Mystical Judaism believes in reincarnation, the notion that souls come back to clear up unfinished business. In this way a single individual can inhabit a series of bodies spanning the course of human history – like a person changing his or her clothing many times over.
Some years ago, on a Purim past mid-night, as hot tears streamed down my face, I appealed to the Creator that death and suffering were a useless waste and all humans should have a very sweet life. I cried until I could not take it anymore.
Realizing the late hour and that my Wife had long gone to sleep, I concluded that it was probably a good idea for me also to join the dreamers. On my way to bed, I picked up a picturesque coffee table book about Jewish history and proceeded to the restroom. While flipping through the large glossy pages, I noticed a medieval illustration which I found intensely disturbing. The scene depicted a Jew imprisoned in a dungeon. Coming down the steps were two figures. One wielded a torch, showing the way, while the other brandished a large knife, ready to murder the helpless prisoner.
After praying so hard for an end to all human suffering, I was much too sensitive to gaze at such a painful scene. I screamed in horror and rage.
While caught in misty stream of emotions, I dragged myself into bed. On a pillow, my tear filled eyes dropped moisture, while my closing lids exposed a world of dreams.
In the early dawn, I saw my toddler daughter about 15 years earlier. She was a middle aged Orthodox Jewish woman, with a slightly stocky build. She was sitting in the back seat of a car.
Dreams often arrive with non-visual information in order to provide a context for the scene. As part of this non-visual narrative, I learned that she was living in New York / New Jersey area and she was the victim of a serious car accident at some point during that life. It was unclear whether or not she survived.
The next morning, on Purim day, I shared with my Wife the highlights of my three nocturnal events: my prayer, the illustration and the dream.
Laughingly, she rhetorically asked, “Don’t you see why you had the dream?”
“No”, I shrugged.
She explained, “The dream was the answer to your prayers and to your outrage at the illustration. The Creator was communicating to you that your precious gift, your sweet daughter, needed to finish up her previous life in order to be born to you. Without people passing away, no children are born.”
With that thought, I saw in the illustration a very different message, “The Creator was already planning the prisoner’s next incarnation or place in paradise. (In some sense) the murder was just a means to free him up for his very next opportunity.”