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If, through reincarnation, there are unlimited "chances" at life, doesn't this negate the necessity of living according to Torah commandments?"


The Zohar (e.g. III 216a; Tikkunei Zohar 6:22b, 32:76b) says that a soul has three or four chances to succeed in a reincarnated state. However, the Tikkunei Zohar (69:103a) suggests that if even a little progress is made each time, the soul is given a thousand opportunities to reincarnate in order to achieve its completion.


The truth is the figure of 1,000 lives is not necessarily meant literally, since according to Jewish tradition (Sanhedrin 97a) the world as we know it is meant to last no more than 6000 years (however, some suggest that figure is not what it appears to be on the surface level; see, for example, Aryeh Kaplan). What the concept of 1,000 opportunities at the minimum means is that God will take any sign of movement, even baby steps, as a sign of progress and thereby extend His mercy further.


(According to Zohar III 216a "credit," so to speak, for more than one life can be achieved during a single lifetime by, for instance, an essentially righteous person who experiences the travails of wandering from city to city, house to house -- even to try to drum up business (Zohar Chadash Tikkunim 107a). Such a person might be considered as if to have undergone multiple reincarnations.)


Nevertheless, none of this is to say the chances are "unlimited." Indeed, this is the concept of a Great Day of Judgment. A day of reckoning will come. You can be sure of that. Rather, reincarnation, in the Jewish understanding, means that God extends God's mercy beyond the confines of a single life. But not indefinitely.