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Mashiach and Jewish Leadership

Mashiach and Jewish Leadership – Part 6 – The Drive for Completeness

The second dynamic of leadership is the belief in an ultimate utopian state of perfection, which though not fully manifest in the present, is a goal to which to aspire. Precisely because perfection always seems to be just beyond reach, a leader must stretch his every faculty to be "ahead of his times." By doing so, he draws the future into the present, introducing a state of transcendence into normative reality. This at times expresses itself by leading in what, at least to the outsider, seems like a supernatural or miraculous manner. Those close to the leader become so accustomed to the extraordinary qualities that he embodies, that the supernatural becomes increasingly natural. The aura of leadership is created not just by theorizing about rectifying reality, but by creating the atmosphere and circumstances in which people actually experience wholeness and inner peace in the present.

By living just beyond his capabilities, the leader does not depend on a miracle. Rather, he cultivates his deepest reservoirs of potential, transmuting the "miraculous" into nature itself. In Chassidut this is referred to as living on a plane "one handsbreath above ground." The Mittler Rebbe taught that when confronted with an obstacle, one must simply jump over it, and in doing so, nullify its existence. Whereas every obstacle in our finite world has its limit, the soul always has the possibility of drawing from its infinite, eternal source.

Perhaps the best Biblical example of this phenomenon is Mordechai, whose stubborn refusal to bow to Haman caused the entire Jewish people to be marked for extinction. The story of Purim portrays how both Mordechai and Esther, through determined effort, overcame all obstacles and turned the tables so completely that Haman was hung on the very gallows that he had constructed for Mordechai. G-d's Name is not mentioned in the entire book of Esther. Miracles in the historical process often manifest in an apparently natural manner.

Another important example of a leader who managed to transcend all earthly obstacles was David. G-d graced him with a supernatural quality that allowed him to rise above all obstacles and defeat his foes. It was David who established Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. He paved the way for building the Temple, the place where spiritual and material, infinite and temporal unite. It is recorded that ten continual miracles occurred in the Temple. Inasmuch as the miracles were ongoing, they appeared to be part of the natural order.

The soul desires to "run and return," to transcend the limits of the natural order and then strive to perfect reality. This is the soul's attempt to manifest the infinite light of G-d within the finite reality of our world. One does not "run" and "fly" to feel good or indulge the senses–one "flies" in order to glimpse a vision of perfection which then must be returned and integrated into one's life until it becomes his true nature. The greater the obstacle, the higher one has to leap. Living above or beyond our apparent dualistic world of binary logic allows us to unify opposites, thus creating oneness and peace. At this elevated level one becomes aware that the essence of the spiritual longs to merge with the physical. When this union occurs the result is, if even for a moment, the experience of peace, completeness and perfection. These momentary encounters subsequently motivate the soul to expand these experiences to encompass more and more of one's reality.

A beautiful anecdote of the Ba'al Shem Tov illustrates the intrinsic connection between spiritual and physical. On Shmini Azeret, the concluding day of the High Holiday season, we include in the Silent Prayer our request for rain: "Who makes the wind blow and the rain fall." The word for "wind," ruach, can also be translated as "spirituality." The word for "rain," geshem, can also be translated as "materiality." The Ba'al Shem Tovinterpreted the above phrase as follows: After the amorphous spirituality of all the prayers and rituals of the recent holidays, it is now time to "blow away" the more "sensual" pleasure of the purely spiritual and bring down the actualization of our prayers into the practical life-giving "rains" of daily reality. As the Ba'al Shem Tov would say "who makes the wind blow" he would make a sweeping back hand motion, as if sending something away. When saying "and the rain to fall" he would reach his hand high above his head as if grasping something and then slowly drawing it down to earth. An authentic leader is not interested in just the spiritual advancement of his followers, but is intimately concerned with their daily physical needs and life predicaments as well. This concern stems from his understanding that material reality is intrinsically holy and inseparable from a healthy spiritual outlook on life.

The Jewish tradition, from its inception to the present, is brimming with examples of men and women who could prophesy about the future and perform miracles. As a general rule though, these manifestations of the "supernatural" were not undertaken for their own sake or for the thrill of the altered consciousness needed for these acts. Rather they resulted from a direct command and experience of G-d, or as a solution for an extreme situation. For the prophet and miracle worker, the individual prophecy or miracle was not intended to be a one time aberration, but a glimpse into a higher dimension of a future, perfected reality that could be revealed permanently to be experienced by everyone. For this reason Moses exclaimed: "Would it be that all the people were prophets."

In the time of the first and second Temples, there were "schools of prophesy," where people were taught the Jewish tradition of expanded Divine consciousness. These teachings prepared the individual to experience life in a holistic, unified manner, orienting the soul to seek its own perfection in G-d's oneness. The Talmud states that though only forty-eight men and seven women prophets are specifically mentioned in the Bible due to the eternal nature of their message, there were in fact over a million prophets. In the Messianic era, that which we now consider miraculous will in deed be natural. At that time, the Jewish People will reach such an elevated consciousness of wholeness and completion that the wish of Moses will be fulfilled.


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