If you are reading this, the three weeks of mourning are over… and there is still no Beis HaMikdash. Deep down we may start feeling despair – will we ever be redeemed? To eradicate such despondent emotions, Chazal established that we immediately commence the “Shiva d’nechemta” – seven weeks of comfort that start with Shabbos Nachamu. We open our hearts and allow the comforting words of the Navi to enter, as he tells us in the weekly haftarah that Hashem wants us back and will definitely return to dwell among us. But what is Hashem waiting for?
The Navi Yeshaya (Yeshaya 21:11-12) asks this very question. “Watchman – what is with the night, what is with the night?” Rashi explains that he is asking Hashem, the Watchman of Klal Yisrael, “What will be of this dark bitter night, the exile of Edom?” “Says the Watchman: The morning will come and the night, if you surely ask for it.” The Mahri Kara explains that Hashem answers: “The exiles of Bavel and Edom have already passed. If you want to be redeemed, ask Me for mercy and you will be returned to Eretz Yisroel.” This is astounding. The time has come for the geulah! For Mashiach! So why does he tarry? Alas, we only have ourselves to blame. All we need to do is daven for his arrival, and he will appear.
This explains why the geulah is mentioned in almost half of the brachos of Shemoneh Esrei, as these prayers are what Hashem is waiting for. But that raises a difficult question. Since we are praying constantly for the redemption why hasn’t Mashiach come yet?
The Foundation of the Mikdash
Rav Yerucham Levovits zt”l explains (Daas Torah, Devorim, Vol. 2, page 259) that the foundation of the Beis HaMikdash is hashra’as haShechina, the presence of Hashem in this world. Our forefathers had a burning desire to come close to Hashem, and He in turn fulfilled their will and dwelled among them. As the yearning for the Shechina rose, so did the amount of kedusha here on earth. The level of kedusha became so high that the need arose for a place where Hashem’s presence could be felt in a tangible manner. This created the Beis HaMikdash. But as our desire for closeness to Hashem dwindled, the Shechina gradually left, until all that remained was a physical structure, lacking its true glory. The spiritual destruction had occurred years before the physical one.
In order to bring back the Beis HaMikdash, we must once again raise the level of kedusha in this world by truly desiring Hashem’s presence. Only then will He return. Now we understand why Mashiach will only come if we daven for his arrival, because doing so demonstrates that we really want him. As soon as Hashem sees that we are constantly asking for His return, and that this is our foremost concern, He will come back!
Yes, we dutifully recite Shemoneh Esrei every day and ask Hashem to bring Mashiach, but apparently we do not ask with enough feeling. Only prayers that emanate from a heart that yearns for Him will cause this great event to materialize. Perhaps understanding the greatness of the era of Mashiach will ignite a burning desire for those special days, the prerequisite for the fruition of the prophecies of the Neviim.
The Glorious Messianic Era
Let us look at the eloquent words of the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (9:2), who reveals why we wait for this special era with bated breath: “And this is why all of Klal Yisrael, including the Sages and Prophets, yearn for Mashiach, so that they can find rest from the gentile kingdoms who do not allow them to properly engage themselves in the learning of Torah and fulfillment of mitzvos. For in those days they will find peace and serenity, allowing them to gain the wisdom needed to merit Olam Haba. In those days there will be a great abundance of knowledge, wisdom and truth… the king who will arise from the seed of Dovid will have more wisdom than Shlomo HaMelech, and will be a great Navi, close to the caliber of Moshe Rabbeinu. Therefore, he will teach the entire nation and show them the path of Hashem.”
In the end of sefer Melachim the Rambam adds: “At that time there will be no famine or war, no envy or competition, for there will be an abundance of good and all the delights will be available like dust, and the occupation of the entire world will be to know Hashem. As a result, all of Klal Yisrael will be great scholars, understand hidden matters, and know the ways of Hashem as much is humanly possible, as it states: ‘The world will be filled with knowledge of Hashem just as the waters cover the ocean bed.’”
Now, you may be thinking: “That doesn’t really speak to me. I daven, do many mitzvos and even learn Torah every day. Okay, there is always room for improvement, but I don’t feel I am greatly lacking spirituality. Why should the above make me look forward to Mashiach?”
Don’t Miss Out!
The Ramchal explains (Derech Hashem, Chapter 2) that the great pleasure of Olam Haba, which is completely unfathomable to our limited and feeble human mind, will come from being “connected” to Hashem. Since Hashem is perfect and complete, we must perfect ourselves through Torah and mitzvos. Otherwise, it is simply impossible for that attachment to occur. Conversely, any sins, even unintentional ones, distance us from Him and create barriers that hinder this closeness.
It is obvious that in our present state of exile we are severely handicapped and cannot reach great levels of perfection. First, the difficulties and distractions of the exile make it hard to learn and do mitzvos. This is in addition to the many bad practices we’ve picked up from the nations of the world. Because we do not have a Beis HaMikdash and many of us live in chutz la’aretz, we can only fulfill 271 out of the 613 mitzvos. That means we lack the perfection the remaining mitzvos are supposed to give us, preventing us from receiving the complete reward of Olam Haba.
When Mashiach comes, this will all change. The verse the Rambam quotes compares the future proliferation of knowledge to the waters of the sea. The Vilna Gaon explains that just as every inch of the ocean bed is covered with water, so too every part of the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem. Wherever we turn there will be an opportunity to gain more awareness of Him. This clarity will instill in us the truth that there is nothing greater than the pursuit of spiritual perfection. With the return to Eretz Yisroel and the Beis HaMikdash we will have all 613 mitzvos, thus placing previously unattainable levels of Olam Haba within our reach. The abundance of Torah knowledge and our ability to comprehend it will turn us into Torah scholars of an extraordinary caliber. We will enjoy learning Torah and doing mitzvos, and no troubles or difficulties will prevent us from doing so. No petty arguments or ugly power struggles will occur. An absolute utopia!
This new understanding should help us recite the brachos of Shemoneh Esrei that deal with the geulah and the Bais HaMikdash with more feeling. You never know – your prayer may be the one that tips the scale and brings the redemption!