Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why is our generation worthy of Moshiach?

The answer can be found in the Haggadah, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains:

''I am like a man of seventy years old.'' - Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah [Haggadah; Berachot 12b]

The Gemara [Berachot 28a] explains that, in fact, R. Eleazar ben Azaryah was much younger, but eighteen rows of his hair turned white and he looked like an old man. [Rabbi Eleazar's hair turned white on the day he was appointed Nassi [head of the Sanhedrin] so that he would look older and evoke the respect due to his high office. According to the version in Berachot 28a, he was only eighteen years old on that day, while according to Yerushalmi Berachot 4:1 he was only sixteen.]  The phrase ''like a man of seventy years old'' is therefore only an analogy.

This interpretation, however, renders the continuation of the passuk ''yet I did not succeed in proving...'' - rather difficult to understand. The apparent contradiction of the phrase ''yet I did not succeed'' is not only in view of R. Eleazar's scholarship but also in view of his being advanced in years. He was like a man of seventy years old and devoted a lot of time to the subject under discussion; thus he should have been able to convince his colleagues that his view was correct.  If, however, he merely looked like an old man, how could he have expected that his ruling should be followed?

There are no mere analogies in Torah.  All comparisons evolve from the nimshal [point to be made, or moral to be derived, from the comparison itself].  The analogy of appearing like an old man, therefore, is quite appropriate.  R. Eleazar was  a man of seventy years old, albeit in a spiritual sense.  Thus, it is said in Siddur Arizal that by adding all his years since the first incarnation of his soul, R. Eleazar was indeed seventy years old. [Other sources elaborate, on the authority of R. Isaac Luria, that R. Eleazar ben Azaryah was a reincarnation of the prophet Samuel: Samuel died at the age of 52 [see Seder Olam Rabba ch. 13, and the sources mentioned there in ed. Ratner]; combined with his 18 years when he was appointed Nassi [and when making the present statement], R. Eleazar therefore had the cumulative age of 70 years.]

Being an old man on the spiritual level, R. Eleazar questions why he should not have succeeded in having the ruling established according to his opinion.

The spiritual state of his ''old age'' had become bound up with Torah, as is evident from his expectation that the legal ruling represent his view.  Torah rules over and determines physical reality. [The Torah preceded creation and is both the ''blueprint'' for the creaton of the universe as well as the Divine ''instrument'' for creating it [Bereishis Rabba 1:1; Zohar II: 161a].  As such, the Torah rules over and determines physical reality.]  R. Eleazar's spiritual state, therefore, manifested itself in the physical reality of his appearance as a man of seventy years old - even on the most external level, i.e. the hairs which are merely subsidiary to the body.

The Yerushalmi thus comments on the verse [Psalms 57:3] ''To G-d who fulfills for me'', that the reality of the world is determined in accordance with the rulings of the Torah.

There is a lesson in this for every person's avodah [service], and when we are confronted by situations that seem to be too difficult to cope with, given our present abilities, we must derive strength from this lesson.

We must realize that most of the souls in our generation are not new souls, but have already been incarnated earlier. [Shaár HaGilgulim ch. 20, Sefer Halikkutim, and Likkutei Torah, of Arizal, Shemot, on Exodus 3:4]

It is possible that positive powers of earlier incarnations can now become tapped into and help us in our present avodah. This applies not only to matters relating to the ''internal faculties'' of intellect and emotions, but also to matters concerning the ''external faculties'' of thought, speech and deed [similar to hair], as well as our day-to-day lives. [See Sha'ar HaGilgulim ch.3 and end of ch.4]

Offhand one could conclude that if it is possible to bring into play the aspects of an earlier incarnation, this might also include the negative aspects [evil].  Besides, who can tell what his status was in a previous existence? And from where will one draw strength to battle the evil and to carry out one's avodah?

The answer lies in the fact that goodness is a reality possessed of permanence. When a Jew does a mitzvah it remains forever, as stated in Tanya [Ch. 25]: ''This union is eternal in the upper spheres...''  Evil, on the other hand, has no reality. It is merely a state of concealment of the good.  In a situation where one has already been subjected to a physical or spiritual punishment [which cleanses the blemish of sin] or one has done teshuvah, the evil is surely nullified. [see Igeres HaTeshuvah ch 1-2]  How much more so will this apply to teshuvah done out of a sense of love, which transforms intentional sins into virtues.

The fact that good is eternal is a reponse to those who ask ''How is it possible that nowadays we should merit the revelation of Moshiach when preceding generations did not merit it? Is our generation so deserving?''  The answer is that our present generation compounds all the goodness and virtue of earlier generations. [Our generation is obviously inferior to our predecessors. On the other hand, there is an ancient proverb, cited by R. Isaiah de Torani in this context, that later generations are like midgets compared to those that preceded them; nonetheless the midgets are in effect standing on the sholders of the giants before them, and thus can see much further than the giants themselves.  So, too, we ourselves are no more than midgets, but we stand on the shoulders of the accumulated merits of the past and thus we can and shall merit and achieve things which somehow escaped our predecessors.]

That is why it is specifically now that we shall merit the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our very own days.

Source: Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likkutei Sichot Vayikra 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When we consider the intention of the phrase "never again", following the unprecedented and prophesied Shoah(Dvarim:16-19)and witness reconstituted Israel, the ingathering of the exiles, as prophesied in Dvarim:30, in the miracles that preserve Israel amidst all of its enemies, we see that is is surely by the merit of our giant predecessors that our prayers for "Mashiach Now" are now being answered.