I had the chance to watch SOUL, the Disney+ Pixar animated film during the week that the weekly parshah (Vayechi) – and the Book of Bereshit – closed with Jacob’s death in Egypt, where Jacob tells his family that he shall be gathered to his kin. (gathered… as in warehoused with other souls)
It was kismet, since SOUL is the story of Joe, a middle school band teacher, who aspires to be a jazz pianist. He finally receives word that the NYC public school where he works will offer him a full time contract. Stable employment. A steady paycheck. His widowed mother is elated and relieved. He also finds out that he can sit in with a famous jazz combo as the pianist. A chance at a big break for which he has been waiting – his dream job. Sadly, with his head in the clouds, he falls into a hole and is hospitalized, near death. His soul is taken to an escalator area, where other souls are being gathered to their deceased kin.
Joe’s soul escapes the conveyer and arrives at a garden, a tree even, where souls are prepared not for an after-life, but a pre-life, where they explore interests and attitudes, before being matched to a body. It is a Great Before and not the Great Beyond.
The film is very generic, no religion is specified.
But Jewish viewers may find these five texts of interest:
JEWS BELIEVE IN SOULS AND BODIES
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot 60b
When one awakens, he recites:
My God, the soul You have placed within me is pure.
You formed it within me,
You breathed it into me,
and You guard it while it is within me.
One day You will take it from me and restore it within me in the time to come.
As long as the soul is within me, I thank You,
O Lord my God and God of my ancestors, Master of all worlds, Lord of all souls.
Blessed are You, O Lord, who restores souls to lifeless bodies.
IS THERE A GREAT BEFORE?
Thirteen Petalled Rose, by the late Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, pages 52-53
In spite of all the bonds uniting the individual soul either with a higher source or with every other soul, each particular spark, each individual soul, is unique and special,… No two souls coincide in their actions, their functions, and their paths. No one soul can take the place of another, and even the greatest of the great cannot fill the special role, the particular place, of another that may be the smallest of the small….. The life of a person is something that has no possible substitute or exchange; nothing and no one can take its place.
Rabbi Moshe ben Shem Tov de Leon,
God has a tree of flowering souls in Paradise… From this tree blossoms all souls, as it is said, “I am like a cypress tree in bloom; your fruit issues forth from me.” (Hosea 14:9)… they are stored until they are to be born.
Samuel I, 25:20
And the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord your God
The Zohar 2:150a
Gan Eden is the dwelling place of souls.