I am very concerned about certain aspects of the messianic age or those times right before it. I am concerned that during this time when Moshiach comes, he will set up a Jewish fundamentalist system. I know it has been foretold that obedience will be required of everyone and discipline will be harsh for those who don't obey. The last thing I want is a situation where I have to wear something like a Jewish burka or can't go out of my house. I don't see this situation as much of a beautiful messianic age. I see it as torture.


I've yet to see any plans for burkas. I could ask around, but it doesn't seem to be on the agenda. A woman represents the Shechina—the Divine Presence—and in the times of Moshiach the Shechina will be revealed in all its glory. So why should women then be hidden inside walking sacks?

You're worried about obedience. I wasn't very obedient in school, so I should also be concerned. But I'm not, because the key aspect of a messianic era is not obedience but wisdom, as Maimonides writes, "The occupation of the entire world will only be to know G‑d. All of Israel will be great sages in that time and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean floor." Just as the first redeemer, Moses, was a teacher, so will the Moshiach be a teacher of wisdom to all humankind.

When there is no wisdom, people must be coerced into proper behavior—either with a carrot or with a stick. But when it is clear and obvious to all that everything is truly G‑dliness and everything has a G‑dly purpose, then people know immediately what to do and what not to do.

Here's an analogy from something quite close to you. Something you are staring at right now, your fingers tenuously extended over its keys, primed to strike back any second at the author for his flippant treatment of burkas. But hold on and hear me out a minute: You use a computer. There are different operating systems on different computers. At one time, to accomplish anything on a PC, you had to type in a line of MS DOS. If you made a mistake, you risked severe punishment—you could lose files, corrupt your hard drive or crash the entire operating system. And that's what happened—quite often. If you didn't read the manual—and follow it religiously—you were sunk. The same with your word processor and any other program you used.

There were friendlier systems, however. Systems that were designed to be "intuitive." That means they were designed on the principle that the user should be able to take a single look and intuitively know what to do and what not to do. He could always make the wrong decision, but it would be just silly to do so.

Eventually, the friendlier "graphic user interface" won out—and productivity surged. In fact, when the first true GUI for the PC was introduced in 1991 (Windows 3.0), about one trillion dollars had been invested in business technology with no measurable overall payback. After 1991, payback exploded. Windows is still pretty kinky (I'm a Mac guy), but certainly more friendly than those old MS DOS systems.

Okay, I'm grossly simplifying modern history to make a point. I want to make a comparison between our present world and one of those counter-intuitive user interfaces where you can't take a single step without looking in the manual, in our case, the Torah. The messianic times, on the other hand, are when the world will sport a whole new user interface. One look will be enough to tell that it's Shabbat today. It will seem ridiculous to light a fire or pick an apple off the tree. Shrimp simply won't look like food. Speaking bad about another person will feel like it really is—like sticking a knife in your own back.

Today, we run towards those things we believe bring us pleasure—and far too often end up with pain instead. In messianic times, people will have pleasure from acts of kindness and beauty. This is the effect of wisdom—to open our eyes and guide our human nature towards those things that are truly good for us and most fulfilling. And that is all that we are looking forward to, may it be realized very soon, sooner than we can imagine.