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Does karet mean the soul will not ever enter the olam haba? Can teshuvah rectify the transgression which lead to the karet? Can that soul in another re-incarnation rectify the blemish of karet? By "karet" I'm referring to what I've come across in Gen 17:14 and Exod 12:15.

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Hi Rafael Linder, and welcome to Mi Yodeya! Thanks for your question! I have edited the title to make it more succint and useful. If you object to the change, feel free to edit it back or ping me by writing a comment and beginning it with @Daniel –  Daniel Aug 28 '13 at 16:24
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Ramban (Wayikra 18:29) - עונש הכרת שבעבירה החמורה מגיע לנפש החוטאת לאחר שתיפרד מן הגוף והיא נכרתת מחיי עולם הנשמות הכרת, בעולם הזה, תיכרת, לעולם הבא, לומר שהוא ימות בנוער וחיתו בקדשים, שלא תחייה נפשו בתחיית המתים ואין לה חלק לעולם הבא. There is more about this in the Ramban. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 28 '13 at 16:47
    
@HachamGabriel--I think your on a strong track for a full fledged answer. –  Yirmeyahu Dec 26 '13 at 7:04
    
Ramban and Abarbanel in Parshas Achrei Mos are pretty good sources –  Matt Jul 15 at 20:27

2 Answers 2

To answer the first part of the question, the Rambam in the introduction to Chelek writes:

והמקמה הגמורה היא שתכרת הנפש ותאבד ושלא יהיה לה קיום והוא הכרת האמור בתורה. וענין הכרת הכרתת הנפש ... וכל מי ששקע בתענוגות הגופניות והזניח את האמת והעדיף את השוא נכרת מאותו השגב וישאר חומר מוכרת בלבד וכבר ביאר הנביא שהעולם הבא אינו נישג בחושים הגופניים

The ultimate payback is the cutting off of the nefesh and it's destruction, and that it no longer exists. Kares is the cutting off of the nefesh... and anyone who has sunken into physical delights and rejected the truth and prefers vanity is cut off from that loftiness and remains a cut off physical being, and it has already been explained that Olam Haba cannot be grasped through physical senses

The punishment of Kares means they remain a physical entity, and are therefore unable to experience Olam Haba, and therefore they cease to exist along with the rest of physical existence.

Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar Aleph Perek 18) in his discussion of Teshuva explains what Kares is as follows:

וענין הכרת הוא. שבחי' הנפש נפסק ונכרת משורשו וירתק החבל שהיה קשור ומדובק בו עד הנה ע"י התקשרות הנ"ל

(translation based on context) Kares is that the level of "nefesh" is separated and cut off from its source and the link which connects it to the higher levels to which it had been connected up until this point.

And he goes on to explain that the highest level of the "nefesh" is not cut off from the level of "ruach," to which it is intertwined, and through that connection it is possible to reinstate the connection of the "nefesh":

אבל בחי' העליונה סוד הכתר דילה אינה נכרתת. שמצד דביקותה והתקשרותה עם בחי' הרוח כנ"ל נדונית כבחי' הרוח שאין בו כרת כמ"ש להלן. והוא מחסד העליון ב"ה שע"י בחי' הרוח היינו ע"י ודוי דברים מלב שהוא בחי' רוח כנ"ל. יתעלו גם הט' בחי' הנפש להתקשר כולם בבחי' הרוח כמקדם

He goes on to explain that Teshuva is what reestablishes the connection. So Teshuva repairs Kares.

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In general, there is no sin for which teshuvah is not effective. See, in particular, Maimonides' Mishnah Torah The Laws of Repentance Chapter 1 Law 11: "עבר על כרתות ומיתות בית דין ועשה תשובה - תשובה ויום הכיפורים תולין וייסורין הבאין עליו גומרין לו הכפרה. ולעולם אין מתכפר לו כפרה גמורה עד שיבואו עליו ייסורין. ובאלו נאמר: ופקדתי בשבט פשעם ובנגעים עוונם - "If one violated a crime punishable by Karet or capital crimes and repented - the repentance and Yom Kippur combined with suffering that he experiences complete his atonement..." (paraphrased).

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loewian, you were pinged by Shokhet on your edit to his question, but i don't think it got through to you, because the edit was rejected. You can see his comment here: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/48528/… –  Scimonster yesterday

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