Letters Nov. 2022
Whom God Sustains Eternally
Reader: If one wants to be in the category of “shevet Levi” as Maimonides describes (Shemitah v’Yovel 13:13) must one be in kollel? Can one also work and be in that category?
New York, NY
Rabbi: Kolel is unnecessary. Maimonides describes the criteria of “removing the yoke of calculations all others seek.” But this does not mean one abandons natural law and stops working. One must work. But his objective is not to maintain a financial status others envy. He labors for his needs, and maximizes his remaining time in Torah study and in mitzvos. The amount of time is irrelevant, rather it is the attitude and devotion to Torah and not earthly concerns that renders him God’s “Holy of Holies,” whom God will be his eternal portion, and whom God will sustain with a sufficient lot on Earth.
Are Souls Part of God?
Reader: I heard that after life, our souls go to live in God. Is this true? What would Rambam say to this?
Rabbi: “In” refers to space and location, God is not physical, so He occupies no location or space, and therefore nothing can exist “in” God. God is not here or there, as the rabbis teach, “God is the place of the world, and the world is not His place.” The rabbis mean that God is necessary for the world’s existence, just as a place is necessary for the location of anything. “The world is not God’s place” means God exists even without the world. He doesn’t need anything to exist.
We barely know what a soul is, and we certainly know nothing about what God is, “For man cannot know Me while alive” (Exod. 33:20). And we know nothing about the afterlife, “No eye has seen it (afterlife) God, aside from You” (Isaiah 64:3). Therefore we cannot know what exists after life. But we know good people receive eternal reward.
Additionally, and more primary, is that a soul is a creation, so it is something “other” than God.