ESSAY: The Nullification of the Commandments
Our sages have stated that the mitzvot will be nullified
in the world to come. Does this mean that we will cease
to put on tefillin and begin working on Shabbat?
INSIGHTS: Below The Surface
The chassid as a master of paradox
The Nullification of the Commandments
Citing the verse, You shall keep the commandment, the
decrees and the judgments which I command you today to do
them, the Talmud interprets: today
to do them, and not to do them tomorrow; today to do
them, and tomorrow to receive their reward. In other words, the mitzvot of
the Torah were commanded to be observed in this world, but
not in the world to come the world that
is to follow the messianic era. In the words of the Talmudic
sage Rav Yosef, The mitzvot will be nullified in the
world to come.
However, there are many talmudic and midrashic passages which
clearly imply that the laws of the Torah will continue to
be observed in the future world of Moshiach. The Jerusalem Talmud explicitly
states that The laws (halachot) of the Torah
will never be nullified.
Indeed, the eternality and immutability of the Torahs
laws is one of the most basic principles of the Jewish faith.
Function and Essence
The key to the resolution of this apparent contradiction
lies in a difference in the choice of words between the above-quoted
statements. Rav Yosef tells us that The mitzvot
will be nullified in the world to come, while the Jerusalem
Talmud states that The laws of the Torah (halachot
shebaTorah) will never be nullified.
Generally speaking, there are two aspects of the Torah. On
one level, the Torah is G-ds blueprint for creationthe divine vision of how life is to be lived
on earth. On this level, we say that the Torah comes to
refine and bring merit to [merit by itself is a noun] man and
his worldto sanctify physical life and develop it into
a receptacle for the divine truth.
Ultimately, however, the Torah cannot be defined as a program
for life. The Torah is the divine will, and the will of G-d
cannot be defined by something that He has created. We cannot
say, G-d wants x because it is beneficial
to human life; we can only say G-d wants x.
Therefore it is beneficial to human life. There cannot
be a reason for G-ds desire, for that would mean that
something outside of Himself is the cause of something within
Him. Thus our sages have said that the Torah preceded
the world. Essentially, Torah is the pure
will of G-d; any reasons or benefits associated with the divine
law are only garments that clothe its supra-rational
essence as it enters our perception and experience.
Therein lies the distinction between the term mitzvot
and laws of the Torah. Mitzvah means commandment,
implying the existence of an other [or, someone
outside of the commander] who is being (and needs to
be) commanded. Thus the term mitzvah relates to
the pragmatic function of Torah: to impose a code of behavior
upon an imperfect worlda world that is separate from,
and at times even in conflict with, its Creator.
The word mitzvah also means connection, implying a higher function to
the mitzvah: to connect the commanded mortal with the divine
commander. But a connection, by definition, is the link between
two otherwise separate entities; so the mitzvah as the agent
of connection between G-d and man also implies a purpose extrinsic
to the divine essence of Torahs laws.
The laws of the Torah, on the other hand, is
a reference to the divine will per se, unencumbered by purpose
or objective. A commandment is not a commandment unless it
is issued to another (or, an other), a connection
is not a connection unless it is connecting another; in contrast,
a law is an objective truth, independent of how
(or even if) it is applied.
Our sages speak of three distinct stages in the development
of creation: 1) our present world (olam hazeh); 2)
the era of Moshiach (yemot hamoshiach); and 3) the
world to come (olam haba).
Our present world is the scene of a daily struggle between
good and evil. G‑d created the world to reflect His
infinite goodness and perfection, but He also shrouded it
in a veil of corporealitya veil that conceals its divine
essence, allowing for the existence of greed, hate and suffering.
Man can strive to actualize the good inherent in himself and
his world through the observance of the mitzvot, but he can
also choose to intensify the illusion of evil by violating
the divine will, G-d forbid. Thus, ours is a world in which
the divine will is only partially implemented, both because
there are many who, whether out of ignorance or disinclination,
do not observe the mitzvot, and because it lacks the conditions
that enable the fulfillment of many mitzvot (and the optimal
fulfillment of all mitzvot).
The second phase of creation, the era of Moshiach, marks
the universal and optimal realization of the divine law for
life. The era of Moshiach is described as a world in which
there is no hunger, no war, no jealousy, and no rivalry;
as a time in which our current state of galut (exile)
will come to an end, the dispersed of Israel will be gathered
to the Holy Land, the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt
and its service restored; as a time in which knowledge,
wisdom and truth will abound.
But the most important hallmark of this time is that man will
fully and utterly fulfill the mitzvot of the Torah. Indeed,
the other features of the messianic era are only the consequences
of the implementation of divine blueprint for life.
Otherwise stated, the era of Moshiach represents the ultimate
realization of human potential. But human potential is mortal
and finite, and thus cannot be said to truly reflect the spark
of G-dliness that is the essence of man. Death, for
example, is a natural constituent of the human stateand
the antithesis of G‑ds infinite and eternal reality. The ego of manthat which
imbues us with a sense of individuality and apartness of beingis
a most basic component of human nature, and is in utter contradiction
with the axiom that There is nothing else apart from
Him. So there is much in the very
nature of man that is a subtle form of evili.e.,
part of the veil that obscures the divine truth. So even when
life on the face of the earth is in complete conformity with
the divine will, the nature of man marks him as something
distinct from his divine source.
Following the era of Moshiach comes the third and ultimate
phase of existencethe world to come. The
world to come is a world of eternal life and infinite perfection.
It is a world devoid of every vestige of evilof anything
that sets apart creation from its Creator. It is a world in
which the all-pervading truth of G-d is manifest, and every
creature perceives its oneness with the divine.
The mitzvahTorah as divine command and
as link between G-d and manhas relevance only in the
first two stages of creation: in our present era, where it
comes to impose the divine will upon a resisting world, and
in the era of Moshiach, where it generates a harmonious world,
subservient and connected to G-d. In the world to come, however,
the mitzvah will be nullified. This is not to say that we
will cease to put on tefillin or begin working on Shabbat,
G-d forbida world that is one with G-d will obviously
be in complete conformity with G-ds will. But the very
notion of a commandment or a connection
will be superfluous. Our minds do not command
our bodies to do their bidding, nor are our bodies connected
to our minds by virtue of the fact that they do their bidding.
Body and mind constitute a single entity; the will of the
mind is the will of the body, which the body naturally and
The laws of the Torah are the will of G-d, and are as eternal
and immutable as their conceiver. In the world to come, they
will constitute the natural law of a physical reality that
spontaneously realizes the divine reality. But they will cease
to be mitzvot. The divine commands will not be repealed or
amendedthey will be nullified, as the light of a candle
is nullified in the blaze of the noonday sun.
The Enduring Dispute
The eternality of the laws of the Torah, and
the various stages the world undergoes from being commanded
byto becoming one withthe divine will, are exemplified
by the following statement in the Talmuds Ethics
of the Fathers:
Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven, is destined
to endure... Which is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven?
The dispute(s) between Hillel and Shammai.
Hillel and Shammai, who lived in the first century BCE, were
the founders of two major schools of Torah interpretation
known as the House of Hillel and the House
of Shammai. These two schools differed on many points
of law, to the extent that the disputes of Hillel and Shammai
are the prototype for all disputes for the sake of Heavendisagreements
between Torah sages engaged in the study of the divine will
and its implementation in physical life.
But why do we say that such disputes are destined to
endure? Should not our objective be to resolve the dispute
and ascertain what G-d wants us to do? Indeed, the Torah provides
the formula by which such disputes are to be decided: You
should follow the majority. Once an issue is put to a vote,
the majority view becomes Torah lawthe unequivocal will
of G-d. All, including those who were previously convinced
that the Torah should be understood otherwise, are obligated
to submit to the final ruling.
And yet, the minority view is not rejected. As the Talmud
relates, following a debate between the House of Shammai and
the House of Hillel, a heavenly voice proclaimed: These
and these are the words of the living G-d. 
Since we are speaking of individuals who are disputing for
the sake of Heavenwho are totally devoted to Torah,
and who apply their minds to its understanding free of all
personal motive and prejudicetheir arguments are the
words of the living G-d. The Torah, by its own
attestation, is not in heaven.
G-d desired that His word should be filtered through the mind
of the Torah scholar, and that the result should constitute
the divine will.
In the concrete world of physical deed, only one opinion
can be actualized. When two people come before a court of
Torah law to litigate a disputed loan, there can be only one
ruling: the defendant either owes the money or he does not.
When an ox is slaughtered and its kashrut is in doubt,
there can only be one decision: either the meat is kosher
and permissible for consumption, or else it is forbidden.
Hence the Torahs provision that differences in opinion
among Torah sages be decided by the majority. But the principles
and reasoning behind the two (or more) opinions are all true
expressions of the divine will. If the minority opinion cannot
be implemented on the physical plane, its spiritual and psychological
applications can, and should, be realized. For the world of
the spirit tolerates, indeed welcomes, conceptual opposites.
A person can be simultaneously attracted and repelled, humble
and proud, grieving and joyful. When two Torah-opinions advocate
contrasting truths, both are to be embraced as the words of
the living G-d.
A dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is not something
to be resolved. There is no wrong or erroneous view to be
weeded out and disavowed. On the contrary: this is a dispute
that endures, as the various faces of the divine truth are
assimilated in the human soul.
Strictly the Future
Sixteenth-century kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Ari)
takes this a step further: not only are both the words of
the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel enduring on the
conceptual level, but each has its time and place on the pragmatic
level as well.
In our present world, we follow the rulings of the House
of Hillel, who constituted the majority of Torah sages. But in the era of Moshiach the
majority opinion will shift in favor of the House of Shammai,
and their rulings will then be implemented in our physical
This reflects the change in the nature of reality that the
messianic era represents. Generally speaking, the House of
Hillel tended toward a more lenient interpretation of Torah
law, while the House of Shammai took the more stringent view.
In our present reality, where divine commandments must be
imposed upon an imperfect world, the rulings of the House
of Hillel represent the ultimate in conformity to the divine
will, while the rulings of the House of Shammai represent
an ideal that is too lofty for our present state (which is
why we perceive them as stricter and more confining),
and can only be realized on the conceptual level. In the era
of Moshiach, the situation will be reversed: a perfected world
will embrace the more exacting application of Torah law expressed
by the House of Shammai, while the Hillelian school of interpretation
will endure only conceptually.
The New Physics
Ultimately, neither our present world nor the era of Moshiach
can absolutely realize the divine law. In both these worlds,
the rulings of the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel
(as those of all Torah disputes) can coexist only on the conceptual
level. Physically, the laws of existence dictate that one
must give way before the other. Indeed, we cannot even envision
the possibility of a deed simultaneously being done and not
But the laws of physical existence are part and parcel of
G-ds creation, and obviously do not limit their Conceiver
and Creator. Consequently, a world that is one with its Creator
is likewise not limited by these laws. In the world to come,
the disputes between the House of Hillel and the House of
Shammai will endure in all respects, including their pragmatic
application. All faces of the word of G-d will be actualized
on all levels, including the physical level, where contrasting
truths will exist side by side as they do today on the spiritual
and psychological plane.
Thus we have three stages in the actualization of Torah law,
corresponding to the three stages of creation:
In our present world, where the mitzvot command a world loath
to yield its perceived independence and disconnection, the
more lenient formulation, as channeled through the Hillelian
school, is implemented, while the more exacting ideal, as
expressed in the Shammaian approach, is confined to the theoretical
and experiential realm.
In the era of Moshiach, where the mitzvot are the harmonious
connectors of a compliant world to its divine source, the
Shammaian ideal will govern physical life while the Hillelian
dimension of Torah will be relegated to the realm of the spirit.
In the world to come, the mitzvot will be annulled. No longer
will the laws of the Torah be the stuff of a divine relationship
with an extrinsic reality. Rather, they will be fully and
unequivocally realized in a world that is no longer separate
from its source, unhindered by laws that define
a finite and mortal world.
Based on a series of talks by the Rebbe, Tishrei 5752
Below The Surface
One of the great chassidic masters once said:
A chassid should be capable of the following three feats:
(a) To be utterly humble while holding his head high. (b)
To scream in perfect silence. (c) To dance for joy without
moving a muscle.
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
. E.g. Talmud, Sanhedrin 90b.
. Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 1:5; Mishneh Torah,
Laws of Megillah, 2:18.
. A clear and explicit mitzvah in the Torah
stands forever and for all eternity, without change, reduction
or addition. As it is written (Deuteronomy 13:1), Everything
that I command you, you shall keep and observe; do not add
to it, and do not subtract from it. (Mishneh
Torah, Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah, 9:1).
. Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 1:2.
. Talmud, Makkot 23b (according to the two meanings
of the word lezakot); see also Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit
. Talmud, Pesachim 54b.
. As in the Aramaic word tzavta (see, for
example, Talmud, Bava Metzia 28a).
. A majority of the mitzvot (343 of Torahs
613 commandments) can be observed only when the Beit
Hamikdash is standing and/or when the entire community
of Israel resides in the Holy Land. Furthermore, even the
mitzvot we can observe today are but pale models
of the real thing, as the optimal fulfillment of all of
G-ds commandments can be realized only in the messianic
era. (Sifri, quoted by Rashi on Deuteronomy 11:18. See also
Nachmanides on Deuteronomy 4:4).
. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, 12:5.
. Ibid., Laws of Repentance,
. Indeed, the world as G‑d initially created
it was free of death and dissolution, which were caused
by mans first sin.
. Ethics of the Fathers 5:17.
. Talmud, Eruvin 13b.
. In all but a few cases, in which the majority
of sages followed the House of Shammai.
. See Likkutei Torah, Korach 54b-c.
. Sefer HaSichot 5752, pp. 27-36.