“And These Are the Ordinances” – The Secret of Reincarnation
Commenting on the verse that states, “And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them” (Exodus 21:1), the Zohar states: “These are the individual reincarnations of each of the souls that are judged” (Zohar II:94a).
The secrets of reincarnation are certainly very profound, yet we intend to discuss them here to some degree by introducing them into the subject of our parsha.
As we have seen, just like Adam, Moses embodied all the souls of the Jewish people (Tikkun Zohar 56:90b). Thus when we engage in the study of the “Torah of Moses,” we repair the sin of Adam and bring the Final Redemption closer. Let us examine how this happens.
We know that Moses was the reincarnation of Abel (Tikkun Zohar 69:99b). If Abel looked at the fire and got burned, “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to gaze toward G-d” (at the incident of the burning bush – Exodus 3:6). Despite his great spiritual level, he still demonstrated great modesty and never considered himself as worthy enough to look at the Shechinah. As the Arizal teaches, Mashiach will only come when the death of Abel will be rectified. In our opinion, this is what the prophet Malachi alludes to when he states, “Remember the Torah of Moses My servant … Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet” (Malachi 3:22-23). We get closer to the Final Redemption by recalling the Torah of Moses, the spark and reincarnation of Abel.
As he welcomed guests, Abraham invited them to “recline beneath ha’etz [the tree]” (Genesis 18:4), which alludes to the Torah, as it is written: “It is a tree of life to those who grasp it” (Proverbs 3:18). All the mitzvot in the Torah carry the name Etzot (Zohar II:82b), words of wisdom that allow an individual to fight the evil inclination. When Adam sinned by eating of the Tree of Knowledge (which alludes to the wisdom that the Torah disseminates), he was condemned to death in order to repair everything that he had tainted. All the souls that were dependant upon him then dispersed (Tikkun Zohar 69:102b).
As for Adam, he was reincarnated in our holy Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (ibid. 113a). Enslaved in Egypt, the Children of Israel had to repair all the souls that had been dispersed following Adam’s sin (see Ohr HaChayim on Genesis 49:9). Moses was, as we saw above, the reincarnation of Abel. He was equal to all the souls of Israel, and he had to suffer with them and help them to escape from the Kelipah (impurity), as it is written: “Moses grew up and went out to his brethren” (Exodus 2:11). This is what constitutes gilgul (reincarnation), which has the same numerical value (72) as chesed, the loving kindness that he demonstrated towards them.
According to the Zohar, Pinchas the son of Elazar was the incarnation of our Patriarch Isaac (Zohar III:236b, 237a). For that matter, we may note that the numerical value of their names is the same (208). Esau was reincarnated into Zimri, the son of Salu. With regards to this, notice that the numerical value of the expression zeh hu Esav (added to the number of letters in hu Esav ) is equal to the numerical value (406) of the name Zimri ben Salu. Now as we know, Cain was reincarnated into Esau (Tikkun Zohar 69:118b). Together they constitute the origin of Kelipah, since Zimri sinned with the Midianite. Isaac (Pinchas) was to kill Esau (Zimri), but since Esau was not rectified by his incarnation as Zimri, it was Pinchas (the reincarnation of Isaac) who took charge of that task (by killing him) to demonstrate that there is a judgment and a judge. Following that incident, Esau was reincarnated into Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair’s donkey (Chullin 7a), and Pinchas into Rabbi Akiva. During the time of Pinchas, “Those who died in the plague were 24,000” (Numbers 25:9), and in parallel to that Rabbi Akiva lost 24,000 of his disciples because they did not show respect for one another (Yebamot 62b).
Having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve brought death into the world (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereshith 32). She was reincarnated as Batiah, the daughter of Pharaoh, thanks to whom the world would survive because she “drew him [Moses] from the water” (Exodus 2:10). Thus she had the merit of bearing the name “bat Y-h” (“daughter of Hashem”), the work of His hands, like Eve. Now according to the Zohar, Eve also brought about Abel’s death (Tikkun Zohar 69:118b). Batiah, however, saved Moses. We may therefore say that it was by the merit of Batiah (the reincarnation of Eve) that Moses (the reincarnation of Abel) saved the Children of Israel from Egypt and gave them the Torah. Therefore Batiah completely atoned for the sin of Eve.
Commenting on the verse that states, “You shall observe the commandment … that I command you today” (Deuteronomy 7:11), the Talmud explains: “We carry them out today, and we receive their reward tomorrow” (Eruvin 22a), meaning in the World to Come. A man does not receive the reward for his good deeds in this world lest he come back (in another incarnation) following his sins. His reward is given to him in the World to Come, at the resurrection of the dead. In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring back to life the one who was but dust, and He will give him the reward he deserves. The expression “And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them” (Exodus 21:1) therefore denotes the secret of reincarnation, the means by which a man receives the reward for his good deeds.
Reincarnation also occurs in minor areas, such as food. A food that was defiled, or which did not attain the goal that G-d prescribed for it, must be rectified. Thus vegetable matter is transformed into animal matter, which in turn is transformed into a human being, who then enables it to attain its goal by eating it. Even the dried up bones in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37:11) – “dried” meaning devoid of all Torah, of mitzvot (Sanhedrin 92b), and of holiness – can be rectified by the process of reincarnation. How does this occur? We know that even the forces of evil have, deep down, a spark of holiness in them, like a fine thread (Zohar II:201b). Impurity sticks to a man’s body by means of this spark, but in the agony of the grave, when bones become dried up and the body putrefies, this impurity becomes detached from it (Zohar I:116).
The rectification caused by reincarnation occurs primarily through Torah study, prayer, and the performance of mitzvot. Moreover, the numerical value of the expression Ve’eileh hamishpatim asher tasim lifneichem (“And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them” [Exodus 21:1]) is the same as the expression Zeh razeh hagiglul: BaTorah, tefillah, u’mitzvot (“This is the secret of reincarnation: With Torah [study], prayer, and mitzvot”).