Jewish tradition teaches that the world will experience a radical transformation in the era of the Messiah. According to Maimonides, one of the most influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, [Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:1] the natural order will not be disrupted in the Messianic Age, but he also admits that eventually our world will become a different world. [The Guide for the Perplexed, Part II, Chapter 29]
For example, Maimonides says that all envy will disappear. [Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 9:2]
How can we understand this change?
If the Messianic Age was based on miracles, then it would be clear that nature would change as it did during the Exodus from Egypt.
But Maimonides asserts that the Messianic Age will not alter nature, yet he also claims that certain natural traits will be changed forever. [Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:1]
The answer is that Torah represents the true nature of reality. However, our reality and the reality of the Torah are not perfectly aligned during our exile. We therefore need Torah to refine us within our reality.
That is, the Torah contains many laws and teachings that guide the Jewish way of life. Sometimes, these laws and teachings seem to have more power or authority than the natural order of things. Here are some examples:
• The Priestly Blessing [Numbers 6:22-27] is a special blessing that God instructed Moses to teach Aaron and his sons, the priests (kohanim), to bless the Israelites with. The blessing invokes God’s protection, favor, and peace upon the people. The blessing also says that God will put His name on the Israelites and bless them. This means that God will make a special connection with them and grant them His grace and goodness12. The Priestly Blessing is still recited by the kohanim in synagogues today, especially on holidays.
• The establishment of the Leap Year by the courts [Sanhedrin 11a] is a way that the Jewish sages can adjust the lunar calendar to align with the solar seasons. The Torah commands that certain holidays, such as Passover, must be celebrated in specific seasons. However, since the lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, the holidays would gradually shift out of sync with the seasons if not corrected. Therefore, the sages have the authority to add an extra month to some years, based on astronomical calculations and other factors4. This shows that God gave the sages the power to influence time and nature through the Torah.
• Sages like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who could bring rain through Torah study [Taanit 24a] are examples of righteous people who have such a close relationship with God that their prayers and actions can affect the weather and other natural phenomena. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was a famous sage who lived in the second century CE. He was known for his deep knowledge and devotion to the Torah. Once, when there was a drought in Israel, he went to a cave with his son and studied Torah for 12 years. When he came out, he saw that people were suffering from lack of rain. He prayed to God and immediately clouds gathered and rain fell. This shows that God listens to and rewards those who dedicate themselves to the Torah.
In the Messianic Age, the world will finally be so refined and elevated by the cumulative effect of our commandments that the way we experience nature will be fully aligned with the nature of Torah. The changes will not be from supernatural causes; rather, they will represent a reordering of things that will be the new natural.
[Based on Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn’s discourse “A New Alignment” (1940) and the work of Rabbi Heshel Greenberg; Art: Bing AI]