The prophet Isaiah depicts the messianic era as a miraculous time. “A wolf shall live with a lamb, a leopard shall lie with a kid, a calf and a lion cub and a fatling [shall lie] together, and a small child shall lead them. A cow and a bear shall graze, and their children shall lie together; and a lion, like cattle, shall eat straw” (Isaiah 11:6–7). The Torah, too, promises (Leviticus 26:6): “I will remove wild beasts from the Land,” which seemingly implies a new supernatural order. Nevertheless, the words of our sages seem to contain conflicting messages in this regard.

On one hand, the Midrash and Talmud are replete with statements regarding fantastic miracles that will be commonplace during the messianic era. For example, the Talmud (Shabbat 30b) tells us that during the messianic era women will give birth, and trees will produce new harvests, on a daily basis, and trees will also sprout ready-made cakes and even clothing!

The accepted middle ground is that the messianic era will consist of two periods

On the other hand, the Talmud (Berachot 34b) asserts that “the only difference between today and the messianic era is [that then will end the Jewish nation’s] subjugation to foreign powers.”

Maimonides writes (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:1) that the messianic era will not be characterized by supernatural phenomena. Instead, he understands Isaiah’s prophecy to be allegorical: “The Jews will live peacefully with the most vile of the nations, who are compared to leopards and wolves.” Similarly, he understands all the midrashic statements about the messianic era to be allegorical. Other great sages, however, vehemently disagreed with Maimonides’ interpretation of the messianic prophecies.

The accepted middle ground is that the messianic era will consist of two periods. During the first period, the world will be at peace and the Jews will be autonomous—but everything will continue operating according to the laws of nature.1 The second period, which will commence with the resurrection of the dead, will be completely miraculous.2

Nevertheless, the prospect of entirely skipping the first period, and Moshiach immediately ushering in the second supernatural period, is a possibility. The arrival of Moshiach is described in the words of the prophets in two manners. Daniel says (7:13), “Behold with the clouds of the heaven, one like a man was coming.” Zechariah (9:9), on the other hand, describes Moshiach as “humble, and riding a donkey.” The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) reconciles the prophecies: “If the Jews are meritorious, then he will fly in on a cloud. If not, he will ride in on a donkey.”

This implies that if we are meritorious, we will merit Moshiach’s arriving in a miraculous fashion and immediately ushering in a miraculous era.