Siyum Rambam: Halachos of Torah sh’b’al Peh Will Never Be Nullified

What follows was compiled and edited by the Rebbe, “in conjunction with the completion of the sefer of the Rambam”, from sichos spoken over the course of Rosh Hashono, Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos, and Simchas Torah 5752.

In the Mishna Torah, the Rambam gives us an orderly presentation of the entire Torah sh’b’al Peh, a sefer of “halachos halachos”.  It possesses a special importance, comparable to the importance of the Torah sh’bichsav, which we learn out from the saying of our sages: “all the seforim of the Neviim and  Kesuvim will in the future be nullified to the Days of Moshiach,” which is not the case with halachos: “Halachos of the Torah sh’b’al Peh will never be nullified.”  (Which leads to the statement of the Rebbe [footnote 17 in the printed sicha] that the study of Rambam speeds up and accelerates [ממהרים ומזרזים] the time of Yemos Hamoshiach, at which time it will be revealed that the halachos are never nullified.)

The Rebbe then raises a question (based on something explained at length in Torah Chadasha, Shavuos 5751): there us a principle of Torah that the halacha goes according to Beis Hillel, but this is only in the time of golus; in the future, when the Beis Din Hagadol will return to Yerushalayim, the halacha will be like Beis Shammai (for Beis Shammai will be the majority in the future, and we rule according to the majority).  If so, we find that the present halachos (which are in accordance with Beis Hillel) will in fact be nullified in the future?!

More than this: it is known that according to several opinions “mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come” — at Techiyas Hameisim, which is in the second stage (2nd tekufah) of Yemos Hamoshiach.  This is learned out from a debate in the gemara about permitting burial shrouds to be woven out of “kilayim” (material made from a forbidden mixture of threads).  This is permitted, according to Rav Yosef, because “mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come”.  If so, then all of the halachos of the Torah sh’b’al Peh will be nullified in the future (in the second tekufah, Techiyas Hameisim) — if the mitzvos will be nullified, then it should follow that the halachos (the ruling of how to perform the mitzvos) will be nullified?

Mitzvos Will Be Nullified or Torah is Eternal?

To say that Mitzvos will be nullified is, apparently, a contradiction to the eternality of Torah.  And if one will say that Mitzvos are an inyan of “today to fulfill them” to be followed by “tomorrow to receive their reward” when they will be nullified — this is not a sufficient answer.  Why?  Because (as explained in Chassidus) Mitzvos represent Hashem’s ratzon, His Will, which is independent of any other purpose (such as refining the person or the world and bringing them to perfection).  Based on this, we have a strong question as to how Mitzvos, which “stand eternally”, could be said to be nullified in the time to come?

In the gemara’s discussion about burial shrouds, it is brought in the name of Rebbe Yochanan that it is permitted to bury in shrouds made out of forbidden fabric because the dead are “free from Mitzvos”.  This is fine as long he is dead, but when he will arise to Techiyas Hameisim he will find himself clothed in forbidden garments!  So, seemingly Rebbe Yochanan’s opinion applies up until Techiyas Hameisim, and has no relation to the opinion of Rav Yosef who holds that Mitzvos are nullified in the future.

Now, the Rebbe mentions a discussion in a different gemara about Techiyas Hameisim (Sanhedrin 90b).  In that gemara, Rebbe Yochanan states that we will fulfill the mitzvah of terumah with Aharon Hakohen himself (after he rises in the Techiya).  Thus, we see that Rebbe Yochanan does not hold that Mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come — as proven by Aharon receiving terumah!  So how could he permit burying a person in kilayim, and thus when he rises (and is again obligated in mitzvos) he will find himself clothed in forbidden material?!

The Rebbe then proceeds to explain beautifully how Rebbe Yochanan’s opinion (“the dead are free from Mitzvos”) is also an explanation of (and in harmony with) the opinion of Rav Yosef (“Mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come”):

When we say “Mitzvos will be nullified” we are speaking only about the aspect of the Mitzvah which is a command to the person.  That when a person dies (after he completes his avoidah in fulfilling Mitzvos) he becomes freed from Mitzvos, meaning that even when he arises in Techiyas Hameisim, he is not bound by commandments telling him what to do; rather, the Mitzvos themselves continue to exist eternally simply as Hashem’s ratzon.  The reason for this is that a commandment is only relevant when the person is a separate existence, and there is room for a Commander and the one receiving the command.  But when there is a complete unification with the Holy One, blessed be He, to the point that they become one existence (ישראל וקודשא בריך הוא כולה חד) then the concept of a “commandment” is no longer relevant — “Mitzvos” (commandments) will be nullified in the time to come;  and at the same time the halachos of those Mitzvos, which are Hashem’s ratzon, are eternal — there is no contradiction!

Thus, we can also answer our question on Rebbe Yochanan about how he could permit burial in forbidden fabric if we will indeed fulfill mitzvos after Techiyas Hameisim: because the metziyus of giving terumah will continue to exist after Techiyas Hameisim, but not as a command to the person (for he has become “freed from commandments” — in a lofty manner, since he no longer needs to be commanded for he is no longer a separate entity but rather has become one with the Holy One, blessed be He).  “Therefore, it is permissible to bury him in Kilayim because when he will arise in the future he will not have any commandment that forbids him from wearing Kilyaim, even though it is certain that he will not remain clothed in Kilayim (after the moment of the Techiya), not because of a command, but (automatically) because the ratzon of the Holy One, blessed be He, contradicts the existence of Kilyaim.

Mitzvos, Halachos, and Torah

The Rebbe at this point makes a diyuk in the apparently contradictory expressions quoted above which will assist in clarifying the matter.  As regards Mitzvos the expression is that they “will be nullified in the future”, whereas “the halachos of Torah will never be nullified.”  The concept of “Mitzvos” is that they are related to the world and the person’s own reality.  Mitzvos are practical, not theoretical.  Torah, on the other hand (“the halachos of Torah”), are above and beyond the world.  An example of this is the halachos pertaining to a Jewish city where the majority served idols (עיר הנדחת).  The gemara states that such a city “never was, and never will be in the future”, meaning that there is no practical dimension here; but the halachos of what to do with such a city (the Torah, rather than the Mitzvah) are studied and debated because they are eternal even as they are above and beyond the world.

Thus, Mitzvos will be nullified, but Torah is eternal, as the Rebbe explains:

In the future time to come mankind and the world will be elevated to a level that is higher than the world [as it is presently], and therefore the Mitzvos, which relate to the world [as it is now], will be nullified in the future.  This is not the case with the halachos of Torah which do not relate to the world and are not nullified in the time to come.

The Rebbe adds an interesting point: the “reward” for the mitzvos is said by our sages as being the mitzvah itself (“שכר מצוה מצוה”).  We can understand this to mean that the true inyan of the mitzvos will be revealed to the one performing the mitzvos — meaning how they are in Torah, which is above the world.  And this will reveal how the entire reality of the world is that in it (in the world) Hashem’s Ratzon is fulfilled in actuality.

Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai

At this point in the sicha (section 8), the Rebbe introduces a truly novel concept which builds upon the concepts explained above pertaining to the eternality of Torah: the eternality of the contradictory opinions of Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai.

As is well known, there are many disagreements (machloikes) between the schools of Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai, with the former tending to rule leniently and the latter tending to rule strictly (for more insight, see the sicha of Shavuos 5751, “The New Torah That Will Go Forth From Me”).  We are told in the Mishna that “every machloikes that is for the sake of Heaven will in the end be fulfilled…this is the machloikes of Shammai and Hillel.”  The Rebbe questions this phrasing, since the very concept of a machloikes is that there are two contradictory rulings, and the halacha upholds one opinion and rejects the other opinion (since, being contradictory, they cannot both be fulfilled).  How can we say that two opposite opinions will (both) be fulfilled?  If you will try to answer that “both these and these are divrei Elokim chayim“, meaning that neither side is “wrong”, rather they both have a source Above, and the halacha only chooses one to be fulfilled in actuality — this is insufficient to explain the phrasing “will be fulfilled” (since, according to this explanation, one opinion is fulfilled and the other is not).  In fact, even though our halacha today follows Beis Hillel, the Arizal writes that in the future in the time of Moshiach the halacha will be like Beis Shammai — “and this is ‘in the end will be fulfilled'”.

But this needs to be understood:

Even according to the Arizal that “in the future in the time of Moshiach the halacha will be like Beis Shammai…and this is ‘in the end will be fulfilled'” — this is interpreting “in the end will be fulfilled” to refer to the opinion of Beis Shammai and not on the machloikes itself between the two schools.  Because when Beis Shammai will become the halacha, it automatically nullifies the halacha of Beis Hillel.  We remain where we started: one opinion is fulfilled, the other is nullified.  And especially since this is a huge degradation for Beis Hillel, contradicting the maxim that we ascend in matters of holiness?!

The Rebbe offers an explanation that the Arizal is referring here to the first tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach (for more on the two tekufos, see this kuntres), but that in the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach (the resurrection of the dead, Techiyas Hameisim) when the Mitzvos will be nullified, then the “machloikes” will be fulfilled — that the halacha will go according to both Shammai and Hillel together.

The explanation is as follows:

The machloikes between the two schools, where “these declare impure and these declare pure, these forbid and these permit” is only as regards the halachos of Torah as commands to human beings how to conduct themselves in the world.  Since the existence of the person in the world is emphasized, and in the limitations of the world Chesed and Gevurah are opposites, thus Hashem’s Will (what the person should do) can be expressed in two ways.  “But as regards the halachos of Torah as they truly are, not coming to effect the world, but rather they are the ratzon of the Holy One, blessed be He as He is in and of Himself (כפי שהוא מצד עצמו) — even the divergent opinions that are in the halachos of Torah are ‘one Torah’,  ‘all of them given by one Shepherd’.  And being that He encompasses everything, He has two opinions of affirmative and negative, and both of them are one…”  And from Hashem’s perspective, these conflicting opinions can be revealed in the reality world the same as they co-exist in His Essence — the affirmative and the negative together — since He transcends the impossible, nimna hanimna’os.

It comes out that there are three periods: the present time (when the halacha is like Beis Hillel), the first tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach (when the halacha is like Beis Shammai), and the time of Techiyas Hameisim (when the halacha will be like both together).  In the first two of these periods, the emphasis is on the effect on the world (פעולה בעולם), and as far as the limitations of the world are concerned only one opinion can be fulfilled in actuality and the other must remain spiritual.  This is the time of “today to fulfill them (the mitzvos)”, היום לעשותם.

But after the time of  “today to fulfill them” comes “tomorrow to receive their reward”, מחר לקבל שכרם, which refers to the time of Techiyas Hameisim when the Mitzvos will be nullified.  Meaning that what will be nullified will be the dimension of a command to the person.  What will remain will be their true inyan — that they are the Hashem’s ratzon, the dimension of “halachos of Torah are never nullified”.  At this time, the halacha will be like Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel together, since the Will of the Holy One, blessed be He, will be revealed in the world as it is in His Essence, “nimna hanimna’os“.

The Rambam and Chassidus: A Machloikes Resolved

The Rebbe concludes the sicha with a reference to the final section of the Rambam, which could seem like a minor point meant to “justify” (so to speak) the subject of the sicha being spoken in conjunction with the Siyum HaRambam.  But, upon closer examination, the Rebbe is resolving two contrary opinions in a way that they can co-exists in the world (we might say a foretaste of what our sicha describes).

To explain: the final halachos in the Rambam’s all-encompassing Mishneh Torah (containing halachos of Torah in all areas) discuss the Messianic Era, Yemos Hamoshiach.  The Rebbe quotes the halacha that “The sages and prophets did not long for the days of Moshiach for any other reason except to be free [from other obligations in order] to study Torah and it’s wisdom…in order that they will merit to the life of the World to Come.”  The Rebbe then quotes the final halacha of the Rambam that “in that time there will not be hunger nor war nor jealousy and competition, for beneficence will be broadly distributed and all the delicacies will be available like dust, and the activity of the world will only be knowing Hashem, as it says ‘the world will be filled with knowledge of Hashem like water covers the sea.'”  The Rebbe says that this final halacha hints to the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach, the tekufa in which there will be a change in the conduct of the world, beginning with the primary change, the resurrection of the dead.

In light of what was explained in this sicha, the difference between Yemos Hamoshiach and Techiyas haMeisim is that Yemos Hamoshiach is the pinnacle and perfection of fulfilling Mitzvos (as a command to the person), whereas in the time of Techiyas haMeisim the aspect of command will be nullified and the true inyan of the Mitzvos will be revealed, as above.  The Rebbe finds a hint for this in these halachos of the Rambam:

The longing of the sages and prophets for Yemos Hamoshiach is for the sake of the perfection in fulfilling Torah and Mitzvos; the description in the final halacha adds “in that time”, which the Rebbe states is a reference to the second tekufa, when the world will be busy with “knowing Hashem” in and of itself, not for another goal (such as “meriting to the life of the World to Come” as in the previous halacha).

To align these halachos with what was explained in the sicha: the first tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiah is the time of “today to fulfill them” while there is a command to the person, and the emphasis is on the benefit that comes to the person through fulfilling Torah and Mitzvos — meriting the World to Come.  This is unlike the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach, when there will be Techiyas Hameisim, and the aspect of “command” will be nullified, the aspect of Hashem’s Will comes revealed, and the world is busy “knowing Hashem”  — it is understood that at this time there is no other goal, but that this itself is the goal.

So far, it all fits together nicely.  But in order to understand the significance of how the Rebbe concludes the sicha, we need to understand the longstanding machloikes between the Rambam and the Ramban*.  In brief, the Rambam writes that Techiyas Hameisim is a temporary stage, to be followed by eternal life in the World to Come — a world of neshomos without bodies.  The Ramban respectfully but firmly contradicts this opinion, and declares that the ultimate World to Come is in fact the state of Techiyas Hameisim, and that eternal life is a neshoma in a body.  Chassidus, in countless places, explicitly goes according to the Ramban, that eternal life is a soul in a body after the resurrection.  Our sicha concludes as follows:

According to this we can say that also according to the opinion of the Rambam the main and ultimate reward is in the world of the Resurrection (in accordance with the ruling of Chassidus), only that he did not write this explicitly, just as he didn’t write explicitly about the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach when there will be Techiyas Hameisim, since the purpose of a sefer of halachos is that “all the rulings of all the mitzvos should be clear to the small and to the great.”  This is accomplished at the end of the [first] tekufa of “today to fulfill them”; nonetheless, since the true inyan of his work is “halachos of Torah”, as they are from the perspective of Hashem’s Will — therefore, in the final halacha, which is the completion and summary of the sefer of halachos, the Rambam hints about the situation of the world of the Resurrection, when the true inyan of “halachos of Torah” will be revealed, which is not for the person (“that he should merit to the life of the World to Come”), but rather “to know their Creator”, “the knowledge of Hashem”, for this is the main and ultimate reward — that the existence of the person and the world will be completely nullified and covered over by “the knowledge of Hashem”, “like water covers the sea”. 

Through this explanation, the Rebbe has succeeded in revealing how the machloikes between the Rambam and the Ramban (a machloikes for the sake of heaven) will ultimately see both opinions fulfilled because we have revealed how in truth they are really one!

* Explained with more detail by R’ Nissan Dovid Dubov here).

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