Gilgul in Philo of Alexandria

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 9193
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Gilgul in Philo of Alexandria

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Aug 26, 2017 2:15 pm

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 5218
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara

Re: Gilgul in Philo of Alexandria

Post by Peter Kirby » Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:56 pm

For those who don't pick up on the meaning right away:

Gilgul/Gilgul neshamot/Gilgulei Ha Neshamot (Heb. גלגול הנשמות, Plural: גלגולים Gilgulim) describes a Kabbalistic concept of reincarnation. In Hebrew, the word gilgul means "cycle" or "wheel" and neshamot is the plural for "souls."
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

Posts: 375
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:27 pm

Re: Gilgul in Philo of Alexandria

Post by semiopen » Sun Aug 27, 2017 5:33 am

It turns out that the google link doesn't go to the page that gilgul is mentioned on, and that page isn't available without buying the book.

However this made me think of the famous secular lawyer reincarnated as a dog in the Mea Shearim incident

Shocking Sentence: Story Claiming Jewish Court Condemned Dog To Death by Stoning Proven a Hoax - ... -stoning/
This story has been proven false.) Israel’s Maariv newspaper originally reported that weeks ago, the large hound reportedly wandered into a courtroom in the very religious Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Allegedly wreaking havoc on the proceedings and scaring visitors, the dog refused to leave the court. Now it appears the judges of this rabbinical court are out for retribution.
One judge recalled the tale of a lawyer in decades past who was cursed by the court for his anti-religious tendencies. The judges hoped that the lawyer’s secular spirit would be reincarnated as a dog, considered an insult in some Jewish traditions. When the pooch wandered into the court a few weeks ago, several years after the lawyer’s death, they feared it was his reincarnation coming to cause chaos.
UPDATE: According to Hebrew news sources, the story originally published in the Behadrei Haredim newspaper may not have been based on factual reporting. The court denies the sentence was ever handed down, claiming the only action taken against the dog was in calling animal control officials to remove the dog.
I don't think this is exactly correct. Yahoo news picked up the original story and this resulted in a burst of anti-semitic responses from the denizens of Yahoo, and the story was suppressed.

As the Time link states, there definitely was a dog, and something happened. There was some suspicion that the dog was a reincarnation of the lawyer, but upon determining that the dog was a female, the reincarnation theory no longer worked, so no action was taken.

The dog was "turned over" to the Jerusalem humane society which found her a new home. I have my doubts that the court actually called them... maybe. There was a thread on FRDB about this, at the time, I actually wrote to the humane society to find out about it.

Regarding the stoning part, that may or may not have happened, but not as a judicial order. It's not that big a deal.

Women are exempt from reincarnation - Reincarnation Discrimination - ... ion-91.htm
Gilgulim really only apply to men and not to women. This is the esoteric meaning of the verse, "A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains stationary forever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4). "A generation goes and a generation comes…" refers to men who reincarnate. However, women are referred to as "earth"; they are forever stationary. [In other words] they do not return in gilgul.
The sins of women are purged in the fires of Gehinom.
The reason is that men are commanded with the mitzvah to get involved with the study of Torah. [Therefore] they cannot enter Gehinom because the fire of Gehinom cannot affect them, as it says regarding Elisha son of Abuya. He was not judged because he learned Torah, but they did not give him the World-to-Come either, since he had sinned.
That's a beautiful WTF moment to tell that to a woman in an introduction to Kabbalah class.

Posts: 1518
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Gilgul in Philo of Alexandria

Post by andrewcriddle » Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:07 am

The idea that Gilgul applies only to men and not to women, seems to be a Lurianic innovation. IIUC it is not found in medieval kabbalah. ... ul&f=false

Andrew Criddle

Posts: 375
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:27 pm

Re: Gilgul in Philo of Alexandria

Post by semiopen » Thu Aug 31, 2017 5:59 am

Thanks Andrew,

I have Magid's book on Kindle but find myself hung up on his detailed explanations of Zeir_Anpin, Arich_Anpin, Partzufim, nukva, etc.

It is worth noting that most of what we know about Isaac_Luria comes from Hayyim_ben_Joseph_Vital who was a pretty strange guy.
Vital provides us with the names of 38 individuals who according to him, made up Luria's discipleship... According to him, the fellowship was divided into four hierarchically ordered groups. The first and most important, was composed of 11 men, listed in this order: Hayyim Vital, Jonathan Sagis, Joseph Arzin, Isaac Kohen, Gedaliah ha-Levi, Samuel Uceda, Judah Mishan, Abraham Gavriel, Shabbatai Menashe, Joseph ibn Tabul, and Elijah Falko (or Falkon). It is largely accepted that within a year Hayyim Vital emerged as the leading student, so that when the Arizal died in 1572, at the age of 38, Vital succeeded him. Since the Arizal had left almost none of his teachings in writing, Vital began to write down everything he had learned from his master.
Fine's book -
Fine, Lawrence (2003). Rodrigue, Aron; Zipperstein, Steven J, eds. Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 480. ISBN 0-8047-4826-8. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
is one of my favorites on this topic - at least, I've read the whole thing.

The thing with Vital is that he is so odd, one has to wonder how much of the stuff he attributed to Luria, he actually made up himself.

Luria/Vital claimed that sometimes a woman could actually be a man - take Vital's wife for example. I have my doubts that those technicalities survived, hence my theory that once the judges observed that the dog was a bitch it was case closed. My guess is that they may have been half joking about the possible reincarnation, and checked the dog's plumbing as part of the frivolity of the occasion.

Basically Lurianic_Kabbalah took a serious hit because of Sabbatai_Zevi and the Baal_Shem_Tov made Kabbalah more PG rated. I don't think there are any other important Kabbalistic schools currently that haven't followed this evolutionary trail.

Post Reply