י״א בניסן ה׳תשע״ז (April 7, 2017)

Bava Batra 75a-b: Feasting on the Leviathan

A well known Jewish tradition about Olam HaBa – the “next world” – is that the righteous of this world will be rewarded with a meal consisting of shor ha-bor and livyatan – wild ox and leviathan. As a continuation of the stories of the sea that opened this perek, we find the source for part of this tradition.

Rabba quotes Rabbi Yoḥanan as teaching that in the future God will serve a meal for the righteous consisting of the meat of the leviathan, based on a passage in Iyyov (40:30) that is understood to mean that the Torah scholars will feast on it. The Gemara continues that the meat that is not used for the feast will then be sold in the marketplace in Jerusalem.

The Rashba – basing himself on the approach of the Ramban in his Sha’ar HaGemul – writes that Olam HaBa is a setting where the righteous retain some level of connection between their physical bodies and their souls. Thus, the reference to a “meal” should not be understood solely as a metaphor, rather it is truly a physical activity. At the same time, the concept of a meal contains a deeper meaning, since the true purpose of all eating is to strengthen and raise a person’s might and power. According to Rabbi David, the son of Rabbi Yehuda HaḤassid, in his Livnat HaSapir, the meal of the leviathan symbolizes a deeper connection between the body and the soul than what exists in our purely physical world.

The Maharal argues that all references to the leviathan are to be understood metaphorically. The leviathan is the spiritual force, that is, the force connecting God and the physical world that He created. Eating the leviathan hints to the deep personal connection that a righteous individual develops with the spiritual. Marketing the leftover meat in the Jerusalem marketplace should be understood as referring to the impact and effect that spills over beyond the individual to the general public, which is unique to Jerusalem of the future.

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