After the soul departs, it journeys to the gates of heaven where it must present its case for entry. The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) states, “When an individual is brought before the Heavenly court for judgment, the person is asked several questions, including the following:

1. Did you conduct your [business] affairs honestly (literally – with faithfulness or trustworthiness)?
2. Did you set aside regular time for Torah study?
3. Did you work at having children (literally – involved with populating the earth)?
4. Did you look forward to the world’s redemption?”

Aside from the simple interpretation of the words, perhaps there are deeper implications behind some of these questions. How can these questions be understood for those who were not meant to be Torah scholars, or those who did not have children?

1. Were you an honest person in the things you said and in all your affairs? Did you live a life in which everyone knew you to be trustworthy?
2. Did you learn about Judaism? Did you apply these teachings to your life? Did you study regularly to utilize your brain to its greatest capacity?
3. According to one commentary, rather than being asked whether a person was blessed with children, they will be asked whether they assisted those less fortunate, such as orphans, to find mates and get married.
4. Did you do your part to bring about peace in the world (which will lead to redemption)?

Commandments and rituals are certainly important in Jewish life. But these “heavenly” questions focus on a person’s personal mantra and behavior as well as one’s interpersonal relationships.

This Treat was originally posted on September 16, 2008.

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