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The Era of the Moshiach
I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. And even though he may delay I nevertheless wait for him every day to come. (The twelfth of the Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith)
As a child growing up in America, one of my favorite TV programs was the Lone Ranger cowboy series. It had the standard good guys versus bad guys scenario, and the good guys always wore white hats, while the bad guys wore black hats (no insinuation intended for todays' black hatters).
As mundane as this may seem, it really is a paradigm for everything happening in the world around us. R. Yosef Yehudah Leib Block, the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva writes in Shiurei Da'as by, v. I chap. 9, and v. II chap 8 writes that everything occurring in the world is a reflection of the conflict between the forces of Good and Evil. These forces are in an eternal battle. Sometimes the Good wins, and sometimes the Bad.
The source for this conflict lies in the hidden upper realms of Creation. Opposite the Heavenly system of holiness and good was created a corresponding system of tumah (spiritual impurity) and defilement. This is the deep meaning of the possuk in Yeshaya (45:7), "He created light, and created darkness. He made peace, and created evil." This is such an important statement it was instituted (with a subtle change) as the first statement in the Shacharis service in Yotzer Ohr.
These two forces, Good and Evil, control everything that happens in the world. They have power not only in the upper spiritual sphere, but also in ours, the lower world. Everything bad in the world stems from this intrinsic power of evil infused into Creation from the very outset.
The forces of good and evil are basically equal. However, Man was given free-will to choose between good and bad and bring about either a blessing or a curse. Tzaddikim, by their good deeds, strengthen the forces of good and holiness, and increase the dominion of good in the world. While the wicked by their wicked deeds cause the power of evil and tumah to flourish throughout the world.
All this was specifically designed by Hashem. There is the force of Good and the force of Evil. They both have dominion over the running of the Creation. Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, gave Man the keys to these two forces. If he chooses good deeds, the world follows suit and everything runs according to the side of light and good. If, however, he chooses evil, the world is influenced towards darkness and impurity.
According to this scheme, it would seem that this universal battle is even, and could be swayed in either direction. It would seem logical to assume that eventually the forces of evil might win and world would be totally taken over by wickedness.
However, our tradition tells us this is impossible. First of all every believing person has a deep seated instinct that the Creator would never let this happen. It would make Creation the biggest waste of time imaginable. Secondly, Chazal distinctly teach us that the world will eventually enter the Messianic period bringing with it an era of unimaginable awareness of Hashem. "And Hashem will be King over the whole land." In that Messianic Era Hashem's light and goodness will spread over the world and defeat the forces of evil as "All the evil will totally dissipate like a cloud." This era was built into the essence of the Creation. Even if man will not of his own volition choose good, Hashem will direct all the forces of nature to cause a victory for Good.
This is the meaning of the possuk, "In its time I will hurry it up." áòúä àçéùðä. Chazal interpret this as meaning, "If they merit, I will hurry it up. If they don't merit, it will come in its time" (Sanhedrin 98).
This is not to say that in spite of our not being worthy of the Geula, it will eventually just happen at the end of days. Rather it means that the world has to be in the correct state for it to occur. We ourselves were given the ability to bring the Geula before it's time through our merits. However, if after all of history has played itself out, we still are not worthy in our own right, then Hashem will direct all the world events to bring about the Geula. Will He cause all the millions of causes and effects of Man's actions to somehow influence everything towards good? Or will the evil prevail to such an extent it destroys itself leaving over only the good. We don't know. What we do know is that Moshiach will eventually come and usher in a new era.
ì ì ì Our generation has a special task, perhaps the most special of all generations. We are the generation of the Footsteps of Moshiach. Chazal mention many signs which portend the coming of the Messianic Era, and they have all been fulfilled:
In the days of the footsteps of the Moshiach chutzpah (insolence) will proliferate. There will be severe inflation; the vine will yield its fruit [abundantly] but wine will be expensive; the government will turn to heresy and there will be none to rebuke them; the meeting-place will be used for immorality…. The wisdom of the learned will be scorned, fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be hidden. Youth will shame old men, the old will stand up in the presence of the young, a son will revile his father, a daughter will rise against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, a son will not feel ashamed before his father. So upon whom can we rely? Upon our Father Who is in heaven. Sotah 49b
Rav Yirmiah bar Aba said, in the generation when the son of David comes there will be great denigration and malignment against talmidei chachomim. When I said this before Shmuel, he added, "Decrees upon decrees." Kesubos 112b
Rav Elazar bar Avina said, "If you see many nations warring with each other, anticipate the footsteps of the Moshiach." Bereishis Raba 42:7
All of these signs are becoming more and more evident. Financial hardship in spite of prosperity, the degeneration of morality and decency, the growing antipathy in Eretz Yisrael against those who study Torah, and the increase in worldwide armed conflicts.
We are awaiting Moshiach with great anticipation, looking forward to the moment when he will suddenly appear to usher in a new era. The uniqueness of our generation demands that we undergo the last trial, the final test of the Jewish People, before the coming of our Redemption.
Recently Rav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky recounted that one of Rav Chaim Kanievsky's relatives went to visit him. Rav Chaim told him, "Go and notify Klal Yisroel that we are now in the times of the Footsteps of the Moshiach and he is standing at the threshold." Chazal tell us these will be very difficult times. "The only way to save ourselves is to busy ourselves with Torah and Chesed." When Rav Chaim was asked how to announce this, he answered, "Take a loudspeaker and go around the entire land."
The famous gemara in Sanhedrin (97b) discusses when the end of days will occur. "Rav said, all the times have come and gone. Now it all depends upon teshuva and good deeds…. Rebbe Eliezer said, if Yisroel will do teshuva they will be redeemed. And if not, they won't be redeemed." Rebbe Yehoshua questioned him, "How can that be that if they won't do teshuva the Geula won't come. [We have a tradition that the Moshiach must come.] Rather Hakadosh Baruch Hu will cause a king to arise whose decrees are as severe as Haman's, and Yisroel will do teshuva.
One thing is certain: the Geula requires a specific set of circumstances as a prelude. We see from this gemara that Klal Yisroel's teshuva is a basic prerequisite.
In the distant past, great people tried to bring Moshiach with special rites and amulets. That failed. Moshiach doesn't come through amulets. More recently there were those who tried to bring Moshiach through a nationalistic movement. That didn't work. Moshiach isn't a movement.
In order to prepare for Moshiach we have to stop trying to bring him, and start working on ourselves, through teshuva and good deeds. If we make ourselves worthy, perhaps Hakadosh Baruch Hu will have mercy upon us and bring the Geula.
Ein Od Milvado!
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network