A person is lazy because he wants serenity and quiet. Comfort-seeking is the root of laziness. But realize that although the lazy way might at first appear to give comfort, in the long run, a person who is lazy will lose greatness. Why? His life will be one of mediocrity!
Today, think about what have you been pushing off because of laziness. Then commit to begin one action to counteract this tendency.
Love Yehuda Lave
Addidiction quotes from my Sister
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. Carl Jung, Shrink
It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it. Ken Hensley, Singer-Songwriter
All sins tend to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is damnation. W. H. Auden, Poet
There is a quality of selfishness that is associated with an individual when they are in the depths of addiction. David Dastmalchian, Actor
No addiction is good. Jose Mujica, Former President of Uruguay
Addiction is a terrible thing. Jamie Dornan, Actor
If you don't know someone who's had a problem with addiction, you will. Dana Boente, US Attorney
One who acts with compassion when firmness is called for will eventually act with cruelty when compassion is needed (Koheles Rabbah 7:33).
While mercy and compassion are highly valued character traits, sometimes they are inappropriate; instead, harsh discipline must be applied.
A young alcoholic woman who had been in several automobile wrecks related that one winter night, she totally ruined her father's new car because she was driving under the influence. She pleaded with the police officer to report this episode as a skidding accident, because she feared her father's wrath. The officer complied with her request.
This young woman subsequently was in another accident due to drunk driving. This time she sustained facial injuries; in spite of excellent cosmetic surgery, her former features were never fully restored. "That police officer thought he was being kind to me," she later said. "Had I been arrested for drunk driving, I might have been forced into treatment for my alcoholism, and maybe I never would have sustained the facial injuries."
True kindness which comes from our minds guiding our emotions will bring more kindness in its wake. Misguided kindness, brought on by our uncontrolled emotions, generally causes pain.
How can we avoid misguided kindness? One way is to ask others who are not influenced by our emotions for their opinion.
Today I shall ... ... try to be aware that even my highly commendable character traits, such as kindness, may be misapplied. I should look for guidance to avoid such mistakes.
20 Jewish Prophets Everyone Should Know By Menachem Posner
Prophets and prophecy are integral to Judaism. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the forefathers of the Jewish people, were prophets. Moses—the giver of the Law—was considered the greatest prophet who ever lived. In later generations, prophets and prophetesses guided the people, chided them when they did wrong and comforted them when things were tough. The Talmud tells us that there were 48 prophets and seven prophetesses of the Jewish people. Now, the Talmud qualifies that there were many more prophets—a whopping 1,200,000 prophets in fact—but only those prophets whose message was relevant for future generations made the list.1
Here is our (somewhat random) selection of 20 of the greatest prophets of all times:
"And the L‑rd spoke to Abraham: 'Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace and from the house of your father, to the land that I will show you.'"2 With this simple instruction, we are introduced to Abraham and his seed, who take the central role in the Bible. The Bible is full of Divine communication with Abraham. When G‑d told him that He was planning to destroy the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorra, Abraham pleaded with G‑d, attempting to bargain with Divine justice. When Abraham was worried over his future, G‑d promised him a son. However, the crowning achievement of the Abraham-G‑d relationship came when G‑d tested Abraham by telling him sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, and Abraham was ready to follow unquestioningly.
Yet, as great as Abraham was, the sages say that his wife was an even greater prophetess.3
As the wife of Abraham, Sarah was an equal partner in his efforts to spread monotheistic beliefs and morality. Abraham led the men, and Sarah shepherded the women.4 She was originally named Yiscah, but Abraham called her Sarai ("my princess/superior") because she was superior to him in her prophetic abilities. When she was 89 years old, G‑d commanded that her name be changed to Sarah (which means "princess") and Abram ("exalted father") become Abraham ("father of many nations"), and they were soon blessed with a son, Isaac.
Sarah was so holy that her bread would remain fresh all week, her Shabbat candles would burn until the following Friday, and a cloud would hover above her tent.5 In telling Sarah's age at the time of her passing, the verse states that her life was "100 years, and 20 years, and 7 years." The sages explain that when she was 100, she was as pure of sin as a maiden of 20; and when she was 20, she was as beautiful as an innocent 7-year-old.6
Abraham and Sarah's descendants made their way down to Egypt, where they were enslaved by Pharaoh. In those bitter times, a little girl named Miriam (which means "bitter") was born to Amram and Yocheved. Her father was the leader of the generation and her mother was a busy midwife. Determined not to have more children for Pharaoh to slay, Miriam's parents separated. Miriam divined that they were destined to give birth to the child who would lead the people out of slavery, and she convinced them to remarry. From that union came Moses, the redeemer of Israel.
Miriam continued to believe in a better future, even when her father doubted her prophecy.7 When the Israelites left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, leaving the Egyptians behind, Miriam led the women in song and dance.8 And due to Miriam's merit, G‑d provided the people with a traveling well for most of the 40 years that they were in the desert.
Maimonides called him the "father of all prophets," asserting that Moses alone was "chosen by G‑d from all mankind."9 G‑d spoke to Moses from within a burning bush and told him to go to Egypt to redeem the people from Egypt. Ten plagues and one dramatic sea crossing later, Moses went up to Mount Sinai, where G‑d communicated the 10 Commandments. Moses spent 40 days atop the mountain, during which G‑d dictated and Moses recorded the Torah, the foundational book of Judaism, also known as the Five Books of Moses.
While other prophets only heard from G‑d intermittently, often in a dreamlike state, Moses would speak to G‑d at any time in a most personal manner. In the words of the Torah: "And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the L‑rd knew face to face."10
It's true that no prophet arose in Israel like Moses. However, the sages tell us,11 there was one such prophet among the gentiles. Thus, even though he technically does not belong on a list of Jewish prophets, we will still share a bit about Balaam.
Balaam was hired by King Balak to curse the Israelites on their way out of Egypt. Balaam ignored G‑d's warnings, the presence of an angel blocking his way, and even the miracle of a talking donkey as he eagerly hastened to help Balak with his diabolical scheme. But instead of curses, all Balaam was able to say were blessings for the people of Israel, including beautiful prophecies about the era of Moshiach. It is from Balaam's prophecies that we have the famous verse "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!"12 which many Jews say every morning at the start of their daily prayers.
Joshua was Moses' devoted student, who "never left the tent [of Moses]."13 When Moses chose 12 spies to scout out the Promised Land, Joshua was one of two scouts who remained faithful to the mission. And when Moses was nearing the end of his 120 years on earth, G‑d told him to select Joshua as a successor. Joshua faithfully led the people into the Land. Through him, G‑d orchestrated the miracle of the crumbling walls of Jericho and the vanquishing of the heathen tribes who occupied Canaan at the time. Joshua exhorted the people to remain faithful to the Torah and to G‑d, and his leadership is recorded in the Book of Joshua.
Deborah the Prophetess ruled Israel from under a date tree (tomer Devorah) in the land of Ephraim. One reason for this open-air office was that she was wary of being alone with men who came to seek her counsel, and therefore chose to meet them in plain sight. Scripture describes her as "a woman of flames (lapidot)." The sages understood this to mean that she had the honor of making wicks for the Temple menorah.14
She conveyed G‑d's message to General Barak that he should go to war against the Canaanites, who had been oppressing the people of Israel. Barak agreed to go to war only if Deborah would go with him. She obliged, the Israelites won (with the help of Yael, another brave woman), and Deborah sang a song to thank G‑d for His deliverance. The land was then tranquil for 40 years.15
Chanah was married to a prophet named Elkanah.16 Chanah had no offspring, but her husband's other wife, Peninah, was blessed with many children. One holiday, she was so saddened that she went to the Tabernacle and wept, silently praying. She promised G‑d that if she would be blessed with a son, she would give him to G‑d all the days of his life. Her prayer was unusual in that it was silent, and Eli, the High Priest at the time, thought she was drunk. When Chanah explained what she was doing, he was impressed and agreed that she was correct.17 In fact, many laws of Jewish prayer are derived from Chanah's prayer.
Samuel was the miracle baby who was born to Chanah and Elkanah. When he was weaned, his mother brought him to the Tabernacle to be raised in holiness by Eli the High Priest, as per her promise to G‑d. One night, G‑d called to Samuel, and thus began a lifetime of devotion.18 Samuel would regularly travel throughout the Land of Israel to judge the people and guide them.
When the people, suffering at the hands of Philistine enemies, requested a king to lead them, Samuel heeded their wish and anointed Saul. After Saul failed to remain faithful to G‑d, Samuel anointed David to succeed him. Even after he appointed the kings, Samuel continued to judge, guide and teach the people. He wrote several books of the Bible, including the book that bears his name.19 He lived a rich and busy life until he passed away at the age of 52.
The sages say that Samuel was equal in stature to Moses, but there was a difference. While Moses needed to go to the Tent of Meeting to hear G‑d's voice, G‑d came to Samuel wherever he was. This reflected their leadership styles. Moses would remain in his place, and the people would come seek is counsel. Samuel, on the other hand, would travel to the people, meeting them wherever they were.20
After he was accepted as king, he still faced challenges from many, including his own children. He had problems among his wives and other tragedies in his family.21 Yet, David remained faithful to G‑d, sometimes to the degree that others saw as him as childish.22 Known as the "Sweet Singer of Israel," David composed many praises to G‑d, including the Book of Psalms.
Abigail was the wise and beautiful wife of Nabal, a stingy man who was as tough as a dog.23 After Nabal, who was as rich as he was bad, refused to give provisions to David and his men, Abigail gave them bread, wine, meat and dried fruits, and convinced David not to kill her husband. According to the Talmud, she did so using proofs from Jewish law.24 Ten days later, Nabal died and David and Abigail married. Tradition tells us that Abigail did more than just say wise words, but that she actually prophesied to David.25
Of David's many children, Solomon was chosen to succeed him as king. Shortly after ascending to the throne, Solomon asked G‑d for wisdom, and "G‑d gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceedingly much, and largeness of heart, as the sand that is on the seashore."26 Like his father before him, Solomon wrote beautifully, and he composed the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and more.
A great leader, Solomon reigned over Israel in a period of plenty and strength, the likes of which had never been seen before and were not experienced again.27
Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, a gleaming edifice where sacrifices would be brought and the people would gather thrice yearly to "see" G‑d and be seen by Him.28
Despite his great wisdom, Solomon married many princesses from foreign lands, who introduced idol worship and other elements of their pagan cultures to his palace. As a result, G‑d told Solomon He would divide the kingdom. Indeed, after Solomon's death, the 10 Northern Tribes were ruled by Jeroboam from the tribe of Ephraim.29
According to tradition, Elijah the Prophet visits every Jewish home on Passover night and is present whenever a Jewish child is circumcised in the form of an angel. But Elijah was a flesh-and-blood man, a prophet who performed miracles and admonished monarchs who did not follow in G‑d's ways. In a famous showdown on Mount Carmel, he demonstrated the falseness of the Baal cult and the truth of Judaism. Elijah ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot before the eyes of his star pupil Elisha.
Before Elijah's ascent to heaven, Elisha requested that he be granted a double measure of the Divine spirit of his master. This was granted, and Scripture records many miracles that Elisha (often called the "man of G‑d") performed: sweetening bitter waters, causing a poor widow's oil to fill countless flasks, bringing back to life the son of a woman from Shunam, and curing the Aramite general Naaman's leprosy are just some examples.
Best known for the book that bears his name, Isaiah foresaw the terrible tragedies that would befall the people if they continued their corrupt, idolatrous and hedonistic ways. But all was not doom and gloom. In fact, the 7 readings of comfort that Jews read after the 9th of Av (the saddest day of the year) are taken from the latter section of Isaiah. "Console, console My people," he says in the name of G‑d. "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her, for she has become full [from] her host, for her iniquity has been appeased."30
Born to priestly stock, Jeremiah was reluctant to become a prophet.31 Indeed, he suffered terribly for sharing the uncomfortable truth that Jerusalem would soon fall and the people would be exiled. In addition to the Book of Jeremiah, he composed the Book of Lamentations (Eichah), which mourned the destruction yet to come.32
Indeed, Jeremiah lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of her children.
Ezekiel lived in Babylon among the Jews who had been exiled prior to the destruction of the First Temple. Like the other prophets, he often painted a graphic and terrifying picture of the consequences of their actions. Yet, he also shared glorious depictions of good things yet to come. It is Ezekiel who shared a vision of the Third Temple, yet to be built.33 He was granted the dramatic experience of the valley of dry bones coming to life,34 and he was then told to join together two sticks, demonstrating the future unification of Israel and Judah under King Moshiach.35
A faithful shepherd of his people, Ezekiel passed away in exile, in Babylon, and there he is buried.
Known only from the short Book of Jonah, Jonah is best known for surviving in the belly of a large fish. When G‑d told him to prophesy to the (non-Jewish) city of Nineveh that they could save themselves from destruction if they would repent, he refused to do as he was told. Instead, he chose to board a boat to Tarshish. Due to an unusual storm, the crew of the ship realized that Jonah was trouble, and Jonah had them throw him overboard, where he was swallowed by a giant fish.
Three prayerful days later, Jonah found himself on dry land and headed off to Nineveh. Heeding Jonah's call for immediate repentance, the people complied, but Jonah was unhappy. After G‑d miraculously provided and then withheld a kikayon bush, Jonah finally got it: G‑d wants us to improve because he loves us.
Daniel was a celebrated Jewish scholar and master interpreter of dreams who was exiled to Babylon after the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. He is famous for successfully interpreting the proverbial "writing on the wall"36 and miraculously surviving the lions' den.37
Daniel is one of the few prophets who wrote his book in Aramaic, the language that was commonly spoken among the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The Book of Daniel has many cryptic prophecies that contain fantastic creatures and dramatic events, which are clearly metaphorical hints to future events.
The only woman to author a book of the Bible, Esther was the Jewish girl who rose to the occasion and saved the Jewish people—then exiled in Persia—from the wicked Haman, who wished to wipe them out in a single day.
Taken to the king's palace against her will, Esther used her position as queen to expose Haman as a scheming scoundrel, and her people were saved. Working together with her cousin Mordechai, she had the Book of Esther recorded for all posterity,38 to be read every year on Purim, the day the Jews celebrated after their enemies had been vanquished.
I found this timely, because today I was in a store that sells sunglasses, and only sunglasses. A young lady walked over to me and asked, "What brings you in today?" I looked at her, and said, "I'm interested in buying a refrigerator." She didn't quite know how to respond. ++++++++
I decided that old age is when you still have something on the ball, but you are just too tired to bounce it. +++++++++
I thought about making a fitness movie for folks my age and calling it 'Pumping Rust.' ++++++++
When people see a cat's litter box they always say, "Oh, have you got a cat?" Just once I want to say, "No, it's for company!" ++++++++++++
Employment application blanks always ask who is to be called in case of an emergency. I think you should write, 'An ambulance.' +++++++++++
The older you get the tougher it is to lose weight because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends. ++++++++
The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement. ++++++++++++
Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are XL. +++++++++++
The sole purpose of a child's middle name is so he can tell when he's really in trouble. ++++++++++++
Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words ' The' and ' IRS ' together it spells 'Theirs...' ++++++++++
Aging: Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it. +++++++++
Some people try to turn back their "odometers." Not me. I want people to know 'why' I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved. ++++++++
You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks. +++++++++
Ah! Being young is beautiful but being old is comfortable. +++++++++
Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth. +++++++++++++++
May you always have Love to Share, Cash to Spare, And Friends who Care.
On one hand, I sense that God exists. On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing Him. What can I do to bridge that gap?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
A guy is riding his motorcycle down a mountain rode when suddenly he loses control and goes hurtling off the cliff. As he's sailing through the air, he shouts out: "God! Please make a miracle! Save me!"
Within moments his shirt gets caught on a protruding branch - and he is left dangling thousands of feet above the ground.
There's no way out, so he looks heavenward and shouts: "God! Please save me!"
"Do you trust Me, my beloved son?" calls the voice from heaven.
"Yes, God, I trust you. Just please save me!"
"Okay then," says God. "Let go of the branch and I'll catch you."
The man thinks for a moment, look around, and calls out: "Is anyone else out there?!"
The key to forging a relationship with God is to trust Him. God is not some vindictive, punishing old man in the sky. God is our loving Creator, who wants only our best. Sometimes that calls for Him to "test" us with difficulties; but the intention is only to bring out our very best.
When we are children, we think we are the center of the universe. Then, through experience and trials, we become increasingly aware of the fact that there are things in life beyond our control. Whether it's earthquakes, cancer, the rise and fall of fortunes, circumstances of our birth - and even birth itself... this can only be ascribed to a Higher Power.
Maimonides writes that there are two primary ways to attain recognition of God: by observing the wonders of Creation, and by performing mitzvot. Through nature, we see the beauty, splendor, and perfect unity of the world. Through mitzvot, we see how humanity can likewise attain unity and perfection.
sidewalk scene dirty harry
Isaac Herzog Was Netanyahu's Perfect Choice for Head of the Jewish Agency By JoeSettler - 12 Tammuz 5778 – June 25, 2018
On Sunday, Israeli pundits and local news reports touted progressive Jewry and the major Jewish organizations in America for getting even with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by electing Isaac "Boujie" Herzog as chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel.
The Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel on Sunday unanimously elected MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) to succeed Natan Sharansky as Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive.
In electing Herzog, the Board accepted the recommendation of the Leadership Nominating Committee, composed of the leaders of The Jewish Agency's constituent organizations – the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, and the World Zionist Organization.
The board effectively rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's choice for the job.
Indeed, the selection of Herzog, who is the Knesset opposition leader, is viewed as retaliation from the board for Netanyahu's "betrayal" of US Jewry over the status of non-Orthodox denominations in Israel and their access to a mixed-sex portion of the Western Wall.
Does that Narrative Make Sense?
As Tzvika Klein and Shirit Avitan Cohen of Makor Rishon point out, anyone familiar with Netanyahu's history with political appointments realizes that something about this narrative makes no sense.
Netanyahu doesn't typically lose this easily, he doesn't wake up at the last minute when elections are involved, and when he allows a loss, it's always because he expects a much bigger payoff down the road.
As he had done so many times before to so many others, Netanyahu twisted the leaders of the American Jewish organizations around his little finger.
Netanyahu Didn't Fight for an Opposing Candidate
Consider the following: Netanyahu did not put up a fight for "his" candidate, Minister Yuval Steinitz. Steinitz didn't campaign. Steinitz didn't even bother to show up at a meeting of the nominating committee the other week.
Does that sound like Netanyahu putting up a fight for his preferred candidate?
Herzog Cut a Backroom Deal with Netanyahu
Labor party insiders are whispering that Herzog cut a backroom deal with Netanyahu to get the job, having lost his job as party chairman to newcomer Avi Gabai.
Indeed, over the past five months, since Herzog began campaigning for the Jewish Agency post, he hasn't attacked Netanyahu even once – after a humiliating entanglement with the PM some two years ago.
The Sound of the Zionist Union Being Ripped Apart
And now that Herzog is out of the picture at the Zionist Union (the combined Labor and Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah party), the infighting there has gotten worse.
Avi Gabai, who replaced Herzog at the helm, isn't an MK, so, as Herzog, head of the opposition, is due to retire in a few days, the short knives have been pulled out in the fight to replace him.
Some in the largest opposition faction point to Tzipi Livni as the obvious choice to replace Herzog. She is, after all, now listed as number one on the Zionist Union's party list.
But Chairman Gabai, Livni's nemesis, prefers Labor's MK Shelly Yachimovich in the coveted role of opposition leader, not to mention, Livni is not exactly popular among Labor party members.
It's going to get ugly, it might even tear the Zionist Union Knesset faction apart, with a disappointed Tzipi Livni seeking yet another political alignment (she's been everywhere – starting in Likud and progressing leftward ever since). She's already threatened to do just that.
Another victory for Netanyahu.
Here's one more benefit Netanyahu expects to gain from Herzog's appointment: the chairmanship of the Jewish National Fund Keren Kayemet Le'Israel (KKL-JNF) going to an appointee of the Likud, for the first time in Israel's history.
At the moment, KKL-JNF is chaired by Labor's Danny Atar, an Avi Gabai ally. But since the Zionist Union now controls the Jewish Agency, they'll likely have to give up KKL-JNF in the next World Zionist Congress, in two years.
Chairmanships of various national institutions are distributed among the parties based on their size, and Netanyahu's candidate will very likely take over KKL-JNF.
That would be a major coup for Bibi.
The KKL-JNF charter specifies reclamation of land for the Jewish people as its primary purpose. During the 1980s, almost 60,000 acres were planted. Over 50,000 acres of crop-land were reclaimed and hundreds of miles of roads built. Research into soil and water conservation and the construction of dams and reservoirs took on added importance in the face of water shortages and drought.
All this wealth, which includes a large portion of the public lands in Israel, could be available to the Likud, which would put it to use in so many different ways in establishing itself as Israel's permanent ruling party comparable only to Ben Gurion's Mapai party.
A Fig Leaf
Looking at a future at the helm of rightwing coalitions for as long as he remains in politics, Netanyahu has essentially given up on trying to appease the Jewish American left (Reform, Progressives).
The loss of the Jewish Agency and what it represents – partnership with a fast assimilating Diaspora Jewry, many of who dislike Netanyahu and Israel's policies – is nothing to the PM compared with gaining control of KKL-JNF.
In that context, Herzog's appointment is Netanyahu's fig leaf, concealing his disinterest as Boujie grabs a prize Bibi sneers at, while Boujie ends up protecting Netanyahu, running interference for him among American Jews on the major conflict issues.
Who's in Charge?
Furthermore, a third of the Jewish Agency's budget and the important work it does, is reliant on the Israeli government, guaranteeing that Herzog will want to stay in Netanyahu's good graces.
The Plague of Assimilation
The heads of American Jewish organizations see Herzog as a friend and an ally, but Herzog, grandson of a Chief Rabbi of Israel, is perhaps less in their corner than the outgoing Sharansky has been.
The new chairman is troubled, to say the least, by the "plague" (Herzog's strong choice of words) of intermarriages afflicting all the non-Orthodox denominations in the US.
"I saw that my friends' children are married or are in relationships with non-Jewish partners, while their parents agonize over it and ask questions," Herzog has said according to Ynet. "We are talking about every [Jewish] family in the US, millions… There has to be a solution, we have to rack our brains and see how we solve this great challenge."
Netanyahu may even be happy that Herzog will attempt to stem the decimation of non-Orthodox American Jewry, even if he believes Herzog will ultimately fail.
Netanyahu's Total Victory Exposed
Netanyahu just placed his preferred candidate as chairman of the Jewish Agency for all the reasons listed above, and until they read this article, not a single member of any of the American Jewish organization who recommended or voted for Herzog (whatever their motivation) probably realizes how completely manipulated they were by the Prime Minister of Israel, who got exactly what he wanted.
Herzog is the perfect choice for Netanyahu. Herzog is the perfect choice for the Likud. Only one question remains, will Herzog be the perfect choice for the Jewish Agency?
I was astonished by your explanation of suffering in little children as being due to their souls being "old" and having experienced past lives. I have always understood this notion as being a component of Buddhism and as being central to Hinduism. I have never heard of this in connection with Judaism. What is the scriptural basis for such a belief?
I am also puzzled by the reasoning. The child would presumably have no recollection of its past life. So how can it make the connection between its past misdeeds and present sufferings? And if all this is supposed to happen at some other undetectable, subliminal "soul" level, then why involve a body at all?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
There are many Jewish sources dealing with what is popularly called "reincarnation." In Hebrew, it is called "gilgul ha'neshamot," literally the recycling or transmigration of souls.
This concept can be compared to a flame of one candle lighting another candle. While the essence of the second flame comes from the first one, the second flame is an independent entity. Still, the new flame contains imperfections inherited from the initial flame, and it is these imperfections that are to be corrected.
Most of the written material on this topic is very esoteric. Some of the prominent works dealing with this subject are the "Zohar" (1st century) and the Arizal's "Shaar HaGilgulim" (16th century). In the Bible itself, this idea is intimated in Deut. 25:5-10, 33:6 and Isaiah 22:14, 65:6.
Many sources say that a soul has a maximum of three chances in this world. One example given is that the great Talmudic sage Hillel was a reincarnation of the biblical figure Aaron.
The soul only comes into this world in the first place to make a spiritual repair. If that is not fulfilled by the end of one's lifetime, then the soul will be sent down again. The return trip may only be needed for a short time or in a limited way. This in part explains why people are born with handicaps or may live a brief life.
In order for the correction to take place, it is not necessary that there be a conscious awareness. Conscious awareness is only one level of understanding.
This idea is explored in an interesting book called "Psychic Phenomena," by Dorothy Bemar Bradley, M.D., and Robert A. Bradley M.D.: "Mentally retarded children have been known to burst out with unexpected abilities under altered awareness, manifesting the contents of the undamaged and theoretically undamageable unconscious mind."
In other words, there are levels of understanding that transcend the conscious level, even in children.
Re: your second question. Why does this have to involve the body in the first place?
Truly, some "corrections" do not have to take place through the body, but rather take place in the soul world, in the afterlife.
However, sometimes the correction must occur in the physical world. For example, it may involve a certain challenge of choosing the "right thing" over choosing the "comfortable thing." Or other people may have to be involved. And the soul cannot interact with the physical world in any other way expect through a body.
The bottom line is that a person's life situation provides everything necessary to achieve ideal growth. Our task is to employ our free will -- i.e. to properly and effectively use the opportunities that we have.