Saints by Rabbi Allen S.
Valentine Potocki, a young Polish nobleman went to Paris to finish
his education, There he became close friends with another Polish
nobleman, Zarembo, Both of them met a Jewish teacher and asked him to
teach them Hebrew. After some time each independently decided to
become Jewish. Potocki went to Amsterdam where it was safe to convert
to Judaism. Zarembo returned to Poland where he married into the
Tishkewitch family. After some years, Zarembo took his wife and 5
year old son to Amsterdam where it was safe to become Jewish. Then
the family went to Israel as Zarembo's friend Count Potocki had done
Zarembo family remained in the Land of Israel, but Count Potocki grew
homesick and took the dangerous step of returning to Poland. He
settled in Ilja/Ilia in the Vilna district of Belarus posing as a
born Jew, and spent all his time studying Torah. When the police
found out he was a convert to Judaism he was arrested and sent to
Vilna. There the bishop tried to save his soul with reason, followed
by torture, and then by being burned alive in the center of Vilna in
The next month, when
the Baal Sham Tov heard what had happened to Potocki, he said two
things. First, Potocki's soul was a Gilgul (reincarnation) of parts
(sparks) of the soul of both Sarah and Ruth, who also were not born
of a Jewish mother. Ruth was the most famous female convert to
Judaism. According to a Midrash the souls of all future converts to
Judaism were also standing at Sinai. According to Sefer HaPliyah a
Kabbalistic text, most converts to Judaism are gilgulim- reincarnated
Jewish souls from previous generations that were lost to the Jewish
people, who are now returning home to their original people. Since
Potocki left no children, his soul would be reborn in a Gentile body
and then someday would return (convert) to the Jewish people again.
Jewish mystical teachings relate that the souls of Jews who were cut
off from the Jewish people, without leaving physical descendants to
propagate their Jewish lineage, will reincarnate in later generations
in the bodies of close friends or extended family, who 3-7
generations later will revert to Judaism.
according to the Baal Shem Tov, Potocki was one of the 36+ hidden saints. These 36+ hidden saints-
Lamed Vav Tzadikim (ל"ו
צדיקים or "Lamed-Vav(niks")
refers to a special group of at least 36
unknown righteous people whose devotion to Judaism keeps the
civilized world from being destroyed by all the evil in it. In
the 19th and 20th
centuries Hassidic Judaism and Yiddish proletarian writers expanded
this Jewish tradition of 36+ righteous people whose simple role in
life justifies the value of mankind in God's eyes; by adding that if
even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. Their
identity is unknown, even to each other. The lamed-vavniks are
scattered throughout the world. On rare occasions, one of them is
'discovered' by accident, in which case the
secret of their identity must not be disclosed. The lamed-vavniks do
not themselves know that they are one of the 36+.
In fact, if a person claimed to be one of the 36, (as bar Yohai
did-see below) that is proof that he or she is certainly not one,
since the 36+ are each great exemplars of anavah, ("humility").
The 36+ are simply too humble to believe that
they are one of the 36+. This is similar to
the reaction of almost all Gentiles who rescued Jews during the Shoah; who deny
being heroes and think what they did was only natural.
For the sake of these 36+ hidden saints,
God preserves our world even if the rest of humanity degenerates to
the level of total barbarism. This idea is
based on the story of Sodom and Gomorra in the Bible, where God told
Abraham that he would spare the town of Sodom if there were at least
10 righteous people in it. Since nobody knows who the 36+
Lamedvavniks are, not even themselves, every
Jew should honor and respect all the simple, honest, unselfish, hard
working and long suffering people around us,
for one of them may be one of the 36+. Unlike
the rich, the famous, the pious, the scholars, the powerful, the
beautiful or the successful, who everyone thinks are very important,
the 36+ are the really important people, because without even a few of
them the world could destroy itself.
is important to note that Rabbi Abaye said that there must
be at least 36
righteous people in each generation. Usually there are more, lots
more. The full Talmud text is as follows: Abaye said; The world
must contain not less than thirty-six righteous people
in each generation who receive Shechinah face, as it is written,
“Blessed are all they that wait for him.”
(Isaiah 30:18); the numerical value of him -'lo' is thirty-six.
Is there a maximum number of hidden saints? The Talmud discussion continues. Did not Hezekiah say in the name of Rabbi
Jeremiah, that Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai said: I have seen the sons
they are limited; if there are a thousand, I and my son are included;
if a hundred, I and my son are included; and if only two, they are
myself and my son? (Thus proving that Simeon bar Yohai and son are
not among the 36+ ) There is no difficulty (says the editor of the Talmud): the former number
(1,000)] refers to those who enter (experience Shechinah)
permission i.e. by self sacrificial Mitsvot; the latter (100) to those who
enter without permission. i.e. by Mitsvot and great force of prayer . Plus Raba silenced Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai with proof from the Prophets: The front row (of righteous
people) before the Holy One, consists of eighteen thousand, for it is
written (Ezekiel 48:35), “it shall be eighteen thousand round
about” Sanhedrin 97b.
there are between 36+ and 18,000 unknown Jewish and Gentile saints in
the world in every generation. When the number is high as in the
generation of the 1860's, millions of American slaves and Russian
serfs were freed. When the number dips below 100 the world is in big
trouble. When it sinks close to 36; holocausts occur.
In Hebrew grammar a mixed group of men and women,
even a group of 99 women and one man, are referred to as men. Many
thoughtless people refer to the 36+ righteous as men, although
there is absolutely no evidence that there are no female humble
saints. Indeed, women are more likely to fit the 36+ mold then men
are. Clearly the 36+ are both men and women. Reform Rabbis like Rabbi
Allen Maller, teach that the 36+ are composed of at least18 men or 18
women who keep the world (Hai) alive. Or perhaps there are 3 sets of
12+. The first third are from the tribe of Levy; half of them are
descendants from Aaron, the first high priest, and half are
descendants from Miriam, the first female prophet. The second third
are from Judah with at least half of them descendants of Ruth, and at
least half descendants from David. The last third are descendants
from Noah, half of them are righteous Gentiles (many of them among
the almost 24,000 rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust recorded by
Yad V'Shem in Jerusalem) and the other half are converts to Judaism
(among the tens of thousands of converts in North America). When the
numbers of righteous saints are much higher than 36+ the number of
righteous Gentiles and converts to Judaism becomes very high.
unknown saints have great influence with God, although they do not
know it. A folktale from Syria illustrates this theme. Once,
in the land of Syria, there was a great drought. A rabbi called all
the Jews of his village to the synagogue. They prayed day and night,
but still no rain fell. Then the rabbi declared a fast, and asked God
to answer their prayers.
That night he heard a voice
from heaven, saying, "God will send rain only if Rahamim, who
always sits in the back corner of the synagogue, prays for it."
"But he's an ignoramus," protested the rabbi.
Silence was the response.
When Rahamim came to the
synagogue the rabbi said, "tomorrow you will lead the
congregation in prayers for rain," "But I do not know how
to pray," said Rahamim. "There are so many others who know
more than I." "Nevertheless," said the rabbi, "it
is you who must pray."
next day the rabbi called all the people together to pray. The
synagogue was filled to bursting. All eyes were on the bimah,
where everyone expected to see the rabbi leading them in prayer. How
great was their amazement to see poor Rahamim standing up there
before the Holy Ark holding a clay jar with two spouts in his hands.
"Now I ask that you pray with all your heart," he told the
So they opened the Ark and the people
poured out their hearts to heaven, wailing bitterly and beating their
breasts. Then Rahamim lifted up his jar, first placing the one spout
to his eye and then the other to his ear. Instantly there was a
rumble of thunder and then the sky opened up, drenching the earth
with rain. The rabbi later asked Rahamim, "Why did you bring that jar
here? What did you do with it?"
only a poor man," Rahamim replied. "What I earn as a
cobbler barely feeds my many children. Every day they cry for bread
and I have little to give them. When I hear their cries my heart
breaks, and I too cry. I collect my tears in this jar. When you asked
me to come here to pray, I looked into the jar and said, 'Master of
the Universe, if you do not send rain, I will break this jar in front
of all these people.' Then I heard a
voice that said, 'Do not break the jar'.
And then it began to rain.
JEWISH GENES AND GILGUL REINCARNATIONS
In April 2010, Joseph Pickrell sent a tube of his saliva to the California genetic testing company 23andMe. After spending years studying other people’s DNA, the 27-year-old doctoral student at the University of Chicago decided he wanted to learn more about his own genetic ancestry. When the results came back, they showed that Pickrell was largely of Northern European descent with a bit of Mediterranean blood in the mix. At the time, “I just thought, that’s about right,” Pickrell said.
Together with 11 friends and colleagues who had completed the same test, Pickrell then ran his genetic profile through a computer algorithm designed to tease apart genetic lineages more precisely. Strangely, the analysis suggested that two people in the group were of Ashkenazi descent: New York-based attorney Dan Vorhaus and Pickrell. This finding made sense for Vorhaus, a Jew who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. But for Pickrell, who was raised Catholic in Chicago’s northern suburbs, it came as a shock.
Pickrell turned to his mother. “She said, ‘Wait a second, hold on; this rings a bell,’” Pickrell recalled. She made a few phone calls, and pieced together information: Her father’s father — Pickrell’s maternal great-grandfather — had been raised Jewish in Poland before moving to the United States, where he married a Catholic woman and left his Jewish life behind.
DNA tests to uncover Jewish origins have been offered for decades by companies such as Houston-based Family Tree DNA and DNA Tribes of Arlington, Va. They have shown, for example, that many Hispanic Americans likely descended from Jews who were forced to convert or hide their religion more than 500 years ago in Spain and Portugal. Yet although standard ancestry-testing platforms can point to centuries-old Jewish origins, none would have flagged Pickrell’s relatively recent Semitic pedigree.
That’s because most DNA tests have traditionally relied on only two small parts of the genome: the Y-chromosome, which is passed down almost unchanged from father to son, and mitochondria, which mothers pass faithfully to their offspring. Because these stretches of DNA remain relatively consistent from one generation to the next, they are particularly useful for testing direct-line paternal and maternal ancestry, respectively; however, they essentially ignore the bulk of someone’s DNA ancestry and cannot detect genetic signatures that cross gender lines. But the test that 23andMe offers is different. Available commercially for only a few years, it measures close to a million single “letters” of DNA smattered across the whole genome to reveal ancestral origins of, and risk factors for, almost 100 diseases.
According to 23andMe geneticist Mike Macpherson, about 800 (2%) of the 40,000 people of non-Ashkenazi European descent who have used the company’s platform show some reliable signature of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage in their DNA.
According to Bennett Greenspan, president of Family Tree DNA, many people who learn of Semitic ancestry through DNA often end up converting to Judaism. Elliot Dorff, a conservative rabbi at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, welcomes these conversions. “We would really want to encourage such people to rediscover their Jewish roots,” he said. Although people who find Jewish origins through DNA are not strictly Jewish, halachically speaking, Rabbi Dorff noted that many people in this situation already feel a deep-seated connection to the religion.
Regrettably not everyone has living relatives to corroborate the findings of DNA testing. Rick Voss, a 66-year-old Atlanta based lawyer, always suspected that his paternal grandparents might be Jewish, and last year the results of 23andMe’s kit indicated that Voss himself was half-Jewish. But since both Voss’s father and grandparents died decades ago, he can’t ask them for more details. Nonetheless, Voss noted, discovering through his DNA that he probably has Jewish roots “has some psychic meaning.” from The Forward 1/18/11
Reform Rabbi Allen S. Maller says that one psychic meaning when non-Jews discover that they have Jewish ancestry is that some of them eventually realize they have a Jewish soul. According to a Kabbalah teaching a non-Jew who is drawn to Jewish culture and Jewish people usually has a reincarnated soul from an ancestor who was cut off from the Jewish people several generations in the past. This reincarnated soul (gilgul) recycles into a later generation and is sooner or later drawn to return to Judaism and the Jewish People. Other people who descend from the same Jewish individual and who find no “psychic meaning” in this knowledge, do not have a ‘Jewish soul’ according to Rabbi Maller, who offers many examples on his web site rabbimaller.com and in his book “God, Sex and Kabbalah
WITH JEWISH SOULS by Rabbi Allen S Maller
hundreds of thousands of people from Africa with Jewish souls. Their
ancestors came to Africa during Roman times. Most of them lived in
the area around Ethiopia and never lost their connection with the
Jewish people. Almost all of these Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel.
Many other Jews who lived in smaller communities in east and west
Africa eventually lost contact with the Ethiopian Jewish center and
assimilated into African pagan culture. In later centuries these
assimilated Jews were drawn to Islam and Christianity because it
reconnected them to their Jewish origins. In the last century some of
their descendants inherited a Jewish soul from one of their original
Jewish ancestors. This led them to return to the Jewish people by
forming separate Black Hebrew sects (both in Africa and in America)
or by individual conversion (like Sammy Davis Jr. or the grandfather
of opera singer Marian Anderson). How can you know if you have a
of a Jewish soul.
1- You like to
ask questions? But when you asked them as a child, you were told
faith is a gift from God and you shouldn’t question it. This never
satisfied you, although others didn’t seem to have a problem with
2- The trinity never
made any sense to you even as a young child. You couldn’t
believe that people who didn’t believe in Jesus couldn’t go to
Heaven. Even though you
were told to pray to Jesus, you preferred to pray to God the father,
rather than Jesus, the Son of God.
3- You always related
to the stories in the Hebrew bible more than to the stories in the
4- You found you
related well to Jewish people you met at work or at school even
though they were very different culturally and religiously from your
5- When you first
learned about the Holocaust you reacted more emotionally than did
other members of your own family.
6- When you started to
learn about Judaism; you felt Jewish ideas and values were very
reasonable, and Jewish traditions and heritage were very attractive.
You felt you were coming home.
If most of these
statements apply to you, you probably have a Jewish soul. If you can
find a possible Jewish ancestor you definitely have a Jewish soul
says Rabbi Maller. To learn more
about Kabbalistic beliefs in reincarnation and the reincarnation of
Jewish souls in non-Jewish descendants of Jews who were cut off
from the Jewish People read God, Sex and Kabbalah by Rabbi Allen S.
An African Homecoming
October 16, 2008, Jersualem Post
For Carolivia Herron, an African
American Jewish convert and a retired Harvard University professor of
Comparative Literature and African American Studies, documenting
Ethiopian Jewry's oral history is a significant part of her personal
journey home to the Jewish people and Israel.
"I have no biological connection
to Ethiopian Jews, but my heart is with them," confides Herron,
an author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction who spent the
past two weeks here documenting personal stories of Ethiopian Jews
for a new book. "For many years I wanted to be Jewish. I had
this very strong yearning and I can really relate to their struggle
to get here (Israel). Ethiopian Jews embody my entire love and desire
to be part of the Jewish people."
While her ancestry does not lie
directly with these African Jews - Herron can trace her roots back to
Sephardim who fled Europe following the Spanish inquisition in 1492
and ended up intermarrying with Gullah Africans off the coast of
Georgia and South Carolina - she still feels compelled to use her
expertise in the study and documentation of oral history to put into
modern words and print the Ethiopian Jewish journey to the Promised
Herron, whose own journey back to
Judaism is no less fascinating than those of the people she studies,
is an expert in taking verbal memories and weaving them into a story
that will have wider appeal. In perhaps her most prized piece of
literature, Herron has taken her own family's story and created
Always an Olivia, a children's book retelling the journey some
Sephardic Jews took from Europe to America, including her own
"When I was nine years old and my
great-grandmother was 103, she told me the story of my ancestors and
my Jewish roots," says Herron, recalling that following her
official conversion to Judaism in March 1993, "the first time I
lit the Shabbat candles and said the prayers my father suddenly
remembered his own grandmother lighting the candles on Friday night
and reciting the same prayers."
"I always had this feeling that I
wanted to be Jewish," she says. "I remember one of the
first images I saw of Ethiopian Jews was of a young girl sitting on
an airplane on her way to Israel. I really had a deep understanding
for her and felt that same yearning to be in Jerusalem."
"I know that some in the white Jewish
community do not understand why someone who is black would also
choose to be Jewish," finishes Herron. "Isn't our life hard
enough already? But the homecoming of Ethiopian Jews and their entire
community's love for Judaism and Israel is a phenomenon that I can
completely relate to."
Her Great Grandfather was
of the most touching conversions I ever did was a young girl, 10 or
11, brought to me by her mother, to discuss Judaism. The mother was a
widow, living back at home with her mother and father, who was a
minister. This girl, B, had done some research on Chanukkah for her
school class, and in the process
both loved what she did, and discovered that her late
father had a Jewish grandfather in Germany.
kid lived among old-world Quakers and other farmers, but the odd
thing about it is that she lived near another couple who were
converting. I would not, of course, convert her at that point, but we
discussed all of the problems, up and down and sideways. I asked her
mother why she would support this.
response - her 2 daughters were no longer going to church and she was
delighted that B had found a religious home. She hoped her older
daughter might also find that of interest. And when I said that I
could not imagine doing what she was doing if the positions were
reversed, she said it's different for Jews, after the Holocaust and
So, she started Hebrew, was to come to classes, and attend services. Which
did nearly every week, on her own or with her sister.. By the time
she began Hebrew school, her Hebrew skills were better than most of
the other kids. Her mother drove her the hour in and the hour back
and made enormous sacrifices of time for her, and support for her
personal practises. People in the shul took her in for holidays and
some shabbats. And thus it went.
moved a couple of years later, and bequeathed her to the next rabbi.
later, we met up again. She was in University. She had
converted, changed her name, and was an active member of
her Hillel. Bless the girl - she may even now be in rabbinical
Barbara Borts July 25, 2005
souls of Iberian decent become Jews again
by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
When the king of Spain decided to
"cleanse" the country of Jews in 1492, the Jewish community
was given the choice of converting to Christianity or expulsion. The
majority left, but many converted. Most Jews crossed the border into
Portugal. Others went to Morocco, France and Italy. Many chose to
settle in the Ottoman Empire. Scarcely five years had passed before
the scenario repeated itself in Portugal. But in this case, the Jews
were not allowed to leave. The entire Jewish population was forcibly
baptized. A handful managed to escape.
Burned at the stake
If it is true that 15 to 20 percent of
the population of Portugal was Jewish at the end of the 15th century,
as some scholars claim, one gets an idea of how many of today's
Portuguese citizens have Jewish roots. Over the years, they
assimilated in Christian society, except for small pockets of Jews
who continued to practice their religion in secret. Of those who
clung to Judaism, many were tried by the Inquisition in the 16th and
17th centuries. Such trials were even held in Brazil. The accused
were burned at the stake or imprisoned in monasteries for the rest of
Notwithstanding all the persecution,
one still finds small groups who have preserved Jewish customs and
recite Jewish prayers in Portuguese. Three holidays are observed: Yom
Kippur, Passover and the Fast of Esther. In addition, they keep the
Sabbath in some way. They have special burial customs and do not eat
pork on the Sabbath or holidays. They marry only within the
Samuel Schwarz writes about the New
Christians of Belmonte and how hard it was to gain their trust. He
discovered that women were the ones who safeguarded the traditions
and knew the prayers by heart. At communal gatherings, they served as
cantors and ran the services. One evening, as we tried yet again to
convince the New Christians that we were members of the Jewish
people, an old woman asked us to recite at least one prayer in 'the
Jewish language you say is spoken by the Jews.'" Schwarz chose
the Shma prayer "Hear O Israel". Each time he uttered the
word "adonay" ("the Lord") the women covered
their eyes with their hands. "When we finished," he writes,
"the old woman said to those around her in a tone of great
authority: 'This man is a Jew. He said adonay!'"
Returning to Judaism
Some of these people are now returning
to the Jewish people. Others, who live in North and South America,
only find out they have Jewish ancestors when they are drawn to
Judaism or to Jews. Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, claims the souls of most converts to Judaism are reincarnated souls
of Jews in previous generations who were cut off from the Jewish
people. Through conversion to Judaism they come home. More
information about reincarnation and becoming Jewish is in
“God, Sex and Kabbalah” by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
YOU HAVE A JEWISH SOUL INHERITED FROM ONE OF YOUR ANCESTORS? by
Rabbi Allen S. Maller
human on earth has 8 great grandparents and 16 great great
grandparents. Each of these 24 individuals contributes an equal
amount of genetic material to their descendants. Nevertheless,
brothers or sisters who share the same 24 ancestors do not have
identical genomes. Their physical, mental and personality traits
always differ, unless they are identical twins.
year many hundreds of people whose mother tongue is Polish, Rumanian,
Russian or Ukrainian, find out that one or two of their 24 ancestors
spoke Yiddish. For most of them this discovery is an interesting fact
of little significance. For many of them it might be an embarrassment
to be ignored. But for some of them it becomes a life changing
discovery. They feel drawn to learn about Jewish music, food,
literature, culture and religion. They feel more and more attached in
some mysterious way to the Holocaust and the struggle of Israel to
live in peace in the Middle East. Many of these people eventually are
led to become Jewish either by formal conversion or by informal
reversion within Reform Progressive synagogues.
to a mystical Jewish Cabalistic teaching found in Sefer HaPliyah,
those people who do feel this powerful attraction to Jewish things
and Jewish people, have Jewish souls that are reincarnations of one
of their own Jewish ancestors from 3-7 generations in the past. That
explains why they react to the discovery of some Jewish heritage in
such a unusual way. It also explains why some people who do not even
know that they have Jewish ancestors follow a similar path; and only
discover a Jewish ancestor years after they have returned to the
Hebrew word for a reincarnated Jewish soul is Gilgul. Many people are
born with new souls who are here for the first time. Many people do
not reincarnate after their life on this earth is over. Most people
who become Jewish, especially now, after the Jewish people have
experienced several generations of assimilation, marriage to
non-Jews, hiding from anti-semitism and outright genocide, are
descendants of people whose children, in one way or another, have
been cut off from the Jewish People. Among their non-Jewish
descendants a few will inherit a Jewish soul that will seek to return
to the Jewish people. It is a religious duty of all Jews to
encourage and welcome these people who are on their journey home to
the Jewish people.
you think you might have an ancestor who was Jewish, but no one in
your family seems to know, you can use a introspective personality
and character test to give you some hints.
Do you like to
ask questions especially about religion? But when you asked them as a
child, you were told faith is a gift from God and you shouldn’t
question it. This never satisfied you, although others didn’t
The trinity never made any sense to you even as a young child.
You prayed to God the father more easily than Jesus, the son of God,
even though you were told to pray to Jesus. You never could believe
that people who didn’t believe in Jesus couldn’t go to Heaven.
On first learning of the Holocaust you reacted more emotionally
than your friends or other members of your family. You feel some
sense of connection with the Jewish struggle to defend Israel.
You have an attraction to
Jewish music, culture, and Jewish festivals. You have always been
more open to people who were culturally, nationally or religiously
different from your own family than your friends or class mates.
you answer yes to all three of these items you probably have Jewish
ancestors. Many, but not all, people who answer yes to all four items
will be interested in learning more about their Jewish roots. If you
become very interested in studying Judaism you might have a Jewish
soul. According to Jewish mystical teachings (Kabbalah), many (not
all) people reincarnate after they die. This is especially true for
Jews who died and had no Jewish children who survived them (Sefer
HaPliyah). Their souls reincarnate in one of their non-Jewish
descendants who is drawn to; Jewish things, Jewish people and
Judaism. For more information see God, Sex and Kabbalah by Rabbi
Allen S. Maller
If the following item also applies to you, you certainly have a Jewish
soul. When you start to learn about Judaism: the ideas and values seem
reasonable to you; the traditions and heritage are very attractive to
you; and the non-Jews around you, and you yourself, are surprised
that you slowly come to feel that you are coming home.