Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Eternity of the Torah VI

R. Yosef Albo, in his Sefer Ha-Ikkarim (3:16), cites a number of midrashic statements that, at least superficially, imply a sentiment contradictory to the eternity of the Torah. On the verse in Psalms (146:7) "The Lord sets the prisoners free (matir assurim)," the midrash states that, in "the next world" (most likely a latter stage in the messianic era), God will permit prohibitions (matir issurim). Another midrash states that the pig will become kosher at some unspecified future time. There is another midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 13:3) that states that in the messianic era animals will slaughter a Leviathan with horns, an invalid method of slaughter, and the righteous will eat this seemingly unkosher meat. This same midrash states that whoever did not eat unslaughtered animals (neveilos) in this world will eat it in "the next world." All of these midrashim imply a change in the Torah's laws, something that the principle of the eternity of the Torah would not allow.

I. Kosher Pigs

R. Bahya ben Asher, in his commentary to Leviticus (11:7), explains the midrash about a pig becoming kosher allegorically. As we see elsewhere in the midrash (e.g. Vayikra Rabbah 13, end), the nation of Edom is referred to as a pig (in the context of various nations being compared to different animals). This midrash is telling us that our archenemy in this world, the nation of Edom, will become a friend of ours, "kosher," in the peaceful messianic era. This is also how R. Menahem Recanati explained the midrash in his commentary to Leviticus, how the Ritva explained it in his novellae to Kiddushin (49b), and how R. Yitzhak Abarbanel explained it in his Rosh Amanah (ch. 13). (Cf. however, Responsa Ateres Paz, part 1 vol. 2 Yoreh De'ah no. 6.)

R. Hayim Ibn Atar, however, took this midrash literally in his Or Ha-Hayim (Lev. 11:7). Nevertheless, this does not contradict the principle of the eternity of the Torah because, rather than the law changing and a non-kosher pig becoming kosher, the pig will change. Currently, pigs do not chew their cuds and, therefore, are not kosher. The midrash is referring to a change in the pig's anatomy so that it will chew its could and, therefore, will become kosher. It is not Torah changing but nature. This is also how R. Menahem Azariah di Fano (Asarah Ma'amaros, Ma'amar Hikur Ha-Din 2:17, 4:13) explained this midrash, as did R. Moshe Sofer (Toras Moshe, end of Re'eh).

R. David Ibn Zimra (Radbaz) offered two different approaches in his Responsa Radbaz (vol. 2 no. 828). The first is to take the midrash as an exaggeration. In the messianic era people will partake of so many different kinds of wonderful foods that it will be as if everything, include pig, will be eaten. However, non-kosher food will not actually be permitted or eaten. In a similar vein, the Or Yekaros notes the passage in Hullin 109b that states that the shibuta fish tastes exactly like pig and the passage in the introduction to Eikhah Rabbasi (ch. 4) that the shibuta fish did not return from the Babylonian exile, i.e. we no longer had access to it and lost track of it. Combining these two passages with the midrash above, the Or Yekaros suggests that, in the messianic era, we will find the shibuta fish and will once more be able to taste pig, albeit from a kosher source.

Radbaz's other approach is kabbalistic in nature. He pointed out that the angel Hazriel (similar to hazir, pig) is the heavenly prosecutor of the Jewish people. However, in "the next world," he will turn into our defender. He repeated this, with slightly more explanation, in his Sefer Ta'amei Ha-Mitzvos (no. 185).

R. Yitzhak Abarbanel (Rosh Amanah, ch. 13) offered another suggestion. Noting that in the time of the original conquest of Israel, soldiers were permitted to eat non-kosher, including pig (cf. Hullin 17a), Abarbanel suggested that this temporary permission will also be the case during the time period discussed in the above midrash. Temporary abrogation of a law does not contradict the principle of the Torah's eternity.

However, the entire premise of this discussion, that a midrash states that pig will someday become kosher, has been subjected to scrutiny. It seems that this midrash is extant nowhere in the voluminous midrashic material available to us. R. Shmuel Yafeh Ashkenazi, in his Yefeh To'ar (unabridged) to Vayikra Rabbah (13:3), disputed the existence of such a midrash. R. Yehiel Heilprin, in his Erkei Ha-Kinnuyim (hazir), agreed with this conclusion as did some others (e.g. Bnei Yissakhar, Ma'amarei Hodesh Adar 7:2).

II. The Lord Permits Prohibitions

The above explanation of the Abarbanel, that there will be a temporary abrogation of the kosher laws during a specific, limited time period in the future, like there was during the original conquest of Israel, can also explain the midrash that God will permit prohibitions in the future. This, Abarbanel explained, refers to a limited, temporary permission -- a hora'as sha'ah -- and not an abrogation of an eternal Torah law. This was also the approach of the Yefeh To'ar (ibid.) to this passage, R. Tzvi Hirsch Chajes in his Toras Nevi'im, Ma'amar Hukas Olam (Collected Writings, vol. 1 p. 76), and R. David Luria in his glosses to Vayikra Rabbah, ch. 13 no. 5.

R. Menahem Azariah di Fano, as cited above, explained that God will not actually change the prohibitions but, rather, will change the physical reality so that the law's application will change.

III. Invalid Slaughter

Regarding the invalid slaughter of the Leviathan that will be eaten by the righteous, R. Ya'akov Moshe Ashkenazi, in his Yedei Moshe (Vayikra Rabbah, loc. cit.), explained that the details of the laws of slaughtering only apply to human slaughterers. We have human frailties that include imprecision, which is why there are so many detailed laws about how to slaughter. However, when God Himself does the slaughtering, the detailed laws do not apply and the slaughter is kosher even if done non-traditionally. This will not be a change in the laws of the Torah because that even applies today, if God were to slaughter an animal.

R. Pinehas Zevihi, in his Responsa Ateres Paz (part 1 vol. 2, Yoreh De'ah, addenda no. 1, p. 42), offered an original explanation. As he explained, only animals that are born naturally require kosher slaughtering. However, animals that are miraculously created are not subject to the laws of slaughtering (cf. the Shelah, cited in Pardes Yosef, Gen. 37:1). Therefore, he suggested, the animals in "the next world" of which the midrash is discussing were created miraculously and, therefore, will not require kosher slaughtering.

(B"n more to come)

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