It is taught in Hassidism that every Jew contains within him a spark or element of Mashiach. This is the capacity with him to act as a redeeming force for himself, those he knows, and in short, everything in the world with which he comes into contact.
Just as the revelation of the general Mashiach is dependent upon humanity being anxious over his delay, the actualization of the Mashiach-spark within every individual requires first that he be anxious over the fact that this spark has not yet surfaced and manifested itself.
The deepest complex in an individual’s psyche is the frustration he feels over not being able to fully actualize his potentials, to live up to what he feels he is capable of becoming. Deep down, he knows that his Divine soul is a part of G-d, so to speak, and by its means he is capable of revealing G-d’s presence in the world. The fact that he is prevented from doing so troubles him deeply. This frustration is equivalent to frustration over not being able to actualize his own inner spark of Mashiach .
It follows that it is the spark of Mashiach within the individual that gives rise to this existential anxiety. The more a person begins to think in terms of the purpose of life, the purpose of his own life, and the urgency of rectifying reality, the more intense this anxiety becomes. As we have noted, this anxiety sensitizes the person to the depth and passion of the inner dimension of the Torah and enables him to understand more and more of it. Although the study of the Torah’s inner dimension serves to heighten a person s consciousness of life’s purpose and the urgency of redemption, and thus intensifies his yearning for Mashiach, it also bolsters his belief and optimism regarding the imminence of redemption. This serves to take the edge off the bitterness of his Mashiach-anxiety, without mitigating its intensity. Just as the intensity of a person’s yearning for Mashiach in general hastens his arrival, anxiety over the revelation of the spark of Mashiach catalyzes its revelation.
This revelation of the spark of Mashiach within an individual is not a once-only affair. Inasmuch as the Divine soul embodies infinite layers of potential, as soon as a person actualizes and exhausts one level, he becomes aware of a new, deeper, more powerful level available to him.
Thus, a spiritually-oriented and progressing person lives in an ongoing dynamic of tension and fulfillment, which spirals continuously into higher levels of realization of his spark of Mashiach, his ability to redeem the world. The greater his anxiety, the more he is inspired to reveal his inner spark of Mashiach, deepen his relationship with G-d, and delve into the secrets of the Torah. The more that he actualizes his potential to redeem the world, deepen his relationship with G-d, and learn of the inner dimension of the Torah, the more he feels the urgency for redemption and intensified anxiety over its delay.
Every answer to life’s anomalies offered by the Torah gives rise to another, deeper question in its wake, since the Torah is infinite and therefore the understanding of life it gives those who study it is also infinite. Each level of understanding is challenged and replaced by a succeeding, deeper level.
This ongoing dynamic of tension and resolution is necessary for an individual’s continued spiritual growth. For with every answer, every new, comprehensive understanding of reality gained, comes a sense of satisfaction at having achieved it. This satisfaction naturally spawns complacency: the problem is solved, we have the answer. Nothing aggrandizes the ego more than the feeling that one possesses all the answers. It is therefore necessary to prevent this aggrandizement of the ego by sensing a new, deeper question immediately upon finding the answer to the previous question.
Of course, the infinity of this process does not mean that it never reaches any conclusion. It is taught in Hassidism that when a certain critical mass of the collective individual sparks of Mashiach is revealed, it will cause the general Mashiach to be revealed and the ultimate, final Redemption will occur.
As we have now understood the spark of Mashiach within each individual as a process of ongoing spiritual growth, it is logical to assume that it will exhibit the same threefold structure that typifies any spiritual growth process.
The anxiety over the delay in Mashiach’s coming, the feeling of helplessness in the face of the enormity of the world’s incompletion, is the submission phase of the Mashiach spark.
Our sages teach us that Mashiach will come when he is not being thought about. Although this statement seems to imply that the best way to hasten the coming of Mashiach is by ignoring the subject, this obviously cannot be the intention of this teaching, for our sages have declared the constant expectation of the messianic era to be a fundamental tenet of Judaism. In the words of the prophets (Habakkuk 2:3): “If he tarries, wait for him, for he shall surely come, without delay.”
Rather, the meaning is that we should believe in the imminent arrival of Mashiach despite the fact that the world seems unprepared and worthy of it. There are many signs that our era is ripe for the Redemption, but in many ways it appears to be far from ready. Our sages are telling us that we must believe with perfect faith that Mashiach can come at any minute, no matter how improbable it may seem. Even though the situation of the world is such that no one would think he could come now, we are to believe that nonetheless his arrival is imminent.
This is the separation phase of the process of the revelation of Mashiach , in which we are to free ourselves of any preconceived notions regarding what must be in order for Mashiach to come.
The phase in which an individual’s spark of Mashiach is shining and he is actively engaged in the redemption of his corner of the world is the sweetening stage.