Our belief in Moshiach and his coming is a fundamental part of Yiddishkeit. Aside from the fact that it’s one of the Rambam’s 13 principles of emunah and we daven for it daily, there are countless commentaries by our Sages all attempting to decipher the cryptic references to Moshiach’s arrival that are scattered throughout the Torah and the sayings of our nevi’im.
Yet, honestly, how many of us today could say we are actively waiting for Moshiach? How many of us feel in our hearts that Moshiach and his arrival are really a part of our daily lives and not just something we are declaring with our lips?
Even when Moshiach is mentioned, he is usually just seen as the final solution to our daily pains and problems (“Oy, Moshiach should come already!”). Perhaps this so because we have heard that in ימות המשיח, the Days of Moshiach, there will be only peace and tranquility, as well as the unified awareness of HaShem- among Jews and goyim alike.
That said, this article is not about describing who Moshiach is, nor the events leading up to his arrival. You can find plenty of other sources online and off that discuss these topics at length. My goal is to explain how we, as Torah observant Jewish women, can relate to the concept of Moshiach today in a palpable and positive way, and in the process not only affect how he comes, but when.
What Should We Hope For?
The truth is we shouldn’t just be davening for Moshiach to come now or even to come quickly; we really need to be davening for something else, instead.
Let me explain…
Chazal tell us that Moshiach ben Dovid will only come in a generation that is either completely meritorious (zakai) or completely unworthy (chayav). There is no in between:
R. Johanan also said: The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether without merit. ‘in a generation that is altogether righteous,’ — as it is written, Your people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever. ‘Or altogether wicked,’ — as it is written, And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; and it is [elsewhere] written, For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it. (Sanhendrin 98a)
What is the distinction between a completely righteous, meritorious generation versus one without merit? Rav Dessler explains that a completely unworthy generation is one in which there is no longer any hope that they will do teshuva on their own. (Strive for Truth, Vol. p107). It is a situation where the majority of Yidden are so consumed and numbed by their taivahs (pride, lust, jealousy, etc) that they are completely shut off to emes and to the messages that HaShem sends to them to help them return to the right path- even when those “messages” come in the form of painful yissurim. They have lost their desire for spiritual growth and are “content” to continue pursuing physical pleasures or to simply go through the motions of their Yiddishkeit.
In such a case, Rav Dessler explains that there is no longer any point in prolonging the exile. HaShem thus creates a situation that will basically force the Yidden to come back to Him:
[T]he Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and He will thus bring them back to the right path. (Sanhendrin 97b)
There are several consequences of this form of redemption:
- We will need to endure the terrifying war of Gog and Magog that may claim many Jewish lives.
- The gemara also states that our merit, or lack thereof, will affect how and when the era of Moshiach is ushered in:
R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction: It is written, In its time [will Moshiach come], while it is also written, I [the Lord] will hasten it! If they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the appointed time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, while [elsewhere] it is written, lowly, and riding upon a donkey! If they are meritorious, [Moshiach will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon a donkey. (Sanhendrin 98a)
- Plus, Chazal tell us that the ideal teshuva is motivated by a sincere, inner desire to return to HaShem, not from fear of punishment or the anticipation of a Divine reward. (see Sforno on Devarim 30:2) This “lower” form of teshuva will no doubt impact the level and quality of the redemption itself as well.
In other words, Moshiach may still come in the appointed time even if we don’t merit it, but not in the most desirable way.
Now there is an obvious question that needs to be addressed: looking around there seems to be many people who are doing good deeds and following the ways Torah. There are many who appear to be sincerely striving for spiritual growth, as well. How is it, therefore, that we could reach such a low state where all of us (each in his or her own way) will be pulled after sheker and are unreceptive to HaShem’s entreaties?
The answer is that the Satan/ Yatzer Hara has a powerful weapon at his disposal that can make our ability to do teshuva on a national level impossible: it’s called despair.
When we forget about HaShem’s abundant mercy, and the fact that He is with us in our difficulty (as along as we let Him in)… when we forget about His boundless love for us as a nation as well as His love for each and every one of us individually… when we don’t believe that He is really listening to our tefillas and that these same tefillas have the power to change reality and our mazel… when we lose all hope that we will ever be able to change… or make a difference… when we doubt our importance… that is when we will create our own reality so to speak. If we push HaShem away, then He will have to hide His Face from us. If we continue to assert that all is lost, then indeed it will be.
Now, let’s consider the other side.
What does it mean that a generation is altogether worthy? Does HaShem really expect us to all become great tzaddikim, and if earlier, more spiritually connected generations couldn’t achieve such a lofty status, how then will we ever be able to do it?
Before I answer these questions, we need to first realize one thing: while our current generation may certainly be the lowest in terms of our awareness of HaShem, our understanding of His Torah, and the purity of our thoughts and deeds, yet there has never been a generation higher than ours.
Today, we have no Bais HaMikdash, no nevi’im, our Rebbes and Rabbonim are not like those of previous generations. (Who today can be compared to the holy Chofetz Chaim ז“ל, Rebbe Aharon of Belzeז“ל , or the Baba Saliז“ל ? And, these gedolim lived only two or three generations ago!) These days there is spiritual malaise and disconnect, there is confusion even among Torah leadership, and tremendous spiritual and physical nisyonis like we have never seen before.
Some of the Sages from the Gemarra were terrified of the End of Days: “Let [Moshiach] come, but let me not see him!” (Sanhedrin 98b). It wasn’t the war of Gog and Megog that scared them; it was the ease at which a person can be pulled away from HaShem and from His Torah.
Even given all of this, we know that HaShem doesn’t send a test to someone who can’t pass it. By virtue of the fact that we find ourselves in this situation, it means that our generation has the potential spiritual strength to overcome all of the tremendous nisyonis mentioned above and return to Him.
Think about that for a moment…
For us to do teshuva, for us to come from such a far and low place, and bring HaShem in, even here, the amount of Cavod Shamayim that would flow into the world would outshine practically anything that came before it…
Yet, HaShem obviously believes that we can do it. So, the question is why don’t we?
According to the Ohr HaChaim HaKadoshז“ל , the nisoyon of the last generation will be the test of emunah But, emunah is something that happens on a personal level, and herein lies a very important point.
In his sefer entitled Kadmus, the Chida offers an important insight based on the brocha in the shemoneh esrei where we daven for the coming of Moshiach:
את צמח דִּוד עבְדָּך מהָרה תצמיח
וקְרנוֹ תּרוּם בּישׁוּעתָך,כּי לישׁוּעתָך קִוּינוּ כּל היּוֹם
The offspring of Your servant Dovid may you speedily cause to flourish and enhance his pride through Your salvation because we hope for Your salvation all day long…
The Chida asks how does the word “because” fit in since it implies causation? He responds that this is exactly what is happening. Davka because we hope for HaShem’s salvation, it brings Moshiach and the Redemption closer.1
I want to expand on this idea. The most important factor today that will give us merit and bring Moshiach is that we hope for HaShem’s salvation in our personal lives.
In nusach sefard, there is an added text:
and we expect/look for salvation
When the majority of us are individually turning to HaShem and not only hoping for personal yeshuas, but both expecting them and looking out for them every day, when we are making the effort to acknowledge HaShem’s hashgacha in our daily affairs, and doing our best to come closer to Him as individuals and as a nation… then Moshiach has the space to come.
Where Do We Begin?
But while our goal may be lofty, our main focus should be on the tiny steps, those little changes, we can start making today.
The Midrash on Shir HaShirim (5:2) says:
אמר הקב“ה לישראל: בני! פתחו לי פתח אחד של תשובה, כחודה של מחט, ואני פותח לכם פתחים שיהיו עגלות וקרניות נכנסות בו
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel, “My sons, open for Me an opening of teshuva like the eye of a needle, and I will open for you openings big enough for wagons and carriages to pass through [or like the gates of the sanctuary]
What this means is that for every bit of effort a person makes in an attempt to come closer to HaShem, HaShem responds with favor and assistance that is exponentially greater. As it says in gemara Yoma 39a: “The one who sanctifies himself a little, Heaven helps to sanctify him a lot.”
A generation that is “completely worthy,” does not necessarily mean that all of us will be perfect tzaddikim. It could just mean that deep within our hearts we sincerely want to be on the path of emes– even if that desire comes out in the smallest of actions. Chazal tell us that a person is led on the path he wishes to travel (Bamidbar Rabbah 20:12). So, we can be assured that HaShem will guide us along the way.
But, there is more. According to the Baal Shem Tovז“ל a person is where his thoughts are, and Chazal tell us if one planned to do a mitzvah and was prevented against his will, HaShem views this as if he had done the mitzvah anyway.
…מחשבה טובה מצרפה למעשה
אמר רב אסי אפילו חשב אדם לעשות מצוה ונאנס ולא עשאה
מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאה
A good thought is regarded as a [good] deed… Rav Assi said:
Even if a person was contemplating fulfilling a mitzvah
and was unavoidably prevented from performing it,
Scripture credits him as if he fulfilled it.
The point is even if we don’t reach our goals, but we sincerely strived for them, then from HaShem’s perspective it’s as if we have fulfilled all that we had planned to do.
Whether or not we reach our goals is anyway not up to us, as it says,
לא עליך המלאכה לגמור
You are not required to complete the task.
(Pirkei Avos 2:21)
Changing the Way We Daven for Moshiach
When we say things like “We want Moshiach now” or “may Moshiach come soon,” we can have in mind that the process of our preparation as individuals and as a nation should start. We should be davening that HaShem help us to prepare the space and the cailim we need to receive Moshiach properly and to merit his coming in the most auspicious way.
And this brings me to the role that we as Jewish women have to play in all of this.
The main purpose of Moshiach and the days that surround his coming is to bring the world to a higher awareness of HaShem. As women, we have the innate ability to help those around us come closer to HaShem as we ourselves are coming closer and strengthening our own emunah This process starts, as I mentioned above, with our personal relationship to HaShem and will naturally flow from there.
A Final Word…
I truly believe that the ones who are in the best position to usher in the redemption are not those who don’t know anything- the Yidden who have never lived a life of Torah and mitzvot. While kiruv among these Jews is extremely important, the responsibility for Moshiach’s coming is on those of us who do know- the Torah observant communities.
Whether or not we are deemed a generation that is worthy will not depend on some unattainable spiritual perfection. Instead, it will be based on our personal willingness to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and on our sincere desire to break away from the sheker in our lives in order to come closer to HaShem. But for this to happen, we need to have hope and we need to have emunah in HaShem, His yeshua, and our real potential, both as individuals and as a nation.
May we merit to see Moshiach speedily in our days!
1 I learned about this source from an old Chabad video. You can watch it here.