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Does History Repeat Itself? Moses and Reincarnation

Of all the figures in the Bible, it is Moses who returns in reincarnations more than anyone else. The Zohar explains that “a generation goes and a generation comes”[1] means that it is the very same generation that comes and goes – and this particularly relates to Moses, who reincarnates in every generation. Immediately after the verse “a generation goes and a generation comes” Ecclesiastes writes “And the sun rises and the sun sets”. The sun that rises today is the same sun that set yesterday. In the same manner, the same generation that set returns and shines once again.

Every Generation and its Leaders

What do we learn from the knowledge that the soul of Moses reincarnates in every generation?

There is a tendency to ‘push’ our great and heroic figures into the past. Once there were prophets and sages, once there were great tzaddikim and scholars, once there was Divine Inspiration. But today? (sigh). In truth, however, these illuminating figures return to us, but with different faces. They return in an updated version, configured to our generation’s style and level. Every generation has its leaders and in our day, these great souls live among us.

Moses’ reincarnation means that every generation has its own leaders, who are the continuation of Moses – the greatest leader of all time.

“Yeruba’al (Gideon) in his generation was like Moses in his generation. Bedan (Samson) in his generation was like Aaron in his generation. Yiftach in his generation was like Samuel in his generation. To teach you that even the simplest of people who has been appointed to lead the public is like the greatest of the greats.”[2]

It is specifically Moses who has to reincarnate time and again, for his mission has not yet been completed. Moses was sent to earth to bring Israel out of exile and into redemption, and we are still on the way. Just as every generation has its part in the rectification of the Sin of the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies, so Moses the leader returns in every generation to add another unique and vital dimension of that particular generation to the tapestry of the redemption. Hence, the happy ending to all of Moses’ reincarnations will come only when the Mashiach completes his task, may it be speedily in our days. The Kabbalists say that the soul of Mashiach is the soul of Moses. “He is the first redeemer and he is the final redeemer.”[3]

There are many tzaddikim, but there is only one leader who is the “Moses of the generation” (in the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who certainly answers to this definition). When we say that someone is the leader of the generation, we mean that first and foremost, he breathes the spirit of the generation, he lives the essence of the generation, its style, its approach, its language, and its needs. As a result, he also senses and suffers all of his generation’s shortcomings, illnesses, and tribulations. Moses suffered when Israel sinned with the Golden Calf and Mashiach is described as suffering all the afflictions of his generation. The leader of the generation completely identifies with his generation. There are some tzaddikim who are in the generation but still seem to belong to previous generations. We are blessed to have these illustrious figures in our midst, but the leader of the generation is someone who has grown up in the soil of that generation. He has taken root in the energy of the generation and is completely connected to it.

Parallel to the leader’s identification with the generation and its troubles – and by the power of this identification – he is also a conduit from above to below, through which the unique Torah for that generation flows. Yiftach is an extreme example of one of the simplest people in his time. Nonetheless, “Yiftach in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Yiftach’s name, which means “he will open” alludes to the ability of the leader to open the way. He has special heavenly help in opening the flow of the Torah guidance especially fitting for his generation, with deep commitment to Jewish heritage.

May we merit the completion of the reincarnations of Moses and the revelation of the unique light of the Torah of Mashiach!


[1] Ecclesiastes 1:4.

[2] Rosh Hashanah 25b.

[3] Shemot Rabbah 2:4.

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