Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Torah in the Eschatological Era

I started W.D. Davies' Jewish and Pauline Studies. On page 26, Davies talks about the Torah in the Messianic future and the age beyond the Messianic future. This post will feature and comment on two of the passages that Davies cites, and they will be taken from my Judaic Classics Library:

Leviticus Rabbah 9:7: "R. Phinehas and R. Levi and R. Johanan said in the name of R. Menahem of Gallia: In the Time to Come all sacrifices will be annulled, but that of thanksgiving will not be annulled, and all prayers will be annulled, but [that of] Thanksgiving will not be annulled. This is [indicated by] what is written, The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that say: Give thanks to the Lord of hosts (Jer. XXXIII, II)-this refers to Thanksgiving; That bring offerings of thanksgiving into the house of the Lord refers to the sacrifice of thanksgiving. So too did David say: Thy vows are upon me, O God; I will render thanksgivings unto Thee (Ps. LVI, 13). It is written here not a thanksgiving' but thanksgivings, meaning Thanksgiving [in prayer] and the sacrifice of thanksgiving."

According to this passage, certain sacrifices and prayers will be nullified in the Time to Come.

Leviticus Rabbah 13:3: "Another interpretation: THESE ARE THE LIVING THINGS WHICH YE MAY EAT AMONG ALL THE BEASTS THAT ARE ON THE EARTH (XI, 2). This is [alluded to in] what is written, Every word of God is pure (Prov. XXX, 5). Rab said: This means the precepts were given for the express purpose of purifying mankind. Why [must one assume] so much? Because it is said, He is a shield to them that seek refuge in Him (ib.). R. Judan b. R. Simeon said: Behemoth and the Leviathan are to engage in a wild-beast contest before the righteous in the Time to Come, and whoever has not been a spectator at the wild-beast contests of the heathen nations in this world will be accorded the boon of seeing one in the World to Come. How will they be slaughtered? Behemoth will, with its horns, pull Leviathan down and rend it, and Leviathan will, with its fins, pull Behemoth down and pierce it through. The Sages said: And is this a valid method of slaughter? Have we not learnt the following in a Mishnah: All may slaughter, and one may slaughter at all times [of the day], and with any instrument except with a scythe, or with a saw, or with teeth [in a jaw cut out of a dead animal], because they cause pain as if by choking, or with a nail [of a living body]? R. Abin b. Kahana said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Instruction [Torah] shall go forth from Me (Isa. LI, 4), i.e. an exceptional temporary ruling will go forth from Me. R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Isaac: In the Time to Come, the Holy One, blessed be He, will make a banquet for his righteous servants, and whoever has not eaten nebelah in this world will have the privilege of enjoying it in the World to Come. This is indicated by what is written, And the fat of that which dieth of itself (nebelah) and the fat of that which is torn of beasts (terefah), may be used for any other service, but eat it [ye shall] not, in order that you may eat it in the Time to Come. For this reason did Moses admonish Israel, saying to them: THIS IS THE ANIMAL WHICH YE SHALL EAT."

Rab's statement that the law was given to purify mankind is of interest to me, since I have been talking on this blog about Jewish beliefs regarding the relationship between Gentiles and the Torah. But Rab may not mean here that Gentiles need to observe the Torah for purification, for he may hold that Israel is representative of humanity as a whole, or agree with the proposition that all of the world was offered the Torah, but only Israel accepted it and thus possesses this jewel.

On the topic of the Torah in the eschatological future, there does appear to be a change of the Torah. The righteous will be allowed to eat Behemoth and Leviathan, even though these animals will not die through appropriate slaughter, but rather by killing each other off. According to the passage, there will be an "exceptional temporary ruling" from God that will allow the righteous to violate the Mishnah's requirements on slaughter for food. Those who, in this age, refused to eat animals that died apart from appropriate slaughter (nebelah) will be allowed to eat those sorts of animals in the World to Come. Is this saying that the Torah, or a part of it, will be abrogated in the World to Come? Not really, as far as I can see, for the allowance for the righteous to eat those sorts of animals (ordinarily forbidden by the Torah) is an "exceptional temporary ruling." Does that imply that the law's requirements will be the normal rule, even in the World to Come?

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