י״ד באלול ה׳תשע״ד (September 9, 2014)

Moed Katan 29a-b: And the Quest Continues

In the closing discussion of Massekhet Moed Katan Rabbi Levi teaches that a person who walks out of the beit haknesset (a synagogue) and goes immediately to the beit midrash (the study hall) – and vice versa – will merit to welcome penei haShekhina (the Heavenly countenance). That is to say, someone whose central activities are to go from prayer to Torah study and back effectively illustrates that his life is centered around religious devotions, even as he must also involve himself in mundane activities. Someone like this deserves to welcome penei haShekhina.

This statement is followed up by a statement of Rabbi Hiyya bar Ashi in the name of Rav who teaches that even in the World-to-Come have no rest, as they continue their spiritual growth and development even there. The proof-text for this idea is the passage in Tehillim (84:8), which teaches that the individual who believes in God goes “from strength to strength” appearing before God in Zion – which is understood to refer to the World-to-Come.

In his Yad David, Rabbi Yosef David Zintzheim suggests that this continuing movement is the natural consequence of the activities of the Torah Sages in this world, where they traveled from the beit haknesset to the beit hamidrash and back again. This is further explained by the Tosefot HaRosh who points out that this concept is based on an idea that appears often in the Gemara, that even in the afterworld righteous souls continue their Torah study and their quest for a deeper understanding of the Creator. One of the greatest proponents of this approach was the Rambam in his Sefer HaMadda, who understood the reward of the World-to-Come as a place where souls, unburdened from their physical forms, would be able to devote themselves to a joyous comprehension of God that goes beyond anything imaginable while they were alive in their physical bodies (see, for example, Hilkhot Teshuva, chapter 8).

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