Thursday, May 31, 2007


The soul and body of a human being are united in the following manner: After a man and woman have made love and the woman has conceived, the Angel of the Night, Lilah, carries the sperm before God. God then decides what shall be the distinguishing characteristics of that child – whether the child shall be male or female, strong or weak, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, long or short, fat or thin. Piety and wickedness, however, are left to the determination of the individual.

Then God signals the angel who has been given the charge to watch over that particular soul. God says, “Bring Me the soul of this child whose form is hidden in Paradise.” The angel brings the designated soul. At that moment, God issues the command for the soul to enter the sperm. Yet the soul pleads, “Ribbono shel Olam. I am well pleased with this world, the world in which I have been living since You have called me forth into being. Why do You suddenly want me to enter into this sperm, I who am pure and filled with divine glory?” God consoles her by saying, “The World I shall cause you to enter is better than the world in which you have been living. When I created you, it was only for this purpose.” The soul is then forced to enter the sperm and the angel carries her back to the womb of her mother. Two angels are dispatched to watch over the soul so that she will not leave it or drop out of it. A light is set above her so that the soul can see from one end of the world to the other.

In the morning, the angel carries the soul to Paradise and shows her the righteous who sit in glory with crowns upon their heads. The angel then says to the soul, “Do you know where you are? These whom you behold here were formed, like you, in the womb of their mother. When they came into this world, they observed God’s Torah and followed God’s mitzvot. They were good, decent people. As partners with their Creator, following their body’s death, they now enjoy this Paradise. Know also that you will one day depart this world. If you only observe God’s Toray you too will eventually sit with them. If not, you will be doomed to sit in the other place.”

In the evening, the angel takes the soul to hell and there points out the sinners whom the Angel of Destruction is taunting with fire. During the visit, the soul hears the sinners crying out in the black night, “Woe! Woe!” But no mercy is shown to them. The Angel then asks the same question that was asked before: “Do you know who these people are? They are now consumed with fire but there were created just like you. When they were sent out into the world, they forgot their origins they did not observe God’s Torah and mitzvot. Therefore they have to come to the disgrace they now suffer. Know that your destiny is also to depart from this world. Be just, therefore, and not wicked, so that you may gain entrance to a future world.”

Between morning and evening the angel carries the soul around and shows her where she will lie and where she will die, and the place that she will be buried. The angel takes her on a tour of the entire world. In the evening, the angel places the soul in the womb of the mother, and there she remains for nine months. During this time, the angel assigned to the soul teaches Torah to the babe. When the time arrives for her to emerge from the womb into the world, the soul is reluctant to leave. She has enjoyed the warmth of the womb and the light of Torah. So the angel touches the babe above the lip and sends it forth in to the world. Immediately the child forgets all it had seen and comes into the world crying, yearning for the Torah it now does not realize it has lost.

Based on Tanchuma, Pekudei from Sacred Moments: Tales from the Jewish Life Cycle selected and edited by Isaacs and Olitzky (1995).

1 comment:

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

"Piety and wickedness, however, are left to the determination of the individual."

So much for Calvinism and Jansenism!

The pre-existence of souls is a beautiful concept, even if it is wrong. To think that all is memory sometimes is a very consoling concept.