I agree with Howard Kreisel’s view about what Maimonides considered the goal of the Messianic Age.

Howard Kreisel’s 2015 book “Judaism as Philosophy: Studies in Maimonides and the Medieval Jewish Philosophers of Provence” is excellent. It is published by Academic Press, 978-1-61811-179-1, and sells for $139.00. It is part of an outstanding series of “Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah.” The senior editor is Professor Dov Schwartz of Bar Ilan University in Israel. Professor Kreisel is a scholar of Medieval Jewish thought at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel. Professor Kreisel authored many scholarly books. This volume contains 486 pages of 11 chapters. The book includes an extensive bibliography from pages 437 to 464 and a comprehensive two-column index from 465 to 473. The view, which I will discuss, is in his second chapter.

In Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, 12:1, the great philosopher posits that in the days of the Messiah, which he sees as a natural and not a miraculous event, all humanity will return to the true religion (yahzeru qulam la-dat ha-emet). This statement, a subject of scholarly debate, raises the intriguing question of whether Maimonides envisioned the entire world converting to Judaism, a topic we will delve into in this analysis.

Some scholars, such as Professor Menachem Kellner, were convinced that Maimonides suggested the entire world would become Jewish and observe Torah Laws. This interpretation may stem from the belief shared by some scholars that Maimonides’ Guide does not present philosophical views for the intellectual together with ideas for the uneducated reader, and educated readers should ignore those written for the uneducated.

This latter concept is what the Greek philosopher Plato termed ‘Noble Lies,’ which Maimonides referred to as ‘Essential Truths,’ and which other great philosophers such as the Catholic sage Thomas Aquinas and the Muslim sage Ibn Tufail in his outstanding book Hai ibn Yaktan, insisted the uneducated people, including those who were deeply religious, needed to know. (An example of a ‘Noble Lie’ is that God becomes angry when we misbehave. God is not like humans, who can often become angry.) This perspective sheds light on the complexity of Maimonides’ thought and the various interpretations it has sparked when the ‘Noble Lies’ are seen as Maimonides’ true view.

Others said Maimonides did not predict or hope for the conversion of the entire world to Torah-true Judaism but the acceptance by all of the Rabbinical Seven Noahide Commandments. Commands they found suggested in the Torah. Observance of these commands would ensure that people during the Messianic Age would behave properly.

Kreisel takes a subtle variation from this latter view. I agree with him with slight variations.

First, although Kreisel does not stress it, I think it is essential to remember that Maimonides did not think the Messianic Age would begin miraculously. It will start and continue as a natural event. People, even the Messiah, will die during this period as they do now. People will have to work to achieve and maintain it. Seen this way, it is not surprising to recognize that Maimonides would not think that people would miraculously want to observe Torah Laws. This is unnatural and is unreasonable to expect. Humans do not function in this way. However, with time and education, they can learn to act appropriately with one another.

Second, Kreisel points us to Maimonides’ Guide 3:27, where this sage clarifies that observance of Torah Law is not the final human goal. (This should become clear when we recall some very observant Jews who, despite their observances of the Torah, cheat, lie, and even hurt fellow humans despicably.) Torah Laws are a means to reach the human goal. According to Maimonides, this goal is human perfection by using the attainment of knowledge.

The goal is clearly stated in the parable in Maimonides’ Guide 3:51, where he describes various kinds of Jews who try to reach God’s palace and see God. He emphasizes that observant Jews, even Torah scholars, cannot see God. In the parable, they cannot even see the palace where God dwells. Only people who attain knowledge can approach God.

Torah study is critical. But, to repeat, it is only a means to the end. The end is to know God. In Exodus 33:18-23, Moses requests God to tell him what God is. God replied that He would place Moses behind a rock. He will pass by. But Moses will be unable to see Him. Moses will only see where He passed. This parable tells us that we can know nothing about God. However, if we look at what God created and learn it by studying the sciences, we will come to some knowledge about God.

Maimonides meant this when he said in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, 12:1 that all humanity would return to the true religion in the Messianic Age. They will observe the human and Torah goal in Leviticus 19:34, which the Torah emphasizes 36 times: “Love the stranger as yourself,” meaning do not do to all other humans, animals, plants, and even inanimate objects what you do not want to be done to you.