Kabbalah and Chassidut speak of certain great souls who had a "sense" for the physical world, the last one being Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov. Before passing away he told his students that had he wanted he could have been like Elijah the Prophet and leave this world by rising up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Instead he chose to fulfill the verse "dust you are and to the dust you shall return." His desire to return to dust symbolized his deep spiritual connection to physicality.
The Mashiach will likewise have this special "sense," which in contemporary terms means a deep connection to science and the technological advances that are changing the very nature of life on earth. It has been widely discussed in recent years that many of the prophesies regarding Mashiach only make sense in a world that has turned into a "global village." It is beyond the scope of this series to delve extensively into this meaningful subject, but two examples will help us understand this point better.
For Mashiach to teach and unite the world in the knowledge and service of one G-d implies a system of communication that would allow him to be accessible to the whole world. Until recently this was not a feasible reality, but with the varied methods of instantaneous communication available to us now, this is no longer out of the realm of possibility. Theoretically, the Mashiach could speak to the entire world on "live" broadcast, thereby creating true world unity.
Overcoming hunger is another example. Until just one hundred-fifty years ago there could be a major famine in one part of the world and other peoples around the globe would not even hear of it till years later. Even if there was knowledge of such a disaster, there was very little that could have been done in practical terms. Today, major natural disasters are reported in a matter of minutes and relief efforts are mounted immediately worldwide.
Technology, if properly harnessed, could be used for the most spiritual of purposes, freeing the world to pursue activities leading to a higher consciousness among mankind. The development of technology in our day parallels the creation of the plow in the time of Noah, both serving to rectify the "curse" of Adam having to sweat to earn a livelihood. This rectification in quite practical terms will be among the major tasks of Mashiach. Similarly, a Jewish leader shows interest and concern in not only his follower's spiritual development but knows that this aspect will only blossom if the practical material realm is in order as well.
The essence of the above verse, "from dust you are…" quoted by the Ba'al Shem Tov, appears in a similar, yet different, context in the book of Ecclesiastes, who compares man to all other animals: "All go to one place; all are of the dust and all return to dust." When applying the word "all" in the verse in an even broader perspective, it relates to an important recent scientific discovery: Following the "big bang," the formation of what would later become stars and eventually galaxies were all formed from "primordial dust." In the initial stage of Creation only hydrogen and helium existed. As stars solidified they became "factories" for new elements. When these ancient stars exploded they seeded the cosmos with new elements needed for a developing universe. "Primordial dust" represents the totality of energy in the universe, now identified as conservation of energy. Scientists now state that all life on earth is in essence "star dust." These recent discoveries only confirm the statement by the sages: "all comes from dust?even the sun."