Early portions of Biblical Judaism is essentially deals with how to live a life in this world  and is extremely vague on the afterlife.  This is expressed in the verse:

 “the dead do not praise Yah” (Psalm 115), for example — seem to suggest that there is no life after death of any meaningful kind.

Belief in the eventual resurrection of the dead is a fundamental belief of traditional Judaism. It was a belief that distinguished the Pharisees (intellectual ancestors of Rabbinical Judaism) from the Sadducees. The Sadducees rejected the concept, because it is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. The Pharisees found the concept implied in certain verses.

Later there are references to the realms known as Azazel, Sheol,  Hades which were underworld abodes where the dead went.  The concept of a life to come developed only after the dispersion of Israel and the return By the time of the Talmud,  the entire concept practically reverse

 “This whole world is merely a vestibule for the world to come.” (Mishna Avot 4:3)

 Even then it was only a prod to good conduct here and now.



Mosheh ben Maimon, called Moses Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn, or RaMBaM,

Belief in resurrection of the dead is one of Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith. (commentary on Mishnah Sanhedrin, Chapter 10). 

 The formula as it appears in the standard prayer book is as follows:

"I believe with complete faith that there will occur Resurrection of the Dead at the time it is willed by the Creator, may His Name be blessed, and may His memory be exalted forever and ever.

The Doctrine of Resurrection of the Dead is mentioned already in the Mishna (c.170 CE), and the Talmud goes to great lengths to prove that it has been intimated clearly and repeatedly, albeit not stated expressly, by the Prophets and in the Five Books of Moses."

The second blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, which is recited three times daily, contains several references to resurrection. (Note: the Reform movement, which apparently rejects this belief, has rewritten the second blessing accordingly).

The resurrection of the dead will occur in the messianic age, a time referred to in Hebrew as the Olam Ha-Ba, the World to Come, but that term is also used to refer to the spiritual afterlife. When the messiah comes to initiate the perfect world of peace and prosperity, the righteous dead will be brought back to life and given the opportunity to experience the perfected world that their righteousness helped to create. The wicked dead will not be resurrected.

There are some mystical schools of thought that believe resurrection is not a one-time event, but is an ongoing process. The souls of the righteous are reborn in to continue the ongoing process of tikkun olam, mending of the world. Some sources indicate that reincarnation is a routine process, while others indicate that it only occurs in unusual circumstances, where the soul left unfinished business behind. Belief in reincarnation is also one way to explain the traditional Jewish belief that every Jewish soul in history was present at Sinai and agreed to the covenant with G-d. (Another explanation: that the soul exists before the body, and these unborn souls were present in some form at Sinai). Belief in reincarnation is commonly held by many Chasidic sects, as well as some other mystically-inclined Jews. See, for example Reincarnation Stories from Chasidic Tradition.

A strong teaching of the end-time resurrection of the dead developed later with the concepts of heaven, hell and purgatory.   In Kaballah, the mystic theology of Judaism man exists in all dimensions of creation.  Adam was supposed to fill all things.  Being the Son of God even into the infinite beyond


Adam existed in connection with the Spirit of the endless and hence was immortal.  However with the disobedience, Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden from the highest realm.  Now he ceased to be in direct flow with the Life Giving Spirit and created his own isolated system.  As a result death came upon Adam because of the second law of thermodynamics:

The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems always evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium, a state with maximum entropy.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that "in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state." This is also commonly referred to as entropy.

A watchspring-driven watch will run until the potential energy in the spring is converted, and not again until energy is reapplied to the spring to rewind it. A car that has run out of gas will not run again until you walk 10 miles to a gas station and refuel the car. Once the potential energy locked in carbohydrates is converted into kinetic energy (energy in use or motion), the organism will get no more until energy is input again. In the process of energy transfer, some energy will dissipate as heat. Entropy is a measure of disorder: cells are NOT disordered and so have low entropy. The flow of energy maintains order and life. Entropy wins when organisms cease to take in energy and die.

Until man can make the connection with the infinite, and break the walls that isolate him from the Holy Spirit which is the eternal infinite Life giving person, he will not be able to live eternally.  It is to this access the resurrection Jesus brought within the realm of every human being.  Jesus broke the walls and He became the Way.

The fact than Adamic Sons of God existed in many dimensions is sometimes interpreted also as several parts of Soul of man very similar to the Sheaths of bodies in Hinduism.

Here are the various levels of Souls with their names and their associated dimensions.

Level of Soul


Nefesh ("Lifeforce")

Conscious aspect of soul invested in Action. Malchut (Kingship) in the Sephirot

Ruach ("Spirit")

Conscious aspect of soul invested in Emotions. 6 Emotional Sephirot (Chesed to Yesod)

Neshamah ("Soul")

Conscious aspect of soul invested in Intellect. Binah (Understanding) in the Sephirot

Chayah ("Living")

Transcendent unconscious level of soul. Vessel for unlimited light of conscious Chochmah (Wisdom)
Revelation of unconscious Outer-Keter (Will) in Sephirot

Yechida ("Singular")

Essential, transcendent root of soul. Vessel for unconscious Keter in Sephirot
Revelation of Inner-Keter (Delight) and soul essence (Faith)

In a sense each soul is associated with a body (sheath).  Thus in Kaballah, Man is an extremely complicated being with several souls each with its own subtle bodies.

Adam Ha Rishon (the soul of the first man)

According to Kabbalah, all of the souls of humanity were a part of Adam and Eve, and therefore were all present and participant when Adam and Eve "fell". All souls are derived from one, called Adam HaRishon (the soul of the first man).  All souls were in the loins of our common father Adam. (See a similar concept in Heb 7:9-10)

In this sense, every soul pre-existed from the time of Adam. In a sense we are not talking about individuals of the specific time and life, but as the life force that is more universal identified with the race of Adam

Since the Fall, these souls have proceeded to incarnate to correct our collective misjudgment, and once all souls have made their complete correction, we will once again returned to our unified state with the Creator.

Some refer to this as "Tikune Olam", "Gmar Hatikune", and "The Final Redemption".

Gilgul/Gilgul neshamot/Gilgulei Ha Neshamot (Heb. גלגול הנשמות, Plural: גלגולים Gilgulim) describes a Kabbalistic concept of reincarnation.

 In Hebrew, the word gilgul means "cycle" and neshamot is the plural for "souls."

 Souls are seen to "cycle" through "lives" or "incarnations", being attached to different human bodies over time. Which body they associate with depends on their particular task in the physical world,spiritual levels of the bodies of predecessors and so on.

The concept relates to the wider processes of history in Kabbalah, involving Cosmic Tikkun (Messianic rectification), and the historical dynamic of ascending Lights and descending Vessels from generation to generation. The esoteric explanations of gilgul were articulated in Jewish mysticism by Isaac Luria in the 16th century, as part of the metaphysical purpose of Creation.

The Kabbalistic term for transmigration of souls is gilgul, a word related to the Hebrew word for wheel, galgal.

Many Kabbalists believed that souls transmigrate, and that each of us possesses an ancient soul that was present in many lifetimes before this one. In contrast with the conspicuous opposition of Orthodox Jewish philosophy, metempsychosis is taken for granted in the Kabbalah from its first literary expression in the Sefer ha-*Bahir (published in late 12th century).

The absence of any special apology for this doctrine, which is expounded by the Bahir in several parables, proves that the idea grew or developed in the circles of the early kabbalists without any affinity to the philosophic discussion of transmigration. Biblical verses (e.g., "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh" (Eccles. 1:4), taken as meaning that the generation that passes away is the generation that comes) and talmudic aggadot and parables were explained in terms of transmigration.

This principle of Jewish Faith concerns resurrection from the dead of the body and the soul. Reincarnation, on the other hand, is a phenomenon of the soul. Obviously, it is not the body that reincarnates from one lifetime to another. Moreover, it cannot be the "person" that reincarnates either. The person, for example, Isaac the son of Abraham, or Dinah the daughter of Leah, is a unique combination of soul and body. Just as the body does not reincarnate, so it seems that the combination of body and soul also cannot reincarnate.

However, the body of the person does come back to life at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead. Consequently, the person who is the unique combination of resurrected body and rectified soul, which has a unique and particular name, also comes back to life at that time. In that sense reincarnation does not identify the person but only parts of the soul that are not fully rectified to be the part of the cosmic body of God

The complete entry of the Nefesh into the body, which is called tikun of the Nefesh, is accomplished only through the performance of mitzvot… ["Gate of Reincarnations" by the holyAri, Chapter 4:2 - Mitzvoth and Tikun].

The notion of reincarnation, while held as a mystical belief by some, is not an essential tenet of traditional Judaism. It is not mentioned in traditional classical sources such as theTanakh ("Hebrew Bible"), the classical rabbinic works (Mishnah and Talmud), or Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith.  As such this concept must have come from interaction with other cultures.  

Among well known Rabbis who rejected the idea of reincarnation are Saadia Gaon, David Kimhi, Hasdai Crescas, Yedayah Bedershi (early 14th century), Joseph Albo, Abraham ibn Daud and Leon de Modena. Among the Geonim, Hai Gaon argued with Saadia Gaon in favour of gilgulim.

Rabbis who believed in the idea of reincarnation include, from Medieval times: the mystical leaders Nahmanides (the Ramban) and Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher; from the 16th-century: Levi ibn Habib (the Ralbah), and from the mystical school of Safed Shelomoh Alkabez, Isaac Luria (the Ari) and his exponent Hayyim Vital; and from the 18th-century: the founder of Hasidism Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, later Hasidic Masters, and the Lithuanian Jewish Orthodox leader and Kabbalist the Vilna Gaon.

The most basic component of the soul, the nefesh, is always part of the gilgul process, as it must leave at the cessation of blood production (a stage of death). It moves to another body, where life has begun. There are four other soul components and different nations of the world possess different forms of souls with different purposes.

Thus it is not necessary for the person to be reincarnated in his full multiple bodies.  It depends on the particular correction intended by the reincarnation.None of us are new souls; we all have accumulated experiences from previous lives in other incarnations. In each generation over the past six thousand years, souls have descended that were here on previous occasions. They are not new souls, but souls of a different kind that attained some form of spiritual development.

Souls descend to earth in a special order: They enter the world cyclically. The number of souls is not infinite; they return again and again, progressing toward correction. They are encased in new physical bodies that are more or less the same, but the types of souls that descend are different.

A pyramid of souls exists, based on the desire to receive.

At the base of the pyramid are many souls with small desires, earthly, looking for a comfortable life in an animal-like manner: food, sex, sleep.

The next layer comprises fewer souls, those with the urge to acquire wealth. These are people who are willing to invest their entire lives in making money, and who sacrifice themselves for the sake of being rich.

Next are those that will do anything to control others, to govern and reach positions of power.

An even greater desire, felt by even fewer souls, is for knowledge; these are scientists and academics, who spend their lives engaged in discovering something specific. They are interested in nothing but their all-important discovery.

Located at the zenith of the pyramid is the strongest desire, developed by only a small few, for the attainment of the spiritual world. All these levels are built into the pyramid.

hierarchy of needs pyramid










Maslow was a psychology professor and researcher who created this powerful pyramid detailing the stages that one must move through to actualize their full potential in life as a fundamental part of his research.

General elaboration of the entire concept appears only in the works of Joseph b. Shalom *Ashkenazi and his colleagues (early 14th century). They maintain that transmigration occurs in all forms of existence, from the Sefirot ("emanations") and the angels to inorganic matter, and is called din benei ḥalof or sod ha-shelaḥ. 

According to this, everything in the world is constantly changing form, descending to the lowest form and ascending again to the highest.  



"GILGUL (Heb. גִּלְגּוּל; "transmigration of souls," "reincarnation," or "metempsychosis").

There is no definite proof of the existence of the doctrine of gilgul in Judaism during the Second Temple period.

 In the Talmud there is no reference to it (although, by means of allegoric interpretations, later authorities found allusions to and hints of transmigration in the statements of talmudic rabbis). ....

The doctrine of transmigration was prevalent from the second century onward among some Gnostic sects and especially among Manicheans and was maintained in several circles in the Christian Church (perhaps even by Origen).


It is not impossible that this doctrine became current in some Jewish circles, who could have received it from Indian philosophies through Manicheism, or from Platonic and neoplatonic as well as from Orphic teachings.....

In Early Kabbalah In contrast with the conspicuous opposition of Jewish philosophy, metempsychosis is taken for granted in the Kabbalah from its first literary expression in the Sefer ha-*Bahir (published in late 12th century). The absence of any special apology for this doctrine, which is expounded by the Bahir in several parables, proves that the idea grew or developed in the circles of the early kabbalists without any affinity to the philosophic discussion of transmigration. Biblical verses (e.g., "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh" (Eccles. 1:4), taken as meaning that the generation that passes away is the generation that comes) and talmudic aggadot and parables were explained in terms of transmigration. It is not clear whether there was any connection between the appearance of the metempsychosic doctrine in kabbalistic circles in southern France and its appearance among the contemporary Cathars (see *Albigenses), who also lived there. Indeed the latter, like most believers in transmigration, taught that the soul also passes into the bodies of animals, whereas in the Bahir it is mentioned only in relation to the bodies of men....


 ..... the concepts of metempsychosis and punishment in hell are mutually exclusive, there could be no compromise between them.

 Joseph of Hamadan, Persia, who lived in Spain in the 14th century, interpreted the entire matter of hell as transmigration among animals. The transmigrations of souls began after the slaying of Abel (some claim in the generation of the Flood), and will cease only with the resurrection of the dead. At that time the bodies of all those who underwent transmigrations will be revived and sparks (niẓoẓot) from the original soul will spread within them.

 ...... Transmigration into the bodies of animals is first mentioned in the Sefer ha-Temunah, which originated in a circle probably associated with the kabbalists of Gerona. In the Zohar itself this idea is not found,  ..........


In addition to the doctrine of gilgul, that of ibbur ("impregnation") developed from the second half of the 13th century. Ibbur, as distinct from gilgul, means the entry of another soul into a man, not during pregnancy nor at birth but during his life. In general, such an additional soul dwells in a man only for a limited period of time, for the purpose of performing certain acts or commandments. In the Zohar it is stated that the souls of Nadab and Abihu were temporarily added to that of Phinehas in his zeal over the act of Zimri, and that Judah's soul was present in Boaz when he begat Obed. This doctrine was a respected one in the teachings of the kabbalists of Safed, especially in the Lurianic school: a righteous man who fulfilled almost all of the 613 mitzvot but did not have the opportunity to fulfill one special mitzvah is temporarily reincarnated in one who has the opportunity to fulfill it. Thus the souls of the righteous men are reincarnated for the benefit of the universe and their generation. "

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica.