Is Déjà Vu for Real?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I often get deja vu, the sensation that I have already lived this moment before. It has happened when I am travelling to new destinations with people I have never met, and I feel that I have been here in this place, with the same people, hearing this very conversation before. Is there a Jewish explanation for this?
Some say that deja vu is a sign of reincarnation. You feel you were here before because you were, in a previous life. Others explain that you had a predictive dream of the scene before it happened, and now you are seeing your dream materialise.
Maybe. There is a more mundane explanation. In my personal experience, I only get deja vu when my brain is a little tired. What seems to be happening is my conscious mind is idle, but my memory is working in the background. So I am feeling the sensation of remembering the scene in front of me before I actually experience it in the present. It is as if the scene has slipped past my awareness and gone straight into my memory.
There is a simple test to see whether deja vu means you really have seen this before, or your mind is playing tricks on you. Can you blurt out what someone else is about to say before they even say it? If so, that must come from somewhere beyond intellect. But if you only feel like you knew what they were going to say after they already said it, I'm not so sure it means anything, except that you need to get some rest.
But then there is a far deeper type of deja vu. It's called resonance. You hear an insight, a teaching, a truth, and although you have never heard it before, you know it is right. The idea rings true, seems familiar and comfortable, you are at home with it. It's what you always knew, but had never put into words.
This happens when you study authentic Torah. You hear its message, and you know deep down that it is true. This is because you have heard it before. Our souls are taught the divine truths before we enter this world, but we forget it all at birth. However, an imprint remains, a faint memory, so we will know truth when we find it.
There are many false ideas and temporary fads that sound nice, and may gain much popularity, but on the deepest level they do not resonate with us. Our mission on earth is to search for the divine message, to put aside momentary distractions and regain that eternal truth, the truth our soul is waiting to hear again.
This is real deja vu. Have you heard that before?
Talmud Niddah 30b
Likkutei Torah Shlach 44a