The dates on the calendar commemorate hard times, times of destruction, pain and suffering. Recalling the events of our collective history can lead to loss of hope and depression. What other nation in the world has suffered so much? Nevertheless, every Jew is charged with a mission – to await the coming of the Moshiach, to invest in the belief of his upcoming arrival and the approaching messianic era. We are told stories of great rabbis who always had their Shabbos coat hanging on a hook near the door, in preparation for the coming of the Moshiach, or righteous women who made themselves drums with which to greet his arrival. What is the extent of the obligation to believe and wait – is it reserved for the holy and righteous alone? How is awaiting Moshach’s arrival applied practically? This week we will offer our readers a mirror allowing them a closer look – how much do we really want Moshiach?
Tzipisa LiYeshuah – Did You Await Salvation?
On these days of mourning the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, we are charged with the obligation to fortify within ourselves the flip side of the coin – awaiting the Redemption and the coming of Moshiach. What kind of obligation is it and what are its practical applications? Where is the obligation deduced from?
The Gemara (Maseches Shabbos 31a) describes a scene that takes place posthumously:
Rava said: After departing from this world, when a person is brought to judgment for the life he lived in this world, they say to him…: “Did you conduct business faithfully? Did you designate times for Torah study? Did you engage in procreation? Did you await salvation? Did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom or derive one matter from another?” And, nevertheless, beyond all these, if the fear of the Lord is his treasure, yes, he is worthy, and if not, no, none of these accomplishments have any value.
After the soul departs from the body, it reaches the heavenly tribunal for judgment. There, all its deeds are assessed and six questions are posed. Three are related to study of Torah, and three — to other areas of Jewish life: honesty in business, family life, and awaiting the Moshiach. The Gemara concludes that if one can answer the questions with the affirmative and is G-d fearing he will be welcomed to Gan Eden, and if not… well, not.
Learning this Gemara teaches the essentialist nature of awaiting the Moshiach. Why is this question so fundamental? For thousands of years we have served G-d, learned Torah and kept the mitzvos. After death, those who served Him merited Gan Eden. Why is the universal ideal of “The wolf will live with the lamb” so basic in Judaism that lack of hope for it denies entrance to Gan Eden?
Not Awaiting Moshiach
The Rambam (Hilchos Melochim chapter 11:1) denounces one who does not await the Moshiach:
Anyone who does not believe in him or does not await his coming, denies not only the statements of the other prophets, but those of the Torah and Moshe Rabbenu. The Torah testified to his coming (Devarim 30:3-5( “G-d will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you. He will again gather you from among the nations… Even if your Diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, G-d will gather you up from there… and bring you to the land….”
A Jew who does not await Moshiach’s arrival is regarded a heretic, a Kofer in the Torah and Moshe rabbenu.
The Rambam compiled what he refers to as the Shlosh Asar Ikkarim, the Thirteen Fundamental Principles of the Jewish faith, as derived from the Torah. These are the fundamental truths of our religion and its very foundations. One of them is (Rambam, introduction to Perek Chelek): The belief in the arrival of the Moshiach and the messianic era, and the resurrection of the dead.
Belief in the Coming of Moshiach – and Awaiting Salvation
The chiddushim attributed to the Ran (Shabbos 31a) quotes the Ba’alei Hatosefos regarding the 6 aforementioned questions. When one is brought to judgment after his death, he is not asked about his awaiting the cosmic deliverance of Geula. One who doesn’t await it is simply a heretic, and heretics are not the topic of the Gemara’s report. The Gemara here refers to actively awaiting the Geula as an imminent reality.
Along the same lines, the Brisker Rav (Sa’arei Toah, Kovetz 5 p.166) reads in the Rambam’s words two obligations – believing that the Moshiach will come, and awaiting his imminent arrival: “Anyone who does not believe in him or does not await his coming…”. Thus, in addition to believing in the coming of Moshiach there is the obligation to await his arrival, at any time, and the Rambam designates one who fails to do so as a heretic.
Many await and pray for the arrival of the Moshiach, but at the same time behave like the peasant woman in Poland who wants the Moshiach to come so the world will be “fixed”, but once it reaches that point, he should go on to Jerusalem without her, leaving her in Poland with the “fixed” world and the chickens and ducks.
People are, at times, quite comfortable in their exile – the economy is good, the house is spacious and career successful. The children are doing well in school and life is, in general, good. Why would such a person await such an upheaval as the arrival of the Moshiach? Yes, the world needs Moshiach, but practically speaking… maybe not really.
Most people prefer the present, uncomfortable as it may be, to the unknown future, no matter how promising it seems. These feelings are normal and natural and without intensive internal work, impossible to let go of and plant instead a throbbing, yearning hope for redemption. This is the subject of the question one is asked upon arriving for judgement – did you actively engage in correcting your world-view and your hopes for the future? You planned how to marry your children, invested your nest egg for your retirement years. How did you plan for the coming of Moshiach? Was his arrival even on your charts or does “Bayom hahu yihiye Hashem echad U’Shemo echod” remain in your siddur leaving nary a dent in your psyche?
The sources obligating us to await the coming of Moshiach are many. The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim chapter 11) quotes sources from the Torah as well as the Nevi’im: “G-d will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you. He will again gather you from among the nations… Even if your Diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, G-d will gather you up from there… and bring you to the land…” (Devarim 30:3-5). And in Bamidbar (24:17-18): “I see it, but not now” – This refers to David; “I perceive it, but not in the near future;” – This refers to the Messianic king; “A star shall go forth from Yaakov” – This refers to David;”‘and a staff shall arise in Yisroel” – This refers to the Messianic king; “crushing all of Moav’s princes” – This refers to David as Shmuel (II 8:2) relates: “He smote Moav and measured them with a line;” “Decimating all of Shet’s descendants” – This refers to the Messianic king about whom Zechariah (9:10) prophesies: “He will rule from sea to sea”.”Edom will be demolished” – This refers to David as Shmuel (II8:6) states “Edom became the servants of David”. “Seir will be destroyed” – this refers to the Messianic king as Ovadiah (1:21) prophesies: “Saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Eisav….’
Similarly, regarding the cities of refuge, we find in Devarim19:8-9: “When G-d will expand your borders… you must add three more cities.” This command was never fulfilled. No command is given in vain. In the future, there will be a total of nine cities of refuge – an addition of three above those separated by Moshe and Yehoshua. Obviously, since this never occurred, it is referring to the times of the Moshaich when it will be fulfilled.
Hoping for Salvation
The above sources make it clear that the coming of the Moshiach is a truth. But and obligation? A mitzva? How is that learned? The Smak (Mitzva 1) asks this question and his answer is surprising. The first of the Ten Commandments, “I am the L‑rd your G‑d, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Shemos 20:2) contains no commandment. All it seems to be offering is historic information or an introduction. What commandment is in this passuk?
According to the Smak’s understanding, this passuk contains the commandment to await salvation. “Just as I took you out of Egypt, the house of bondage, breaking all the natural rules and orders of the world to save you, so too, I can save you from every difficulty.” The Torah does not offer mere historic information without practical implication. There is no value in simple knowledge of the past if it has no relevance to the present. Rather, this passuk contains a precedent for the nation fortifying their belief in the future redemption
Rabbenu Peretz (Hagahos) clarifies this concept even further – being that this mitzva is one of the 613 mitzvos and the first commandment given at Har Sinai, it becomes one of the fundamental questions one is asked on his day of judgement – did you await salvation?
Torah and Navi Sources
Yaakov, at on his deathbed, blessed his sons prophetically. Between the blessings of Dan and Gad he exclaims, “For Your salvation, I hope, O Lord!” Tragum Yehonatan ben Uziel explains the seemingly strange interjection: “When Yaakov saw [prophetically] Gidon the son of Yoash and Shimshon the son of Manoach who would save the nation, he said – ‘I do not await the salvation of Gidon nor that of Shimshon. I foresee that their salvations will be passing. I await Your deliverance, Hashem, Whose salvation will endure forever’.”
The psukim in the Nevi’im and Tehilim all speak of hoping for G-d’s salvation and the Final Redemption.
Belief and Awaiting
The Rambam (Commentary to the Mishna) details the obligations of waiting and believing:
1) Believing that Moshiach will come and will not be delayed when the time comes, as we are told in Chabkuk (2:3) “For there shall be another vision for the appointed time; and He shall speak of the end, and it shall not fail; though it tarry, wait for it, for it shall surely come; it shall not delay.”
This mitzva also forbids setting a time for the Geula because we are told in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 97b) “Rabbi Shmuel bar Nacḥmani says in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Those who calculate the end of days will be cursed, as they would say once the end of days that they calculated arrived and the Moshiach did not come, that he will no longer come at all. Rather, the proper behavior is to continue to wait for his coming, as it is stated: ‘Though it tarry, wait for it’.”.
The Mabit (Beis Elokim Sha’ar Hayesod) explains that when designating a time as opportune for the Geula one is essentially crossing off other times as non-applicable. Additionally, if the time passes and Moshiach does not appear, belief in the coming of the Moshiach will weaken. And one who believes, but hopes or thinks it will be somewhere in the future, does not truly believe…
2) Believing that in the messianic era we will be shown extraordinary love from Hashem and yearning towards Him, as seen from the words of all the prophets, from Moshe to Malachi.
3) Believing that the ultimate king will come from the house of David and only from the descendants of Shlomo. One who does not believe in the house of David proclaims his lack of belief in Hashem and His prophets.
The Rambam adds that one who has doubts in the matter or even just makes light of it, is considered to have denied the entire Torah.
The Thirteen Principles
The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva, chapter 3:6) writes that one who denies the coming of the Moshiach or the Resurrection of the Dead has no portion in the World to Come and is lost and judged for his wickedness and sin, forever.
The Rambam counts this belief among the thirteen principles of faith and writes that one who believes in it is included in the Jewish nation and we are obligated to love him, show him mercy and all the mitzvos of bein adam lachaveiro are relevant to him. Even if he sinned due to failing to overcome his drives and desires, although he will be punished for them, he will nevertheless have a portion in the World to Come. Contrarily, one who doubts, even slightly, one of the principles, loses his place in the Jewish nation and is called a Min and Apikoros. He is to be hated, and of him it is said: “Did I not hate Your enemies, O Lord? With those who rise up against You, I quarrel, I hate them with utmost hatred; they have become my enemies” (Tehilim 139:21-22).
Nevertheless, Sefer Haikarim (Ma’amar 1) is of the opinion that one who does not believe in the coming of the Moshiach, despite being a dreadful sin, does not lose his status as Yisroel. But the Rambam’s opinion is accepted by most poskim.
Regardless of the differences in opinions, the belief in the coming of the Moshiach is a basic tenet in Judaism. The concept is expressed in the most basic Jewish proclamation of faith – “Shema Yisroel”. Rashi explains the continuation of the passuk “Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad” – Hashem, who is our G-d now and not acknowledged as the G-d of the nations, will, in the future, be One. This passuk expresses our hope for the future display of G-d’s rulership over the entire world.
The Braita in Bave Basre (60b) states: “Anyone who mourns for the destruction of Jerusalem will merit and see its joy, as it is stated: ‘Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all that mourn for her’ (Yeshayah 66:10).”
Seemingly retributive justice — he who mourns the lack will see the rebuilding; he who has made peace with the destruction of the beis hamikdash– won’t. But there is a deeper understanding of this. The Maharal (Netzach Yisroel chapter 29) explains that the world was created with the capacity to reach completion, shleimus, on every level. That is the purpose of creation – to give birth to the world’s potential of perfection. This will be realized only with the coming of the Moshiach, when the world will be perfected. One who wishes and yearns for this perfection with acute awareness of the present lack, connects himself spiritually to that future time and existence. As such, he not only has the physical abilities of reaching completion, he also has the connection – in his heart: he is part of the futuristic world. As such he will find himself meriting to see its joy.
Similarly, the Ramchal (Ma’amar Hakivuy) writes extensively on this topic, explaining what hope does in the kabalistic realm, adding that one who hopes for the Geula, even if he is not worthy of it because of his behavior, nevertheless the simple hoping makes him part of the Geula.
A person who hopes and yearns for salvation is part of that salvation, and one who is not interested in it, does not – because he has no part in that world. Therefore, it is clear now why one of the first questions asked in the heavenly tribunal is if one has connection to the world of salvation and redemption.
Hope for Salvation – Practically
The Midrash (Shocher Tov 17:4) writes: “All the thousands that fell in the Davidic wars fell only because they failed to demand the building of the Mikdash. And this is a fortiori — if those who didn’t have a Mikdash, and it was not destroyed in their times are punished for not asking for it, we – in whose days it was destroyed and fail to mourn it or ask for mercy for it –will escape judgement? Therefore, the early righteous people instituted praying three times a day: ‘Please O Merciful, in Your great mercy return Your Shechina to Tzion and the order of the Service to Yerushalayim’ and they instituted a separate blessing of ‘Builder of Yerushalayim’ as a separate blessing in the prayers and blessing after meals.”
This Midrash indicates that the practical expression of hoping for the redemption is prayer.
The Arizal (Sha’ar Hakavanos, drush 6) directs his readers that with reciting the words “Liyeshuascha kevenu kol hayom – I await your salvation all day” in the Shmone Esrei, one should bring to mind his hope and yearning for Hashem’s final redemption, so when he will be asked upon death “Did you await salvation?” his answer can be in the affirmative. This is written also in the siddur Ya’avetz.
(Interestingly, the last words that appear in the Nusach Sfarad siddur “Umetzapim lyeshua” are printed there due to a mistake. The Eshel Avraham and Piskei Teshuvos both write that those two words were added by printers in parenthesis, to remind the users of the siddurim that this was the place to remember their hope for redemption. After a while, the parenthesis was mistakenly dropped and the words became part of the actual prayer.)
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein (Chishukei Chemed, Bechoros 50a) quotes his father-in-law, Rav Elyashiv zatal (whose yartzeit fell this week) who was once asked: Why does the Gemara teach that Yerushalayim requires caring through acts of commemoration as inferred from the pasuk ‘For I will restore health to you, and I will heal you of your wounds, said the Lord; because they have called you an outcast: She is Tzion, there is none who care for her’ (Yirmiyahu 30:17)? Don’t we all care for her? We pray every day, three times a day in the Shemone Esrei “Vel’Yerushalayim ircha berachamim tashuv” and “Uveni Yerushalayim” in bentching after meals?
Rav Elyashiv answered: “Halevai people would mean what they say.”
Walking the walk and talking the talk is not enough. Saying the words “Metzapim leyeshua” will not make them a reality without our seriously meaning what we say, and taking practical steps in that direction.
The Chofetz Chayim (Torah Or, chapter 12) writes that if we really mean what we say, we would be thinking of the practical implications of the Geula, spending time learning the halachos that pertain to that time, to be prepared. Then he ends: “And when Hashem Ysiborach will see that we are making every effort to restore the service of the House of Hashem (through learning of the halachos) He will surely speed up the Geula and build his House, and we will merit seeing the Kohanim in their service in our times, amen.”
The Chofez Chayim publicized a short work called “Tzipisa Leyeshua”, which is highly recommended reading for the coming week.
May we merit awaiting the geula and seeing it with our own eyes very soon.