here is the answer I received from an important Kabbala expert in Jerusalem:

In Shaar HaGilgulim, Rabbi Chayim Vital methodically lays out the universal laws, or rules, of Gilgul that he received from the Ari. But, like all laws, these very laws have sub-sections and even exceptions. In some cases, the exceptions not only balance out but nullify the original law! This is the case, in his opinion, concerning women and reincarnation. There are so many sub-sections and exceptions to the rule that women do not reincarnate, that the original rule is almost nullified into non-existence.

He points out that on the higher levels, it is not an either/or situation. Souls are not male or female, but both! One "proof" of this is the rule/law that the soul is split in half in heaven, with one "part" being born in one family, and another "part" in another family. Eventually, Heaven brings it about that they meet and marry. In marrying, they are returning to an original unity that once existed in heaven...

In sum, Shaar HaGilgulim is not to be understood piece-meal, with one law being quoted in isolation from others. It is a magnificent structure that must be appreciated as a whole first, and only then in its parts.

QUESTION: 1) "Is a belief in resurrection biblical?

2) I have been reading that some branches of Judaism do not believe in it, and have changed their siddur to reflect this: the second blessing is changed from praise to G‑d who "gives life to the dead" to G‑d who "gives life to all."

3) Is the story about Ezekiel and the dry bones a reference to resurrection?"

ANSWER: 1) The Mishna in Sanhedrin states clearly: A Jew who denies resurrection loses his share in the world to come. Maimonides includes belief in the future resurrection as one of the thirteen cardinal and indispensable principles of Jewish faith

2) THEY have a big problem. See above. We must feel pity for their misinformed congregationalists.

3) YES. There are hints to it in other biblical verses too, but nothing more explicit.

QUESTION: "What does "death of the body" mean, exactly?"

ANSWER: The death of the body literally means the departure of the animating spiritual soul and the subsequent dissolution of the physical elements. Figuratively, it can refer to the uprooting of physical desires or other similar themes. It depends on the context.

QUESTION: "Does Kabbalah allow the living to try and contact family members that are deceased? Specifically, a friend of mine is seeking out a psychic (self-proclaimed), who states that the dead communicate with him. The psychic never calls on the dead, nor does he ask the family who they wish to contact. This contact is done with a large group of people. The psychic then reports messages to a family member that may be present and relays messages to them. My belief tells me that this is still conjuring up the dead, which is forbidden by Torah. I'm afraid that my friend may open herself up to areas that may not lead to Light, but rather to darkness. I hope I have made my question understood. Thank you for your time and response to my question."

Answer: Your question is clear, your beliefs are accurate, and your fears are justified. May the Al-mighty help you to illuminate your friend's eyes.

QUESTION: "Is there any reference to the notion or idea of what Hindus would call karma in the kabbala? I've read about redemption and reincarnation, but are there degrees of redemption? Are there lessons we must repeat until they are learned? Do we "pay" for our "mistakes" in the future?"

ANSWER: Gilgul (reincarnation) and karma are not all the same, although there is a bit of overlap. If you want to read about Jewish understanding of reincarnation at the source, unfiltered by the inadequate understanding of most people who presume to write about it, scroll down our home page and click on "Gate of Reincarnations."

QUESTION: "Can you please tell me if a Jewish soul can be reincarnated into a gentile, and if so why, I mean, what mistake was done for the soul to come into a gentile? Thanks."

ANSWER: There are many possible reasons. A number of these involve the Jew having lived like a non-Jew. Sometimes it is because the soul needs the rectification of the conversion process.

All of this is discussed in our running translation and commentary of Shaar Gilgulim. From our home page, click on "Classic Kabbalah" and then on "Gate of Reincarnations."

QUESTION: "How many lifetimes does the average person have before he is able to stay in the afterlife? What is our purpose in this lifetime?"

ANSWER: The holy Ari of Safed taught that we keep coming back until we have fulfilled all of the 613 mitzvot that it is possible to fulfill. Therefore, the number varies.

QUESTION: "My mother's yartzeit is next Thursday - is it okay to visit the grave a day early or a day late? What customs should I observe?

ANSWER: Yes, you can go on Wed. or Fri. if you are truly unable to go on Thursday. But if on Friday, it should be before 11:30am.

On the night and day of the yartzeit, you should give charity and study Torah, preferably Mishna, for the merit of your mother’s soul. If you are unable to say Kaddish you should arrange for someone else to do it, even paying them if necessary.

On all three days, you should do as many extra good Jewish deeds as you can for her merit.

At the cemetery, you can say whatever you wish and pray whatever you wish. It is good to recite some Psalms too, at least Psalm 20 and the Psalm corresponding to her years, which would be her age if she were alive plus one.

QUESTION: "I don't understand the difference between a Jewish and non-Jewish soul. I have heard that Judaism sees the Jewish soul as divine and the non-Jewish soul as not.
Does the gentile soul live on after death also? Is there a difference with the two in what happens at death, and is there awareness after death?"

ANSWER: What you heard was a bit distorted. We believe that Jews are given an extra layer of soul, in order to accomplish all the extra commandments we have, and it is true that we call this soul "the divine soul." But obviously, all souls are from G‑d so all souls are divine in that essential sense. Souls don't die; only bodies do. Souls go on to their reward and punishment, with Jewish souls being judged more strictly than others because of this extra layer of soul. It is, by the way, because of these greater expectations of G‑d upon us and the resultant stricter judgment that we are advised to discourage potential converts. The awareness of souls in the spiritual worlds is directed towards G‑d and the spiritual realms, not towards this physical earth.

QUESTION: "When a person's father dies, is there some deep way that Kabbala brings about a change in the person (me, the son) somehow?"

ANSWER: There is a deep physical/spiritual connection between father and child (see chapters 2-3 of Tanya), so of course there must be some effect. Nevertheless, any significant change has to involve the person's active effort, which may or may not be inspired by the departure of the parent. It is impossible to make any statement that would apply equally to everybody, just as it is impossible to equate every child-father relationship.

QUESTION: "What do the following mean or imply:
1) When is one able to communicate with the soul of someone who is dead? Not any sort of evil person, just a normal Jew who passed on?
2) A person feels they have an extra soul residing inside of them. How can one ascertain if this is a good soul or the opposite?"

ANSWER:1) It has to be ascertained whether the communication is real or imagined. If real, this could indicate that the soul has some afterlife problems.

2) Only a pure Tzadik has the ability to perceive and distinguish the souls within. Such unique individuals like the holy Ari of Safed are hard to find! All you have to go on is whether the urges you feel from this source are kosher or not according to the Torah, and to be able to do that you have to study a lot of Torah and to establish a relationship with a Jew more knowledgeable and experienced than yourself.

QUESTION: "I read on your site under Death and Reincarnation that when people are cremated the soul / body connection is obliterated. But how about, for instance, people in the Twin Towers?"

ANSWER: If there is no body, how can there be a soul-body connection?
On the other hand, since those souls are martyrs, they have a higher place in Heaven and much is forgiven them.

QUESTION 1: "I've read and been told many different reasons for a Jewish soul to be born into a gentile body for a gilgul, such as for punishment, or because in a previous gilgul the person was punished with excision (karet), etc., the main goal being rectification. By what means may a person understand and know clearly why his or her Jewish soul was born into a Gentile?"

ANSWER 1: He can't. Unless...

QUESTION 2: "Is it possible to find a Rebbe who can see or help the person him/herself to see what the reason is for their gilgul to be like this?"

ANSWER 2: It is possible there is such a one, but unlikely to be found.

QUESTION 3: "If the person cannot find a Rebbe who can help, what other ways can the person make use of to achieve clarity and understanding about why this kind of gilgul happened with their Jewish soul? I think that such clarity and understanding would be a powerful tool in rectifying the Jewish soul that has a gilgul in a gentile body."

ANSWER 3: Apparently G‑d disagrees with you, because he has made this information almost unavailable. Our job in this life is to make the right choices at times of moral decisions. All of them, not just the ones that we believe to be more personally relevant for tikun-rectification.

QUESTION 4: "When a person who has such a gilgul is finally able to undergo Orthodox conversion back to Judaism, does this mean that he has rectified whatever he did that brought about this gilgul of his Jewish soul into a gentile body?"

ANSWER 4: Maybe, but not necessarily. Or, better: at least partially, but not necessarily completely.