Human-Animal Reincarnation and Animal Grief in Kabbalah: Joseph of Hamadan's Contribution

Leore Sachs-Shmueli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In thirteenth-century Castile, the kabbalist R. Joseph of Hamadan offered an unprecedented articulation of the idea of reincarnation (gilgul), proposing that Jewish men could be reborn as gentiles, women, or even animals. This article studies the formation of the Jewish belief in the transmigration of human souls into animal bodies, focusing on the question of animal pain. It contextualizes the kabbalistic literary treatment of animals by examining the thirteenth-century European genre of bestiaries, which attempted to instill proper morals in readers by associating animals with sinners. Although the idea of animal reincarnation led kabbalists to treat animals as creatures with human souls, it did not lead to a fundamental or radical shift in the treatment of animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-56
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Leore Sachs-Shmueli, 2023.


  • Kabbalah
  • animals
  • reincarnation
  • slaughter - sin
  • souls


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