Where is there a rabbinic discussion of whether eternal Gehinnom (i.e. eternal judgment leading to eternal punishment) negates the concept of Reincarnation? (Because the concept of reincarnation, if true, sounds like one is able to escape such eternal consequence, if there is one.)

  • According to the Rambam, who elsewhere holds that Olam HaBa will come after Mashiach (Hil. Melachim 12:5), writes that the wicked who earn themselves Eternal Punishment will thereby forfeit their share in Olam HaBa (Hil. Teshuvah 8:1, 8:5, 9:1).
    – DonielF
    Nov 12, 2017 at 4:51
  • Some of the writings say that at times reincarnation is used to allow someone to fix the problems they caused or atone for sins of the previous life. If they fail, then punishment follows. If they succeed, then there is no need for punishment. Nov 12, 2017 at 4:54
  • @DonielF please put a link here on Rambam's response and the references that you provided.
    – ninamag
    Nov 12, 2017 at 9:00
  • @sabbahillel please source your response, so I can enlighten myself with them.
    – ninamag
    Nov 12, 2017 at 9:01
  • @ninamag mainly from memory, but google Moshe Hevel or gilgul and look at jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6676-gilgul-neshamoth or torah.org/torah-portion/perceptions-5759-zoshabracha Nov 12, 2017 at 12:08

1 Answer 1


This answer is assuming the reincarnation of the OP is not rival of the dead, as clarified in the comments, but is referring to what is commonly called Gilgul Neshamos.

As I mention in my answer to this Mi Yodea question, the wise men of Luniel mention this idea to the Rashba, written in his responsa 418. Rashba did not argue against their logic, but he didn't vocally endorse it either. His having printed can be taken as having accepted it.

However, there are two points which I'll mention that negate the argument.

The first point is according to most Kabbalistic works that I've seen which discuss the subject of Gilgul, such as Chida and Ben Yehoyada. The entire soul is not transmigrated to a new body. Rather, a 'spark' (nitzutz) of the old soul which needs fixing is attached to a new soul. So the old soul who sinned is still punished in Gehinom, hell, while that spark that needs fixing is in a new host on earth.

The second point is not something I've seen in books but have heard some Rabbis say. Being sent back as a Gilgul is more painful to the soul than Gehinom. If that is true, the returning itself is in fact punishment and the soul was not spared any punishment by this process. (As noted I've never seen this inside and can't vouch for it's truthfulness.)

  • @user6591 Thank you for an insightful answer. Please tell me what possible definitions or understandings of Reincarnation are there? 'My question reads, "Does Eternal Gehinnom ... negate the concept of Reincarnation?" I only am familiar with one type that is often associated with eastern religions, whereby the dead comes back as a different entity (human or animal), and then once dead, comes back again as a different entity.
    – ninamag
    Nov 14, 2017 at 5:45
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    @ninamag I understand. But in the comments section people were confusing it with the revival of the dead. I opened my answer by pointing out that you clarified exactly what you meant and had correctly called reincarnation. Jews who discuss reincarnation refer to it as Gilgul as I wrote in my answer. You can research more by using that word. As far as I know, no Jew ever discussed it while we still lived amongst those eastern religions. It was popularized amongst Jews in Israrl and then other middle eastern countries and Europe around 500 years ago. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgul
    – user6591
    Nov 14, 2017 at 11:14

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