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The Gemara teaches us that in the generation when Moshiach comes, the Galilee will be destroyed (Sanhedrin 97a):

During the generation that the son of David comes, the hall of the assembly of the Sages will be designated for prostitution, and the Galilee will be destroyed, and the Gavlan, i.e., Bashan, will be desolate, and the residents of the border who flee the neighboring gentiles will circulate from city to city and will receive no sympathy.

Similary, the Zohar (2:7b:5) explains that Moshiach will reveal Himself first in the region of Galilee:

בְּהַהוּא זִמְנָא, יִתְּעַר מַלְכָּא מְשִׁיחָא, לְנַפְקָא מִגּוֹ גִּנְתָּא דְּעֵדֶן, מֵהַהוּא אֲתָר (בלק ק''ד ע''ב) דְּאִתְקְרֵי קַ''ן צִפּוֹ''ר, וְיִתְּעָר בְּאַרְעָא (ויקרא רי''ב ב') דְּגָלִיל, וְהַהוּא יוֹמָא דְּיִפּוּק לְתַמָּן, יִתְרָגַּז כָּל עָלְמָא, וְכָל בְּנֵי עָלְמָא מִתְחַבְּאִין גּוֹ מְעַרְתֵי וְטִנָּרֵי, דְּלָא יַחְשְׁבוּן לְאִשְׁתְּזָבָא. וְעַל הַהוּא זִמְנָא כְּתִּיב, (ישעיהו ב׳:י״ט) וּבָאוּ בִּמְעָרוֹת צוּרִים וּבִמְחִלּוֹת עָפָר מִפְּנֵי פַּחַד ה' וּמֵהֲדַר גְּאוֹנוֹ בְּקוּמוֹ לַעֲרוֹץ הָאָרֶץ.

The question is as follows: why does the Gemara teaches us that the Galilee will be destroyed in the generation when Moshiach comes? I've heard from my Rabbi that the fact Moshiach will come first to Galilee symbolizes healing, since this was one of the first regions that were exiled (2 Melachim 15:29). But why does the region first needs to be destroyed?

Does "will be destroyed" literally means destroyed, or does it symbolize spiritual destruction like as in "The wisdom of the Chachamim - will become rejected"?

Also, based on which pasuk does ר' יהודה say that this will happen?

As always, (contemporary) commentaries, insights etc.. are very welcome.

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Shir haShirim Rabbah (2:61, p. 121), also records the same tradition concerning the destruction of the Galilee. A commentary thereon, באור כנפי יונה (by Rabbi Jonah Etilzohn), cites the Meor Enayim of Azariah dei Rossi (חלק אמרי בינה פ' ג) regarding the reason for the destruction of the Galilee: שמוסב על כיתה הרביעית שהיה נמצא בין היהודים בבית שני - that it is due to the Fourth Sect, which was found amongst the Jews during the Second Temple Era.

The Fourth Sect, is a reference to the followers of Judas the Galilean (יהודה בן חזקיה) also known as the Zealots (קנאים). They were an extremist group whose actions, according to Josephus, instigated the war against the Romans which culminated in the destruction of the Second Temple.

It would seem then, that according to dei Rossi, the reason that the Galilee will be destroyed in the period immediately precipitating the messianic advent is to atone for the fact that Judas the Galilean, and his Zealots who caused the destruction of the Temple, were from the Galilee.

This tradition foretelling destruction in the Galilee appears to have been taken literally by several figures who lived through periods of destruction in the region. R. Immanuel Hai Richhi in his work Hon Ashir (Sotah, ch. 9) quoted the line והגליל יחרב and continued to describe how Safed and its environs in the Galilee had been subject to destruction but was now seeing many Jews return to the area, and over the span of two years witnessed the building of new homes each day. He understood the destruction to have been fulfilled and accordingly saw the rebuilding as a hopeful sign for the messianic future. Similarly, R. Israel Shklov, who lived through the Safed pogrom of 1834 tied it to the tradition predicting destruction in the Galilee and a sign of the imminence of the messianic era.


Interesting side note: the same tradition is brought down verbatim in the name of Rabi Eliezer haGadol in Sotah 49a-b, in the name of Resh Laqish in Midrash Rabbah, in the name of Rav Avin in Pesiqta Rabbati... there were some others as well that I'm not recalling. Accordingly it would appear that this tradition concerning the destruction of the Galilee was in wide circulation and is not easily attributed solely to R. Yehudah. I wouldn't be certain that the tradition is based on a pasuq either.

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    Interesting. Thanks! Do you maybe have a link to the source where שמוסב על כיתה הרביעית שהיה נמצא בין היהודים בבית שני is discussed by R' Azariah dei Rossi?
    – Shmuel
    Feb 4 at 12:12
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    @mvs my pleasure, it was interesting to research :) I just edited the post to include a link directly to the page in מאור עינים that is cited by באור כנפי יונה. It is obviously too long to transcribe/translate for the post, but it is definitely worth a look inside. Feb 4 at 12:51

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