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Jews believe that G-d made a permanent covenant with them. We also believe He made a covenant with mankind. We believe in a Messianic redemption and ultimate restoration of the world to peace and order; we envision a just end in which those separated are reunited, the dead are raised, and humanity is united in serving G-d.

So says our theory. (Sou.rces.) But what if the covenants that were made do not technically exclude an irrevocable end (to human life, to the world) through terrific destruction? Or, far scarier: what if G-d indeed made good covenants, but in the future changes His mind (ch"v)?

Do our texts account for this possibility--do we see it as possible? Why or why not? How likely is such a thing supposed to be? And what are our souls to do then?

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    I didn't vote at all, but the DV might be because the question body doesn't match the title -- to fix that, I'd suggest removing the first two of three questions in your second paragraph. That's really a separate idea, and more along the lines of "What if Judaism is wrong?" than "Could G-d change His mind?," which is your title. (if you want, you could split that off into a new question; as far as I could tell, that question hasn't been asked yet here) – Shokhet Sep 19 '15 at 17:13
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    Somewhat related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/37379 and judaism.stackexchange.com/q/31120. – Fred Dec 21 '15 at 11:16
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    Another possibly relevant point to this question is the Jewish idea that "a bad decree can change, while a good decree will never change." Sorry, I don't have sources, except for here: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/66540/… – SAH Dec 24 '15 at 6:54
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    @SAH That's absolutely relevant. The Rambam says that a negative prophecy against the Jewish people is subject to change but that a positive one is not (Hil. Y'sodei HaTorah 10:4, English translation). The Rambam's sources that a positive prophecy for the nation is irrevocable are B'rachos 7a and Yirm'yahu 28:9. – Fred Dec 24 '15 at 8:03
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    @SAH Be my guest. :) But know that my comment doesn't fully cover that aspect of the topic; for some more, see this article, as well as Lechem Mishneh (ad loc.) who defends the Rambam by limiting the case of an irrevocable positive decree to wherever at least one of the following conditions were met: 1. The prophet stated it explicitly and in God's name. 2. The people did not relinquish their merit through sin. Even the single exception mentioned in Shabbos 55a may not be an exception, as the overt meaning of the prophecy was not cancelled. – Fred Dec 24 '15 at 9:52
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God knows the future and therefore He cannot regret and "change His mind". He is not bound to time, all of the past and the future are before Him simultaneously as something in the present (as the Rambam wrote on the mishna in Rosh Hashana "all are examined in one sweeping look").

He also told us the covenant with the Jewish people is permanent through His prophets as for example:

"So says the Lord who gives the sun to illuminate by day, the laws of the moon and the stars to illuminate at night, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar, the Lord of Hosts is His Name. If these laws depart from before Me, says the Lord, so will the seed of Israel cease being a nation before Me for all time" (Jeremiah 31:34).

  • I think your quote illustrates exactly the opposite of what you're saying; namely, that the covenant with Israel is not permanent, but conditional – SAH Sep 20 '15 at 4:29
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    @ray Sure. Why not? God could change those. IAE you should change "cannot" to "will not" in your answer. – Double AA Sep 20 '15 at 5:32
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    @DoubleAA He cannot change His mind. because change does not apply to Him – ray Sep 20 '15 at 6:23
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    @DoubleAA then how did He make yours? – ray Sep 20 '15 at 20:38
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    @SAH The quote does not suggest the covenant is conditional. The nevi'im use these sort of rhetorical devices frequently (cf. Y'sha'yahu 54:10, as well as the verses leading up to it, which essentially answers your question, too). Yirm'yahu is essentially saying that, just as those things won't happen, so too God's special relationship with the Jewish people will never end. – Fred Dec 10 '15 at 22:09
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Another point possibly relevant to this question is the Jewish idea that a bad decree can change, but a good decree cannot. @Fred provides the source:

"The Rambam says that a negative prophecy against the Jewish people is subject to change but that a positive one is not (Hil. Y'sodei HaTorah 10:4, English translation). The Rambam's sources that a positive prophecy for the nation is irrevocable are B'rachos 7a and Yirm'yahu 28:9."

The nature of prophecy, how we test it, and how we know whether to believe it are discussed productively here. Fred adds to these remarks that the Lechem Mishneh "defends the Rambam by limiting the case of an irrevocable positive public decree to wherever at least one of the following conditions were met:

  1. The prophet stated it explicitly and in God's name.

  2. The people did not relinquish their merit through sin."

A possible exception to these laws of irrevocability is an incident in Chapter 9 of Ezekiel, about which Rav Acha b'Rebbi Chanina says in Shabbos 55a, "Only once, Hash-m said to do something good and retracted." In this incident, Hashem seems to promise to protect certain group of righteous men from slaughter (Y'chezkeil 9:4), but then they are slaughtered anyway (Y'chezkeil 9:6). The Talmud interprets this incident as G-d's revoking His promise. But Fred points out that depending on how one reads the verses, it may be understood that those who were slaughtered were not essentially included in G-d's original protection, suggesting that this need not have been an outright revocation of the decree.

Presumably, the covenants mentioned in this question fall under the above conditions as "irrevocable positive decrees"--although the question of whether we have, or could still, relinquish our merit through sin (ch"v) is a good one.

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    It is also probable that, even according to the Abarbanel's dissenting view (described in the linked article) that a positive prophecy can be nullified through sin, a good prophecy that implicitly does not depend on merit (or is made in spite of sinfulness, such as the passage from Isaiah mentioned in this comment) could not be nullified by sin. – Fred Dec 28 '15 at 5:39
  • Just to clarify, in case my wording was unclear: In the Rambam's opinion (even according to the Lechem Mishne's understanding of the Rambam), a positive national prophecy for the Jewish people cannot be nullified through sin so long as the prophecy was stated explicitly and in God's name. There may be other opinions that disagree with the Rambam about this (see linked article), but even they don't necessarily maintain that all good prophecies can be nullified through sin. For one possible category of good prophecies that might be immutable, see the comment immediately above this. – Fred Dec 30 '15 at 9:24
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I completely forgot that our tradition actually has an answer for this: It seems G-d does not destroy the world because of the merit of the lamed-vovniks.

  • Can you source this tradition? – Double AA Dec 10 '15 at 21:34
  • @DoubleAA I'm not qualified to consult the original source, but the claim has been sourced here: neveshalom.org/html/arts/art_gallery_legend36.htm – SAH Dec 11 '15 at 1:57
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    See Chullin 92a that the world exists in the merit of 45 tzadikim and/or that the nations of the world exist in the merit of 30 righteous non-Jews. Though the Talmud does refer to 36 lofty tzadikim who potentially merit clear encounters with the divine presence daily (Sanhedrin 97b, Sukka 45b). (Incidentally, see Sanhedrin 97 about the effect of sin or lack of repentance on the eventual arrival of the redemption). – Fred Dec 30 '15 at 10:09
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    There are also other statements of Chazal about things whose merit sustains the world, e.g. Torah study (Sanhedrin 99b, see Abaye's statement in section 5-J of the translation). – Fred Dec 30 '15 at 10:13
  • "Other statements": For example, according to R'Shimon ben Gamliel, "the world endures by virtue of three things: justice, truth, and peace" (Pirkei Avos 1:18). – SAH Jan 29 '16 at 17:41

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