By Rabbi Dovid Markel
The mishna (Tamid 7:4) defines the messianic era as “the day that is completely Shabbat [tranquil] and restful for all eternity.”
Restfulness is characterized as the opposite of hurriedness, urgency or tension – a state of eternal calm and undisturbed serenity which is the opposite of the tense exile of constant advancement and crisis.
In describing the future redemption, the prophet (Yeshayahu 52:12) declares: “For not with haste shall you go forth and not in a flurry of flight shall you go.”
Not only is the future redemption is a state of calm in contrast to the exile, but whereas when the Israelites left Egypt it was done in haste, as the verse (Shemot 14:5) states “the nation fled,” the Jewish People will leave the final exile leisurely.
Tanya (Ch. 31) explains that the contrast is due to the manner that the Jewish People dealt with their internal negativity and evil. Because they had not transformed themselves, (or the world around them) they needed to escape:
“Because the evil in the souls of the Israelites was still in its strength in the left part— for not until the Giving of the Law did their impurity cease— yet their aim and desire was to free their divine souls from the exile of the sitra achra, which is the “Defilement of Egypt,” and cleave to Him, blessed be He, as is written, “The Lord is my strength and my fortress and my refuge in the day of affliction,…” “my high tower and my refuge, . . .” ‘and He is my escape,…'”
The nature is of running is that one is escaping one thing in order to arrive at another; in the initial redemption – where the external and internal Egypt was extent – it was necessary therefore to rush from the evil in order to reach a state of holiness.
However, during the final redemption where G-d (Zechariah 13:2) promises “I will remove the spirit of contamination from the earth,” and (Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshayahu 503) “in the future the Land of Israel will spread to all lands.”
In such a state the reality will be as conveyed in the verse (Zechariah 14:9) “the Lord shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one.”
Understandably, in a reality where the entirety of the world will be infused with G-dliness there is nothing to run from and nowhere to run to – “For not with haste shall you go forth and not in a flurry of flight shall you go.”
These two realities – of the initial redemption and the final one – are the two modalities described in chassidic thought as “itkafya-subduing evil” vs. “ithapcha-transforming evil,” or an alternative term “sur mei’ra-going away from evil,” vs. “asei tov-doing good.”
In the first reality – when the individual is escaping internal and external evil – there is a stress and rush created by the evil that one is escaping. However, when the person reaches a reality where they are submerged in goodness, there is a sense of constant calm as there is nothing to escape from.
In the normative paradigm, the initial redemption and the subsequent millennia leading to the final one, are typified by the constant state of escaping evil, while the final one is described as a state where the rush and tension dissipates as the evil has already been conquered and transformed into G-dliness.
This leads us to a certain paradox of the future redemption. For while it was conveyed above that the future redemption will be characterized as an era of eternal calm, there are other statements that seem to paint a very different picture.
The midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabbah) on the verse (Shir Hashirim 2:8) “The sound of my beloved! Behold, he is coming, skipping over the mountains, jumping over the hills,” explains that this eludes to King Moshiach.
What is conveyed in the concept of jumping (see Lubavitcher Rebbe, L’havin Pesach Sheini, 5738) is the constant leap and propulsion from level to level.
Additionally, the Zohar (3:153b) remarks that “moshiach will make the righteous repent.” Which means to say, that even those in a state of “ithapcha” or “asai tov” will need to completely transform their mode of G-dly service.
Rather than the redemptive period being one of eternal rest, it is described as an era of eternal paradigm shifts and reframing.
One can appreciate that when is constantly reframing their entire G-dly service, constantly running to new modalities not only can that not be termed a state of rest, as there is constant flux, but the individual experiencing these changes seems not to be able to have a sense of calm.
For by the time that he gets his grasp on one mode of service, he jumps to the next one. In such a state, there would seem to a constant feeling of unpreparedness – the opposite of calm – for there is nothing that can prepare a person for a constant state of complete change.
How then can these two descriptions of the redemptive era work in tandem? Is the redemption a state of eternal calm, or eternal flux and running?
There are two ways though that this can possibly be elucidated: 1) that the intrinsic experience of the redemption is one of calm, but it is coupled with a state of constant growth, 2) that the era of redemption can be described as one of “calm stress,” is that it incorporates two opposite experiences at once.
The Talmud (Berachot 12b) says of the messianic era “the exodus from Egypt remembered in the days of the Messiah.”
The reason for mentioning the exodus from Egypt is to evoke that sense of rush and excitement that is not naturally there. By commemorating, mentioning and remembering the exodus we elicit the urge to not be complacent at the level that we are on, but to constantly strive for deeper and deeper levels of holiness.
This is akin to what is expressed in the verse (Shir HaShirim 1:4) “Draw me, we will run after you.” The reason the statement begins in the singular and ends in the plural is because initially one pulls the animal soul towards G-d, but when the G-dly soul experiences the excitement of the animals rush towards G-d, it too begins to run – desiring to experience deeper and deeper levels of G-dliness.
The same can be said of the messianic era. Although it will be a utopia of pure goodness, which precludes the necessity for rushing towards imminent transformation, by remembering the initial exodus then too we will be drawn towards the rush of constant growth.
The issue though with the above interpretation is that accordingly the intrinsic nature of the future redemption is one of calm, and the excitement and rush is merely a byproduct caused by remembering the initial exodus.
However, in the statement “Behold, he is coming, skipping over the mountains, jumping over the hills,” which alludes to moshiach the connotation is that the messianic era in and of itself is one of constant jumping from level to level.
Perhaps though this conundrum can be answered by reformulating the manner that we look at stress. While stress is often thought of as a negative thing in one’s life, recent research has discovered that it is not the stress in and of itself that is damaging but our perspective to it.
When we look at stress as an opportunity towards growth, viewing change as an opportunity rather than with fear, instead of being overwhelmed by it, we approach it with courage and happily embrace it.
The description of the future redemption is not the “escape” of the initial redemption which connotes fear – running *away* from something, but the opposite, the dancing and jumping of a gazelle.
Rather the rush of escape drawn from fear, moshiach is the joyous dancing towards higher and higher levels. So while the experience of running seems the same, they are actually totally different. The latter is one that is able to incorporate a “calm stress,” on one hand being calm in one’s life, and on the other having the joy of constant growth.
While this manner of service is particularly expressed in the future redemption, in a microcosmic manner is is expressed annually in the “Pesach Sheni” – the second jumping. A jumping not to run away from ourselves or our own negativity, but to joyously dance to deeper and deeper levels of g-dly service.