Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mishpatim and The Mystery of Reincarnation

The Maggid of Mezritch once asked The Baal Shem Tov to explain the passage in the Zohar on the opening verse of the Torah section Mishpatim, "These are the laws" as referring to "the mystery of reincarnation." The Maggid wondered: What connection is there between the esoteric meaning relating to monetary issues, the laws of torts, and the alleged esoteric one of multiple incarnations of souls?

In reply the Baal Shem Tov sent him to a forest and told him to seek out a certain tree next to a fount, and to remain there until evening.

When the Maggid arrived at his destination he saw there an armed man with a horse. The man was tired and had stopped to rest, eat and drink. When he moved on he left his wallet behind. After a while, another man came, found the wallet and took it with him.

Shortly thereafter, a third man arrived. He was obviously poor and exhausted. He sat down under the tree, ate some bread, drank from the well and lay down to sleep. Just then the armored rider returned and demanded his wallet from the poor traveler. The latter knew nothing of the wallet, but the rider, not believing him, proceeded to beat him mercilessly before moving on.

As the sun set Rabbi Dov Ber returned home and told the Baal Shem Tov what he had seen. The master now explained:

The rider, in his previous incarnation, owed the second man a sum of money equal to that in the wallet but refused to pay him. The creditor then charged him before their local rabbi - none other than the third man in his previous incarnation. But the rabbi failed to investigate the claim as thoroughly as he should have done and dismissed the charge.

That is why in their present reincarnation, the Baal Shem Tov concluded, the first man wound up 'paying' his debt to the second one and the rabbi-judge received the punishment he deserved. Now, he added, the connection between G-d’s justice and reincarnation should be clear.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from The Great Maggid by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

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