Every moment, we should await the coming of Mashiach. Indeed, this is reflected in Torah law as our Sages state, "A person who vows not to drink wine on the day Mashiach comes is forbidden to drink wine forever." Therefore, it is necessary to focus our attention on what every Jew must do to bring about the coming of the redemption.
In that context, it is worthy to dwell on the name redemption, Geulah in Hebrew. This name teaches us a significant lesson: The difference between Geulah, (äîàÇé) and Golah (äîàé, "exile") is one letter, the Alef, which stands for G-d, Alufo shel olam. This implies that the Jewish people's service involves bringing G-d, the Alef, into the exile, and thus, transforming the exile into redemption.
To explain the concept: Redemption does not mean that we abandon all the activities which we carry out in the exile. On the contrary, by definition, the word implies that during the exile certain activities were carried out under subjugation to other forces, and in the Era of the Redemption, we will be freed from this subjugation.
The redemption will involve freeing all the elements of existence that have been subjugated in the exile. Nothing will be lost. On the contrary, everything will be redeemed. Every single Jew will be redeemed. We will leave "with our youth and with our elders... with our sons and with our daughters." And "their gold and silver will accompany them." All the positive activities and achievements of the Jews (and also the non-Jews) in the exile will not be nullified. What will be nullified is the concealment of the world's true inner being which is brought on by the material substance of the world and the subjugation to the rules of nature that exists at present. But all the positive aspects of the exile will remain, and indeed will be elevated.
The continued presence of our material frame of reference in the Era of Redemption is emphasized by the Rambam's statements concerning Mashiach. He writes:
Do not presume that in the Era of Mashiach, any element of the natural order will be nullified, or that there will be innovations in the work of creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern.... Our Sages taught: There will be no difference between the current age and the Era of Mashiach except [the emancipation] from our subjugation to the [gentile] kingdoms.
What, if so, will be the uniqueness of the Era of the Redemption? The entire world "will return to the true faith," and Mashiach will "improve the entire world, [motivating] all the nations to serve G-d together."
This indicates that the redemption will include all the positive elements of the exile, but will add an Alef to them, i.e., it will reveal the G-dliness which is hidden in our service at present. This is the ultimate purpose of the exile, that its inner true nature be revealed through its transformation into redemption.
A question, however, arises, why is the inclusion of the exile within the redemption so fundamental that it is alluded to in the very name of the redemption. Furthermore, as apparent from the explanation of the Rambam's conception of the Era of the Redemption, there will be two periods and the second period will be marked by the introduction of a miraculous order of existence. This period will also be described as redemption (äîàÇé) and thus will share a connection to exile (äîàé).
From this, we can conclude that even the most transcendent revelations of the redemption are dependent on our service at present and our efforts to reveal the Alef in exile, i.e., to draw G-dliness into this limited world. This activity is the catalyst which will lead to all the elements of the redemption.
The above concepts relate to an explanation of the first teaching of the chapter of Pirkei Avos which we study this Shabbos. That chapter begins: "Reflect upon three things.... Know from where you came, and to where you are going...."
On the surface, it is difficult to understand: Seemingly, the Mishnah could have begun, "Know from where you came, and to where you are going...." Why did it mention the need to "reflect on three things"?
Herein, however, lies an allusion to a concept of much greater scope. In addition to the obvious reference to the three concepts that follow, the Mishnah teaches a person that he must have three things in mind and when he does so, he "will not come to sin."
Generally, a person thinks about two entities, himself and G-d, for "I was created solely to serve my Creator." The Mishnah comes to teach us that he must be aware of a third entity, the world at large which was created by G-d for a Jew to use in service of Him.
The ultimate intent of the creation of the world and of the descent of the Jews' souls into the world is to fulfill G-d's desire for a dwelling within this world. I.e., that a Jew through his service should refine his body and his animal soul, and spread refinement in the world at large, transforming it into a dwelling for G-d.
This is accomplished through our observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. The performance of most of the mitzvos is enclothed within material things and thus, by using these entities for the fulfillment of a mitzvah, we refine them and make them a medium for G-dliness. The classic example is the mitzvah of tzedakah -- which is described as being "equivalent to all the mitzvos." A person takes the money which he has earned through his labor in the material world and gives it away for a spiritual purpose.
Our service within the world at large is not a matter of little consequence. Instead, it relates to the fulfillment of each person's soul as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya: "And this is the ultimate [purpose] for man, his creation, and the descent of his soul into this world, to make a dwelling for G-d in the lower worlds."
Although a Jew's soul is rooted in a sublime spiritual source, G-d causes it to descend to this lowly material world to fulfill His desire and transform this world into a dwelling for Him. On the surface, causing the soul to descend into this world is the opposite of G-d's nature. G-d is the ultimate of all good, and yet He is willing to cause the soul to undergo a drastic descent to this earthly realm.
This points to two concepts: a) The importance of the service of transforming this world into a dwelling for G-d. This service brings about the revelation of G-d's essence which is far greater and far more significant than the service of the soul in the spiritual realms. b) This service is ultimately for the good of the soul itself. Although the soul is not in need of refinement, and its descent is to refine the world at large but not itself, by carrying out this service, the soul establishes a connection to G-d's essence which it could not have appreciated before its descent into this world.
This is the intent of the directive "Reflect upon three things." A person must always keep in mind the ultimate goal of his service, that it is not only a two-way relationship between him and G-d, but that it must encompass a third entity, the world at large. Indeed, it is through service with the world and transforming it into a vessel for G-dliness, that the ultimate intent for one's creation and that of the entire world, is fulfilled.
This idea complements the concept of the interrelation of exile and redemption mentioned previously. Since the purpose is to establish a dwelling place for G-d in the lower worlds, the redemption is not intended to negate the exile, but rather to reveal G-dliness (the Alef) within it. The ultimate purpose is the revelation of G-dliness within the context of this world, including those elements of the world that exist in exile, and thus to transform the entire world into a dwelling for Him.
For this reason, the coming of the redemption depends on our service in the exile. Since the intent is that G-dliness be revealed within the world, it is necessary that the service which prepares for that revelation be of the same nature as the revelation itself, and thus have as its goal, drawing G-dliness down into every element of worldly existence. In this manner, G-d's dwelling is brought about, not through revelation from above, but rather through a service connected with the nature of this limited and material world itself.
There is a connection between the above concepts and the Counting of the Omer. The Counting of the Omer is intended to refine and elevate our seven emotional qualities, a service which is fundamental in the present era of exile. This service is intended so that "I may be purified and sanctified with supernal holiness," and thus to have an effect on the world at large "to draw down abundant bounty in all the worlds."
Since the service of Counting the Omer involves drawing G-dliness into the world, it relates to the concept of revealing the Alef of geulah ("redemption") in the golah ("exile"). Therefore, directly after fulfilling this mitzvah, we make the request. "May the Merciful One restore the Beis HaMikdash...."
In particular, the Sefirah associated with the present day, Malchus sheb'Netzach (kingship within victory) has a particular connection to the coming of Mashiach for the ultimate victory over the exile will come when Mashiach reveals his kingship.
Parshas Acharei begins by describing the service of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies. This shares a connection with the redemption. There was no concealment of the Divine Presence in the Holy of Holies and yet the High Priest confronted this revelation as a human being within a physical body. Similarly, in the Era of the Redemption, G-dliness will be manifest throughout the world and yet the natural order will not change and we will appreciate this revelation in a state similar to our present one.
In microcosm, this service was carried out by all priests for they performed their holy service within an imperfect world, a world in which (as related in next week's parshah, Emor) they had to be careful to separate themselves from impurity. The ultimate purity will be revealed in the Era of the Redemption (and the priests' observing safeguards to protect themselves from impurity can be considered as a preparation for the advent that era).
The priests' service was performed wearing the priestly garments that were to be donned, "for honor and for beauty." This reflects how these two qualities, materialistic elements of our physical environment, are employed for the sake of the service of G-d.
In a complete sense, this was reflected in the High Priest's service for he wore eight priestly garments, wearing "the golden garments" in addition to the four garments worn by the common priests. A parallel to this concept is reflected in the idea that a High Priest is required to be wealthier than all the other priests. This is a clear indication of how his additional holiness must be reflected within the material elements of our world.
The fusion of holiness with our material framework of reference is borne out by the interpretation of the verse, "With this shall Aharon come." The Midrash comments "Whenever he (Aharon) desires to enter the Holy of Holies, he may, all that is necessary is that he perform this service."
Since the Holy of Holies is the true place of the High Priest, i.e., this is his spiritual level, he can enter at any time. At present, because of our lack of refinement, and that of the world at large, this cannot be revealed. But in the Era of the Redemption when all negative forces will be eliminated, holiness will be drawn down into this world in a complete way, and it will be possible for the High Priest to enter the Holy of Holies whenever he desires.
This is relevant to every Jew for our entire people are "a nation of priests" and indeed as the Baal HaTurim comments on the above verse, each Jew is on the spiritual level of a High Priest. Thus each Jew has the potential to enter the Holy of Holies at all times. Indeed we find that in the era of the prophets, Yehoash, the heir to the throne, was hid in the loft of the Holy of Holies for six years. It was in this sacred place that he ate, drank, and slept. This was an actual expression of the concept that the real place of each Jew is the Holy of Holies. And, in the Era of the Redemption, this level will be revealed.
The above can be connected with the name of the person whose yahrzeit is commemorated today, Rav Yisrael Aryeh Leib (the Rebbe shlita's brother). Although he is a private individual, nevertheless, each Jew is interconnected with the entire Jewish people for the entire Jewish people are allegorically described as a single body.
Indeed, in regard to the individual mentioned above, this interconnection is further emphasized by the fact that his first name is Yisrael, the name of the Jewish people as a whole.
The name Yisrael conveys two seemingly opposite concepts: On one hand, the name Yisrael is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase meaning "There are 600,000 letters in the Torah." This highlights the connection between the Torah and the 600,00 general souls which make up the Jewish people; every Jewish soul has a letter of the Torah and that letter is the source for his life-force.
Also, the Torah associates the name Yisrael with the service of "striving with man and angels and prevailing." This implies involvement with the world at large and even war with the opposing forces. Thus, this appears to convey an opposite thrust than the previous interpretation which emphasized a Jew's connection with the Torah, a level above worldly involvement.
This difficulty can be resolved as follows: First and foremost, a Jew must realize that his life-force is derived from his letter in the Torah and therefore, all aspects of his conduct must be governed by the Torah's directives. Simultaneously, he must also be aware that the ultimate goal of his service is not to separate himself from the world at large, but as mentioned previously, to "reflect on three things," and carry out his service in creating a dwelling for G-d in this lowly world.
This requires contending with "angels" -- i.e., the spiritual forces which are the source for the entities in this material world as our Sages say, "every blade of grass in this world has a source in the heavens which compels it to grow" -- and with "men" with Esav and Lavan, who represent the gentile nations of this world. Despite having to deal with such an environment, a Jew is able to prevail and transform his surroundings into a dwelling for G-d.
This implies that he does not negate the worldly environment in which he lives, but rather, that he employs it for the service of G-d. Similarly, in his relations with gentile nations, he also influences them to recognize and serve G-d. And through carrying out this service, the Jews themselves are given a greater potential to expand their own activities.
The service of Yisrael should be carried out in a manner of Aryeh Leib. Aryeh means "lion," implying that a Jew must "be as fierce as a lion to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven." This energy must be employed in regard to holy matters, and also, as implied by the name Leib which is the Yiddish derivative of the name Aryeh, utilized in regard to matters that are of a worldly nature.
Leib (üëî) also contains the letters of the word Lev (üî) meaning "heart." However, in addition it contains a yud which stands for our ten powers of the soul, or in an alternate spelling, two yuddim which stand for the two names of the Jewish people at large, Yaakov and Yisrael.
The date of the yahrzeit, the thirteenth of Iyar is also significant. Thirteen is numerically equivalent to echad (âçÇ) meaning "one." Thus it points to the service of revealing the Oneness of G-d in the world, a service which will culminate in the Era of the Redemption when "G-d will be King over the entire earth and on that day He will be One and His Name, One."
At present, we are at the conclusion of the exile and at any moment Mashiach will come. First of all, a response is necessary for all those who are worried when they hear a clamor that everyone is required to do what they can do to bring Mashiach: They are concerned that the entire time they spent building up business and social relationships in exile will be forfeited when the Redemption comes.
These worries can be assuaged on the basis of the concepts explained above: The redemption will not nullify the natural order as it exists at present. On the contrary, all the positive achievements of the exile will remain and indeed, will be elevated with the coming of the Redemption. Within them, will be revealed the Alef, G-d's Presence. This will put the focus on what the true intent of these activities is, the revelation of G-d's honor throughout the world.
Therefore, a person need not worry about what will become of his business activities when Mashiach comes. On the contrary, he can rest assured that all the activities that he carried out according to the Torah's guidelines -- even those that are not directly associated with the Torah and its mitzvos -- are of value. However, this also points to the importance of a person keeping the fundamental purpose of his business activity in mind, and making sure that his efforts are directed to revealing G-d's honor.
This also leads to another concept. A person should not think that the Redemption will be totally a spiritual matter without any connection to our activities within this world. This is not the case. On the contrary, it is through our activities in exile, that we will merit the coming of the Redemption. Within those activities must also be a fundamental stress on "Reflecting on three things," as explained above; i.e., focusing one's energies one elevating the world at large. In particular, this should be expressed in increasing one's donations to tzedakah, giving of one's physical effort and wealth to provide another person with his material needs.
We see in fact that the nature of the world encourages such activities and in that context, it is worthy to mention the discovery of jewels in a far removed corner of the world. These jewels will be used for "a bride's ornaments," to increase the merit of the Jewish people through gifts to tzedakah.
In connection with the redemption, we find the prophecy, "And Kingship will be the L-rd's." This includes kingship, not only over the Jews, but also over the gentile nations as well. Hence, as a preparation for Mashiach's coming, it is also important to spread the observance of the Seven universal Laws commanded to the descendants of Noach.
In this context, it is worthy to mention how the activities of the world and that of the gentile nations appear to be assisting the coming of the Redemption. In previous generations, the Jews suffered oppression from the gentile nations in which they lived and in the present generation, the opposite is true. Most Jews live in countries whose governments are generous and assist them in the observance of the Torah and mitzvos, allowing them to carry out the inner service that will bring about a personal redemption which, in turn, will hasten the coming of the redemption as a whole. Surely, this is true of the country in which we are living. Furthermore, these countries are also granting assistance to Jews in the world at large, helping Jews immigrate to Eretz Yisrael.
In the last few years, we have seen this tendency spread to other nations throughout the world, even to Russia. Instead of suppressing the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos as in previous generation, they have granted religious freedom and are also allowing Jews the opportunity to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, they are even assisting them in this objective. This helps prepare the way for the ultimate ingathering of the exiles in the Era of the Redemption.
Similarly, we see how the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, has dedicated its resources for the purpose of charity and education, two of the most fundamental activities necessary to create a stable environment in the world.
For this purpose, the United States has sent hundreds of its soldiers to help hungry and starving people in a far off corner of the world. Instead of using its airplanes for war, it employed them to reach those people who require such assistance. And instead of using its wealth for the benefit of its own people alone, it gave of that wealth to save the lives of unfortunate people and children. Although the people of this country had little contact with these unfortunate people previously, as soon as they heard of their suffering, they volunteered their assistance.
Similarly, in these days, the President of this country has issued Proclamations calling for an increase in education. At the very beginning of his Presidency he stated his desire to be known as "The Education President," and at present, efforts are being made to strengthen education throughout the country.
An interrelationship exists between the fact that these steps are being taken by the United States and that the United States has been established as the most powerful nation in the world. Because the United States has dedicated itself to these goals, G-d has granted it such power. This reveals how there is an inner process of causation operating within the world, pushing it to reveal its true G-dly nature.
- (Back to text) G-d accompanies the Jews into exile as our Sages declare, "Wherever the Jews have been exiled, the Shechinah went into exile with them." In this instance, however, the Divine Presence is not revealed. The objective of our service, in contrast, is to bring G-dliness into open revelation.
- (Back to text) Herein we see a connection to Pesach Sheni, in which context this lesson is emphasized.
- (Back to text) See the essay, "Two Periods within the Era of the Redemption" published by Sichos In English.
- (Back to text) The Mishnah teaches that through reflection on these three things, a person "will not come to sin." A more literal translation of the words äÿüÆ ëâëî would be "to the hands of sin." This implies that, not only will the person not commit a sin, his conduct will remove him from all possibility of sinning.
- (Back to text) This in turn will also have an effect on the person carrying out this service and will "rectify our nefesh, ruach, and neshamah."
- (Back to text) This is a fundamentally important element of the priests' service as reflected in the law that sacrifices which a priest offers when he is not wearing these special garments are not acceptable.
- (Back to text) Vayikra Rabbah 21:6.
- (Back to text) Trans. note: It must be emphasized that, from a halachic perspective, a High Priest can only enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur and the explanation above is applicable only within the context of our spiritual service or, as explained, will become applicable in the Era of the Redemption.
- (Back to text) Note the Rambam who writes that "not only the tribe of Levi,... but every person who is generous of spirit and chooses to stand before G-d is sanctified 'holy of holies,' " i.e., he can be on the level of a High Priest.
- (Back to text) This relates to a commentary of the Tzemach Tzedek on the following passage from the Midrash. On the verse, "You shall be holy for I, the L-rd, your G-d, am holy," the Midrash comments " 'Can your holiness approximate Mine,' this is impossible 'for I, the L-rd, your G-d, am holy.' " The Tzemach Tzedek explains that, homiletically, the Midrash's statements can be interpreted "Your holiness can approximate Mine 'for I, the L-rd, your G-d, am holy.' "
- (Back to text) Indeed, this concept was revealed in the person of Yaakov our Patriarch. In Tanya, it is explained that his soul included within it, the souls of the entire Jewish people.
- (Back to text) These 600,000 souls each sub-divide into 600,000 sparks.
- (Back to text) To explain this concept using Chassidic terminology, through elevating the body and the animal soul, the greater power these entities possess amplifies the service of the G-dly soul itself.
- (Back to text) Here, we see a connection to the priestly garments which included the breastplate that required precious stones.