"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

The Time for Your Redemption has Arrived!

May 12, 2013

in Moshiach.com

Rabbi Mendel Reitzes
One common point between Moshe Rabbeinu, the First Redeemer, and Moshiach, the Final Redeemer, is that both of them arise from the very atmosphere they are destined to abolish. Moshe, who would one day wage war against Pharaoh and the Egyptians, grew up in Pharaoh’s own household. Moshiach, before the Final Redemption, is situated “in exile in Edom” – the same exile he will put an end to when he is revealed.The Midrash (Shemos Rabba, Chapter 1) relates: “Pharaoh’s daughter used to kiss and hug [Moshe] and loved him like her own son. She never brought him outside the king’s palace…and Pharaoh would kiss and hug him. Moshe would take Pharaoh’s crown and place it on his head, as he would do when he was older. Said the Holy One, Blessed be He, to Chiram (Yechezkel 28:18): ‘I have brought forth a fire from your midst.’ Pharaoh’s daughter brought up the very one who would avenge her father. Similarly, Moshiach, who is destined to take vengeance against Edom, dwells together with them in their own land, as it is written (Yehoshua 27:10): ‘There shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down.'” (The verse actually concludes: “and consume its branches,” i.e., he will destroy the very place he came from.)A logical question is asked: Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate if Moshe had grown up in a sanctified atmosphere, with his own parents, before assuming his role as Redeemer of the Jewish people? And the same could be asked of Moshiach: Wouldn’t it be more suitable for Moshiach to bide his time in Jerusalem (or some other holy place) while awaiting the Redemption? Why does Moshiach have to wait outside the Land of Israel?

At the Gates of Rome

One possible answer is found in Sanhedrin 39b in a discussion of the prophecy of Ovadiah, who foretold the destruction of Edom. Why was Ovadiah chosen to deliver this prophecy? The Gemara explains: “Ovadiah was an Edomite convert. And as the folk-saying goes, ‘From the forest itself is taken the ax wherewith to fell it.'” In the same way the ax handle is made from the very wood it is used for cutting down, so was Ovadiah, a descendent of Edom, chosen to prophesize Edom’s downfall. Only one who has actually lived among the nations and understands the nature of the exile can bring about its end. Thus the familiarity of Moshe and Moshiach with the exile enables them to oppose it that much more effectively.

The Maharal of Prague goes even further (Gevuros Hashem, Chapter 18; Netzach Yisroel, Chapter 28), commenting on Sanhedrin 98a. There, the Gemara relates that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi once met Eliyahu Hanavi standing at the entrance of a cave. “When will Moshiach appear?” he asked. Eliyahu answered, “Go and ask him yourself.” “But where can he be found?” “At the gates of Rome.” Thus we have two sources, the Midrash and the Talmud, corroborating Moshiach’s presence in Edom. (“Rome” is associated with the kingdom of Edom.)

Rashi, however, interprets “the gates of Rome” in the figurative sense. “Not the actual entrance to the city, but to Gan Eden, which is opposite the entire world. That is to say, Moshiach is situated on the side of Gan Eden which is opposite its entrance.” But literal or not, what’s the connection between Moshiach and Rome?

The Maharal places the emphasis on the word “gates”: Moshiach is not in Rome, he’s at its entrance, the door through which people go in and out and where the city ends. In other words, Moshiach is only on the periphery of Rome.

The Maharal explains the distinction:

Whenever matter is transformed into a new entity, the old form must lose its shape and identity in order for the new entity to acquire one. It is impossible for matter to remain abstract, without any form whatsoever. It follows, then, that the quicker the old entity ceases to exist, the quicker the new one appears. The new entity is thus dependent on the destruction of the one that preceded it.

In our case, the entity changing form is malchus, sovereignty and control. In the historical sense, the balance of power is constantly shifting from one nation to another, as various countries and civilizations take turns being the world’s superpower. At times the Jewish people are dominant; at times the nations of the world have the upper hand.

According to the above principle, Moshiach’s assumption of leadership is dependent on the “destruction of the preceding entity,” i.e., the prevailing culture just prior to the Final Redemption. Moshiach is waiting for the “fall of Rome,” the civilization of Edom, for only then can he assume power.

This helps to explain why Moshe had to grow up in Pharaoh’s household, and Moshiach dwells at the gates of Rome: When Moshe became leader of the Jewish people, Pharaoh’s strength and authority were transferred to him. Likewise, in the Messianic era, Moshiach will assume the power that is presently in the hands of Edom. It is therefore obvious that before the redemption, the redeemer must be located in the same place as the entity he is about to supercede. Moshiach dwells at the very edge of Rome; its destruction and transformation into a new, Messianic entity is imminent. And the sooner the old form disappears, the sooner Moshiach can assume power.

This also explains a saying of our Sages (Vayikra Rabba, Chapter 13) identifying “chazir” (literally “pig”) with Edom. Why is Edom termed a “chazir”? “Because it will return (mechazeres) its crown to its rightful owner (i.e., the Jewish people).” Before the Final Redemption, the crown of world leadership will pass from Edom to Moshiach. However, the transfer of power will be indirect: as the civilization of Edom disintegrates, a vacuum will be created which is then filled by malchus shamayim, the reign of heaven.

As the Maharal writes, “Thus Moshiach dwells together with them in their land, waiting for the void to develop that will induce them to accept a different authority.” In other words, Edom will grow weak from within. “The power void will not be absolute, as there must always be some form of authority in the world, but it will be sufficient to bring about the transition to the kingdom of heaven. Moshe Rabbeinu thus had to grow up in Pharaoh’s palace and Moshiach waits at the gates of Rome, for if not for the void that appears, the new entity cannot begin to take shape.”

The Analogy of the Husk

Nonetheless, the above explanation is still insufficient. How can we compare the reign of Moshiach in the Messianic era, a pure and holy institution, to the political power of the nations, which is derived from kelipah? As the Maharal puts it, “The sovereignty of Israel is separate and distinct from the sovereignty of the nations.” How, then, can we say that Moshiach will acquire his authority from Edom and is dependent on its demise?

The analogy of the physical development and growth of fruit will help us understand the concept. When a fruit first starts to grow, it is part and parcel of the husk that surrounds it. As the fruit reaches maturity and perfection, the husk falls off and the fruit emerges as a separate entity. In the same way, the sovereignty of Israel must originate within the “husk” it is destined to supercede, from which it receives its sustenance during the lengthy incubation process. When the proper time comes for Moshiach to establish his reign, the husk will no longer be necessary and the authority of the nations will be nullified.

“Moshiach will emerge from within the kingdom [of Edom] in the same manner in which a fruit emerges from its husk…although the fruit starts out inside the husk, when it reaches perfection the husk falls off and separates.”

Elsewhere (Netzach Yisroel, Chapter 26) the Maharal quotes the Midrash (Eichah Rabba, Chapter 1) which states that Moshiach will be born “in the house of Arav” (Arabia). According to the Gemara, Rome will be ascendant just prior to the Final Redemption; according to the Midrash, Yishmael will dominate the world. In any event, the underlying principle is that Moshiach will acquire his authority from whichever nation will be the ruling superpower before the Redemption, be it Edom or Arav.

Moshiach in Exile

The Maharal’s approach is not necessarily literal. To him, Moshiach’s dwelling outside the Land of Israel is symbolic of the transfer of power from the nations to the Jewish people. (As mentioned previously, Rashi understands “Rome” as referring to Gan Eden.) But other commentators maintain that Moshiach actually lives in the Diaspora, outside Eretz Yisroel, as part of the larger Jewish community.

It states in Hoshea (2:2): “Then shall the children of Yehuda and the children of Israel be gathered together and appoint themselves one head; and they shall rise up out of the land.” According to the Radak and the Targum Yonasan, “one head” refers to Moshiach; “and they shall rise up out of the land” means “from the land of their exile they will come to their own land.” Moshiach is thus currently situated in the Diaspora, from where he will lead the Jewish people back to Israel.

Similarly, the Targum renders the verse in Shir Hashirim (8:1), “O, that you were as my brother” as “And at that time, Moshiach will be revealed to the Jewish people, and they will say to him, ‘Come and be as our brother, and together we will go up to Jerusalem.'” The next verse, “I will lead you and bring you into the house of my mother,” is translated as “I will lead you, Moshiach, and bring you to the Beis Hamikdash.” Again, Moshiach is in exile with his brethren, and they are asking him to bring them back to Eretz Yisroel.

We find the definitive approach in the Rebbe’s Kuntreis Beis Rabbeinu Sheb’bavel, which is based on the Rambam’s Hilchos Melachim. There, the Rebbe explains that before Moshiach is completely revealed, he will be a very great leader who disseminates Torah and mitzvos and brings the Jewish people back to observance. It is therefore axiomatic that Moshiach must be located wherever the majority of Jews are found, i.e., in the Diaspora, where he will initiate the Final Redemption and return with them to Israel. [Note: In his Igeres Teiman, the Rambam writes that Moshiach will first appear in Eretz Yisroel. However, this possibility is omitted from his legal works entirely.]

In Yalkut Shimoni (Yeshayahu, Remez 499) the revelation of Moshiach is described as follows: “When Moshiach arrives he will stand on the roof of the Beis Hamikdash and announce to the Jewish people, ‘Humble ones, the time for your Redemption has arrived!'” A question is asked: If the Beis Hamikdash is already rebuilt, and Moshiach is standing on its roof, isn’t the announcement redundant?

On Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah 5751 the Rebbe answered this question: The Midrash is referring to the time just prior to the Final Redemption, and the “roof of the Beis Hamikdash” is an allusion to Moshiach’s location in the Diaspora. In the same way that the roof of the Temple did not have the same level of sanctity as the Temple itself (see Pesachim 85), the lands of the nations do not have the same sanctity as Eretz Yisroel. Thus it is precisely from exile that Moshiach will rise up to announce, “Humble ones, the time for your Redemption has arrived!”

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