Maamar Shalosh Shevuos Siman 40

Now that we have established that all authorities, including the Rambam, agree that although moshiach will not make changes in the natural order of the world, he will display prophecy and other miraculous abilities, we proceed to analyze the Rambam’s next words, to see what the main identifying criteria for moshiach are.]

Now, the language used by the Rambam is difficult to understand. He says in Hilchos Melachim 11:3:

Let it not enter your mind that the melech hamoshiach will have to perform signs and wonders, changing the nature of the world, or resurrecting the dead and the like. It is not so. The proof is that Rabbi Akiva was one of the great sages of the Mishnah, and he was a close follower of King Ben Koziva, proclaiming him as the melech hamoshiach. He and all the sages of his time thought that he was the melech hamoshiach, until he was killed because of sins. Once he was killed, they realized that he was not. But the sages did not ask him for a sign or a wonder. The fundamental principle is that the laws and ordinances of this Torah are forever and ever, and we can neither add to them nor subtract from them.

The relevance of the last sentence is difficult to understand: is the Rambam implying that if the melech hamoshiach needed to prove himself with signs and wonders, this would constitute a change, an addition or reduction of the Torah? What do signs and wonders have to do with changing the Torah, Heaven forbid?

Now, the Rambam writes that the first identifiable sign that someone is moshiach is that he will compel all of Israel to keep the holy Torah and strengthen its weak points. The source for this idea is the verse from the Torah quoted by the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva 7:5:

The Jewish people will be redeemed only through teshuva (repentance), and the Torah has already promised that the Jewish people will eventually repent at the end of their exile, and then they will immediately be redeemed, as the Torah says, “And it shall come to pass, when all these things have come upon you… And you will repent to Hashem your G-d… And Hashem your G-d will return your exiles…” (Devarim 30:1-3).

The problem is that this point is the subject of a dispute in the Gemara, Sanhedrin 97b. Rabbi Eliezer indeed holds that they will be redeemed only if they do teshuva, but Rabbi Yehoshua disagrees. The same dispute occurs between Rav and Shmuel: Rav says, “All end times have passed, and the matter depends only on teshuva,” while Shmuel says, “The mourner has mourned long enough.” Rashi’s first explanation of Shmuel is that if they do not do teshuva, Hashem will not remain a mourner forever; rather, certainly there will be an end to the matter. His second explanation is that the “mourner” refers to Israel: the suffering of exile is enough for Israel, and they will be redeemed even without teshuva. Whenever there is a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, the usual rule is that we follow Rabbi Yehoshua. In a dispute between Rav and Shmuel, the halacha sometimes follows Shmuel (for example, in monetary matters). So what prompted the Rambam to decide that the halacha follows Rabbi Eliezer and Rav, who say that without teshuva we will not be redeemed?

The first answer that occurred to me is that the Gemara (Sanhedrin 97b) says that even Rabbi Yehoshua agrees that there will be teshuva:

Rabbi Yehoshua said to him (Rabbi Eliezer): If Israel does not do teshuva, will they then not be redeemed? Rather, the Holy One, blessed is He, will raise up against them a king whose decrees are as harsh as Haman, and then Israel will do teshuva, and he will set them back on the right path.

It is true that the Yerushalmi, Taanis Chapter 1 (page 3a), attributes this statement about a harsh king to Rabbi Eliezer. It is Rabbi Eliezer who holds that a harsh king will be the catalyst for the Jewish people’s eventual teshuva, while Rabbi Yehoshua disagrees and holds that even without any teshuva they will be redeemed. But since the halacha always follows the Babylonian Talmud, which says that even Rabbi Yehoshua holds that they will repent, except that it will be prompted by a king as harsh as Haman, the Rambam rules that they will be redeemed only with teshuva.

However, we cannot fit this explanation into the Rambam, since he writes in Hilchos Melachim that the melech hamoshiach will force all of Israel to keep the holy Torah. In other words, he is saying that the teshuva will be accomplished by the melech hamoshiach, not by a king as harsh as Haman.

Also, the second Baraisa quoted in the Gemara in Sanhedrin 97b, which describes an extended back and forth argument between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua based on verses from Tanach, mentions nothing about the fact that Rabbi Yehoshua agrees that there will be at least a wave of teshuva prompted by a harsh king. On the contrary, from the language of the verses quoted by Rabbi Yehoshua in his final argument it would seem that even without any teshuva, only because of our terrible suffering and downtrodden state, Hashem will have mercy and bring moshiach. See the Gemara there:

Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: Does it not say, “I heard the man wearing linen above the waters of the river, and he lifted up his right and left hands to heaven and swore by the Eternal One that after a period, two periods and a half, and when the holy people cease to spread, all these things will end” (Daniel 12:7). And Rabbi Eliezer was silent.

Rashi explains:

When the holy people cease to spread – when their ability to stand up and the strength of their hands, which previously enabled them to spread to all sides, runs out; after their strength is gone, and they are extremely lowly, these tragedies will come to an end and moshiach will come, as the Torah says (Devarim 32:36), “For their power is weakened.”

And similarly, on Shmuel’s words, “The mourner has mourned long enough,” Rashi gives two explanations, which I quoted above. In both of them, he states clearly that the redemption can take place even without teshuva. [And Shmuel follows Rabbi Yehoshua’s position, so it would seem that Rabbi Yehoshua also holds that the redemption can come without teshuva.]

Now, regarding the question from the second Baraisa, we could reply that the second Baraisa agrees with the Yerushalmi, while the Rambam’s ruling follows the first Baraisa.

But we must ask: according to the Rambam’s assertion that the Torah promises that the Jews will repent at the end of their exile, and that this promise is stated in the verse, “And you will repent to Hashem” (Devarim 30:2), how can there be a dispute as to what will happen if they do not repent? This is a situation that will never arise, for we cannot have any doubt about an event that the Torah promises will happen.

Additionally, what will those who hold that the Jewish people can be redeemed even without teshuva (i.e. Rabbi Yehoshua and Shmuel) say to the verse “and you will repent”? Even more puzzling is the fact that none of the Baraisos that discuss this dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, in the Bavli or Yerushalmi, mentions this verse brought by the Rambam, “and you will repent.” They cite many other verses, but not this one. Actually, there is one Baraisa later in the Yerushalmi that cites this verse, but the Yerushalmi does not point out that that Baraisa is only going according to one side of the dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua.

Here is the relevant quote from the Yerushalmi Taanis 3a:

As soon as Rabbi Yehoshua brought him the proof from the verse, “He lifted up his right and left hands to heaven…” Rabbi Eliezer admitted defeat. Israel was redeemed from Egypt for five reasons: because the time had arrived, because of their suffering, because of their outcry, because of the merit of their fathers, and because of teshuva… [And the future redemption will also come for these same reasons]…”When all these things befall you, in the end of days, you shall repent to Hashem your G-d and listen to His voice” (Devarim 4:30) – that is teshuva.

The Yerushalmi says that Rabbi Yehoshua won the argument, and in the same breath cites a verse to support Rabbi Eliezer, that the redemption will come only if there is teshuva. Apparently, the Yerushalmi held that this verse would not pose a problem for Rabbi Yehoshua.

Furthermore, the Maharsha in Megillah 31, s.v. Kedei, writes, “In the future they will be redeemed through teshuva, as is explicit in Parshas Nitzavim: And you shall repent etc.” [The Gemara says there that we read the punishments listed in Parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah so that the year and its curses should come to an end. The Maharsha adds that the new year will begin with the teshuva foretold in Parshas Nitzavim, so that the redemption can come in the new year.] The Maharsha writes that it is explicit. But if there were a dispute in the Gemara as to how to understand this verse, how can it be called explicit?

Also, at the end of the Baraisa in Sanhedrin 97b-98a that describes the debate between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Eliezer is silent and does not respond to Rabbi Yehoshua’s argument. This would indicate that he conceded that Rabbi Yehoshua was correct.

One might argue that he remained silent merely because he did not find it important to respond, as the Gemara says in many cases. However, Tosafos on Bava Basra 62a, s.v. Umodeh, demonstrates from many examples throughout the Talmud that this is only said regarding a teacher who fails to respond to his student’s question. But when the two are on a comparable level, such as a teacher and his student/colleague [i.e. halfway between student and colleague, and certainly in the case of true equal colleagues like Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua], we do not assume that he maintained his opinion but felt no need to respond; rather, his silence indicates that he conceded to his opponent’s argument. The same point is made by the Ramban in Milchamos Hashem, Succah Chapter 1, in the sugya of Rosh Tur, and many other poskim – see the responsa of the Chacham Tzvi 124.

Therefore, in the case of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, who were colleagues and disputants in this issue (as opposed to one merely asking a question to the other), Rabbi Eliezer’s silence indicates that he conceded to Rabbi Yehoshua. If so, at the end of the day there is no disagreement among the Tannaim; everyone agrees that moshiach can come without teshuva. [In light of this, how could the Rambam rule that teshuva is necessary?]

However, we cannot say that Rabbi Eliezer retracted his opinion, because Rav also says, “The matter depends only on teshuva and good deeds.” Rashi explains: “If all of Israel returns in teshuva, he will come, and if not, he will not come.” If we say that Rabbi Eliezer agreed to Rabbi Yehoshua, then Rav would not be following either Tanna. Although the Gemara does sometimes say that Rav himself was considered a Tanna and could disagree with the Tannaim, in this case we cannot say that, because the Gemara says explicitly that the dispute of Rav and Shmuel is the same as the dispute between the Tannaim Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Thus it must be that Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua remain in disagreement.

This leaves us with the question: Why did Rabbi Eliezer remain silent, if he was on an equal level with Rabbi Yehoshua and he disagreed with his argument? The answer may be that when there are no halachic implications, Tannaim did not always bother responding to the arguments of the other side in a dispute. This concept can be inferred from Shabbos 29b:

Rabbi Yehuda said: “We once spent Shabbos in the attic of Beis Nitzah in Lud, and they brought us an eggshell and we filled it with oil and pierced a hole in it and hung it over the opening of an oil lamp, and Rabbi Tarfon and the other sages were there and they did not speak out against it to forbid it for fear that someone might forget himself and take some oil out of the eggshell to eat, thus causing the lamp to go out sooner.” They said to him: “That is no proof – the people of Beis Nitzah were careful and would not forget.” Avin Zippora’ah dragged a bench in an attic with a marble floor, in the presence of Rabbi Yitzchok ben Elazar. He said to him, “If I keep quiet to you as the other sages kept quiet to Rabbi Yehuda, a disaster will result: it will be reported that I approved, and people will come to drag benches in a regular attic where the floor is dirt, where dragging the bench creates a ditch in the floor.”

We see here that one reason not to be silent in a dispute is so that no one should later report this as consent, resulting in the disaster of people committing a sin. This only applies to disputes over halacha, where a mistaken halachic practice could result. But here the dispute is only over matters of Aggada, with no practical ramifications: all agree that the Jewish people must repent, even if the coming of moshiach does not depend on it.

This is what the Rambam says in Maamar Kiddush Hashem: that keeping the Torah does not depend on the coming of moshiach, and even someone who will not be privileged to see the coming of moshiach must keep the entire Torah.

[The Rambam wrote Maamar Kiddush Hashem, also known as Igeres Hashmad, in the city of Fez, Morocco during the rule of the Almohads, who forcibly converted Jews to Islam. Many converted Jews felt that they could continue to live in Fez, keeping Judaism in secret, since in any case moshiach would soon arrive. The Rambam responded that we cannot make our Judaism dependent on moshiach coming at a particular time. In his opinion, the Jews of Fez needed to relocate immediately to places where it would be possible to keep the Torah openly and indefinitely.]

See the Chasam Sofer’s Teshuva, Yoreh Deah 356, [where he writes that belief in moshiach is not a foundation of our emunah in the sense that if there were no moshiach, we would not have to keep the Torah. It is listed among the Thirteen Principles only because one who denies it is like one who denies anything written in the Torah.]

This dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua is only about what Hashem will do in the matter of moshiach’s coming. We find other such disputes on matters of Aggadah with no halachic consequence whatsoever. In such cases, one party in the dispute might not bother to respond to the other, since no halachic disaster could come of it. Therefore, his silence is no proof that he conceded to Rabbi Yehoshua.

Furthermore, not everyone agrees with Rabbeinu Tam quoted in Tosafos that silence in a dispute between two equals implies agreement. The Ramban on Bava Basra 62 mentions Rabbeinu Tam’s rule but concludes in the end that it is uncertain, and therefore in a monetary case we leave the money in the hands of the defendant, while in cases of a possible prohibition we take the stringent approach. The Korban Nesanel in Beitzah, in the chapter Mashilin (Chapter 5), paragraph 300, writes that we are stringent only when a Torah prohibition is at stake, not a Rabbinic one. The same point is made by the Maharit in his responsa, v. 1, end of siman 83, although the subject the Maharit deals with is not entirely similarly to our subject here, as anyone studying his words will see. In any case, it would seem that there is no unequivocal rule that silence signifies consent, and in this case, since the Gemara says that the dispute of Rav and Shmuel mirrors the dispute of the Tannaim, the Amoraim writing the Gemara surely knew that Rav held that Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua still held to their opposing positions.

Still, the Rambam’s ruling like Rabbi Eliezer seems to violate the rule that the halacha follows Rabbi Yehoshua over Rabbi Eliezer. And as far as the dispute between Rav and Shmuel, aside from the fact that we follow Shmuel in monetary cases, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) later quotes a statement of Rabbi Yochanan that seems to side with Shmuel:

Rabbi Yochanan said, the son of Dovid will come only in a generation that is completely innocent or in a generation that is completely guilty. In a generation that is completely innocent – as it is written: “And your people are all righteous; they will inherit the earth forever.” (Yishaya 60:21) In a generation that is completely guilty – as it is written (59:16), “And He saw that there was no man, and He was astounded because there was no one to pray” and it is written (48:11), “For My sake I will do it.”

We see here that Rabbi Yochanan holds that it is possible for moshiach to come in a generation that is completely guilty; Hashem will act only for His own sake. This is against Rav, who says that as long as the Jewish people do not repent, he will not come.

Now, certainly the description “completely guilty” does not mean that, Heaven forbid, there will not be any observant Jews left in the world. There are two proofs that this is impossible:

1. The promise, “For it will not be forgotten from the mouth of its seed” (Devarim 31:21) means that there will always be some Jews who keep Torah and mitzvos. [For knowing the Torah without keeping it would not be considered truly knowing the Torah.]

2. The Rambam writes regarding the mitzvah to sanctify the new moon, in Sefer Hamitzvos 153, that it is impossible for Eretz Yisroel to become completely empty of Jews, since Hashem promised that the Jewish people would never disappear, Heaven forbid. If at some point there were to be no Jews left in Eretz Yisroel, the Jewish calendar would come to an end, since the sanctification of the new moon can only be done in Eretz Yisroel. Then there would be no festivals for any Jews anywhere, which would mean the end of our existence as a people, Heaven forbid. [Why can’t it be that the Jewish people will continue to exist forever, only without the observance of festivals? Clearly, the Rambam understood that the promise of the immortality of the Jewish people includes the concept that there will always be some observant Jews left in the world.]

The Ramban disagrees and says that even if there were no Jews in Eretz Yisroel today, the calendar and the festivals would not come to an end, since the calendar for all the years until the coming of moshiach was fixed in advance by Hillel Hanasi. But even the Ramban disagrees only with the Rambam’s halacha, not with his premise that there will always be observant Jews in the world.

If just ceasing to observe the festivals is enough to be considered the end of our people, then certainly ceasing to observe the entire Torah is. Since Hashem promised that the Jewish people would never disappear, we certainly cannot take “a generation that is completely guilty” literally, as many mistakenly do. Rather, there are two ways to explain it.

1) It is known that Hashem judges the world by its majority. If, Heaven forbid, most of the world is guilty, it is judged as if it is completely guilty, since the majority is like the totality. The Taz in the laws of Rosh Hashanah 582:3 writes that this is why we use in our prayers the double expression, “Reign over the entire world, all of it” –– because if we had said simply “the entire world” it could have been taken to mean merely most of the world, as there are many places where “all” means “most”. Similarly here, “completely guilty” means that most of the generation is guilty, and the generation is judged according to its majority.

[If completely means mostly in the second half of Rabbi Yochanan’s statement, then it must mean mostly in the first half as well. If so, Rabbi Yochanan’s statement would seem to be superfluous: when moshiach comes, the generation will either be mostly innocent or mostly guilty. That doesn’t teach us anything! The answer may be that, as the Gemara says later on in Sanhedrin 98a, there are two possibilities: moshiach may come early if we are deserving (“achishenah”), or he may be delayed until the latest possible time. Rabbi Yochanan’s point is that there is a prophecy that if he is delayed to this latest possible time, the Jewish people will be mostly guilty at that time.]

2) Alternatively, “a generation that is completely guilty” could mean that every single Jew is guilty in a way, but not that they will be violators of the Torah; rather, the few observant Jews will not have enough greatness to outweigh all the sinful Jews of their time. That is what Rabbi Yochanan means when he cites the verse, “And He saw that there was no man, and He was astounded because there was no one to pray”: there will be no one in that generation who can outweigh the entire world with his own teshuva and good deeds, and bring about the redemption by silencing the accusing angels who prevent it. Certainly there will be people who will be judged as righteous in other areas, but in this matter – the awesomely important decision as to whether the redemption of the Jewish people will take place – no one is found worthy enough, and thus it is called “a generation that is completely guilty.”

It is common for the Tanach and Chazal to speak in this manner. For example, the Torah says, “You shall not kill an innocent and righteous man, for I will not exonerate a wicked man” (Shemos 23:7). Chazal (quoted in Rashi on the Torah) explain that the first and second parts of this verse are referring to one and the same person, and the meaning is: Do not kill him if he is found innocent, even if afterward the trial new witnesses step forward to testify against him, for I will not exonerate a wicked man; I will make sure he gets his just punishment. We see that even though he may be a wicked man deserving of the death penalty, since in the trial he was found innocent, he is termed “righteous”.

The Mabit (v. 3, siman 165) writes at length on this. [He brings the above proof from Shemos 23:7 to show that someone who is actually wicked can be called “righteous” if he was acquitted in court, while Devarim 25:1 (“they shall acquit the righteous and convict the wicked”) shows that someone who may not be wicked is called wicked simply because he lost a case in Beis Din.]

Similarly, the Tanya at the beginning of his work Likutei Amarim writes at length on the statement of Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 16b), “The intermediate ones hang in the balance from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.” Rashi explains that “intermediate ones” are people who have exactly half good deeds and half sins. The Tanya demonstrates that this is not really the meaning of the word [as we see that the Talmudic sage Rabbah said, “I am intermediate” (Berachos 61b) and certainly Rabbah did not have a record of half sins. Actually, an intermediate person is one who feels the influence of both his good and evil inclinations, as the Gemara explains there.] The word “beinoni” (intermediate) is used to mean half and half in Rosh Hashanah 16b only because the people referred to there are intermediate in the context of the judgment on Rosh Hashanah. It is common for Chazal to use borrowed terminology.

Here too, the words “completely guilty” mean only as far as the case under consideration, wherein Hashem is deciding whether to bring the redemption – but certainly in other areas they are not guilty.

[Up to this point, the Rebbe has addressed those who claim that moshiach can come despite the fact that all Jews are sinners. Now he will address those who claim that precisely because they are all sinners moshiach will come.]

There are some who mistakenly think that being “completely guilty” actually helps bring about the coming of moshiach. This is certainly a serious mistake. On the contrary, the more mitzvos, teshuva and good deeds we do, and the further we stay away from sin, the more we help hasten the redemption.

Chazal’s statement that moshiach may come in a completely guilty generation was said in explanation of the words of the prophets, who foretold the future. There is a contradiction in the verses, similar to the contradiction pointed out by the Gemara later on this daf, “In its time I will hasten it” (Yishaya 60:22). There Chazal answer that “in its time” (i.e. at the latest possible time) refers to a scenario where we are not worthy, and “I will hasten it” refers to a scenario where we are worthy. Similarly, Chazal also pose a contradiction between the verse that describes moshiach as coming “with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13) and the verse that describes him as “a poor man riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Contradictions like this are raised and resolved in many areas of the Talmud.

Here as well, one verse says, “Your people are all righteous; they will inherit the earth forever,” and another verse says “there is no man…there is no support” and only “for My own sake I will do it.” Rabbi Yochanan resolves this by saying that if moshiach comes early, due to our being worthy, this will happen in a generation that is completely innocent – “and your people are all righteous.” But if they are not worthy of an early redemption, and he is delayed until the latest possible time, the prophet Yishaya foresaw that the prolonged exile will lead to “a completely guilty generation.”

There are many Baraisos brought in the Gemara that speak prophetically about the way the world will look just prior to the coming of moshiach: “The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog…the truth will be hard to find…those who fear sin will be rejected…” and many other fearful descriptions whose fulfillment we have unfortunately seen in our time. Obviously, this does not mean that moshiach will come because of these things – because the generation is completely guilty – but rather the idea is that moshiach must come because Hashem promised and swore that the redemption would come by a certain time, no matter what. This is what Rabbi Yehoshua said in his argument with Rabbi Eliezer, citing as proof the verse, “For at a period, two periods and a half…” Rashi explains, “We see from here that there is a final deadline.”

After I wrote this, others showed me that the holy commentary Zekukin Denura on Tanna Devei Eliyahu [by Rabbi Shmuel ben Moshe Hida, printed in Prague in 5436 (1676)], in his piece at the end of Seder Eliyahu Rabba, has already given the same explanation of “a completely guilty generation.” I was pleased to see that I thought along the same lines as that great man. This is a true explanation, on the simplest level.

In any case, we see from Rabbi Yochanan’s statement that moshiach may come even to a completely guilty generation; Hashem will do it only for His own sake. Clearly, he disagrees with Rav, who holds that if the entire Jewish people does not repent, he will not come.

So let us review the reasons why it is so puzzling that the Rambam writes that the redemption will be preceded by teshuva:

1) The rule is that in a dispute between Rav and Rabbi Yochanan, we follow Rabbi Yochanan.
2) This is all the more true here, where both Shmuel and Rabbi Yochanan disagree with Rav,
3) Rabbi Yochanan is following Rabbi Yehoshua, whom we follow in his disputes with Rabbi Eliezer.
4) Rabbi Eliezer remained silent at the end of the argument, so it is at least possible that he conceded to Rabbi Yehoshua.
5) Also, many anonymous Baraisos in Sanhedrin and at the end of Sotah seem to follow Rabbi Yochanan. These Baraisos give a detailed description of the deficiencies of the generation just before the coming of moshiach.

Thus is it really incredible that the Rambam goes against all of the above. Although he derives his view from a verse in the Torah (Devarim 30:2), he should have followed the words of Chazal, since they knew the meaning of all the verses, and it is not for us to decide among them using our own analysis; we can only use the rules that they passed down to us as to how to decide halacha.

Even the Raavad and the other commentators who often disagree with the Rambam do not express any dissent on this point. According to the “Rules of the Raavad” this proves that they all agree. [This is printed at the beginning of the standard Mishneh Torah, in a page called “Klalei Harambam” which the printers collected from the Yad Malachi, the Knesses Hagedolah and the Shem Hagedolim. The last of the “Klalei Haraavad” is that the Mishpat Tzedek says that when the Raavad disagrees with the Rambam but the Ramach does not express disagreement, it does not prove that the Ramach agrees with the Rambam, because perhaps once the Raavad expressed the objection, the Ramach did not feel the need to do so. The Knesses Hagedolah infers from this that when none of the dissenters dissents, it shows that they agree with the Rambam.] So we need an explanation here.

To take the question a step further, the Maharik in Shoresh 165 writes that all the rules for determining the halacha among the Talmudic sages apply only to laws that are applicable nowadays, not to laws that apply only in Temple times. In disputes over laws of the Temple, even the Talmud itself does not rule, and thus whenever the Talmud quotes a statement that the halacha is like so-and-so in a Temple matter, it immediately asks, “Can we then rule halacha for moshiach?” Many halachic authorities agree with the Maharik; the Yad Malachi (Klalei Hatalmud 234) lists many of them.

On the other hand, the Chida in his works Shaar Yosef (Horayos 2a) and Yair Ozen (section hei paragraph 13), writes that the fact that the Rambam, the Raavad and the Smag codify all the laws of Kodashim and Taharos, which do not apply nowadays, basing their rulings on the usual rules of decision-making, proves that they disagree with the Maharik. In my humble opinion, the Rif and the Rosh’s omission of all laws that do not apply nowadays shows that they agree with the Maharik that we have no way to decide halacha in these areas.

But even the Rambam, who does rule on laws that will apply only when moshiach comes, does not decide on matters that are solely in the hands of Hashem. This is what he says in his Commentary to the Mishnah, Perek Chelek, in reference to the dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva as to whether the Ten Tribes will one day return: “I have already told you many times that in any dispute between the sages that has no practical ramification, only belief, we cannot rule halacha like either side.” He makes the same statement in his Commentary on the Mishnah, Sotah Chapter 3, regarding the dispute over whether a guilty Sotah can have her Divine punishment delayed if she possesses merit – see there.

Here as well, no one disputes the fact that we are obligated to do teshuva, for even without the coming of moshiach, we must do teshuva and fulfill the entire Torah. The dispute is only over whether Hashem might redeem us even without teshuva. So this is like the dispute over the Ten Tribes or the Sotah’s punishment: it is about what we believe Hashem will do. How then can the Rambam decide that the Jewish people will be redeemed only if they do teshuva? He himself already taught us the rule that we do not decide on such disputes.

After writing the above, I saw that the Yismach Moshe, Parshas Tisa, p. 187 column 4, writes: “All the books say that all the rules for deciding halacha apply only to laws that are applicable today, not matters that apply to Heaven.” Now, I have only found this rule in the Rambam, as stated above. But the Yismach Moshe must have seen this in many places, since he writes “all the books.” In any case, the Rambam is certainly difficult: he rules here on a dispute of Tannaim relating to the redemption, which is only in the hands of Heaven, seemingly violating his own principle that we possess no guidelines for how rule on cases like this.


Vayoel Moshe