Dear Jew in the City-
I heard that when Moshiach comes, bacon and pork will be kosher. Is this true?
Thanks for your question. Long story short, no.
Now, short story long. I know exactly what you’re talking about and I’ll explain it. The first thing you need to know is that the Hebrew word for a pig is chazir; the second thing to know is that the word for “return” in Hebrew is ChZR. With this in mind, let us turn to a Medieval Midrash that says, “Why is it called chazir? Because in the future, God will return it to Israel,” i.e., it will become kosher.
“Aha!” I hear you exclaim. “You said that pig wouldn’t become kosher but that source clearly says that it will!” Well, we’re not finished yet.
Consider, if you will, Isaiah 11:6: “’The wolf will live together with the lamb; the leopard will lie down with the kid of goats.” The Bible says that, so in Messianic times, it must be true that predator and prey will co-exist, right? I say no. But I’m not disagreeing with the prophet Isaiah, I merely adhere to the Rambam’s understanding of the Messianic era.
In Hilchos Melachim 12:1, the Rambam tells us not to expect the nature of the world after Moshiach comes to be different from what we know today. He specifically mentions that verse from Isaiah and explains that it’s a metaphor. What this and similar verses are expressing is that Israel will be able to dwell securely with formerly-evil non-believers. (These evildoers are compared to predatory animals in verses like Jeremiah 5:6, “…a leopard will stalk their cities,” et al.)
If the Rambam doesn’t hesitate to classify actual Biblical prophecies as metaphorical, we certainly need not be concerned about not taking literally later-era Midrashim of uncertain origin. The question is, what metaphor is that Midrash trying to communicate?
There are many non-kosher animals but for some reason, the pig is the archetype of treif. Why is that? Well, the pig is one of only four animals that has one of the two signs of being kosher. The other three animals – like the camel – chew their cud but don’t have split hooves. The pig is the only animal that has split hooves but doesn’t chew its cud. Because of this, the pig is the rabbinic symbol of hypocrisy. It puts forth its split hoof as if to say, “Look at me! I’m kosher!” But in reality, its insides don’t match its external presentation (Bereishis Rabbah 65:1).
The same Midrash that calls the pig the symbol of hypocrisy also says that it symbolizes Rome (Edom, the spiritual descendants of Yaakov’s brother Eisav). Eisav was rotten but he tricked his father, Yitzchak, into thinking he was righteous. Similarly, Rome touted all their public works but this was only a façade to mask their depravity. With this in mind, perhaps, “in the future, God will return the chazir to Israel” refers to the repentance of Edom and a reconciliation of the estranged brother nations.
The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 11:3) says that the Torah and its laws are eternal – they will neither be added to nor subtracted from; I assume this includes the prohibition against eating pig. The Radvaz (2:828) is appalled at the thought of taking this Midrash literally. Rabbeinu Bachaye interprets the Midrash somewhat less charitably, saying that the ChZR of Edom is that they will have judgment for their misdeeds returned (i.e., revisited) upon them.
There are certainly those who take this Midrash literally and look forward to eventually enjoying a thoroughly-kosher authentic BLT. I, however, am strictly in the metaphor camp. Accordingly, I have resigned myself to the continuing use of veggie bacon even after the Moshiach arrives. Of course, as with all things relating to the Messianic era, we’ll find out for sure when we get there!
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
JITC Educational Correspondent
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