More Discussions for this daf
1. How to interpret Agadah 2. Chasan sitting at the head 3. Age of Kares
4. Miriam's Death

Larry Lamovsky asked:

My Soncino Hebrew/English edition of Moed Katan translates this very facinating passage:

Raba, while seated at the bedside of R. Nahman, saw him sinking into slumber(death). Said (Raba) to him: "Do, sir, show yourself to me (in a dream)." He did show himself. (Raba) asked him: "Did you suffer pain, sir?" He replied: "As the taking of a hair from milk, and were the Holy One, Blessed Be He, to say to me, Go back to that world as you were, I wish it not, for the dread thereof (of death)is great."

Is my understanding correct that R. Nahman appeared to Raba in a dream after his(R. Nahman's) death?

How are we to understand this? Does the Gamorra intend this literally? Would Raba have intended this as a factual account of what transpired? Does this translation provide a correct rendition of this aggada?

Thank you for your help. I am facinated by this section of Moed Katan.

Larry Lamovsky, Ravena, Ohio, USA

The Kollel replies:

Actually, the Gemara in Berachos recognizes that a person's cognitions during the state of sleep are indeed experienced at a different level of consciousness than one's normal thoughts, as has been demonstrated by modern neurologists and neuropsychologists. The Gemara in Berachos (57b) explains that the contents of a dream are sometimes 1/60th of prophecy (mostly, though, dreams are reflections of a person's experiences, as the Gemara there (55b) says). According to that, it is certainly possible for a message from a deceased person to be transmitted through such a quasi-prophecy to someone in his sleep. There are many such stories recorded in the Talmud and in Jewish history.

Your question regarding how to interpret Agadic Gemara, though, is different. In brief, the Sages chose to disguise important lessons in the guise of allegories, so that they would only be accessible to those worthy of hearing them. For an outstanding explanation of this concept (as well as for remarkable explanations of some of the Agadic Gemaras), I strongly recommend that you read Rabbi Aharon Feldman's introduction to his book, "The Juggler and the King" (Feldheim Publishers).

Yisrael Shaw