Rebbe Nachman explains the difference between Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David
Over Shabbat, I was reading one of Rebbe Nachman’s stories, which I realized is describing the difference between Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David. I’m bringing an abridged version of it below, together with the commentary that goes together with it from Rav Natan, and from Likutey Moharan I:20 [in bold, square brackets]. My own comments will be underlined.
New Stories: #209 in Tzaddik, by the Breslov Research Institute
The beginning of the Summer, 5564 (1804). The Rebbe said: I will tell you what I saw. And you tell your children.
There was someone lying on the ground and around him people were sitting in a circle.
This is Moshiach ben Yosef.
Around this circle was another circle. And around that circle was another circle, and so on – many circles. Then around them were sitting more people in no particular order. The circles contain Moshiach ben Yosef’s followers.
The one who was sitting in the middle – he was leaning on his side – was moving his lips and all those around him were moving their lips after him.
[This refers to teaching / learning Torah – this soul is the source of all Torah explanations.]
After this, I looked and he was not sitting there – the one in the middle, that is. And all those sitting around stopping moving their lips. I asked, “What is this?” They answered me that he had become cold and had expired and he had stopped speaking.
After this, they started to run, and I ran after them. I saw two palaces – very fine, beautiful buildings. Sitting there were two commanders. They all ran to these two commanders and started arguing with them.
[This refers to the concept of machloket and controversy – the opposition which is aroused against the Tzaddikim when the power to draw forth Torah explanations is withdrawn.]
“Why did you deceive us?” They wanted to kill them.
The followers of the original Moshiach ben Yosef are very unhappy that they didn’t actually get Moshiach / geula, in the end. Rebbe Nachman now explains the spiritual reasons for this, by way of a parable.
The commanders fled outside. I saw them, and their nature was very good in my eyes. I ran after them and I saw in the distance a beautiful tent. From there they cried out to the commanders: “Turn back and seek out all the merits you have and take them in your hands and go to the light which is hanging there. There you will accomplish everything you want.”
They turned back and took their merits – i.e. all their mitzvahs – there were bundles of merits there – and they ran to the light. I ran after them and saw a gleaming light suspended in the air. The commanders came and threw their merits to the light.
[They mentioned their merits and good deeds, and tried to get the geula that way.]
From the light, sparks fell into their mouths. Then the NoR, lamp, turned into a NahaR, river, and everybody drank from the river, and creatures were formed inside them. When they started to speak the creatures came out of them and I saw them running and returning. They were neighed men nor any kind of animal – just creatures.
[These creatures are angels, who get their strength from Edom, who has been appointed over all the punishments of the wicked.]
After this they decided to back to their place.
This is referring to Eretz Yisrael / Beit HaMikdash / the state of spiritual purity that existed at the time of the Garden of Eden, and which will exist again in the world-to-come.
But they said: “How can we go back to our place?” Somebody said: “We should sent to the one who stands there holding a sword which reaches from heaven to earth.”
[This is a reference to the angel of Edom, Esav’s angel, aka the Samech Mem himself.]
Edom, i.e. the West / Christianity is what’s stopping the Jews from returning to Israel en masse and rebuilding the Bet HaMikdash, and also has the ‘power’ the Jewish people requires to punish and subdue the wicked.
They said: “Who should we send?” They thought they should send for the creatures, and the creatures went there. I ran after them and I saw him. He was terrifying. His stature reached from the heaven to the earth. In his hand was a sword reaching from heaven to earth. It had many blades.
One of them was sharp – this was for killing. One of them was for poverty, one of them for weakness. There were also many other blades for other punishments.
They started pleading: “All this long time we have been suffering at your hands. Now help us and bring us to our place.” He said: “I cannot help you.” They pleaded: “Give us the blade for death and we’ll kill them.” But he didn’t want to. They asked for a different blade, but he did not want to give them a single blade.
[He didn’t want to help them to subdue the wicked people, because of the mistake they made by trying to ‘force’ the geula via good deeds etc, instead of breaking their hearts, begging and entreating Hashem to bring it.]
They went back.
Either back to ‘normal’ life and forgot about Moshiach / geula, or back to their bad habits before they made teshuva as a result of learning the Moshiach ben Yosef’s Torah teachings.
In the meantime, there was an order to kill the commanders, and they cut off their heads.
[The ‘head’ can refer to daat, internalized spiritual knowledge, as well as the more obvious connotation as the ‘head’ of a particular movement or group.]
Meanwhile, the sequence of event returned to what it had been before – namely that someone was lying in the ground surrounded by circles of people, and so on.
This is now referring to Moshiach ben David, and his followers.
They ran to the commanders – everything happened as described before – except that now I saw that the commanders did not throw their merits to the light. They simply took their merits and went to the light and broke their hearts i.e. did some hitbodedut, which Rebbe Nachman frequently characterizes as spending an hour being broken-hearted before Hashem, while you do a cheshbon hanefesh and acknowledge your faults, flaws and errors.
And they began to beg and make entreaties before the light- another reference to praying – and sparks fell from the light into their mouths. They entreated more and the light turned into a river, and the creatures were formed etc.
They told me, “These ones will live” – i.e. Moshiach ben David and his followers will actually make it through to geula and the world to come – because the first ones deserved to be killed for throwing their merits to the light and not making entreaties like these latter ones. I didn’t know what this meant.
They said to me: “Go into that room and they will tell you the explanation of this.” I went and there sat an old man. I asked him about the matter. He took his beard in his hand and said to me: “My beard is the explanation of what happened.” I still don’t know,” I said. “Go to that room,” he replied, “and there you will find the explanation.”
I went there and saw a room infinitely long and broad, entirely filled with writings. Wherever I opened I saw the explanation of the story.
[This vision is connected to Lesson 20 in Likutey Moharan Part 1.]
HERE IS SOME OF WHAT REBBE NACHMAN WRITES IN 1:20:
“When one prays before giving over a [Torah] lecture, one must pray with supplication, begging God for gratis instead of asking for one’s due….
“But Moses [i.e. the redeemer / Moshiach ben Yosef] did not do this. He rather cited his own goodness and righteousness…as one who grabs something forcefully and without consent, for he sought in the power of his good deeds….
“…whoever tries to ‘force the moment’ (literally, ‘pressures time’) – the ‘time’ pressures him, causing one to die before one’s time. [This is why Moshiach ben Yosef died ‘prematurely’, before the job of bringing the geula was completed.] For this reason, one should never pressure oneself for anything, but beg with supplication. If God grants it, good, and if not, not.”
Next, Rabbenu turns to the subject of attaining the Land of Israel.
“[T]he land of Israel is one of the three things that can only be attained through suffering (Brachot 5a) and the main suffering is the obstacles of the wicked, who slander the land. These wicked must first be subdued with a sword and death, and only then can one enter the Land of Israel.
“However, the power to punish the wicked can only be acquired from the power of Edom, for that is his power, as in: “You will live by your sword” (Genesis 27:40), and he draws sustenance from the astrological sign of Mars. [Which is related to bloodshed and war, and the Jewish month of Nisan – the month of redemption.]”
Rebbe Nachman now explains that the Angels which can defeat and kill the wicked are formed from the original Torah insights of the Tzaddik / Moshiach ben Yosef / Moshiach ben David.
But, when the Tzaddik’s followers don’t put an emphasis on personal holiness – i.e. guarding the brit, guarding the eyes, modest behavior and dress – these Angels then lack the power to actually destroy the wicked people who are slandering the Land of Israel.
Depending on how ‘weak’ these angels become, in descending order:
They can’t kill them; then they can’t punish and intimidate them; then they can’t rouse the nations of the world against them; then they can’t even silence them from speaking evil in our presence “so that their words do not enter the ears of the masses. And sometimes even this power they lack – all according to the degree of holiness that is lacking.”
Rabbenu then goes on to explain that the lack of personal holiness amongst the Jews is the main thing empowering the wicked people who are slandering the land, and preventing the Jews from returning to the Land of Israel.
Moshiach ben David succeeds where Moshiach ben Yosef failed, because he prays before he gives over his Torah lessons, and he focuses on increasing personal holiness amongst his followers, not just doing more good deeds and mitzvahs.
Rebbe Nachman then explains the nine rectifications of the beard, and how they lead to the Land of Israel, as follows:
- Take the staff – this refers to the Tzaddik’s Torah lectures that he gives over to his followers. This Torah has to be drawn with prayer, not with ‘force’, in order for the rest of the process to work.
- ‘Gather the people together’ – to subdue the evil elements the community contains.
- ‘Speak to the rock with supplications’ and prayers – this refers to the need to have yirat shemayim, or Fear of Hashem.
- ‘In their presence’, to bond with them – the Tzaddik’s soul has to become ‘bound up’ with his followers / the Jewish people.
- To draw fiery words – actually an allusion to drawing down Divine mercy on the Jewish people.
- To draw Torah – the Tzaddikim are judged to a hairsbreadth, and if they are blemished in some way, they can no longer draw the Torah required to bring geula.
- To create angels.
- To receive power from Edom to subdue the enemies / wicked who are slandering the Land of Israel.
- To enter the Land of Israel.
If any of these steps are missing, we can’t ‘enter the Land of Israel’ / truly get to the geula shleima.
(If you want more insights into the very deep concepts being brought in this story, take a look at Day 3 of Rebbe Nachman’s tale of the Seven Beggars. The ‘heart of the world’ also refers to Moshiach ben Yosef and his followers.)
Moshiach ben Yosef failed to bring geula, because the emphasis was on stressing how many mitzvoth and good deeds were going on, as opposed to praying heartbroken prayers that God should bring the geula, as a free gift. Trying to force the issue just led to the Moshiach ben Yosef dying prematurely, leaving his movement without a ‘head’, i.e. a real direction, or daat, internalized spiritual knowledge of what to do next.
Hopefully, Moshiach ben David will have more success.
These things are so awesomely deep, there are so many spiritual rectifications going on. It’s totally beyond us to understand what’s really happening by ourselves, and only our true Torah sources and real rabbis can tell guide us in the right direction.
Honestly, the strange noises have never really disappeared since they first started up around six years ago, but the last few days, they seem to have gone up in intensity. Here’s a few of the headlines from the last 24 hours:
Trumpeting, metal grinding sounds heard in northwest Bristol, UK sky
Strange sky noise phenomena captured in Dublin, Ireland
Strange trumpeting sounds recorded in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
‘Weirdest thunder’: Strange noises heard in Ohio sky
Remember that Gemara taking about ‘voices’ the year before war? (I remember it because it’s quoted in Volume 2 of One in a Generation). Here it is, to refresh your memory:
In the Gemara (Sanhedrin 97a) it describes the pre-Messianic era as follows:
“It’s taught in a Baraisa: Rabbi Yehuda says, ‘In the generation when ben Dovid [i.e., the Moshiach] comes, the meeting place will be used for debauchery; the Galilee will be laid to waste; and the Gavlan will be desolate. The border people will wander from city to city and not be shown favor. The wisdom of the scribes will become putrid, and those who fear sin will be despised. The generation will have the face of a dog, and the truth will be absent.
As it’s stated, ‘Truth will be missing, and the person who flees from evil will seem like a crazy person.’
There will be eating, drinking and rejoicing, and the knowledge of Torah will return to those who study it. In the sixth year there will be voices. In the seventh year there will be wars. And in Motzoei Sheviis [the year after the seventh, or Shemittah, year] ben Dovid will come.”
In the meantime, the Notre Dame Cathedral just went up in flames in Paris, and here’s a little history about what might be going on with that, courtesy of my 18 year old’s friend:
Notre Dame also burst into flames sometime before 1230, and renovation work was completed on it sometime around 1240 – around the same time that Pope Gregory I decided to burn every single copy of the Talmud in France – around 10,000 – after hearing complaints against it by a poisonous Jewish apostate called Nicholas Donin.
“According to the historian Jeremy Cohen, Nicholas Donin’s principal concern was that the Talmud had begun to supersede the Bible for the Jews. If so, however, it constituted a theological problem for Christians.”
You know what – it still does.
Not least because so many of the secrets of how the world really works, scientifically, are laid out in. The Gemara resolves all the problems with ‘old earth’ versus ‘new earth’ arguments, talks about plate tectonics, and explains human health and physics in a way that much of modern science is either only just stumbling over now, or has yet to discover.
The Talmud includes the Gemara, and the Mishna, and is more colloquially referred to as the ‘Oral Law’.
It’s also often referred to it as ‘Rabbinic Law’, as it was codified by the Rabbis. And as we know, kristians really don’t like ‘orthodox rabbis’, as anyone who has actually read the new testament can attest to.
So, Donin’s complaints against ‘Rabbinic Law’, which lead to the French King Louis IX and Pope Gregory putting the Talmud on trial, then burning it at the stake, included that it was blaspheming Yoshki, and also making kristianity look bad. Of course it was!
And it still is, Baruch Hashem.
Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, the Maharam, reportedly witnessed the burning of these thousands of copies of the Talmud. Interestingly he wrote a Piyut called Shali Srufa BaEsh (Mine [i.e. the Talmud] is burnt in fire) which ends with the words:
“It will be declared to burn his daat [religion, religious knowledge] in hokim [rules], so praiseworthy, the one who will repay them for their deeds.”
In the meantime, the new Democrat hopeful over in America, Pete Buttigieg has started called VP Pence a ‘Pharisee’, which is getting some American Jews upset, as ‘Pharisee’ was used by the tzadukim of Second Temple Times in much the same way as ‘ultra orthodox’ is used by people who don’t like orthodox Judaism today.
But in an interesting twist, it seems to be liberal, Reform Jews who are finding the use of the term ‘Pharisee’ antisemitic.
The plot thickens…
But, something is definitely starting to move in the world.
And it seems to me, that the pendulum is finally starting to swing away from Esav, back towards Yaakov.
We live in interesting times.
In the old days, I used to make plans to do a long hitbodedut every single day of a 3-day Purim heading into Shabbat – and sometimes, they even used to come off.
But not, it seems, these days.
I’ve actually been struggling with a lack of motivation since Rosh Hashana, when I deleted Emunaroma to avoid getting pulled into any more ‘machloket’ with pretend-perfect crazy people.
And for three months, I did nothing much, because I didn’t want to have any more machloket in my life, and whatever I write, it always seems to end up there, somehow or other.
So then, back in December, I felt God wanted me back online, and with a heavy heart, I agreed.
Because I really don’t want any more machloket in my life!!! I just want an ‘easy’ life now, thanks very much, Hashem.
For months, I’ve been avoiding getting into anything too controversial again, as much as possible (although in our PC world, full of snowflakes just waiting to get offended so they can take out all their inner turmoil on you, that’s really much easier said than done.)
But I’ve been trying.
Now, you’d think that making a resolute effort to pursue the ‘easy’ life would be making me far more relaxed, chilled out, and overall happy-feeling. Believe me, I also thought that would happen.
But, man, was I wrong.
Instead of being more chilled out, laid back, exercising more, using all my energy to whip up healthy cakes, and go to the gym, and to spotlessly clean the house and iron my husband’s shirts (poor man…), I’ve actually been struggling to wake up most mornings, because what’s the point? My kids are big enough to get off to school without me, no-one needs a sandwich made, or a pair of sneakers found, so what’s the point?
Sure, I’ve still been doing stuff – lots of stuff, even – but nothing really has been exciting me too much, or grabbing me. Why? Because while it’s kinda meaningful, it’s also kinda bland. And bland is not enough to have me jumping out of bed in the morning.
But ‘interesting’ stuff is always inherently risky, in any number of different ways. It can draw people against you, it can draw you into disputes and patterns of thinking that are very unhealthy and destructive. It can lead to a lot of stress and complication….
So, I’ve been caught on the horns of a furious dilemma.
But today, Purim day, I realized something profound: I’m here to serve God, for the good, and also for the bad. I’m not here to have an easy life. And pursuing that ‘easy’ life is actually making my life anything but easy.
Externally, it’s relatively peaceful and tranquil, Baruch Hashem. Internally, I’m fighting a raging tempest that wakes me up 4 times a night, and gives me no rest. I’m falling apart physically. I can’t ignore God’s prompts anymore.
This is so similar to what happened to me before we moved to Israel. The risks associated with moving were so huge – in London, we both had good jobs, a nice house, a community, family, the language etc etc. It was far too scary to even contemplate aliya.
But then, God sent me a bunch of inexplicable panic attacks, and a series of bad nightmares about getting stuck in London during a terrorist attack (this was months before the 7/7 terror attack actually occurred, which killed 52 people in London) – and after the third time, I told my husband we have to do it, we have to move to Israel.
Because God was giving me no peace, and my ‘easy life’ was becoming a living nightmare.
And it’s happening again.
That’s what I realized, this Purim.
There is no running away from God.
Yesterday, I went back to Hevron, to go and so some hitbodedut at the Mearat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
So often, when I’m struggling with big decisions, big confusions, big inner turmoil, I’ve gone back to sit at a holy place – like Hevron, like Kever Rochel, like the Baba Sali, like Uman – and the clouds start to part, and a light starts to shine on a way out of the madness.
Like everyone else, I have a lot going on.
So, I was in Hevron yesterday, pondering on a lot of different things, when I happened to pick up a little booklet of Rav Shalom Arush’s ‘pearls of emuna’, that someone had left next to the grille overlooking the tomb of Avraham.
I picked it up, opened it up randomly, and got to a passage that (from memory) said something like this:
Rebbe Nachman writes in Likutey Moharan that the whole point of life is to keep giving the honor, the kavod, back to Hashem. And human beings are very bad at this, and they just want to keep trying to wrestle the honor that’s due to God back to themselves, in all types of different ways.
He brought direct quotes from Likutey Moharan, but I can’t remember the reference. But that was the gist.
And as always, it dealt so precisely with so many of the things I’m wrestling with, right now.
Like, why I am so terribly bothered and disturbed by all the rampant ‘self-promotion’ that’s going on all over the place, where even the yearning for geula seems to have been harnessed to a Paypal account.
And like, why I’m so terribly bothered by all these ‘rockstar rabbis’ and ‘rockstar rabbanits’ who speak so very eloquently, and who plaster themselves all over Youtube, and who seem to pop up like a rash on colorful glossy posters on lampposts and walls all over the Holy City of Jerusalem (and elsewhere…)
And like, why it upsets me so much that so very many of our ‘leaders’ – religious and otherwise – are clearly just ‘leading’ because of what’s in it for them, and their egos, and their bank accounts, and their social media following.
God is out the picture, fundamentally, even in the orthodox Jewish world.
So few people today are doing their Torah classes lishma, in order to give the honor due to God.
That’s strong language, I know, so let me try to explain what I’m talking about with some real-life examples.
A few years’ back, one of my neighbors strong-armed me into attending a ‘self-development / emuna’ workshop, by a well-known ‘rockstar rabbanit’ type in her home, because the rabbanit wanted a guarantee that at least 10 people would commit, “to make it worth her while”.
I baulked when my neighbor told me the cost was 50 shekels a class, and that I’d have to pay 400 shekels up front, to cover the whole 8 weeks.
Why so expensive?! I wanted to know.
Then I went to check out the slick website, the slick promo video, and I saw I’m dealing with a serious business person here, who is packaging their ‘Torah’ in a very commercially-sensible way. And I could see how making it financially ‘worth her while’ was actually the goal, the focus, of everything she was doing.
And then I baulked even more, because we’re warned away from people who turn their Torah learning into a ‘hammer’ with which to build up their own personality cults, and bank accounts.
But my neighbor wouldn’t relent, so I agreed to come and try one class (for 50 shekels…) and then to decide if I wanted to continue. I sat there, listening to some very warped ideas about how we can ‘force’ God to do what we want, and to give us what we want, and I came away extremely disturbed.
Because that’s total baloney. The real definition of emuna is accepting God’s will happily, while trying to work on the bad middot that are ‘blocking’ all the good stuff that God wants to send down to us.
But I guess that’s not such a commercially-viable message, and that no-one would want to pay 50 shekels a class just to be told their own bad middot are causing them all the problems.
Another time, a different ‘rockstar rabbnit’ rolled into town, and again it was an-singing, all-dancing event that was so expensive to attend, it actually provoked a storm of outrage in the village.
Why so expensive?! Everyone wanted to know.
But then, when you saw the fancy venue that was hired, and the expensive light and sound crew, and you counted the number of dancers, and comedians, and singers and performers who were the ‘warm up’ for that rockstar rabbanit, it all made perfect sense.
It was slick entertainment being packaged as Torah, and it was totally focused on the ‘feel-good’ factor, instead of the ‘actually becoming good’ factor – which again, is a much harder sell, commercially.
Again, I came away with a very uncomfortable feeling about it all, especially when I saw the queue of women lining up to get a ‘blessing’ and advice from the rabbanit after the show. I know firsthand how much damage bad advice can do to people who have been fooled into believing they’re dealing with a bona fide tzaddik.
You throw away your own critical thinking, you override your own gut feelings – and ultimately, the person isn’t really a tzaddik, doesn’t have any more of a connection to God than you do, and is really just dressing their own opinions and biases up as ‘ruach hakodesh’, or some sort of prophetic spirit.
In a nutshell: it’s extremely dangerous.
Another time, I was strong-armed into attending yet another Torah class given by yet another ‘rockstar rabbanit’, this time in Jerusalem. Again, I was left underwhelmed by the quality of the Torah being taught, and the character of the person giving it over, and overwhelmed by the insistence of the helper who waved her ‘donation cannister’ in the face of everyone who entered the room, and demanded a 30 shekel ‘donation’ before she’d let you sit down.
Ah, Torah lishma! Torah teaching for its own sake! Torah learning for God!
Not at all, actually.
I know rabbis and rabbanits need to eat, I really do. I know they need to put food on the table.
But as soon as the financial consideration becomes the imperative, all that person’s Torah, all that person’s wisdom, all that person’s ‘advice’ and insight, it’s all being harnessed to power their own honor and bank account, and God is out of the picture.
Even Rebbe Nachman tells us (in Sefer HaMiddot, Tzaddik, #18):
There is a tzaddik whose fame is reknown, who later falls through lust for money.
I.e., even a bona fide tzaddik can fall into a very bad place when financial considerations becomes the main engine driving their activities.
Also in Sefer HaMiddot (Tzaddik #57), Rabbenu tells us:
There are those that expound on the Torah with eloquence, yet their words lack truth.
But man, do they make for some good entertainment!
The rabbis and rabbanits who are truly serving God lishma, truly teaching Torah lishma, often do so at such an enormous cost to themselves, and their own comfort zone, and their own finances and ego.
That’s one of the ways you can tell who is ‘real’ and who isn’t, in our confused, upside-down, back-to-front world.
I prefer to learn Torah from people who I know from firsthand knowledge often lack the funds to pay their own electricity bills. And who often go into enormous debt putting out Torah teachings, or building new kollels and yeshivas, as Rav Natan did on behalf of Rebbe Nachman, and Breslov chassidut. And who literally go through a ‘fire and water’ of disgrace and humiliation, because they want all the honor to go to God, and not to become some ‘big name’ on the Torah circuit.
Personally, I’m not on that level, no-where near it. While I’m clearly not writing to earn money (haha!) I still write to feel good about myself, to feel as though I’m doing something useful in the world. It’s not 100% lishma, it’s not totally for God
And that’s why it’s so humbling for me to watch and experience how it looks when Torah is truly being learned and taught – and lived – lishma.
This Torah isn’t light entertainment, this Torah doesn’t make for pretty Youtube videos, the people teaching this Torah aren’t showing up on the roster of speakers at the Dead Sea for Pesach.
This Torah is challenging the listeners – continually – to put their hand up and admit they aren’t perfect, and that they need to knuckle down and work on their own characters and relationships.
And that’s just not something anyone wants to pay good money to hear, is it?
But this Torah makes it blindingly clear that the honor belongs to God.
And no-one else.
And that’s how I know it’s real.
UPDATE: I had a question about how paying a tzaddik a pidyon nefesh relates to what I’ve described above. BH, I will collate a bunch of sources, and answer that with some daas Torah next week some time.
It’s a complicated subject, so I can understand the confusion, and with God’s help, I will try to clarify the difference.
Deconstructing Geula: When Moshiach shows up, we need to have some clue as to what happens next.
When a couple announces their engagement, it’s always interesting to see if the focus is going to be on the wedding, or on the marriage.
The more superficial the people involved, the more ‘Hollywood-headed’, the more they are trying to live life according to a Disney script, the more interest they’ll take in the big day – their chance to shine – with precious little thought to what really comes after.
Thousands of bucks will be spent on the pink champagne, the dress, the breath-taking venue in the Bahamas, flying the guests in on whatever replaced Concorde. And often, those types of ‘celebrity’ weddings hit the headlines in a blaze of glory and triumph.
Only for the marriage to fizzle out and fail, a little while later.
By contrast, when the focus is on the marriage, and not on the wedding, things are usually done pretty differently right from the beginning. The couple – and everyone else around them – is far more focused on what comes after the chuppa.
Where are the happy couple going to live? What are they going to eat? How are they going to get along together? How are they going to manage, day to day? Who’s going to be paying the bills?
Yes, of course, there’s still a do to arrange, and a dress to buy, and a band and hall to hire – it is a wedding, after all. But the wedding isn’t the focus, the marriage is.
All this came to mind, when I was thinking about what it really actually means to ‘live’ in the times of Moshiach.
So I decided, it’s time to knuckle down to the job of actually deconstructing geula.
Sure, it’s exciting to think about the ‘big day’ when Moshiach is finally revealed, and the geula gets underway in an open and revealed way.
But much like the wedding, that ‘big day’ is only the beginning of the process.
Over on ravberland.com, I recently drew together some of the more telling sources talking about what happens before, during and after Moshiach is revealed. You can see that post for yourselves HERE, and I’m not going to repeat all the information in this piece, other than to pull out a couple of pertinent observations.
Firstly, when the Rambam tells us that nothing is going to change when Moshiach is revealed, other than the subjugation of the nations, what he’s really telling us is that
There is no instant, ‘magical’, Disney-fied ending to all our troubles and tribulations.
We don’t step out of this reality, and step straight into a world where everything is an open miracle – not least, because most of couldn’t cope with that, and we’d probably either go even more stark, raving mad, or keel over with heart failure.
So let’s carry on deconstructing geula. Let’s drill down, and take a few examples.
Let’s say, you have a medical prescription you can’t do without. When Moshiach comes, how are you going to cope, if you can no longer pop out to the pharmacy for a refill, whenever you need to?
Or, let’s say Moshiach comes and you’re still living in the US, and no-one in your family knows Hebrew, and you don’t own a home in Israel, and you still have elderly parents to look after who are too old, or too ill, to be moved to a new country. But Moshiach came! So now, what happens next?
Or, let’s say Moshiach comes, and there’s a big announcement made in your shul that ‘some guy’ is saying he’s the Moshiach, and geula has now begun in earnest.
If you haven’t been doing some serious work on getting connected to your soul, and to God, and to the true Tzaddikim, how are you even going to believe it? And if you believe it yourself, how are you going to convince your husband, or your kids, or your siblings, that Moshiach really did come just now, and you all need to pack up the house and move to some tent city the Israeli government just set up in the Arava desert?
Who is going to come with you? Really?
If we’re serious about really deconstructing geula, and what it actually means for us all, let’s try to picture the scene:
“Honey, I know you’ve been waiting for Moshiach for years, but how do we know ‘some guy’ is really him?! I’m not prepared to throw our whole life away on a gamble…And think of our daughter, she’s got her final exams in four more months, but you want to up and move to some tent in the middle of the desert now?! You can’t eat sand, be reasonable, honey. When Moshiach really comes, we’ll all know about, and that’s when we’ll order the one way ticket, and finally make aliya. But I refuse to let you pressure me into making a rash decision, just because ‘some guy’ says he’s Moshiach….”
I wish what I just described is an exaggeration, a caricature, of the reaction the real Moshiach is going to get, but if anything, I’m playing down how bad it’s going to be.
Because as the sources in this article show:
- There is going to be a huge machloket over Moshiach, when he first shows up – i.e. it’s really not going to be obvious to a lot of people, frum or not, that he is who he is claiming to be.
- A war is going to kick off in Israel as soon as Moshiach is revealed – which means that no-one is going to be in a rush to move here right then, and even if they want to, there is no guarantee there will be any flights in or out of the country, depending on what’s actually happening here.
- Moshiach showing up is going to be accompanied by a whole bunch of totally natural, un-miraculous dramatic events that could totally change the world as we know it.
Yes, I’m back to the earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis part of the equation.
So now, let’s try to deconstruct geula a bit more, to see what the Rambam actually means, when he says:
The ‘subjugation of the foreign nations’ will cease.
What’s going to get that to stop, in our ‘deconstructing geula’ real-time breakdown?
What on earth is going to be happening in the world, to cause all the anti-semitic, Jew-hating countries who hate Israel to suddenly stop pressuring us to hold-off building more homes in the West Bank? Or to stop fighting back against the missiles and rockets from Gaza (even when they send over 400 in just one day)? Or to refrain from taking out Hezbollah tunnels into Israel that were dug over a whole decade, and that the Israeli army ‘apparently’ knew all about?
What’s going to change?
How is Trump’s mind going to get taken off his ‘deal of the century’ in the Middle East, which will boil down to some variant on forcing Israel to let go of land that God Himself gave to the Jewish people, in the name of ‘peace’?
How are the EU and its proxies suddenly going to stop funding all the lefty, anti-Israel ‘charities’ like B’tselem and Yesh Gvul? How is the UN suddenly going to take Israel off its agenda, and turn its attention to other things?
What’s going to change?
Clearly, something pretty big is going to have to happen, for our reality to change that drastically, and if you ask me, that’s where all the earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis come in.
And where are these natural disasters going to strike the hardest?
Answer: The same places they’ve struck in the past, namely the so-called ‘New World’.
Did you ever wonder, why the ‘New World’ was so sparsely populated, if it’s been there for billions of years?
Why were there so few people in North and South America? Why so few people in Australia and New Zealand? Why were the native cultures in these places relatively so stone-age?
Could it be, that no-one was building roads, or factories, or permanent dwelling places, because the ground there is fundamentally so unstable, and so prone to massive natural disasters? Could it be, that every time these civilizations started to make a little technical progress, another natural disaster hit to take everything back to square one?
Is that why it was so easy for the ‘advanced’ Europeans to cross the ocean and conquer the native peoples in the ‘New World’?
There is plenty of scientific evidence out there that the world is now entering another period of global cooling, and that this typically coincides with a massive uptick in seismic activity, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and a bunch of other weird and often dramatic geologic phenomena.
Every 200-400 years, the Americas are wracked by earth-shaking, massive quakes.
And we’re not just talking about San Francisco here. We’re talking about most of the continent.
And we’re not just talking about one, singular ‘big one’. We’re talking about a serious of dramatic geological events that are going to continue for a while, and come one after the other.
Again, let’s just try to come out of the Disney bubble, and ask ourselves what would happen if the modern USA, or modern Australia, got hit with the sort of earth-wrecking massive quakes and tsunamis that have clearly happened there in very recent times, tomorrow?
- If the highways all got cracked up, what then?
- If the underground water pipes, or gas pipes, all got broken up and shifted around, what then?
- If a local nuclear power station got jolted around by a massive earthquake, or flooded by a massive tsunami – as happened at Fukishima in Japan, in 2011 – what then?
Let’s bring it back to deconstructing geula:
If the planes are all grounded because of geological disasters, if society is fast sinking into chaos and mayhem – as happened post-Katrina – how are the Cohen family actually going to make it out of Brooklyn, to the promised land?
Tachlis, what happens next?
An open miracle?
The Rambam told us clearly – no open miracles at the beginning of the geula process, except that the subjugation of the nations will cease.
So what does all this actually mean?
Again, deconstructing geula is serious stuff.
Sure, it’s great to breathlessly discuss the flowers, and the menu, and the special beading on the kallah’s dress, but tachlis, what happens the day after the ‘big day’?
That’s what I hope more of us will start to turn our attention to now, because we can’t just use the coming of Moshiach as some sort of emotional crutch, to help us get through our difficult, stressful lives, or to give us a bit of a spiritual ‘buzz’.
I know that’s tempting, and I’ve certainly spent a few years doing that myself, until I realized it’s actually not helpful, and if anything, it’s slowing up geula.
Because the Jewish people have a lot of work to do, to get ready for Moshiach and geula.
Moshiach is not a Disney movie, it’s not a fairy tale, where ‘some guy’ shows up and starts granting everyone three wishes, like some sort of Santa Claus, or genie in a bottle. We have to seriously start the process of deconstructing geula because:
- Moshiach will show up, and there will be a big war.
- Moshiach will show up, and there will be massive civil unrest and disruption occurring around the globe.
- Moshiach will show up, and there will be 4 sceptics for every single ‘true believer’, telling you that Moshiach didn’t show up, or telling you that you’ve got the wrong guy.
And then what?
- What are you going to do next?
- Where is your family going to live?
- How are they going to eat?
- How are you going to schlep all those sceptical family members into actually being ready for geula?
What’s the plan, tachlis for getting out of galut and getting across to the holy land? How long are you going to leave things, before you move? Where are you going to come to? How are you going to cope, mentally, if you have to leave your home and loved ones behind? How are you going to persuade even your closest family members to join you?
This is all stuff that we need to start thinking about, and especially, praying on, now.
I know it’s hard. It’s hard to really drill down, and to start deconstructing geula to see what it actually means, especially for people who didn’t already take that massive leap of faith, and move to the holy land.
Actually moving to Israel is definitely a big part of the process, no doubt (and it’s also the main reason why I tend to take ‘rose-tinted’ pronouncements about geula from people who don’t actually live here with a huge pinch of salt.)
But it’s not the whole enchilada, not by any measure. Even if a person already lives in Israel, there is a lot of work to do, and no guarantees that just being here is enough to guarantee a person will ‘make it’ through the geula process.
There are so many crazy people here, so many people who are ‘anti’ religious Jews, ‘anti’ rabbonim, ‘anti’ anyone who really could be the bona fide Moshiach.
When war breaks out here, who knows who will actually have the courage to stay and see it through, and who is going to try and run away as fast as their legs will carry them?
And there’s one more thing to throw into the ‘Deconstructing Geula’ mix, too, which is that our Sages say that the redemption from Egypt is the blueprint for the future and final redemption.
That means that at some point, Moshiach / Moshe Rabbenu will probably show up in Mitzrayim / Miami to give the people chizzuk, and to lead them out of a country that is being devastated by what appears to be a series of massive, back-to-back, natural disasters.
God isn’t going to just turn His back on people, because they didn’t manage to move to Israel yet. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean they are going to get a ‘free ride’ when geula really kicks off.
Because make no mistake, unless something huge changes, there is no way in the world that the USA would let 6 million of its wealthiest and most highly-educated, productive citizens leave to Israel en masse with their possessions and talents. Its economy would go into meltdown, and we all know that money is really the only thing that motivates Uncle Sam, for good and for bad.
So then what happens?
Moshiach / Moshe Rabbenu will return to Mitzrayim / Miami to lead the Jewish people out, and to reassure the Fed that the American Jews are only leaving for three days, and then they’ll come back and go back to work, and that all the money they want to remove from the US banking system will be repaid, and really nothing to worry about.
And America won’t let them, until America is broken by a number of massive geological disasters, and the country is left in complete disarray.
And then what?
4/5 of the Jews still won’t make it out, because even after all the miracles, they can’t quite bring themselves to believe in Moshiach / Moshe Rabbenu, and they really aren’t so keen on swapping the flesh pots of Brooklyn for some tent city in the middle of the Arava.
Maybe you’ll say that’s a stretch, but does this scenario really sound so far-fetched?
SO WHAT CAN WE DO NOW, TACHLIS, TO GET READY FOR THE ‘MARRIAGE’ AND THE DAY AFTER?
The main piece of advice is to start talking to God, every single day.
If you’re regularly talking to God, He’ll start helping you to figure out what’s coming from a place of truth, and what isn’t. He’ll start cluing you in to which people, which leaders, which rabbis, which writers are really ‘real’ out there, and who is a faker and distraction.
He’ll help you to work out which bad middot, which negative character traits, are getting in the way of you being able to actually make real plans to really ‘live’ geula, practically speaking, and to move past all the breathless, frothy excitement of ‘Disney-does-geula’.
Here’s a few other suggestions to ponder on the subject of Deconstructing Geula:
- Tachlis, can you buy something in Israel, maybe even something small and in completely the wrong location?
- Can you start to learn more Hebrew? And / or send your kids to a school where the focus is put on learning to really speak and interact in Hebrew?
- Can you start to at least spend a bit more time in Israel, getting more acclimatized to the country, and yearning for it more?
- Can you start to maybe just broach the subject with your spouse, or with your kids, about what happens the day after Moshiach comes, and how that might look, and what plans you might need to start working on, to come through it in one piece?
- Can you start to encourage your family to at least just think about how life could look in Israel?
- Can you start working on your emuna, and especially on your emunat tzaddikim, so that when Moshiach really does show up you aren’t actually just ignoring him, or worse, scoffing at him and calling him a ‘false messiah’?
- Can you start working up to talking to God for an hour a day, so you really have the spiritual strength you need to make the right decisions as required? Because Israel and redemption, like everything else worthwhile, is not going to come ‘easy’ to anyone.
I know, we all love Disney so much because they always have those cute happy endings:
Allakazam, the wand waves, and you step out of your big house in Five Towns, step into a jet, and 10 hours later, step out again to your big house in Jerusalem, with a great view of the rebuilt Temple.
But I can’t find a single authentic Jewish source that says that this is how geula is really going to be.
But there are plenty of sources telling us that it’s going to be hard work, dramatic, and like all birth processes, anything but easy.
So, it’s time to stop talking about the ‘wedding’ and to turn our attention to the ‘marriage’ that comes after. Because that is where the real discussion is to be had, and where the real work needs to be done.
Also see: Deconstructing Aliyah.
UPDATE ON ELIEZER BEN ETIA:
So, it looks like the Deconstructing Geula scenario I described above is about to start playing out in real time.
This just in:
We’re all just kind of sitting here holding our collective breath, aren’t we?
What will be with Syria, Lebanon and Iran?
What will be with Trump?
What will be with all these horrible misconduct scandals that believe me, are only the tip of the iceberg and are only going to snowball with day that passes?
The dam that’s been holding all the ‘bad’ together for decades – maybe for centuries, even – is finally starting to burst, and while the wicked people in the world are scrambling to try and stick as many fingers in as many dykes as they can, things are really starting to crumble all over the place, far more than is obvious from the headlines.
So many of us are having our moment of truth at the moment.
For this one, it’s a serious illness, God forbid, for that one, the death of a relative, for this one a divorce, for that one a child going off the derech, for this one money problems, for that one mental health issues, for this one, it’s being publicly revealed as someone with incredibly bad judgment, for that one, it’s being publicly revealed as someone with incredibly bad middot.
Whatever we’ve been building for ourselves, spiritually, over the last few years is really starting to be dragged out into the daylight, for everyone to see.
Whatever stuff we’ve been trying to hide away is now being publicly exposed, and the strangest thing about the whole process is that the biggest smoking guns are being fired by the nasty people themselves.
So many people have become so brazen about their funny ideas, their bad middot and their nasty behavior that increasingly, they’re doing and saying things that are so out there, so bizarre, so obviously problematic that it kind of boggles the mind, a little.
Here’s just one example:
Someone who is clearly dripping malice and hatred from every pore, starts telling you a whole bunch of disgusting, hateful things about everyone else, and then tries to claim that they bear no will, have no grudges against anyone, and are simply acting for the good of humanity.
And they really believe what they’re saying, 100%! And they get very upset when they finally realize that they haven’t impressed you with what a wonderful human being they really are – and then they start abusing you, too!
Here’s another example: A very judgmental, superior, rude and small-minded person pops up in your social media network with the announcement that they will be giving a sensitivity training seminar soon, to tackle the huge problem of judgmental, superior, rude and small-minded people.
The mind boggles.
Yet this kind of bizarre ‘self-outing’ is happening all over the place at the moment, as God continues to turn the heat up on humanity, and we all get to see what’s really inside of us, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Here’s why all this is really good:
Finally facing the truth is what’s going to get us to the geula, to redemption.
Every man and woman who puts their hand up, admits they aren’t perfect, who learns some humility, who says sorry, who starts to include God a whole lot more in everything – those people are doing everything they need to be doing to bring the geula, even if they remain deeply flawed. (Join the club…)
Over on the new ofererez.com website, there’s a really good article called ‘Snapping out of Denial’ that says the following:
“Rabbi Tzadok Ha-Cohen from Lublin teaches that God doesn’t judge us for having bad middot (traits), lusts and desires. These are all a part of who we are and how we were created. They are precisely the reason that we came down to this world, so we can fix them.
“But, he says that a person brings harsh judgment down upon himself when he doesn’t introspect and recognize his own bad midot and lusts.”
We get judged for pretending to be perfect, not for acknowledging our imperfections.
And right now, we’re all getting the chance to acknowledge our imperfections every minute of the day, as God is increasingly throwing them in our face and publicizing them.
There’s nowhere to run – except to God.
There’s nowhere to hide.
Who you are – who I am, who we all really are – is going to continue to become more and more obvious. If the outside you is already recognizing your inside dimension truthfully, this process is minimally painful and actually very constructive.
But if not?
There will be many more exploding reputations occurring from this point on. But also a few nice surprises, as the ‘hidden tzaddikim’ walking around in our midst start to become more and more revealed.
Yesterday morning (Shabbat morning) I woke up feeling pretty icky about the world, and my life generally.
I had that feeling like ‘nothing ever changes’, ‘nothing is EVER GOING TO change…’, doesn’t matter what I do, say, try, pray on – it’s never going to change.
I’ve had that feeling, on and off, for years and years, and last year I spent around six months doing some major teshuva and inner work to try and get rid of it. And BH, for the last few months I’ve generally been feeling much happier and more optimistic.
But yesterday I woke up with it again, and my stomach sank. Not this again. Not this horrible, soul-destroying, heavy feeling that no matter what I do, say, try, or pray on, I’m just going to be dealing with the same old rubbish FOREVER, until I die.
In short, I was having a massive yetzer attack.
So I decided to try to fight back by doing a long talking to God session. I don’t have the koach to do six hours at the moment, so I aimed for four hours, pulled on my winter boots, and set out for the Kotel.
I took the longer way round, up the side of the Guy ben Hinnom valley where they just built a new walkway for pedestrians to reduce your chances of getting squashed by a bus, and it was cool, half-wet and pretty quiet.
As I walked and talked, the same idea kept coming up: “I’m stuck. I’m completely stuck. There’s nothing I can do to change things or improve things, I’m completely stuck.”
A lot of this has to do with the house buying situation I’m in still. Even though Jerusalem’s housing market seems to finally be cooling down, the prices being asked in our neighborhood are still ridiculously too much for anyone who’s not a millionaire to reasonably pay.
So anyway, all this ‘stuck-ness’ just kind of bubbled up again, and I started to feel so much despair that after all this time, I still don’t have an answer in sight, or a solutions to my problem, or a way to progress.
I sat at the Kotel trying to talk to God about it all, but kept getting distracted by non-Jewish ‘pilgrims’ with their massive i-phones and cameras, who figured that wrapping a see-thru scarf around their short shorts was modest enough for Judaism’s holiest site on a Shabbos morning.
I couldn’t help staring and then started pondering why so many fat women wear such short skirts, etc, which kind of put paid to any deeper exploration for why I was feeling so ‘off’. So I came home again, still feeling stuck and dissatisfied.
I ate lunch with the family, read some Likutey Moharan, had a Shabbos shluff (which I normally never do, and which is normally always a sign that I’m feeling pretty miserable and overwhelmed by life.)
My one consolation is that I know I’m not alone. From what I can see, so many of us feel that we’re stuck in a problem, or a situation, that we no longer have the strength to deal with, but which doesn’t seem to be going away or ending, anytime soon.
That’s part of the test of this time, this generation.
To carry on, even though it frequently seems so pointless or meaningless, even though the ‘big change’ we’re waiting for doesn’t seem to be showing up, even though life feels like such a drag so much of the time.
And to do it happily.
That’s the part that’s really challenging, isn’t it? To accept God’s will, and God’s dominion, and to accept that as much as we may want ‘X’, ‘X’ may not be God’s plan for us and our lives, or at least, not right now.
It’s really, really hard work.
There’s so much yeoush in the world at the moment, so much despair. Talk to anyone for any length of time, and it comes peeping out around the corners of whatever else they happen to be talking about.
But things surely have to turn around soon!
We just have to keep believing that, and praying for it to happen.
And also, accepting that if it doesn’t happen, or at least, not now, or not the way we really want, that somehow that’s also good for us, and just the way it needs to be.
Is it just me, or is there a feeling floating around the world that humanity has kind of gone as far as we can really go, at the moment, in our current paradigm?
When I was walking around London’s West End a few weeks’ ago, I was struck by how empty everything felt. The shops were full of unwearable clothes, the streets were full of unfriendly, stressed people who’d rather stab a fork into their own eyeball than smile at a stranger. The whole city just felt kind of tired and drained, like it had no more energy, no more ideas, no more koach (strength).
There’s a saying that when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life. My twist on that is that when London itself feels tired to you, then the world really must be staggering around on its last legs.
But while it’s SO different in Jerusalem, in so many ways, there’s also that tired feeling going on here, too.
So many shops closing down. So many unsold luxury flats. So many people hanging on to emuna and hope with their fingernails, praying that things are going to turn around soon.
This year is still so young, but Hashem kind of already showed me that in so many ways, I’ve gone as far as I can go under the current circumstances. To put things another way – I’m all out of energy these days. If things don’t come super easy, as mamash a gift from Heaven, then really they aren’t going to come at all.
Because I can’t nag any more, I can’t ‘focus’ anymore, some days I can’t read my own emails anymore, I often can’t even really try anymore, not even for the really big important stuff like Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashana happened in a sort of blur, because I had my London-bound nervous breakdown a few days beforehand.
Then Yom Kippur also happened in even more of a blur, as I had my ‘shiva on speed’ for three days in Liverpool where I barely ate, barely slept and spent the whole time burning through whatever supplies of adrenaline I still had left.
Dear reader, I mostly slept through Yom Kippur, and I barely prayed. Not only that, the only time I tried to pray with the community on Kol Nidrei night, I was in such a bad mood I honestly nearly punched someone in the face when they shoved me out of their way.
What a great start to the year!
We all know that before Moshiach shows up, the Gemara tells us that one trouble won’t end before the next one already begins. My first post-Yom Kippur text was from a friend telling me their dad had just passed away. Then on Sunday, I got an email from the evil lawyers suing me for using a picture of Rav Berland on my site telling me that they ‘only’ want 5,000 shekels (which my husband decided to agree, to get it finished with.)
Then my husband got a message from his accountant that we had to start paying 6,000 shekels more a month in tax!!! I mean, are you kidding??
(Thank God, it turns out he’d got his figures wrong, so we do need to pay more tax, but not that much, BH.)
So then, I started looking for a job – and realized (again…) that I’m completely unemployable in Israel, as my spoken Hebrew sucks so badly and I can’t write speeches or copy for people or things I don’t really believe in (which at this stage, is pretty much anyone or anything who actually has the cash to pay for this stuff.)
Then I heard some more shockingly disturbing news from someone else I’m acquainted with, got yet another ‘my parent just died unexpectedly’ email – and decided that I really just want to run away from it all and pull the duvet over my head until Moshiach shows up.
Let’s not even talk about the Vegas massacre, let’s not even mention the crazy geophysical phenomena going on, let’s not even dwell on the fact that my husband’s mother only passed away a week ago, but it already feels like a million years passed.
On top of all this, Jerusalem City Hall decided to dig up the beautiful garden by my flat, which means there is no parking to be had anywhere, plus a load of dust and noise – and now it’s also nearly Sukkot which means the seasonal traffic jams around the Old City are at their peak.
It took me half an hour of very slow circling around my neighborhood to find somewhere to park just now, and by the end of it all I just felt so tired and exhausted.
I know that last thing is really nothing, shtuyot. But so many of those ‘every day’ moments seem to be falling into the ‘draining and soul-destroying’ category right now that it’s all contributing to the sense that modern life has just got too hard, too stressful, too heavy, too difficult to process internally, to continue on like this.
Ad matai, Hashem?
The short answer is: until Moshiach comes.
But when is that going to happen?
Recently, I’ve been increasingly niggled by this question.
On the one hand, it’s clear that Eretz Yisrael is in a whole different spiritual dimension, and that a person’s emuna and Jewish identity can blossom here in a way that it really can’t do, in most normal circumstances, anywhere else.
At the same time, Israel is still home to some of the craziest, nastiest, ickiest Jews I’ve ever met. It’s a place of contrasts, a place of extremes, because the good and the holy is so palpable and tangible here, the bad and the profane has to also be at sky-high levels to maintain free choice.
So, the question remains: is being in Israel a guarantee that ‘you’ll make it’, whatever that actually means, when the chaos currently enveloping the world finally hits tipping point?
And then there’s a second, no less pressing, question: is being out of Israel a guarantee that ‘you won’t make it’, God forbid?
I know that so many of us who made aliya over the last decade or so were prompted by the thought that our chances of ‘making it’, whatever that means, would be much higher in Eretz Yisrael.
But then came the intifada…and Lebanon II…and rockets from Gaza…and more rockets from Gaza…and then the threat of the Iranian nuke, which kind of started to rock the certainty of who was going to make it, where…
Now, the pendulum appears to have swung back again, with Islamic terrorism across Europe, black fascists and white fascists slugging it out in the US, and wildfires, earthquakes, floods, Harveys and Irmas stirring everything up all over the place.
So who’s going to ‘make it’? (Whatever that means…)
And does it only depend on where a person lives?
You’ll probably be reading this when I’m in the UK for three days, trying to finally get my soul unstuck from the streets of London. (Note to robbers: The rest of my family is staying at home, so don’t even think about it.)
When I step off the plane at Luton airport, does that instantly turn me into a person who ‘couldn’t make it’, God forbid, because now I’m in the wrong place? Or would God have mercy on me, and still find a way to spirit me back to Israel if Moshiach revealed himself while I’m gone?
It’s not a simple point.
Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook got trapped outside of Eretz Yisrael when World War I unexpectedly started, and he spent four years in galut, primarily in London, until he was able to return.
If someone like Rav Kook didn’t have the merit to be brought back to the land miraculously, what are my chances?
Let’s look at it from the other direction. Let’s say someone from outside – someone who likes to parade their gaava around in city centres – flies into Jerusalem just as Moshiach is revealed. Does that person now get to ‘make it’ (whatever that means) by sheer dint of being in the right place at the right time?
And if the answer is ‘no’ to the first scenario, or at least a ‘maybe’, and if the answer is ‘no’ to the second scenario, then clearly, something else is going here that would enable a person to ‘make it’ when Moshiach comes.
For all of us who sacrificed so much to come to Israel, this isn’t always a comfortable conclusion.
What, I could have stayed in chutz l’aretz in my soul-destroying job and my comfortable ‘modern orthodox’ box without having to go through all the tests, challenges and excruciating soul corrections I’ve had over the years, and still have ‘made it’?!?!?
That doesn’t sound fair!
But is it true?
After pondering this, I think the answer is probably ‘yes and no’.
Yes, if I’d grown the way I’d grown in Israel, spiritually, or changed the way I changed, or tried to learn the humility and emuna that I’ve tried to learn here, then I think probably, I would still make it. (Whatever that means).
But if I didn’t change an iota? Or at least, not very much? Or even, got even more arrogant, nasty and materialistic?
Then I probably wouldn’t.
Flipping the question over to the Israeli side, we can draw the same conclusions. It’s very, very hard to live in Israel, with all its ongoing security challenges, social issues, terrorism, corrupt politicians and financial hardships without growing your emuna and humility, in some way.
But it’s still possible.
So, if a person is living in Israel, and is including God in their life, and is responding to the cues they get every single day here, smack in the face, to return to God and work on their bad middot ASAP – their chances of making it are probably pretty good.
And if not?
Then they aren’t. And not only that, at some point God will probably arrange for them to be unceremoniously dumped out of the country. Of course, they won’t see things that way. It’ll be phrased as ‘an opportunity’ abroad, a great job, a chance to make more money, a person they fell in love with and want to marry, yadda yadda yadda.
But the point to be made here is that at any point in the process, a person can return to God from anywhere in the world.
I know people who made a lot of sincere teshuva dafka when they were forced out of Israel. For whatever reason, it was something they just couldn’t do for as long as they lived here.
I also know people who fell off the frum wagon big time, when they moved here.
Which brings us back to the question we started with, and hopefully also give us something of an answer.
Being in Israel is no guarantee of ‘making it’, but the reality of life in Israel maximizes your spiritual potential, and encourages you – every second of the day – to acquire the traits and the beliefs and the behaviors that are necessary to ‘make it’, ultimately.
The spiritual current here tends to pull a person ‘up’, while the spiritual current in chutz l’aretz tends to pull a person ‘down’.
But whether we’re going to grow from our experiences, and learn more emuna, and turn to Hashem regardless, is only and always up to us. And the people who can genuinely do that even in the very heart of galut may be the biggest neshamas of all.
So to sum up, location does make a big difference. Being in Israel does make a big difference. But it’s by no means the only factor deciding who’s going to ‘make it’ when Moshiach shows up.