Thursday, October 11, 2007

Geulah - Miraculous or Natural

The Rambam states in chapter 11 of the Laws of Kings and Their Wars

Do not think that the King Moshiach needs to do signs or wonders, or make something new in the world, or revive the dead, or other such things like the stupid people say; it is not so. For we see that Rabbi Akiva was a great sage from the Sages of the Mishnah, and he was a supporter of Ben Koziba (Bar Kokhba) the king, and he would say about him that he was the King Moshiach And he, and all the Sages of his generation, thought that he was the King Moshiach, until he was killed (for) sins; and because he was killed, it was made known that he wasn't Moshiach, and the Sages did not ask of him a sign or a wonder.

The Raavad says on that halachah the exact opposite. He states the the opposite of the Rambam; Bar Kokhba was required to perform a miracle in front of the Sages, and because he couldn't, the Sages killed him.

Obvious contradiction. Seems straight forward, let's check to see the source for each.

Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 93b has the Raavad's version.

Talmud Yerushalmi Taanit 24a has the Rambam's version.

While the source of each story here tells us something, it is not exactly what we are looking for. What is necessary, however, is a basic analysis of the concepts in the Tanach. The Sin of the Spies and its aftermath show the situation clearly. Am Yisrael was commanded to take action - capture the Land, but due to the Lashon HaRa of the spies, decided not to. Then the next morning, the Ma'apilim decided to go in to Eretz Yisrael on their own initiative and capture the Land. They were told not to by Moshe, and decided to ignore that command.

One second they are advised action is needed to achieve the perfection of Geulah, the next they are told that it won't work; action is forbidden.

Yeshayahu told the people to stand firm, Yehudah would not fall to the kingdom of Ashur.

Yirmiyahu told the people to surrender, rebellion would cause the downfall of Yehudah and the destruction of Yerushalayim.

On Shabbat Chol HaMoed Succot we read Kohelet. In chapter 3, verse 1, we read:

For all there is a time, and a season for every desire under the heavens.

In the Tanach, there is a time to act, and a time to pray. And then Galut Bavel came. How did we know how to act before then? Hashem let us know. But now, the time of prophecy was over. Hashem would no longer direct us how to balance action and reliance on above.

  • There are two approaches that we see through the course of Jewish history: Act towards the goals of the Geulah, and if it doesn't work out, then the failure indicates that it isn't Hashem's will
  • No need for action, everything will come in a miraculous manner from above

And thus we see in the same Rambam a quote from Shmuel:

There is no difference between this world and the Days of Moshiach except the servitude of the nations (i.e. in the future, we will no longer be subservient to the other nations)

The Raavad again disagrees and says that the Geulah will come in a miraculous manner on the clouds of heaven (quoted from Daniel).

The GR"A says there that both are true:

  • The Rambam refers to the Days of Moshiach ben Yosef.
  • The Raavad refers to the Days of Moshiach ben David.

The GR"A there is making a big Chiddush. It would seem from a reading of the Rambam and the Raavad there that the Rambam refers to the manner of a "poor man riding on a donkey", meaning the poor-man's Geulah, natural in essence. The Raavad, on the other side of the coin, refers to on "the clouds of heaven", or miraculous Geulah. In Sanhedrin 98a it says if we are Zocheh, it will be on the clouds of heaven, and if not, like a poor man riding a donkey.

The GR"A's chiddush here is that both of them will occur. Zachu and Lo Zachu are not talking about two different scenarios but two different stages of the same scenario. That is our center line, balance between natural and miraculous.

This topic somewhat includes the topic of the Sanhedrin, but I will leave that for another time.

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