How do you know that you’re a good Jew?
That’s what the heavenly court must determine when a Jew comes before it after he finishes his life in this world. The court “interviews” the person and asks but six short yes-or-no questions. Five of which seek to study his behavioral habits in observance of Judaism:
- Did you deal with integrity?
- Did you have set times for learning?
- Did you engage in procreation?
- Did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom?
- Did you understand one thing from another?
Only one of them relates to what motivated him to do all the above:
- “Have you awaited the salvation [i.e., the coming of Moshiach]?”
Nothing about his faith in G-d, or love of Him, only, “Did you await Moshiach?”
Further analysis reveals that we wouldn’t “score points” in the heavenly court if we would answer that we believed in the coming of that salvation; only if we awaited it! (Given that one had led a G-d fearing life).
Obviously, awaiting Moshiach is meant to be done in this life not only to be able to answer in the affirmative in the afterlife. Here is what the Rambam has to say about the requirements of a living Jew:
“Anyone who does not believe in him [Moshiach], or whoever does not look forward to his coming, denies not only [the teachings of] the other prophets but [also those] of the Torah and of Moshe our Teacher.” – Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and Moshiach, 11:1
So, believing that Moshiach will ultimately arrive doesn’t make you a good Jew, waiting for him does.
If You Love Me, Then you Should…
There exist three “loves” within Judaism, which constitute the emotional drive we ought to have for Judaism.
The first is an innate love for G-d which every Jew possesses, compelling him to even sacrifice his life for G-d. It follows that every Jew would possess an essential love for the Torah and mitzvos, which are the vehicles and tools that connect and unite him with G-d, whom he so deeply loves. This love for G-d also produces an intrinsic love for every single Jew, for it is only natural that one would love the one whom their beloved loves.
G-d in Exile
In the time of the Exile, all of the above are battered and shattered. Instead of the glory and splendor which G-d should ideally enjoy from the work of His own hands, His existence is impudently denied. The spark of G-d which lies within every creation to enliven it, is confined by the constraints of its “shell,” rather than the spark taking charge and functioning freely. This concept is termed in Mussar and Kabbalah as “galus haShechinah – the exile of the Divine Presence”.[When using the term “galus” about the Shechinah, we must warrant that this is a borrowed term, since obviously, unlike exile in its simple sense which is forced upon the exiled against his will, the exile in which G-d is in is something He chose to create for reasons that will be discussed in Principle 7.]
In the time of the Redemption, when every creation will recognize its soul which is a spark of G-d, the entire world will serve G-d in unison. The Shechinah will no longer be exiled and G-d will rule in all His glory and splendor. This will truly be a time of glory for G-d and certainly a time He longs and yearns for.
Torah in Exile
In the time of the Exile, Torah observance is severely limited, and the values of Judaism are downtrodden. Most mitzvos are unfulfillable nowadays (see Moshiach’s Job Description in Principle #4).
Other disturbances which Jews suffer from, like illness, poverty, wars etc., impede the observance of the remaining mitzvos, especially the manner of their observance.
In the time of the Redemption, however, observance of all mitzvos will be restored, the necessary means for performing mitzvos will be readily available and, instead of the disturbances and persecution which Gentile nations once caused, they will support and assist Jews in their religious responsibilities. This is the true honor for Torah and mitzvos, as the Rambam writes “the honor of the Torah is its fulfillment”.
Another point: the knowledge that the Torah study in the time of Moshiach will be upgraded to unprecedented heights, as Moshiach will reveal the deepest secrets of the Torah and its mystical aspects—ideas that have never before been exposed—should instill within the Jew a deep longing for that time.
In the Rambam’s words: “Therefore all the Jewish people longed for … the days of Moshiach, in order to rest from the governments which do not allow them to properly be occupied with the Torah and mitzvos.”
Jews in Exile
And finally, the most obvious: during the time of the Exile, the Jews as a people are scattered around the world, being exiled from their homeland. And in many instances, especially in the not-so-distant past, forced to live in dire conditions.
We see this in the Halacha that teaches that when a potential convert voices his wish to join the faith, the Beis Din must attempt to discourage him by reminding him that “Jews are afflicted, crushed, subjugated, strained, and suffering comes upon them” in the time of the Exile.
In the time of the Redemption, their circumstances will change entirely, as they will enjoy freedom of any foreign suppressor and plentiful physical and spiritual benefits. In fact, no converts will be accepted when Moshiach comes, because it will be unclear whether their conversion is coming because of an ulterior motive, rather than from love of the Torah.
So, do you Care?
One who actually feels love towards Hashem, the Torah and the Jewish people, will mourn when they suffer because of galus, and more importantly, will actively yearn for and do everything in his reach to reinstate them to their full glory. Knowing that the Redemption will usher in a glorious era for all three, all efforts will be focused specifically on hastening its arrival.
Now we can understand why this detail is so important and it is one of the first questions one is asked upon coming to the next world:
This “salvation” a Jew must await, is the life force of all other aspects of a Jewish life, for all these other aspects will only reach completion as this salvation arrives, and one’s dedication to all aspects of G-dliness is measured by whether he awaited salvation.
It should be noted that the importance of anticipating Moshiach is such that in its merit alone we hasten its arrival, as our sages say: “Even if Israel have in their hands only anticipation for Moshiach, they are worthy of the Redemption just for the merit of awaiting it.”
A good Jew, then, is not someone who only “does” Judaism; a good Jew cares about Judaism. So confront yourself and ask, “Do you await Moshiach? Do you care?” ■
Bonus: Taste to Wait: What if I Can’t Bring Myself to Await Moshiach?
Mitzvos, by their very definition, are a matter of observance, for the obvious reason that feelings cannot be imposed upon anyone.
At the same time the Torah does include several mitzvos that are emotion-based, such as love and fear of G-d.
These mitzvos must be understood as a command not to feel, but to do whatever necessary to be able to feel that emotion.
How does that work?
Let’s use an analogy of a mother trying to introduce her child to a new, tasty food she is certain he will like. The child resists, however, since he is unfamiliar with it. If the mother will insist and try to convince him that he likes it, she won’t get anywhere; she can, however, instruct him to taste it with the hope that, knowing him, he will come to like it.
When the Torah instructs us to love, it means that G-d — knowing the depths of our hearts better than we ourselves do — knows that if only we will “taste” the greatness and preciousness of this object of love, be it G-d Himself, the Torah or a fellow Jew, we will fall in love with it.
How does one “taste” such things? We “taste” it by getting to know it through study, and then connecting to it on an emotional level by constantly contemplating on it and trying to “get in touch” with these ideas to the point that we develop a relationship with them.
In our case: the obligation to anticipate the Redemption requires study and contemplation of Galus and Geulah:
By making ourselves familiar with the special characteristics of that time, the unique qualities of Moshiach and the special promises of the prophets concerning that era; all alongside contemplation and recognition of the dire state of the Jewish people and the Divine revelation while still in exile, feelings of anticipation for the end of the Exile and start of the Redemption are sure to be stimulated!
But if one doesn’t know about it, how indeed can he await it?
If a person does study and dedicate time to “get in touch” with Moshiach, but it remains theoretical to him and doesn’t touch his heart, the only thing it shows is that he must try harder. Alcoholic beverages make you drunk. If you drink but don’t become intoxicated, all it means is that you didn’t drink enough.
And while you’re trying to evoke anticipation for Moshiach, you are practicing a measure of anticipation. For if you didn’t anticipate, why are you attempting to? The efforts themselves are a testament that there is a measure of anticipation within you already, which you trying to bring out of the subconscious!