Personally, I find it hard enough to remember where I put my car keys five minutes ago, let alone what I did in a previous life. But there have been very holy individuals who were aware of their past lives. One example is Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Ujhely, who said that he remembers his past three lives.
Previous to his current life as a Rabbi in 18th century Hungary, he said he lived in the times of the first Temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE. He was the prophet Jeremiah, who foresaw the destruction of the Temple. For that reason Rabbi Moshe was famous for his constant yearning for the redemption and rebuilding of the third Temple.
He also recalled an even earlier incarnation, when he was a witness to the debate between Moses and Korach, which took place during the Israelite sojourn in the desert, some three thousand years ago.
But Rabbi Teitelbaum remembered further back, all the way to the time of the patriarchs. He said that when our forefather Jacob tended the sheep of his father-in-law Lavan, his flock numbered 600 000 sheep. They contained the souls of the future nation of Israel. Your soul and mine were there. We just don’t remember. But Rabbi Moshe did.
“I remember being a sheep in Jacob’s flock,” Rabbi Moshe told his students. “I even remember the song Jacob would sing to gather us together.” And he would sing this most beautiful and haunting song, the song Jacob our forefather sang to our souls hidden in the sheep. The song is still known to this very day.
Rabbi Moshe is an exception. Most of us have no conscious memory of our previous lives. But somewhere deep down, we do remember. We have a sense of what our mission is and what we need to fix. Our mission is usually found in the very area of life that we find the most challenging. Our soul knows that this is what we have to face. That’s why it’s so daunting.
There are certain people in our lives who push our buttons. There are particular weaknesses in our character that we loath to face. And there are mitzvahs that we know we have to do but are scared to do them. These are the faint memories of our past lives. These are what we need to fix in this life.
And if you’re not sure that you believe in all this, listen to Jacob’s song. Its heavenly melody just might arouse some hidden memory in the recesses of your soul.
We may not remember exactly who we were before, but one thing we know. We each have a soul that matters, we each have a mission to accomplish, and we each have a song to sing.
Menachem (Mendel) Bluming and Rabbi Moss