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Friday
Jul122019

HUNKER DOWN

Is the concept of Armageddon, mass destruction, consistent with Torah? Should I take out a mortgage on an underground bunker? * “G-d’s compassion extends to all His works,” to all His creations! Why, in a world of revealed good and G-dliness, would there be any room for suffering and annihilation?

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur

There are going to be wild beasts when Moshiach comes. Are there going to be wild Gentiles? Are there going to be any Gentiles for that matter? Is the concept of Armageddon, mass destruction, consistent with Torah? Should I take out a mortgage on an underground bunker? 

The Talmud debates the impending destruction, struggling with the prophecy, “And it shall come to pass on earth, says G-d, that two parts therein shall be cut off and die, but the third shall be left therein” (Zecharia 13:8). The remaining third – does that include non-Jews? Rebbi Yochanan says yes; Reish Lakeish says no – all non-Jews will be cut off and die. (Will the children of Cham survive at all? See Likkutei Sichos Vol. 23, pg. 173, Footnote 27.) 

How are we to understand the radical prophecy in Parshas Balak (24:17) that Melech HaMoshiach will “strike down the ranks of Moav and vanquish all the descendants of Sheis (v’karkar kol b’nei Sheis)”? Does “vanquish-karkar” mean “rule over” all humanity (Onkelos; Rashi cites the related term “kora,” which means “pierce,” but not annihilate) or does it mean “m’karkar kir – tearing down a wall,” meaning devastation, destruction, annihilation (Even Ezra, Ralbag, Abarbanel)?

Darkness and annihilation go hand in hand with exile. The pervasive suffering of the Jewish people, rachmana litzlan, throughout our long and bitter exile is not as surprising perhaps as destruction and annihilation after the advent of Moshiach, when G-dliness rules openly and overt, illuminating our hearts and our minds, culminating in world peace, prosperity, the end of conflict, and utter devotion to G-d.  

Since galus-exile is synonymous with darkness, with the obstruction of Divine light and benevolence, it is not entirely surprising that even the righteous may suffer through it. But after the advent of Moshiach, when there will be “V’hishbati chaya ra’a min ha’aretz – I will vanquish (the destructive nature of) wild beasts from the land,” becoming tame and docile, why would there be the need to obliterate any creature? Even “wild” Gentiles will be “declawed” and peaceful, part of the Divine plan! 

In fact, Rambam describes this vision of the future redemption in his halachic magnum opus Mishneh Torah (Laws of Kings 11:1), quoting the verse, “v’karkar kol b’nei Sheis,” in connection with, “he will have dominion from sea to sea.” Then (ibid 12:1) Rambam cites the famous verse, “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, etc.,” interpreting it to mean:

“The Jewish people will reside in confidence with [even] the wicked of the Gentile nations … and they will all return to the true religion. They will not plunder nor destroy. They will amicably consume what is permissible, like the Jewish people, as it says, ‘the lion shall eat straw like the ox.’” 

Even the wild ones will be domesticated.

Why would G-d seek to destroy His own creations when they no longer pose a threat? Certainly it shows greater dominion over the wild to be tamed and agreeable rather than eradicated? Also, G-d is notably good – “V’rachamav al kol maasav – His compassion extends to all His works,” to all His creations! Why, in a world of revealed good and G-dliness, would there be any room for suffering and annihilation?

***

The Rebbe considers a “peaceful” annihilation spawn of infertility, not violence and destruction. (Though this still seems a horror to me, the Rebbe defends this approach on the basis that fertility is miraculous, and removing an ongoing gift from G-d is not an act of violence.) The Rebbe rules out this interpretation with the fact that there will be Gentiles around in the Future Era, citing verses like, “I will transform the nations…to serve G-d, etc.” (Tz’fania 3:9). There is no justification for doing away with His own servants! Also, the Torah is clear that “kings will tend your children; their queens shall serve you as nurses, etc.” (Yeshayahu 49:23). In fact, Reish Lakeish himself states: “Whoever is scrupulous in the Mitzva of Tzitzis merits to be served by 2800 slaves” (Shabbos 32b).

This proves that according to all opinions humanity will be sustained, even among Gentiles. The only question is what defines their manner of existence then:

In the Future Era, when the truth of G-d will be revealed forever, the perfect revelation of “Hashem echad – the one G-d” in the world, the entire Creation, included the Gentile nations, will perceive how they “do not exist except through the true Existence,” and independent from G-d “nothing else can exist” (Rambam’s Laws of the Foundations of the Torah 1:2). That is, they will perceive that they have no true existence (“they shall be cut off and die”; they shall be “annihilated” – an existential annihilation).

It will be revealed in the Jews, on the other hand, that their very existence is G-d’s core, as it were – “Yisroel and Kudsha Brich Hu are utterly one.” ■

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