Friday, July 3, 2015

Coming Back for More

"V'Anshei Damim U'Mirma" - men of blood and deceit [Tehilim 55]. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos [5:19] says that this pasuk refers to Bilam HaRasha. Why, asks the Ben Ish Chai does it use the plural form of Anshei - multiple men - when Bilam is only one person? 

The Ben Ish Chai quotes the Arizal who says that Bilam was a Gilgul [reincarnation] of Lavan HaArami. Bilam had two spirits in him, his own evil spirit and that of Lavan. 

We know from his dealing with Yaakov that Lavan was the world's greatest swindler. We also know from the Hagadah that he tried to annihilate Bnei Yisroel. Bilam himself also tried to destroy Bnei Yisroel. Therefore within Bilam lay Anshei Damim U'Mirma, two of the most blood thirsty and deceitful villains in history.


Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and some of his followers were standing by the window one morning, when a funeral procession went by. As was the custom, the people in the procession were following the coffin, weeping and wailing for the loss of the deceased.

Rabbi Nachman turned to his followers and said "More than likely, the soul of the dead man is laughing his heart out over the big scene they are making out there. When somebody dies, everyone always weeps over him as if to say "How nice it would have been if you had remained in this world a little longer, so you could endure even more suffering and hardships here!"

Reb Nosson, the Rabbi's closest disciple, was deeply puzzled by this strange statement. "But what about Gehenna?" he asked. "Even in the next world, he won't be entirely free from suffering, because he was not righteous enough to escape the torments of Gehenna. So he will have to suffer in the afterlife also."

"But at least when he gets out of Gehenna, his suffering will be over forever!" Rabbi Nachman replied. "Once he has been purged of his sins in Gehenna, his soul will be purified, and he will enjoy the reward for the good deeds that he performed in this world."

"But what about reincarnation?" Reb Nosson asked. "If he has to be reincarnated again, then what is the point of leaving this world and its troubles behind, only to return here again and again?"

"When he gets to the Heavenly Court," Rabbi Nachman replied, "he can put up a stubborn argument on his own behalf, and refuse to be reincarnated in any way, shape or form."

"Can he really do that?" Reb Nosson objected, "How can he refuse to accept the ruling of the Heavenly Court? Will it really help him if he refuses?"

"Of course it will help him" Rabbi Nachman replied. "He can stand before the Court and insist "Do whatever You want with me here in the heavenly realms - send me to Purgatory for every last detail of my sins if you must - but don't make me go back to the physical world again. Just get it over with here." If he is very, very firm in this, if he remains stubborn and does not move from his position, then it certainly will help him."

Reb Nosson took this lesson very seriously, and made a special point of fixing it in his mind. He prayed that, when his time came to go to the Other World, he would be able to remember this teaching and make the same plea before the Heavenly Court. in order to be saved from reincarnation. "No matter what might happen to me up there," he would say, "it would still be better than having to return to earth and be exposed to all of the dangers and temptations of material life again."

Nevertheless, after Rabbi Nachman died of tuberculosis in 1810, and it became the custom for Breslover Hasidim to gather at the Rebbe's grave in Uman on Rosh Hashanah, Reb Nosson also said: "If I knew for certain that I would merit to travel to my Rebbe's grave even once in a lifetime, then I would choose to reincarnate."

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