In the Aramaic translation and commentary on the opening verse of Song of Songs, the tradition is brought that there are ten primordial songs–nine appearing in the Bible, while the last one awaits the Messianic era. The nine that have already been sung are all called song, shirah, in the feminine gender. The song to be sung by Mashiach is called “a new song” shir chadash, grammatically in the masculine. The thread connecting most of the nine songs together is their expression of either personal or national redemption. The significance of these songs being in the feminine gender is that each redemption was not in itself totally complete, therefore each redemption “gave birth” to further exiles. The last of the ten primordial songs will only be revealed when the historical process has reached the stage of culmination. This song is referred to in the male sense in that no exile will be “born” from this last redemption.
The universal vision of complete redemption and the perfection of the world has driven the Jewish People to survive against all odds and historic precedent. It is this same vision that propels Jewish leaders in every generation as they attempt to instill these concepts in the hearts of the Jewish People. At times it may seem unrealistic, or even impossible, for the world to reach such an exalted level. Nonetheless, by striving toward that end we are able to bring these ideals into our daily existence.
The Torah writes “and Abraham was old, coming into days, and G-d blessed Abraham with all.” Kabbalah and Chassidut explain that Abraham, through a life time of spiritual elevation, finally reached a level where he could transcended time–literally “coming into days.” Not only did he experience the world to come, but he could manifest it in this world as well. Simply dreaming of a utopian world, and even more, acting upon our convictions, helps create it here and now.
This promise of a glorious future for all humanity is one of Judaism’s greatest gifts to the world. This is the ideal state referred to by Isaiah when prophesying that Israel would be “a light unto the nations,” leading mankind toward a perfected future. Considering the abuse, scorn and the various attempts of annihilation heaped upon the Jewish People, the above statement seems either erroneous or even absurd. Nonetheless, when the true story of history is finally told, it will be shown to what extent the Jewish People influenced history, helping lead the world to its eventual Messianic climax. Only then will Jewish contributions in the varied areas of universal morals, ethics, law, science, philosophy, economics, literature and culture be recognized and appreciated.
In Jewish tradition, Mashiach is seen as both king and teacher. As king, his role is to rectify and redeem Israel in a physical sense. Therein lies the secret of his first appearing in the north, the symbol of the material plane. Once Israel has been redeemed physically, the circumstances will be ripe for his teachings to spread beyond Israel to the four corners of the earth. After the suffering of the world is alleviated, he will become forever a teacher to all mankind.
Before Mashiach is Divinely “appointed,” he will be in a deep state of anxiety, frustrated that the world is not yet ready for rectification. During that time, according to Kabbalah and Chassidut, he will immerse himself in the secrets of the Torah, hoping to fulfill the statement of the Zohar: “through this book (the Zohar) the people will go out of exile with compassion.” At that stage of personal development, he does not know his true mission; rather he tries to actualize his own spark of Mashiach, unaware of a greater destiny. This process is similar to many great Biblical figures who did not seek leadership, but reluctantly accepted the yoke when G-d rested it upon them.
We are taught that the study of the inner dimension of Torah “purifies the air,” clarifying psychological confusion and distractions, so that true values and purpose may be manifest. Speaking words of Torah, especially its “secrets,” redeems reality from impurity and its deep-rooted sense of exile. No matter how great the oppression or pervasive the terrors, throughout history Jews have continued to learn Torah. While all the great empires that tried to extinguish the light of Torah are but pages in history books, the Jewish People have survived and overcome.
The study of the inner dimensions of Torah “sweetens the judgments” of an unrectified world and arouses great Divine compassion. The Arizal revealed that the long two thousand year exile, though painful and seemingly endless, in truth was a necessary stage in the ultimate redemption of the world. By redeeming the sparks of holiness trapped in the shells of the material world, the Jewish People, scattered to the four corners of the world, are destined to uplift the sparks and bring them back to their source in Torah and the Land of Israel. For this reason, the ingathering of the exiles to Israel in our day is a sign of the rapidly approaching Messianic era.
On a personal level, the study of the secrets of Torah “purifies the air” of unrectified personality. For in truth, the study of Kabbalah demands the purification of every aspect of consciousness, and eventually the unconscious mind as well. Attempting to learn the inner dimensions of Torah while ignoring the need to constantly refine the ego may not only be fruitless but destructive as well. After tasting the sweetness of Torah, one’s whole being longs for more, thus giving incentive to purify one’s vessels for the ever-greater light waiting to enter.
As his vessels become more purified, one begins to contact and integrate the essential unity of Creation as revealed by G-d, the Source of all perfection. As Israel increases its longing for Torah, love of the People and its devotion to the Land, the “air” of the world is purified. When the essential entities of wholeness–Torah, the People and the Land of Israel–are transformed from individual flames into a unified, fiery torch of love for G-d, then His compassion will be aroused to such an extent that the world will be flooded by the knowledge of G-d “as the waters cover the seas.”
The flaming desire to experience the Oneness of G-d from below, draws down a waterfall of love from above. The integration of fire and water is the essence of “heaven,” shamayim, a combination of the words for “fire” esh, and “water” mayim. Heaven must be brought down to earth and spirituality must be integrated with physical reality. Every thought, speech and action that unites both aspects helps prepare the world for its ultimate redemption. May we all actualize our individual spark of Mashiach and become leaders in our own right, thereby fulfilling our holy mission in life.