From Exile to Redemption (Chapter 2): Knowing the Sickness

By: Rabbi Dovid Markel

 

There is an old expression that “The diagnosis is half the cure[1].” So too, a clear understanding of the world as it is today will give us clarity regarding the time of redemption. To understand redemption we must first understand what we will be redeemed from.

It is clear that the future redemption will be more than merely gaining religious freedom, social autonomy and a Jewish homeland.  Jews yearned for the coming of Moshiach before any of these qualifications were ever lacking. Even in the period that all Jews lived in the land of Israel, enjoyed political independence and had the full right to practice their religion without obstruction or intimidation, Jews hoped and yearned for the Messianic age. In truth, the hope for the Messianic redemption has been embedded at the very heart and essence of Judaism from time immemorial, well before any Jews were exiled and dispersed to foreign lands[2]. It is absolutely integral and essential to Judaism, so much so, that it is enumerated as one of the thirteen essential axioms of our faith[3].

This being the case, clearly exile and redemption are much more profound than a simple shift in the geographical location of the Jewish people from the Diaspora to the land of Israel.  It is much more profound than this. Rather, the Messianic redemption entails leaving the unhealthy state of the distorted sense of reality that we presently have and coming into a healthy realization of the truth of HaShem’s reality. Moreover, not only will the Jewish people be redeemed in the time of Moshiach, but the entire world too[4], will reach a higher level of being from its present, unhealthy state[5]. If so, not only is the Messianic age not unnatural, but on the contrary, what will be achieved is the most natural and healthy condition possible for the world.

The world was created with structure and purpose. If it has purpose, this means that it is progressing toward an ultimate objective and that history is the voyage toward that objective. Chaos, evil and suffering are part of the Divine plan only in that they are the impediments which must be overcome to achieve it. The Messianic age will bring about a world community unified to serve the common good through serving HaShem. This being the case, not only is it not unnatural, but on the contrary, it is the most natural thing in the world. Rather, it is today’s world of chaos and strife which is the abnormal, surrealistic anomaly. The world of Moshiach will be the world of sanity and normalcy. However, it will not be a different world, but the same world in a state of total balance and equilibrium [6]. So, in a sense, nothing will change when Moshiach comes, but at the same time everything will be profoundly different.

Imagine being in a darkened house that you are unfamiliar with. You either do not see the objects in the room or you may just barely be able to make them out and notice they are there. You accidentally bump into things, stub your toes or mistakenly think that a statue is a man or a man is a statue. You try to grope about but are constantly meeting one obstacle after another. It all is very confusing and bewildering. Now, imagine that the lights have been switched on. Suddenly, the room is illuminated and you can see everything. Instantaneously, it all makes sense. Now, the truth of the matter is that nothing in the room has changed. The only difference is that now you see reality for what it is. In the same manner, this is the difference between our experience of the world today and how we will experience it in the time of Moshiach. The world will stay the same, but at the very same time, there will be a profound difference in how we experience it. Before there was darkness and now there is light. What previously may have been a source of great anguish suddenly becomes a source of great joy.

Right now, our experience of the world is one of darkness. Things and events seem disjointed, senseless and haphazard. But, when the light of Moshiach will be switched on, everything will suddenly make sense and we will see how it is all connected and part of the same whole. What at first seemed arbitrary and confused, will suddenly become completely meaningful and sensible.

Just as blind man can never be an artist nor a deaf man be a musician, so too, we who have only experienced a very dim summation of reality, cannot yet appreciate the true splendor and beauty of HaShem’s world. It is analogous to a deaf man who stumbles into a wedding celebration and sees all the guests dancing about joyously. Because he cannot hear the music, it appears to him as if they have all gone raving mad and are thrashing about like possessed lunatics!

In the same way, trying to explain why we should yearn for Moshiach is akin to trying to explain to a person who has been blind or deaf from birth why he should want to see or hear. He simply has no conception of seeing or hearing and no description of it, no matter how glorious, will suffice in making him understand. Being that he has never experienced anything otherwise, he is quite accustomed to the darkness or silence and may even be content with it. He has never known any other reality and is simply incapable of appreciating what he is missing. In the same way, we have no conception whatsoever of what we are missing and may even be content with the world as we experience it today.

 

Text IV

וכידוע המשל בזה במלך ששלך לבנו בנעוריו לארץ מרחקי’ ששם דירת בנ”א למטה בעומק הארץ במערות גדולות לאורך ורוחב כמה מילין ואין יודעים מאור השמש ותבאות ארץ כלל….וירבו הימים באותו אופן עד שנעשה להם כטבעיות ממש ויולידו בנים ודור אחר דור עד ששלח המלך את בנו לשם וירא בשמחתם בכל מיני תענוגים ובלתי יודעים מאומה….ויאמר להם שחסירים מכל טוב הארץ ומאור השמש ותבואות הארץ כי יש עולם ומלאו כו’ ויש בורא הכל ושליט בארץ וילעגו לו כו’ וישב עמהם ימים רבים והוא נאנח ומיצר על העדר האור והמה תמהים מאד עליו ויבך מאד מאד ובתוך הבכי לקח הכנור ונגן בשמחה וטוב לב מאד ונתמהו יותר והשיבת….אני מצפה לישועה מאבי המלך שיוצאיני מבור תחתית הזה לראות באור עולם ומלאו ולפום צערה אגרא כו’ והנמשל עמוק הוא.

מובא בדרך חיים עמ’  88בשם ר’ נחמן מקאסוב

 This is analogous to the story of a king who sent his son to a remote part of his kingdom where the inhabitants had been living in large underground caverns for many generations until they had forgotten about the surface world altogether. Living in darkness had become natural to them, so much so, that they could not imagine such a thing as light, and they were quite comfortable, happy and content with the darkness. They had no knowledge whatsoever of the sun or the wonderful fruits and produce of the surface world. The prince tried to explain all that they lacked…the warmth and brightness of the sun, the fruits of the earth and the beauty of the world and everything therein. He also spoke to them about the Creator who rules over all, but they only laughed and jeered at him. The longer the prince stayed with them the more saddened and anguished he became over the lack of light, which astonished them greatly. They simply could not understand his distress. Finally, as he was crying, he took his fiddle and started playing a joyous melody. This totally confused them, but he explained, “I am looking forward to when my father the king will save me and take me out of this deep pit. Then I will again behold the light of the world and everything therein, because according to the anguish is the reward. Now, this allegory is very deep.          

Derech Chaim, Pg. 88

 

The story aptly describes our condition. In our perception of reality, things seem to happen in a very confused and haphazardly way, as if there is no rhyme or reason and as if there is no Creator guiding it all.  We often do not even yearn for Moshiach. This is not because we do not want Moshiach, but simply because since we have never experienced the light, we simply do not know what we are missing. However, this is all a product of our “lights off” mindset. Were we able to turn on the lights, we would see the beauty and order of HaShem’s world.

We are so used to our misperception of reality that we think that “this is how the world runs. This is how the world is supposed to be.” We assume that this “dog eat dog” state of the world, with all its violence, pain and suffering is normal. Because we are so accustomed to the world as it is, we have become apathetic to the darkness and suffering surrounding us. After all, we say to ourselves, “The world is a jungle.”

Our perception of the world is one of contradictions. We lack harmony and in so many ways, we suffer from cognitive dissonance. This is the case emotionally, globally, politically and spiritually. It is as if we are in a dream[7]. Many things happen simultaneously, without any rational explanation. Instead of creating beauty, the colors either clash or melt into each other. Instead of creating harmony, the music is a cacophony of unbearable clatter.

It is specifically this blur and disharmony which creates the terrible suffering in the world[8]. This is the source of imbalance both on a personal level and in the world at large. The whole of human suffering can ultimately be traced to some kind of imbalance, either on the emotional plane, the global plane, or the spiritual plane.

However, if we were able to somehow switch on the so-called “lights” of our consciousness and behold reality as it truly is, our perception of the world would come to a balance, causing the world to be the beautiful place that it actually is.

Actually, when the world was originally created it was in a state of perfect balance. In this balanced world everything worked the way it was meant to function, forming a harmonious and homogeneous picture.

However, when man sinned[9], he created a schism in himself; a rift between who he was and the actions that he did. Since man is a microcosm[10], this affected the world, creating a rift in all that was. Things were no longer part of the greater picture, but became fractured and shattered as separate, disconnected entities. In such a world, violence and hatred can predominate. More so, violence becomes the norm.

This had a ripple effect upon the animal kingdom too[11]. Each creature throughout the ecological system became aware only of its own selfish needs and desires, to the detriment of the system as a whole[12].

When all is dark, one is aware only of himself and that which is in immediate contact with him. However, as human beings, our mandate is to drive away the darkness by reintroducing HaShem’s Divine light into the world. To do this, we do not have to “change” the intrinsic nature of the world or superimpose a nature upon it that does not already exist. On the contrary, our mission is to reveal the true essence and nature which is at the very core of the world’s existence. It is specifically by switching on the “light” of G-dliness and revealing it into the world that the world becomes the beautiful place it should be[13].


[1] See Sefer HaSichos 5700, pg 148 where this statement is referred to as “k’maamar ha-chacham.” 

[2] We see that the concept of Moshiach existed during a time when the Jewish people had their sovereignty, their own land, king, religious freedom, the Temple, etc. In fact, even prior to the expulsion of the Jewish people during the first exile and the destruction of the first Temple, they already yearned for Moshiach. The Talmud tells us: (ביקש הקב”ה לעשות חזקיה משיח.” (סנהדרין צד,א” “G-d desired to make King Chizkiyah Moshiach.” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 94a) King Chizkiya lived during the time of the first Temple, almost 600 years before the destruction of the Temple and the exile that ensued. Yet, the Talmud tells us that it was he whom G-d desired to be the Moshiach for his people.

[3] See the preface of the Rambam to Chelek, the 12th axiom.

[4] The idea of redemption applies to all the nations, as can be seen in the verse in Tzfanya 3:9, “.כי אז אהפך אל עמים שפה ברורה לקרא כלם בשם ה’ לעבדו שכם אחד” Meaning, that then all humanity will be united under one banner to serve G-d.

[5] See discourse V’ata T’zaveh (5752), that “חולה” a sick person, is the numerical value of 49. It is explained that the “sha-ar ha’nun,” the 50th gate, is the “sha-ar hacheirus,” the gate of freedom. (Shala, Meseches Shavuos, Perek Ner Mitzvah 17).

[6] This is known as “Tikun olam,” “The rectification of the world.”

[7] The time of exile can be compared to a dream, where things don’t fit rationally. This is the meaning of the phrase in Psalms 126:1, “hayinu k’cholmim,” that we were likened to dreamers. See Toras Menachem Meluket, discourse B’layla HaHu, which explains how the exile is analogous to the dream state of simultaneous contradictions.

[8] We are living in a post “shevira” reality and our job is to make the “tikun” or balance of the world.

[9] This idea that sin caused a schism is not as a punishment, but a consequence of not being true to oneself and to one’s mission in the world. See Likutei Sichos 39, pg­­ 203 for an explanation of reward and punishment being a natural consequence of sin.

[10]  “Gam es ha’olam nasan b’libo shel adam.” (Koheles 3:11)

[11] See Avodas Hakodesh 2:38, which explains that although there will be no difference between this world and the time of Moshiach, animals will not be vicious. This will be so, because although the world will be natural, it will be natural in a way that it is without sin and can be likened to the time of Adam prior to sin. See Ramban 26:6, that wild animals are as a result of man sinning, and that when Moshiach will come and there will be no sin, consequently there will be no wild animals. Rambam (Melachim 12:1), however, believes that this is all metaphor. See the Ravad there, who questions this issue from the verse in Vayikra 26:6, which seems to say that there will be no wild animals. See the Radvaz that answers the Ravad’s question and who says as well, that it is possible that in Israel the verse will be meant literally, and in the rest of the world it will be allegorical. See Likutei Sichos 27, pg. 191, and the way this connects with the two stages of the redemption.

[12] See Likutei Sichos 27, pg. 194, FN 37, that according to Ramban, before the sin of Adam animals were not carnivores, and that according to Rambam, although they were carnivores, before the sin they would only attack another animal for sustenance, not for sport.

[13] See Likutei Sichos 6, pg. 81, that the world is intrinsically good and all the negativity is a “shinuy ha’chozer l’briyaso,” a superimposed change on its natural state.

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