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Throughout the millennia of our bitter exile, our ancestors pined for Moshiach to come and redeem us. For many years, Jews were cruelly oppressed by the masses among whom they lived and by autocratic monarchs who imposed exorbitant taxes on them.

Usually living in abject poverty and viciously persecuted for their faith, they had every reason to yearn for redemption. Scriptural passages and sayings of our Sages in the Talmud and Midrashim promised a bright, supernatural future, giving them perennial hope.

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Today, however, virtually all Jews live in democratic lands, free of persecution. Most are better off in many ways than even kings in past eras. Dramatic medical advances have improved our health and life expectancy far beyond the imagination of previous generations. We travel easily around the globe in just hours, and communicate instantaneously with loved ones across the world. What, then, are we lacking, that we should yearn for Moshiach?

The Rambam writes that the uniqueness of the Messianic era will be full halachic observance of the entire Torah. The Beis Hamikdash will be rebuilt and all its offerings will be brought according to the Torah’s specifications. Mitzvos such as yovel, which can only be observed when all Jews are present in the Holy Land, will finally be fulfilled properly. Torah observance will thus reach its ultimate perfection.

This first stage of the Messianic era will not require supernatural miracles, though its events will be so remarkable as to be considered miraculous. The ingathering of all Jews and their acceptance of Moshiach will require a total about-face for many, who presently owe little conscious allegiance to halacha. Also at this stage, the nations of the world will accept the Jewish people’s dominion of the Holy Land and Moshiach as the world’s ruler. They will also accept the one G-d and observe His seven universal commandments as a Divine spirit permeates the minds of humanity and everyone realizes the truth of G-d and His Torah.

All the material blessings promised in the Torah and the Prophets will also be fulfilled. No more sickness, poverty, or hunger; no more persecution, fear, or worry; no more war or quarreling. The absence of all these will free our minds to delve into the great Torah revelations of the Messianic era and advance in Divine wisdom.

These revelations will actually be what truly distinguishes the Messianic era from our own. Moshiach will be the Torah teacher of the Jewish nation as well as a wise, Divinely-inspired world ruler. Today, Torah study dwells on the Torah’s externalities, seeking to define our practical obligations and the logic within halachic principles. Even more “spiritual” levels of Torah study – drush, remez, sod – have merely scratched the surface of these Torah reservoirs, without reaching anywhere near their true profundity.

Moshiach, when he comes, will reveal the deeper reasons for every detail of Torah observance – why it is necessary to perform particular mitzvos in specific ways and what each detail accomplishes in the spiritual realm. Even those familiar with these topics from Kaballah and Chassidus understand only their superficial aspects, realizing them intellectually to be fact but without grasping their inner essence. In the future era, these Torah insights will be revealed on a deeper level and provide greater conviction, as if we are finally seeing rather than merely hearing about something or studying it from a book.

Likewise, in the world in general: We will grasp the world’s true Divine nature and how our mitzvos elevate all material things. We will perceive the great pleasure given to Hashem by every mitzvah ever performed and realize regretfully how transgressions concealed His presence.

The era before Moshiach is described as the period of Divine “betrothal” to our people, while the future era will represent Hashem’s “marriage” to us. We will progress in this union from one spiritual height to another, from the first stage of Moshiach’s era to the next, including resurrection of the dead and much more.

If we don’t yet appreciate the value of all this, it is because our perception is still like a child’s. As we mature, we come to realize what is truly important. May these days help us arrive at that perception, enabling us to reach true hope and yearning for Moshiach.

(Based on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the central Lubavitch Youth Organization and a weekly columnist for The Jewish Press.
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