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The idea of reincarnation is not a new one, though it is usually associated with mystical eastern religions that have been around for thousands of years. One religion with which it is not usually associated is Judaism, even though the idea figures prominently in the Zohar, one of the main Kabbalistic works, which can be dated back to around 120 CE.

One of the reasons it is not commonly discussed in Judaism is because reincarnation is a mystical concept. Therefore, it is belongs to the level of Torah learning known as Sod, or Kabbalah, learned by few and understood by even less. For many, Sod is a closed book.

At one point it was that way for almost everyone. A turning point however was the life of the “Arizal,” an acronym for Eloki—Godly—Rebbi Yitzchak [Luria].

Though his life was short, from 1534-72, his impact was enormous. Aside from explaining many concepts from the Zohar he greatly expanded the Kabbalah base of knowledge. His teachings have since been the basis for all works of Kabbalah since his time.

Though many wanted to learn with the Arizal, he had principally one student, Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543-1620), to whom he taught the secrets of Torah and Creation. Most of what Rabbi Chaim learned from his master was recorded in manuscript form but not published in his lifetime.

Eventually the manuscripts were found and published in what became called the Shemonah She’arim,” or “Eight Gates,” of which Sha’ar HaGilgulim, or the “Gate of Reincarnations,” is the eighth.

The definitive work on the topic of reincarnation, Sha’ar HaGilgulim not only reveals secrets about the human soul, personal tikun—rectification, and the underlying basis of human interaction, it is also an profound and inside look at Jewish history. It’s knowledge is invaluable for anyone who believes in self-growth, and its insights are crucial for the person who wants to make sense of life in this world.

To this end, much of the material from Sha’ar HaGilgulim has been adapted here and organized into a format that will allow the individual, learned and unlearned, to greatly enhance his or her perspective and quality of life.

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