Some Concluding Thoughts on Masechet Moed Katan

By: Rabbi Jay Kelman |

The commitment to learn Daf Yomi is a remarkable one. It is the only study project I know that takes seven and half years to complete (2,711 days, to be precise). Even the most complex and difficult Ph.D programs are generally finished in less time. And of course, once the cycle is finished, it's time to start all over again. Those who want rest and relaxation must look elsewhere. And this, without even one day of vacation. Not one--not even on Tisha B'Av. Considering it is forbidden to learn Torah on Tisha B'Av--as we have learned in Moed Katan--this is quite amazing.

Apparently, the prohibition of learning on Tisha B'Av does not exempt one from his or her daily routine of Torah learning. Rather, any and all learning that would have been done that day is be shifted to before and after the day.

"Yaakov Avinu sought to dwell in peace". After a life fraught with many difficulties, Yaakov returns home to live out his life quietly. His brother no longer wants to kill him, and it is time to enjoy the children and grandchildren. "The troubles of Joseph sprang upon him. The righteous seek to dwell in tranquility! Said the Holy One, blessed be He, is it not enough for the righteous what is prepared for them in the World to Come? Yet they ask to dwell in tranquility in this world, too" (Rashi, Breisheet 37:2). With so much to be done, with so many problems in the world, there can be no rest for the righteous in this world. And this is a lesson Yaakov Avinu had to learn the hard way. We demand a lot from the righteous, and they just have to wait a bit longer for some R&R. 

None of us are Yaakov Avinu, and we do need vacation time. Nonetheless, such should be used to recharge our batteries, and should be a vacation with a purpose.

Yet even such may be too much for the righteous to expect. Moed Katan ends with the teaching of "Rav Chiya the son of Ashi, [who] said in the name of Rav: Torah scholars have no rest even in the World to Come, as it is said: They go from strength to strength, every one of them appeareth before G-d in Zion" (Moed Katan 29a). This is quite a startling statement. Do the righteous also have to struggle in the World to Come?

Rest is the time to recharge our batteries, to give our physical bodies a chance to recover. In the spiritual world of the World to Come, there will be no need to rest. One will be able to exalt in the Divine presence "24/7", so to speak (see Brachot 17a).  

This idea is expressed in the immediately preceding teaching. "Rav Levi said: Whoever comes out of the synagogue and goes into the Beit Hamidrash, or from the Beit Hamidrash to the synagogue, shall gain the privilege of being admitted into the Presence of the Shechinah, as it is said: They go from strength to strength, every one of them appeareth before G-d in Zion". 

It is not only the proof text that links these two teachings. The Beit Midrash and Beit Knesset are where we go to infuse the physical world with the spiritual one, where we get a taste of the World to Come. They are places where we are intellectually and spiritually challenged, where we tax our brains and our hearts. It is where we go to prepare for the World to Come. A world where we can be in the most glorious of Batei Midrash and Batei Knesset, where the Divine is our teacher. We enter that world not so that we can rest, but rather to avoid rest, so that we can revel in the presence of the Divine.

It is hard to think of a more fitting ending to a Talmudic chapter that discusses death and mourning.