Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Balak & Moshiach - Since 1991

The “times of Moshiach” is a term that resonates well with most Jews today. Many, to be sure, like many of our secularly-based Jewish friends from academia, see world affairs and divine scripture as unrelated. Orthodox Jewry, on the other hand, aware that Torah commandments have eternal, practical value, feels the imminence of Moshiach in the air.

The Era of Redemption no longer is some quaint, quackish topic for back-room conversation. Jews tuned to Moshiach feel a shift in the winds of history gripping the world and, however things play out dynamically, the world is moving closer to the betterment of the Jewish people and their prophesied cozy utopia.

A particular Midrash tells us what it’ll be like when Moshiach arrives. Well, that scenario, inscribed as prophecy since this Midrash was written, has begun to unfold -- when the Rebbe declared it, in 1991.

This is, by now well-known, the prophecy of the sage Rabi Yitzchok (Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah:499), namely, “During the year Moshiach is first revealed, all leaders of the world’s nations are inflamed by each other. The King of Persia provokes the Arab King, and an Arab King goes to Aram to seek their advice ... fear not ... for ... I only did all this for your sake, so why are you afraid? Stop being afraid -- your Era of Redemption has arrived!”

The Rebbe in 1991 invoked this Midrash not as a repetition of a prophecy for the future but rather as a prophecy that is currently actualizing. The time line of demarcation from past to present has been crossed.

We’ve crossed over the threshold of this important milestone. The Era we are in now has a quality that went missing two thousands years. What Jews accomplished throughout these two millennia of exile, by keeping Torah and mitzvot, is in this present period being vindicated and redeemed!

Of course we can see the half-filled glass as half-full or as half-empty.

The Rebbe wants us to see it as half-full because a positive perspective reveals that other unexpected lights, though they may appear as random, fit in as pieces of a greater puzzle. A positive view helps you connect the dots of light of the unfolding, underlying Messianic mosaic. A negative perspective robs you of this encompassing view; You remain blind to the cohesiveness that binds the scattered events into the unique phenomenon we are now able to palpably feel happening -- to the world, to the collective Jewish People and to Israel.

It’s no longer a prophecy. It was a prophecy; Actually a sage's prophecy of some details that depict and debut as the Torah's prophecy of a Moshiach era. It is now ongoing -- before our very eyes. If you look, you can see how everything is preparing the Jewish People for their huge crowning state of glory and eternity.

The Torah portion of Balak in particular hoists high the idea of Moshiach who will show up as the King of all the Jews. This end-of-times period is one that waxes honor on Jewish folk. Even though Bilaam hated Jews, he could foresee nothing but praise for the Jewish people, praise for that nation’s matriarchs and patriarchs and praise for their good nature and noble humility.

Bilaam had remarkable prophetic power, at least of the same caliber as had Moses (the sages tell us)! So important was this prophecy, our sages considered including this portion in the daily prayer of the Shema. A mere technicality kept them from including it.

So important is this scriptural portion that even before any praise of God is mentioned in morning prayer, even before quotations from the Torah and Talmud, the very first verse of prayer, the very opening verse of Jewish morning prayer in the synagogue is -- a quote from this Torah portion of Balak (24:5) (“How goodly your tents, of Jacob, your dwellings, of Israel”)!

This prophecy's main end point is clear: In the "Days of Moshiach" the Jewish Nation will rise to supernal glory. During these times they will climb from strength to strength! This is the meaning of the words near the end of this divine prophecy (Balak 24:18):
" ... and the Jews wax in triumph”
וְיִשְׂרָאֵל עֹשֶׂה חָיִל

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