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Will there be wild animals in the Messianic era?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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The Torah says: “And I will remove wild beasts from the land” (Leviticus 26:6).

According to the Midrash, this blessing will come to fruition in the Messianic era. Rabbi Judah says that G-d will remove wild beasts from the world, while Rabbi Shimon maintains that G-d will neutralize their aggressive instinct, as Isaiah (11:6) prophesies, “the wolf will lie with the lamb.” In other words, Rabbi Shimon maintains that the word “remove” here (from the Hebrew root sh-v-t, “to put to rest”) means the “destruction” of the current form of the entity, whereas Rabbi Judah understands it to mean the literal destruction of the entity—in both form and substance.

Interestingly, the principles behind this dispute lead these sages to another two disputes where the Torah uses the same word:

Our lives now, during the Exile, should therefore also reflect Rabbi Shimon’s view: instead of destroying the wild and untamed elements of ourselves and our world, we should transform them and channel them for goodness...
1) The Torah instructs us to “remove” all leaven before Passover. According to Rabbi Shimon, it is enough to destroy its original form by crumbling it and scattering it to the wind or sea. Rabbi Judah says that is not enough; one must destroy its very existence by burning it to a crisp.

2) The Torah says that we must “desist” from work on the Sabbath. According to Rabbi Shimon it is enough to desist from the form of prohibited work. For example, if one drags a chair through the sand and thereby creates a groove (an act prohibited on the Sabbath), one has not desecrated the Sabbath (biblically). Rabbi Judah disagrees. In his view, one must desist from the substance of what the Torah calls work, even in a different form (i.e., as a by-product of a different act).

In any event, as far as the beasts of the Messianic era are concerned, it can be proved that Jewish law follows Rabbi Shimon—they will still exist but their nature will change. Our lives now, during the Exile, should therefore also reflect Rabbi Shimon’s view: instead of destroying the wild and untamed elements of ourselves and our world, we should transform them and channel them for goodness.



Source: Likutei Sichot, vol. 7, p. 188 ff.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Judah
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.
Isaiah
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
Leviticus
The third of the Five Books of Moses. This book deals with the service (of the Levite Tribe) in the Tabernacle, and contains many of the 613 commandments.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.