Rav Noach Weinberg, z”l, told over a story that masterfully illustrates how we should serve God:
A king showed his servants a huge mountain of sand he wanted shoveled into the ocean. Though the mountain was in close proximity to the water, virtually all the servants sensed that digging it up and shoveling it into the sea would be impossible, so they abandoned the mission.
One servant, though, was not dissuaded for one simple reason: the king had commanded it. Determined to stick with the task, he started shoveling sand from the top of the mountain. Suddenly his shovel hit some kind of rock and he could shovel no more. He kept on pushing his shovel against the rock until it was dislodged and took the whole mountain of sand with it into the ocean.
The servant had thus “miraculously” completed the task he was asked to do.
The point is quite clear. In essence, our mission is to do what God asks of us. Whether we are successful in the ultimate task is not up to us nor is it required of us. What is required of us is our effort. We don’t have to be the one who dislodges the final rock, but we must all be diggers
There is one question I’m left with concerning this story. Let’s say you’re the type of individual who relishes the big moment and wants to carry the glory. You’re the one who wants to dislodge the rock. You were captain of your team and class valedictorian. Digging is nice, but you want to be the final piece in the puzzle. What is the takeaway for you if you are this kind of person?
Perhaps there is no better way to address this issue than by looking at the narrative of Mashiach. It’s certainly pertinent, as we believe we are in the final thousand years of the world’s existence, and there’s no greater prize than being Mashiach ben David – although the nation must achieve redemption through acting together. It’s a team game.
One may want to be Mashiach and even possess all the necessary qualities, but if he is not from the lineage of Yehuda, he is automatically disqualified. One might be overwhelmed by the reality of being out of the running through no fault of one’s own. But again, this is God’s wish. So if one desires the prize – if one wants to lead our people to redemption – yet knows he’s not the chosen one, how should he internalize this reality?
It could be that the narrative must be approached from a different angle. What is the greatness of man at all within the Jewish fold? Where does an individual’s dynamic self materialize? To this the Zohar has already provided an answer. Our greatness lies in the majesty of the Torah.
The 600,000 souls that were represented at Sinai correspond to the 600,000 letters in the Torah. Every Jewish person has his own letter in the Torah and as a person grows and develops, that letter grows and develops as well and changes the whole dynamic of the Torah, which becomes a 600,000-word developing document.
Being that Bnei Yisrael are reflected and connected through an everlasting and evolving Torah, our split existence in Israel and the Diaspora will soon come to an end as promised in the Torah itself.
However, no matter where Jews are situated at the moment, a bridge between the Diaspora and Israel can be created. The chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, quotes a commentator to emphasize the importance of constant good relations between the Jews of Israel and the Diaspora. It relates to the question of why Moshe placed half the tribe of Gad with Reuven and Menashe when only Reuven and Menashe had asked for a lot in the Yarden. The Degel Machaneh Ephraim explains that Moshe realized Reuven and Gad likely would attain their own separate identities outside of Israel, thus leading to a split between the 12 tribes in Israel and the Diaspora. To avoid this Moshe created a bridge by placing half of Menashe among Reuven and Gad so there would always be a flow of people coming in and out of Israel, connecting all the tribes.
Today as well we can create a synergy between the Diaspora and Israel by drawing strength from Israel, devoting time to Israel’s causes and bolstering Israel through visits.
We still await the final redeemer to unify all Jews and bring them from the four corners of the world to settle in Israel. Whoever that redeemer is may carry the glory but he won’t feel it inside, for as the Rambam says, the redeemer will be a pure manifestation of humility.
It’s not worth the “risk” to believe you’re not Mashiach because all Jews have the potential to carry the traits of the redeemer – wisdom, growth, knowledge, and a growing fear of God.
Either way, if we each exercise our own jurisdiction over our letter to help in the salvation, a complete Torah will emerge that will bring an end to the current pain and suffering.