Recycling souls: Reincarnation, meditation, worldwide struggle part of Global Day of Jewish Learning

Event at Mayerson JCC part of worldwide observance
Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-19 08:09:53-05

CINCINNATI -- Does God recycle?

Yes, says Rabbi Yisroel Mangel of the Chabad Jewish Center in Blue Ash. If a soul doesn’t complete the mission God intended for it to complete, when it dies, that part of the soul that didn’t complete its mission returns in another soul.

Let’s say, for example, that a person did everything God required of him but could have been more kind. “Those qualities will need to come back for another shot,” Mangel said.

The rabbi plans to talk about that Jewish concept of reincarnation on Nov. 20 at the Mayerson JCC, 8485 Ridge Road, as part of Cincinnati’s observance of the Global Day of Jewish Learning, a worldwide initiative to bring unity and learning to communities.

More than a dozen local rabbis and educators, from across the spectrum of Jewish thought, are expected to gather to teach on the theme “Under the Same Sky: The Earth is Full of Your Creations.”

The theme quotes Psalm 104:24, one of many references in Jewish texts to the beauty and vastness of nature. Teaching is expected to focus on “nurturing and nourishment, ecology and the environment, cycles and seasons.”


The local Jewish community participated in the first Global Day of Jewish Learning six years ago, but hasn’t since, said Rabbi Shena Potter Jaffee, who’s organizing local participation. It’s also been at least a decade since all the local strains of Judaism -- from orthodox to humanistic – came together like this, she said.

“It’s a large-scale undertaking to coordinate with so many different movements in Judaism,” Jaffee said. “This year, when (the event) focused on the environment and sustainability, that resonated with a lot of us and our colleagues deeply. We felt like the time was right.”

The day begins with JCC opening its regular 10 a.m. hatha yoga class and its 11 a.m. meditation class to the public. It continues with lunch and a keynote address by Adrian Parr, an international expert on water accessibility, at the University of Cincinnati.

Parr, a Jew originally from Australia, is the director of the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center and a professor in the department of political science and the school of architecture and interior design. She’s also the UNESCO chair for water access and sustainability.

She’ll be talking, in part, about the documentary she co-produced with another UC professor, “The Intimate Realities of Water,” which follows four women living in the slums of Nairobi and their daily challenge to get clean water.

She’ll also talk about her work documenting water projects on the West Bank of the Jordan River, where Israeli settlers have cooperated with Palestinians on a water project.

Access to clean water worldwide is becoming increasingly challenging, she said, and its starting to fuel conflicts. People need clean water in order to have more peaceful relations with one another, she said.

“I think dedicating a day of learning, open to all members of the community, is a wonderful thing,” she said. “I definitely want to support it.”

In the afternoon, there will be several breakout sessions with local rabbis, including Mangel’s on reincarnation.

It’s a concept more closely associated with religions like Buddhism than Judaism. But Mangel said its discussed widely in the Kabbalah.

It’s based on the idea that God created the world and we’re not accidents but, rather, beings created in God’s image with a purpose to fulfill, he said.

“God creates the world, but he leaves part of it unfinished,” Mangel said. “He chooses each of us to be partners in finishing it.”

Other religions that believe in reincarnation believe we can look back and remember what our past lives were like. But that’s not the case in Judaism, Mangel said, because not all of the soul returns.

When we don’t complete the mission God gives us on earth, he said, rather than condemning us to punishment, God gives us another chance. The part of the soul that did complete its mission remains in heaven with God, but the part that didn’t returns to earth to complete the mission.

Anyone who’s a student of Jewish mysticism believes this, he added.

The Global Day of Jewish Learning at JCC is free and open to the public, including non-Jews. A $10 donation is suggested. For more information, click here.