Dreaming of Moshiach

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


One weekday Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the holy ARI, zs'l, was in his house discussing Torah with his chief disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, zs'l, when a local young man, Shmuel Aceda, bashfully entered, dressed in Shabbat garb.

Immediately the ARI stood up [+/-] show/hide text
and greeted him. "Boruch Haba! Welcome!" He shook the fellow's hand and invited him to sit beside him.

R' Chaim gaped in amazement. His mentor never acted like this. Why did he stand up for a man younger than him and of a lesser level of scholarship? And why did he seat him on a chair?

As soon as the boy left, R' Chaim could no longer contain his curiosity. "I've never seen you act in this manner with anyone before. What is the reason for showing Shmuel such honor, if I may ask?"

"What are you saying!" replied the ARI. "I did not stand up for this young man, nor was it him I greeted. What really happened was this. I saw the soul of the Mishnaic sage, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair [father-in-law of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai], hovering over the boy's head-a merit the lad earned today by performing a commandment for which that sage was famous when he was alive. It was for him that I stood up and it was him that I greeted."

R. Chaim marveled at this revelation. What had the young man done, he wondered, to deserve such a special reward? With permission, he dashed outside in pursuit of him.

Finding him in one of the cobblestone lanes, he asked, "Tell me, Shmuel, what extra commandment did you do today?"

"The only thing I did out of the ordinary today," the fellow answered hesitantly, "happened this morning while I was going to shul. As usual, I left my house at the crack of dawn and walked in the direction of the synagogue. As I turned a corner, I suddenly heard crying from one of the windows. Why would adults be crying, I wondered?

"I decided to find out. When I entered the house, I saw the room was in shambles. The residents, still in their sleeping garments, were standing in the middle, sobbing. A band of thieves had taken everything of value, they told me, even their clothes.

"I gave the father my clothes and dashed home to put on my only other garments, my Shabbat clothes. As you see, I'm still wearing them."

Delighted, R. Chaim kissed him and returned to his master.

"In the merit of this mitzvah," remarked the ARI, "Shmuel certainly deserved that the tzaddik's soul should envelop him. Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair was famous precisely for redeeming captives and helping forsaken people whenever he could."


Kabbalists know that the souls of most people who are alive today, have already existed in the past in our world. The fate of a person’s soul is determined by his deeds. If a person has no more obligations to fulfill in this world, no more imperfections to correct, his soul terminates its stay on earth and returns to its Eternal Source. However, if he still has obligations, his soul, or part of it, returns to this world until its rectification (tikun) is achieved. Sometimes it occurs that only one spark of a soul returns to this world, since the rest of it has already been rectified.

One of the main questions of faith people ask is: why do the righteous suffer. In his commentary on the Book of Job, the Ramban (Nachmanidies) explains that that a person suffers in this world due to the sins he committed in a past life, when his soul resided in a totally different body.

Returning to this world, after one has passed away, is a punishment for the soul. Reincarnation involves the soul's entry into a new body until the end of its life.

There is another kind of reincarnation, called Ibbur, in which sparks of the soul of a deceased tzaddik (righteous person) descend to the earth for a brief span of time, and enter the body of a person who has fulfilled a mitzvah. The more good deeds a person does, the more such sparks, descend to the world, causing it to become a better and more spiritual place. One who performs good deeds constantly, might even merit to bring down sparks of Moshe Rabbenu (Moses) in that manner.

At times, sparks of the soul of a tzaddik enter the soul of a newcomer to religion (ba’al teshuva) in order to assist him on his new path. If the ba’al teshuva has done many good deeds, sparks of our Forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob might even enter his soul in this world.

There are two reasons why the soul of the tzaddik enters that of a living person. The first is in order to help the person rectify himself and reach the level of the tzaddik. The second is that the soul of the tzaddik itself rises on the merit of the help it extends and its participation with others in fulfilling the mitzvos and doing good deeds.

The greatness of the tzaddikim is manifested by the fact that even after their deaths, they yield results in this world. In other words, they have the merit to teach living people and to help them in the same manner that a parent helps his child. When a person does a mitzvah, the soul of the tzaddik merits a share in it, since it has participated in its observance. However, if a person sins, the tzaddik is not punished, because the tzaddik has “loaned” his soul to the living person only for the purpose of doing good deeds. Thus, when a person begins to sin, the tzaddik leaves him, like a guest who wasn’t well received.

The merit of “hosting” the soul of a tzaddik isn’t acquired by means of every good deed one does, but only by the performance of a particularly important one, or one which a person fulfills very diligently and over a long period of time.




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו