Translated by Boruch Merkur
How is it appropriate to include in the description of the Messianic Era the concept that “delicacies will be commonly available, like dust”? Delicacies are things that are connected with the body viewed in its most despicable capacity, “the skin of a snake”!
HOW DO DELICACIES DEFINE THE FUTURE GLORY OF GEULA?!
At the conclusion of Yad HaChazaka, Rambam rules as a Torah law that when Moshiach comes there will be “delicacies commonly available, like dust.” In referring to “delicacies” the intent is in the literal, material sense – tender beef and aged wine, for example.
At first glance, the context of this law is in describing how things will be when Moshiach comes. In the Messianic Era, Rambam rules, the Jewish people will be engaged in the pursuit of comprehending G-dliness: “they will grasp knowledge of their Creator.” How then is it appropriate to include in this description the concept that “delicacies [will be] commonly available, like dust”? Delicacies are things that are connected with [the body viewed in its most despicable capacity, described in Chapter 31 of Tanya as] “the skin of a snake”! And the reason why delicacies will be “commonly available, like dust” is [not that they have any intrinsic value or virtue but] simply in order that Jews should not have to inconvenience themselves to acquire them. [So how does the vast availability of delicacies contribute to defining the future glory of the Messianic Era?]
However, in light of what has been explained earlier, when Rambam writes that when Moshiach comes “delicacies [will be] commonly available, like dust,” he means to explain the concept of Moshiach even to the likes of children, to whom “delicacies” are coveted. It would be futile to attempt to inspire a child by pointing out the breadth of Torah knowledge he will attain when Moshiach comes, for he does not yet understand the virtue of this knowledge; he must first grow up and mature before he can appreciate it. In order to truly engage and inspire a child, it is necessary to speak to him specifically about “delicacies.” It is for this reason that Rambam writes that with the advent of Moshiach “delicacies [will be] commonly available, like dust.”
Nevertheless, upon closer analysis it is apparent that Rambam is qualifying the value attributed to “delicacies.” That is, he is suggesting that they will be perceived as being superfluous and irrelevant, considered “like dust,” for the sole objective of the Jewish people in the Messianic Era will be to fathom knowledge of their Creator (as above). Thus, Rambam specifically uses the term “dust” [with all its connotations of being something superfluous and undesirable].
MOSHIACH IS SWEET AS CANDY: NOT JUST LIP SERVICE
Having said that, for the time being “delicacies” are indeed coveted by a child, for which reason Rambam tells him that they will be “commonly available, like dust” (in the simple sense, in great abundance), because it is specifically in this manner that his heart can be won over [and he will come to long for the Messianic Era].
This also sheds light on what was said above about educating children about Moshiach – that it is necessary to tell them that in Future Era, candies and the like will be very plentiful. For at first glance, it is understood and obvious that the Torah would not command us to tell a lie of any sort. How can the Torah command us to educate a child in this manner – that in order to influence him, he is to be told that when Moshiach comes there will be an abundance of candy?! But since Rambam writes that with the advent of Moshiach there will be “delicacies commonly available, like dust,” it is understood that that is actually the way it will be – in truth. When we tell a child this, it is not just lip service, empty words, but the truth. (It is just that they will not be steeped in the desire for candies then, as above.) […]
G-D SEES IT AS AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE!
Regarding children in particular, there is a profound Midrash:
On the verse in Shir HaShirim 2:4, “v’diglo alai ahava – his banner over me is love,” the Midrash says: “even the child who repeatedly jumps (m’daleg) upon the mention [of G-d’s name] … the Alm-ghty says, ‘v’dilugo alai ahava – his jumping upon Me is love.’” It is the nature of children to skip and run around, prior to their learning or thereafter. But even when children frolic and jump upon Divine names written on parchment, or in our times, upon holy books (being ignorant of their sanctity, or even if they are aware, they cannot help themselves from doing so) – the Alm-ghty [in His mercy] says that although they are jumping “upon Me,” He perceives it as an expression of “love.” That is, not only is it permitted for them to do so, the Alm-ghty says that for Him it is considered to be an expression of “love,” for it is being done by Jewish children, “tinokos shel beis rabban”! Indeed, “Yisroel [the Jewish people] is a lad and I love him” (Hosheia 11:1).
The emphasis here is that the Oral Torah goes so far as to elaborate on and enhance the Written Torah’s phraseology, changing, as it were, the written word from “v’diglo – his banner” to “v’dilugo – his jumping”! This Midrash shows to what extent one must take pains for the sake of Jewish children – to the point that even G-d Himself forgoes His dignity for their sakes, permitting them to jump and dance upon His Divine names, even proclaiming that for Him this is seen as an expression of their love!
(From the address of Shabbos Parshas Truma 5741, bilti muga)