Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar, was the reincarnation of Achiya Hashiloni. And, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero–the Rammak–revealed that part of Rabbi Shimon’s soul was also that of Zechariah ben Yehoyada HaCohen. Learning about the deeds of these two individuals will help us understand the motivation and final deeds of Rabbi Shimon, who like everyone else in the world, came to make a correction beyond the personal level.
Achiya Hashiloni was a prophet when King Solomon passed away and Solomon’s son Rechavam inherited the throne. During his reign, King Solomon had many wives from different nations. Although this ensured world peace during his lifetime, King Solomon’s great energy split at the time he passed away, thus the nation of Israel eventually divided itself in two.
King Rechavam ruled over the southern Kingdom of Judah, which was comprised of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah based in Jerusalem, while King Yerovam ruled over the northern Kingdom of Israel, comprised of the remaining ten of the twelve tribes. Achiya then prophesized that, due to King Rechavam’s negative behavior towards the people, the Holy Temple would fall. He also foretold of the eventual exile of the ten tribes.
Achiya Hashiloni is buried in Jerusalem between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olive. The prophets have revealed that Elijah would one day announce from the Mount of Olive the arrival of the Mashiach, and the Holy Temple would then descend from above to its permanent place on the Temple Mount.
As the reincarnation of Achiya, Rabbi Shimon positioned himself to play an important role in the future. By writing the Zohar, he created a divine force that will bring about the final redemption. Moses and Elijah, both of whom visited Rabbi Shimon while he wrote the Zohar, stated that through its merit, humanity would be redeemed. (Moses came to assist Rabbi Shimon because Moses was the first redeemer and will also be the last one. And, Elijah the Prophet has the responsibility to announce the coming of Mashiach, the final redeemer.) As such, Rabbi Shimon has made the correction Achiya’s prophecy.
Rabbi Moshe Cordovero–the Rammak–also revealed that Rabbi Shimon had a spark of the soul of Zecharia the Prophet, thus acquired through ibbur, otherwise known as the temporary connection–or possession–to the soul of a righteous person.
Zechariah’s father, Yehoyada, was the high priest who kept the lineage of King David from becoming extinct. Athaliah, the evil and ruthless queen of Judah during the reign of King Jehoram and later sole ruler for six years, executed all of King David’s descendants who were possible successors to the throne, with the exception of the little boy named Joash, who was rescued from the purge.
Yehoyada eventually helped crown Joash king of Judah, who reigned well for 40 years, thus restoring the monarchy to the house of King David. After the death of Yehoyada, however, King Joash changed his ways and turned to idol worshipping, eventually desecrating the Holy Temple.
When Zechariah came to the Temple to scold the king with a message from God, he was murdered on the spot by idol worshippers; the message was never delivered. They say that his spilled blood could not be cleaned, and it remained until Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple. Therefore, his blood will be redeemed only when a new Holy Temple comes to be.
Understanding the events of two former lives of Rabbi Shimon teaches us about his determination to hide from the rulers of his time and to create the perfect plan to bring about the final redemption. Thus, writing the Zohar can best be described as the work required of Rabbi Shimon to correct his soul.