Mishpatim: Reincarnation Can Define Your Life’s Mission

February 4, 2021

People are often quick to shrug off communal responsibility. Even Moses himself, when instructed to redeem the People of Israel, made every effort to avoid the mission. What does Jewish tradition say about this attitude? Is communal work really for everyone?

Dedicated in honor of
Chana bas Sonya
for her birthday, 2 Adar
By Mendy & Mussie Greenberg
Twinsburg, Ohio

A. Sustaining the World

In a fascinating Midrash on the opening verse of our Torah portion, our Sages say that a person should never set himself apart from his brethren. Communal work is an obligation for every individual. It relates a story on this topic as well—Rabbi Asi wept before his demise, because he felt he had neglected his obligation to the community.
In the first part of his talk, the Rebbe cites this Midrash and points out how the Rebbes of Chabad Lubavitch adopted this concept and demanded of their followers to take on communal responsibility.

B. The Character Question

In the second portion of the talk, the Rebbe explains that a person should not persuade himself that communal work is not for him because he lacks the necessary talents. Even if you feel unfit for the job, it remains your obligation.

A story to illustrate this concept: Reb Dov Zev (Bere Volf) Kozhevnikov, the rabbi of Yekatrinoslav preceding Reb Levi Yitzchok, was known as a fabulous speaker. Not many knew that during his childhood, he suffered from a terrible stutter. With a lot of perseverance and a blessing from the Tzemach Tzedek, he managed to overcome it.

C. Mission Reincarnate

The Zohar on our Parsha speaks of the concept of reincarnation. According to Jewish tradition, reincarnation occurs when a person didn’t manage to finish his life-mission during his first lifetime. This is illustrated with a fascinating story of the Baal Shem Tov.

In the third part of the Rebbe’s talk, he uses this concept to delve a little deeper into the discussion: Often, the Rebbe says, you don’t seem fit for a job, but little do you know that it is exactly what you need to complete a mission from a previous life.

D. Conclusion – A Story

The Alter Rebbe once told a scholar to become a wagon driver. It seemed quite out of character for him. But years after following his Rebbe’s instructions, he finally understood the purpose of his mission.



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