A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth

A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 27 – The Wisdom of Waiting for the Messiah

The two linguistic components of wisdom (choch-mah), which we analyzed above, appear together in the oft-quoted passage from the Book of Habakkuk describing the coming of the Messiah: "If he shall tarry (yitmahmah), wait (chakeh) for him. Come, he shall surely come, he shall not be late."

This statement has been paraphrased in the Thirteen Principles of Faith as: "I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah and even though he may delay, nevertheless I wait (achakeh) every day for his coming."  Such faith exerts an actual influence in the world, its power deriving from both its truth and the spiritual, mental, and emotional energy invested by the believer. Its potency is proportional to the depth to which it is held. Belief in the Messiah actually draws his presence into this world. [See 1st footnote below].

However, Judaism does not teach us to subscribe blindly to the Thirteen Articles of Faith, rather they should express a deep sense of inner knowing. Similarly, the "waiting" mentioned by Habakkuk is not a passive state of procrastination, but an actual exertion of effort, and a time of preparation and strengthening.

The exact nature of this effort was explained by the Ba'al Shem Tov, who was graced with a profound experience that sheds light on this subject. [See 2nd footnote below].

From the Ba'al Shem Tov we learn that waiting for the Messiah is a time of active preparation, a time of expanding the domain of Torah both quantitatively and qualitatively. We accomplish the former by educating those Jews who have lost the Torah tradition, and we accomplish the latter by educating ourselves in greater depth in the laws of the Torah and their meaning, until even the outer, mundane aspects of our personalities become conditioned by their truth.

Waiting is a skill and an exertion that, if properly directed, will hasten the coming. To wait for the Messiah is to be continually immersed in words of Torah–ruminating, tasting and re-tasting from every possible angle, revealing new dimensions, flavors, subtleties, and combinations. Thus the relationship between "waiting" (chakeh) and the "taste/palate" (chech).

Actually, the Hebrew word for "waiting," when written in the present tense (mechakeh), is a permutation of the letters of the word for "wisdom" (chochmah). This further supports the definition of waiting as a time of contemplating the wisdom of Torah. One practical application of this principle is learning passages of Torah by heart, as well as taking a Torah-related text along wherever we go, and whenever we find ourselves waiting in a bank lobby or bus stop to take the opportunity to learn.

[1st footnote]

[1] The coming of the Messiah represents the ultimate fulfillment of humankind's purpose on earth. It refers to an era of peace and harmony, a time when all creatures will express their highest potential. In the first phase, there will be a physical reality continuous with the one we know today. There will be bodies and homes and food, etc., although technological innovation will undoubtedly alter the form of such things. The generation of the Messiah will have achieved a level of holiness by choosing God either from love, fear, or at the very least, subsequent to great purging and suffering (that of the Holocaust being more than sufficient), and as such, they will merit to witness this great event. Thus the person called "The Messiah" will not take some decadent generation and re-shape it, rather he will mirror and epitomize the spiritual devotion already begun among a certain portion of the people. That is why our teshuva ("repentance") is so important, for each person who chooses to devote his life to God, or comes to a deeper understanding of his spiritual work, brings us closer to meriting this joyful redemption.

[2nd footnote]

The Ba'al Shem Tov wrote in a letter to his brother-in-law (printed at the beginning of Keter Shem Tov) that on Rosh Hashanah in the year 1746, he experienced an "ascent of the soul" into the spiritual worlds. Upon reaching the realm in which the soul of the Messiah waits to descend into the world, he asked him: "When will you arrive?" The soul of the Messiah responded: "When your teachings are spread to the farthest reaches." The world must be prepared to at least a certain extent in order to receive the revelations that will accompany the coming of the Messiah.

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