Every soul possesses a spark of the soul of Moshiach
—Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov
After the passing of Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch in 1772, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok led a group of chassidim to settle in the Holy Land.
One day, a somewhat deluded individual climbed the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and sounded a shofar. Soon the rumor spread that Moshiach had arrived, setting off a great commotion in the street. Rabbi Mendel went to his window and sniffed the air. “No,” he said, “unfortunately, the redeemer has not yet arrived. On that day, ‘the world shall be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea,’ and ‘all flesh will perceive’ (Isaiah 11:9 and 40:5) the reality of the Creator. I do not sense the divine truth that will permeate the world in the era of Moshiach.”
Said the renowned mashpia, Rabbi Grunem Estherman: “Why did Rabbi Mendel need to go to the window to sniff for the presence of Moshiach? Because the all-pervading truth of G‑d was already a tangible reality within the walls of Rabbi Mendel’s room.”
-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
“Moshiach in the Air”
I know this commentary seems rather fanciful and not particularly realistic (can you smell Moshiach in the air?), but as I read it, I was reminded of how in certain corners of Christianity, the topic of the end times and the second coming are very prominent, almost to the point of obsession. It’s as if we haven’t read the Gospels in our own Bibles.
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
–Matthew 24:23-28 (ESV)
Why are we so worried about the coming Messiah? He gave us great advice about what worry is all about.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
–Matthew 6:30-34 (ESV)
But as I said before, it’s very difficult for us to change our thinking and to rise up out of the darkness as a light. It is very difficult to let the world be the world, to just do our best, and to have faith and trust that everything will work out according to God.
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
–Luke 18:7-8 (ESV)
Is waiting and rumor a test of faith? It’s been nearly 2,000 years since the ascension and we’ve been waiting ever since. Jews cry out “Moshiach now” but Moshiach has yet to come. Rabbi Mendel said that the world will be filled with the knowledge of God before the Messiah’s coming (return) but that’s just one of many different thoughts about what must happen beforehand. We can’t be that sure of our facts. In many ways, the Bible is a mystery containing clues we struggle all our lives to interpret.
This Shabbos is called Shabbos Chazak, “the Shabbos of reinforcement,” because of the custom of declaring, Chazak, Chazak, Vinischazaik (“Be strong, be strong, and may you be strengthened”) at the conclusion of the Torah reading, in acknowledgment of the completion of the Book of Genesis.
The awareness nurtured by the reading of Vayechi generates strength. When a Jew knows he has been granted a heritage of life expressed through a connection with the Torah, and that there will come a time when this connection will blossom, he will acquire the inner strength to confront the challenges presented by his environment.
By heightening the expression of this potential in our people as a whole, we hasten the coming of its fruition in the Era of the Redemption. May this take place in the immediate future.
So Joseph and his father’s household remained in Egypt. Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph lived to see children of the third generation of Ephraim; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were likewise born upon Joseph’s knees. At length, Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. God will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” So Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “When God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.”
Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
–Genesis 50:22-26 (JPS Tanakh)
The final verses of this Torah Portion and the book of Genesis find Jacob and Joseph dead and Jacob’s descendants continuing to live in Egypt. This sets the stage for the birth of Moses and the centuries of slavery of the Jewish people under a “new king who arose over Egypt and who did not know Joseph.” If Jacob understood prophesy, he must have known what was going to come after his death, just as Joseph did. True, he was reassured by God that He would go down into Egypt with Jacob and his family, and that God would bring Jacob’s descendants back out of Egypt (Genesis 46:4), and yet what a bitter thing to go to your grave knowing your children and your children’s children will suffer.
As Rabbi Touger states, at the end of this Torah portion, it is customary to declare “Chazak, Chazak, Vinischazaik (“Be strong, be strong, and may you be strengthened”).”
Where ever you are in your life and whatever your experiences are, however you anticipate your future, whether it be long or brief, you…we…all of us must be strong.
But that can be so very hard. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
God be merciful, and may Moshiach come soon and in our days. Amen.