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How Will Things Look in the Time of Mashiach?


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Tammuz 5768
The Rambam set one of the most important rules of our study of the era of Mashiach: we will not know how things will be until the era arrives. Nevertheless, he and others give their hypotheses about what will be.
The Rambam says that Mashiach will restore the dynasty of David, rebuild the Mikdash (Temple), ingather the exiles, and renew the mitzvot that fell into disuse during the time the Mikdash was destroyed (sacrifices, Shemitta, yovel ...). He says that whoever denies Mashiach’s coming not only denies the Prophets’ words but also the Torah’s. One of the places where the Torah refers to Mashiach is our parasha, Balak. In his prophecies about the future, Bilam talks successively about the triumphs of King David and of Mashiach. "I see it and it is not now" refers to David; "I view it and it is not close" refers to Mashiach. "A star will appear from Yaakov" refers to David; "A tribe will arise in Israel" refers to Mashiach. The Rambam presents additional verses referring to each and substantiates their relationships to the leaders. This alternating presentation of the two periods portrays Mashiach as a reflection of the period of King David. This stress in the Rambam’s approach comes to strengthen two of his important theses.
Firstly, every major idea must have a source in the Torah; the Prophets cannot introduce entirely new ideas alone. The second is that the Rambam accepts the Amora, Shmuel’s opinion that in Mashiach’s time nature will follow its normal patterns. The difference in the period is that the world will no longer subjugate the Jewish Nation. Accordingly, prophecies such as "the wolf will live with the lamb" can be understood only as parables, in that case, of cooperation between nations. The Rambam (Melachim 12:1) says that these parables’ exact meaning will be fully clarified only then.
The Ra’avad argues and says that the laws of nature will change in Mashiach’s time and that the p’sukim are for the most part intended literally. Therefore, when Yeshaya says that Mashiach will "smell with the fear of G-d and will not judge by the sight of his eye..." this is a real test. He posits (ad loc. 13:3) that it was used to evaluate the possibility of Bar Kochva being Mashiach (he failed). To the Rambam’s rule that the Prophets cannot introduce new concepts the Ra’avad responds that the Torah discussed a change in nature when it said, "I will remove bad animals from the land" (Vayikra 26:6), which he takes to mean that predators will become tame. The Rambam will explain that the development of human society will cause wild animals to retreat from human inhabitation. The Ramban has a third approach, that the violence of the animals will disappear from the Land, as it was in Adam’s time, whenever the people will be free of sin.
Let us hope to find out soon which opinion is correct.
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