Date: February 28, 2018 05:55AM
> Since you brought it up, is there a Jewish
> eschaton? Some ultimate destiny?
When I was going through my conversion-to-Judaism classes, the Christians in my class were seemingly "always" asking variations on this question...it came up a LOT.
The answer our different teachers (all of them rabbis) gave was, in words appropriate to that rabbi, that this was generally not an important question to Jews...
...that the task of human beings pertained to THIS world (with the specific "job assignment" of Jews being "tikkun olam," which means: "repairing the world"---in other words: by your own personal efforts, leaving the world at your death a better place than it had been when you were born)...and that "olam haba" (the "world to come" [after your death]) would take care of itself.
This answer, regardless of the words used to phrase it, consistently unsettled the Christians among us because they wanted to KNOW what, as a Jew, was going to happen to them after they died...and the rabbis kept saying: It doesn't matter---be a mensch (a "good person"), make the world a better place than it was when you arrived here, and (in the words of Doris Day) "...what will be, will be."
And then the next week's classes (we went to class two nights a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays) would come around, and the Christians would be asking yet again: As a Jew, what is going to happen to me after I die?
[I should point out, for those who care, that the rabbis who were our teachers were Conservative or Reconstructionist...which are sort of variations on the "same thing." There are some differences between these two movements, but they are not important differences, and they can be easily reconciled in real life.]
Also in real life: although you won't find many (or any!) Jews who believe in heaven and hell, or heaven and purgatory and hell...you will find a percentage (still a minority, but probably a growing minority) who do believe in reincarnation...
...to the point where there are often, in different areas, a particular rabbi, or (plural) some small number of rabbis, who effectively become the "go to" person(s) when someone is relating, or is confused or troubled by, past life memories (which are usually WWII-era memories).
Some of these people are adults, and some of them are children...and whoever they are (whether they are Jewish or not, and regardless of their age) they need to talk to someone who is going to listen seriously to what they "remember."
Because of this, it is my sense that there is a very quiet, and slowly growing, acceptance among Jews of reincarnation (whether reincarnation in general, or reincarnation in the case of particular individuals).
This is NOT "officially Jewish" in any way, and NO Jewish movement is going to claim that "reincarnation is true" or whatever, but it IS taking place (and has been since about 1944 or so). This is all going on very quietly, with those involved downplaying even what they might personally know is occurring...mostly on a Jew-to-Jew level (with one tiny, and virtually unknown to anyone exception, no one I know of is writing books about it...no synagogue that I know of is discussing it publically, and the "go to" rabbis will usually not discuss it for anything even remotely approaching publication), but on the down low, it is happening privately...sporadically...individual Jew to individual Jew.
The "public" answer to your question is: "We don't know"...and this is likely to be the "official" Jewish answer for at least (I estimate) three more generations...
...even if, in private, there are a [small] number of Jews who accept that reincarnation, at least in some specific instances, probably does occur.