Honest Question: Do You Really Believe Moshiach Will Come in Your Lifetime?
“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Moshiach; and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait each day for his coming.”
It is one of the thirteen principles of our faith. The bedrock of our belief system. We say, we sing it, we pay homage to it, and we teach it to our children. But if I'm being real with myself for a moment, I have a hard time actually believing that Moshiach might very well come at any moment.
He certainly isn't coming to the generation of My Unorthodox Life, and good Jewish boys playing Major League Baseball on Shabbos.
I suspect that you might feel the same. Most of us don't actually anticipate abandoning our homes and jobs and lives and marching off to rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. We might anticipate it in theory, but practically, we're not actually expecting Moshiach to arrive at any moment.
This is not true of all Jews throughout history. The Chafetz Chaim famously lived with faith and anticipation. Despite his poverty, he had a new suit behind his door ready for the moment when Moshiach would come.
Why don't we do the same? Because even in as much as we believe that Hashem could bring Moshiach, we don't believe that He will. We are not expecting that when we turn on our phones this Motzei Shabbos, the world might be ablaze with the news that the Beis HaMikdash is descending from Shamayim. I mean, it could be. But it won't.
The problem with our Emunah is not that we don't think Hashem can, or wants to redeem us. We simply don't think that our generation is deserving, and we all know why.
It's all because of the media. And the chilonim. Or maybe the Chareidim. For sure the Chassidim. Maybe the reform as well? Or the liberals. Or the conservatives. And don't forget the self hating Jews. Naturally, we all know that the fault lies with the Democrats, and the Republicans. Those racists that voted for Trump, and the communists that voted for Biden. And of course, it's because of the anti-semites. And the Palestinians! Who could forget them? It's certainly their fault too. And the Knesset that doesn't do the what we all know they should do.
The list goes on and on. We have no end to people we should blame.
Sarcasm aside, and with a little maturity, we all realize that it's none of these. The truth is that it's really because of us.
If we're honest with ourselves, we know that we're not the Jews that Hashem wants us to be. This is the basic premise of all the Sifrei Mussar. If we stop deluding ourselves, we should acknowledge that Moshiach isn't coming because of me, and my flaws and my inadequacies.
So of course Hashem won't bring Moshiach. Because we just don't deserve it.
This realization, more than any other, explains why we don't expect Mosiach's arrival in our lifetimes. We don't expect it, even though we wish for it. And we don't anticipate it, even as we sing Ani Ma'amin. We look at ourselves and the world around us and conclude that there is no chance that Hashem would find us more deserving than literally any generation that came before us.
This is the deepest the Yetzer Hara in the world. The one that says “I believe in Hashem with all my heart. I just don't believe in myself and my friends and my generation.”
It's a Yetzer Hara that tells us that our world is irreparably broken and that there is no way of crawling out to redemption. It's a voice that screams out “Maybe one day... but certainly not us, and certainly not now!”
The awful truth, however, is that this Yezter Hara is ultimately just another version of lack of faith in Hashem. It convinces us to stop dreaming, learning, growing and believing. It deludes us into viewing hopelessness as humility, frumkeit and realism.
Reb Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin (צדקת הצדיק קנד) writes:
כשם שצריך אדם להאמין בהש”י כך צריך אח”כ להאמין בעצמו
Just as person is required to believe in God, so too is he afterwards required to believe in himself.
After 120 when Hashem asks us “Did you anticipate redemption?” He's not asking if we think He could do it. Hashem is asking if we lived our lives believing that we could do it.
In the deepest way, the belief that we are capable and deserving of redemption is the beginnings of Geulah itself.
R' Pinchas of Koretz (הקדמה למדרש פנחס) explains:
Moshiach will find merits even in the actions of Reshaim. And by believing in them, they we return in to Hashem and do Teshuva. And through Teshuva we will be redeemed.
Small Tzadikim have the capacity to love small Reshaim. Big Tzadikim can love even Big Reshaim. Moshiach will be able to love even completely wicked people.
Anyone who is מלמד זכות (finds a positive explainations) for another Jew, is a little piece of Moshiach.
We all know this to be true of our own experiences. When our failures overwhelm us, and the fears of an unfulfilled life surface, what we need most is someone to be Melamed Zechus. We need someone to validate our struggles, to tell us that our mistakes are normal. That Hashem loves us anyways.
At our most vulnerable and honest we're not looking for excuses. We're looking for the confidence to move beyond our failure and pain. To give that love, power and confidence to another Jew is to be their Moshiach.
Perhaps a story might illustrate this best:
The Chafetz Chaim would travel from village to village selling his seforim. He was once in Vilna where he noticed a man enter a restaurant and in a gruff, insolent voice demand a piece of roast duck and a glass of whiskey. When the waitress served him, he quickly grabbed the portion. Without reciting a beracha, he gulped down his food and washed it down with his glass of whiskey. No thank you, no berachah, no menshlichkeit – whatsoever. The Chafetz Chaim was shocked at this display of uncouth behavior.
The innkeeper, seeing the Chafetz Chaim's shock, dissuaded him from saying anything to the man, claiming that he was a veteran of Czar Nikolai's Army. He had been taken from his home as a child and conscripted to Siberia and other miserable outposts for forty years. It was no wonder that he acted like such an untamed animal. He had not been in a civilized environment for most of his life. He never saw a Jew, let alone a tzaddik, such as the Chafetz Chaim. “Please Rebbe,” the innkeeper begged, “ignore him. It is not befitting the Rebbe's dignity to speak to him. He will only act with disrespect and impudence towards the Rebbe.”
“Do not worry about me,” the Chafetz Chaim smiled. “I know how to speak to such a Jew. Trust me, good will yet emerge from our encounter.”
The Chafetz Chaim approached the soldier, stuck out his hand and – in a friendly voice – said, “Shalom Aleichem, Is it true what I just heard about you: that as a young boy you were forcibly taken from your home and sent together with other youngsters to Siberia? You were raised among the gentiles, who many times had sought to estrange you from your religion. You never had the opportunity to study one word of Torah. You underwent many painful trials and tribulations. You were forced to eat non-kosher food. Indeed, you suffered the vicissitudes of Gehinom, Purgatory, on this world. Yet, you did not renege your religion. Despite all of your sufferings, you still remained a Jew. You are indeed fortunate. If I could only be worthy of your portion in Olam Habah, the World to Come. Your mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, for Judaism is unparalleled. To have suffered for almost forty years and to still identify with the religion of your ancestors is nothing short of incredible.”
The Chafetz Chaim finished speaking. He looked into the eyes of the soldier who was shedding bitter tears – tears that emanated from a pure heart. When he was notified who it was that was speaking to him, he grabbed hold of the saintly Chafetz Chaim and kissed him, as he wailed bitterly for forgiveness for a life that was empty of Hashem, ethics and morals.
The Chafetz Chaim turned to him and said, “Someone such as you, who has sustained so much and remained a Jew – if you would only accept upon yourself from here on to observe the Torah and mitzvos, your eternal reward would be boundless.”
This was not a religious sales pitch. The Chafetz Chaim saw within this Jew all of the hopes and dreams of a nation that is desperately holding on and holding out for redemption. Perhaps this orientation explains why the he had a Moshiach suit ready and waiting. He believed in himself. He believed in other people.
Rav Kook (ש״ק ז:ר״א) writes:
שואלים במה זכה דורנו לגאולה. התשובה פשוטה היא, הוא זכה מפני שעסק במצוה היותר גדולה שבכל המצוות, במצווה השקולה ככל התורה כולה, מפני שהוא עסק בגאולת ישראל
People ask me, how will our generation merit Geulah? It's simple, our generation busies themselves with the greatest mitzvah in the world. The Mitzvah of redeeming the Jewish people.
Hashem should help us, us unrefined, uncouth, lowly people, to believe in ourselves, that we can bring this Geulah. That just by being a Jew who still holds on, we can catapult ourselves to the world of redemption. It's not too far away. It's not too distant. With Hashem's help, we should turn on our phones this Motzei Shabbos to book our flights to Yerushalayim.