Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan / Rabbi Saadia Goan / Rambam / Reincarnation (Gilgul) / Sefer HaBahir

Why did Rabbi Saadia Gaon reject Reincarnations (Gilgulim)?

The Jewish concept of GILGULIM (REINCARNATION) was introduced by Rabbi Akivah. “The Bahir (Sefer HaBahir)” explains how Rabbi Akivah came to this conclusion that must be reincarnated souls, and I will explain it in a later article.
I think it was Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan who stated the following:

Rabbi Saadia Gaon rejected reincarnations because he didn’t have access to secret kabbalistic teachings.

In those days, not even the most famous and respected Rabbis had access to all the existing writings. Neither Rabbi Saadia Gaon nor the Rambam (Maimonides) ever saw “The Bahir”.
The concept of reincarnation is further developed in the Zohar (Book of Splendor) and especially in the Book of Reincarnations (Sefer HaGilgulim) by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria.

2 thoughts on “Why did Rabbi Saadia Gaon reject Reincarnations (Gilgulim)?

  1. Was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that those who rejected Reincarnation within Judaism largely dwelled in Yishmaelite or Yishmaelite influenced (e.g. Spain, southern France, Italy, etc) regions, either being influenced by the latter’s mores that rejected Reincarnation or in a Dhimmi motivated manner wanted to emphasize the commonalities between Judaism and Islam to anti-Jewish Yishmaelite authorities looking for any excuse to go after Jews.

    Somewhat believe that Reincarnation provides one answer (as well as a measure of comfort to some extent) to the question of theodicy given what the Jewish people have experienced over many millenia.

    For those within Judaism influenced by either rationalist / Rambamist or culturally Yishmaelite ideas who reject Reincarnation, the onus is on them to adequately explain why Reincarnation is not an answer to the question of theodicy and to provide an alternative answer that Jews can draw comfort from in difficult times.

  2. B”H

    Also the former Karaites rejected the concept of reincarnation. They rejected anything not mentioned in the Torah, as they took the Torah literally. The Karaites don’t even accept the Talmud. Today, as far as I know, there is a tiny little Karaite community in the Old City of Jerusalem but I haven’t come across them.

    The Karaites, for instance, sit in the dark on Shabbat and eat cold food. Halacha allows a Shabbat timer. Meaning that you set an automatic times and the light goes on and off automatically. Furthermore, a special plata keeps the Shabbat food warm, as you leave it on throughout the entire Shabbat. The Karaites, however, don’t accept these rabbinic statements.

    Regarding the Rambam: He was extremely rational but contradicted himself sometimes. The problem was that, in the early Middle Ages, many Jewish writings were not known to everybody or simply inaccessible. Not even the entire Talmud was accessible to European Jewry due to the Catholic church.

    I don’t know about the Ishmaelites and their concepts and rejections towards Judaism.

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