Parshas Vayechi-Torah Or-The purpose of Yemos Hamoshiach

This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

Parshas Vayechi

“Osri Lagefen…”
[Torah Or p. 92]

This week’s Parsha discusses the blessings that Yaakov gave to each of his children, the heads of the Twelve Tribes, prior to his passing. These blessings were not merely a father’s parting words to his children, but were also a prophecy that encompassed the Jewish people’s history until the times of Moshiach. In the blessing to Yehuda, Yaakov told him Osri Lagefen Ira, “He ties his male donkey to the vine, to the branch his female donkey. He launders his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes”. These verses, simply speaking, are a blessing and a prophecy regarding the land of Yehuda, that it will contain an abundance of grapes and wine. However, in truth, they contain a deeper meaning that relates to the experience of the Jewish people in the times of Moshiach. The explanation of this verse and its Messianic meaning leads the Alter Rebbe to a deep analysis of the identity of the Messianic times, its purpose and meaning. The Sages [Brachos 34b; Sanhedrin 91b] state that there will be no difference between the world today and the world in the times of Moshiach, Yemos Hamoshiach, with the exception that in the times of Moshiach we will no longer be subjugated to the other nations. At first, this statement sounds most puzzling, as Jewish tradition hails Yemos Hamoshiach as the greatest experience one can live through. Our books are filled with prophecies of the greatness of that time on both the physical and spiritual planes; Loaves of bread will grow from the earth; all the pleasures of the world will fill the world like dust; the knowledge of G-d will fill the earth like water covering the sea. How can the Sages then state that there will be no difference between the times of exile and Yemos Hamoshiach, with the exception of Jewish independence?

The Alter Rebbe explains that the times of Moshiach, and the times in which the above wonders will take place, are two distinct eras, with Yemos Hamoshiach still being part of the era in which we perform the service of G-d to merit the above prophetic tidings. This leads to the question as to what then is the essential difference between the exile and the times of Moshiach? The Mamar delves into this discussion and concludes with great clarity the differences of purpose of our service of Hashem today and that which we will perform when Moshiach comes. This understanding leaves one with a greater perspective and understanding of our service of G-d today and that which awaits us in the times of Moshiach. May he come speedily in our days. Amen!


Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      What is the meaning of the blessing Osri Lagefen Ira, “He ties his male donkey to the vine” that Yaakov gave Yehuda?

2.      What will we experience in the times of Moshiach? What is the meaning of the statement that there is no difference between today and Yemos Hamoshiach, with the exception of Jewish independence?

3.      When is the epitome of the time of serving G-d-Hayom La’asosam-and in which period will we receive the reward of Lemachar Lekabel Secharam?

4.      Why are Karbanos the main Avoda in the times of Moshiach, surpassing the Avoda of prayer that we do today in Galus?

5.      What do Jews and grapes have in common?


The blessing of Osri Lagefen Ira:

The verse states, Osri Lagefen Irah Velashoreika Bnei Asono Kabes Beyayin Levusho, “He ties his male donkey to the vine, to the branch his female donkey. He launders his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes.” The blessings of this verse allude to what will occur in the times of Moshiach, as it is a continuation of the verse, Lo Yassur Shevet Meyehuda, which refers to the times of Moshiach. At that time as well, this prophecy of Osri Lagefen Ira will come to fruition. The explanation of this matter is as follows:


The experience of Yemos Hamoshiach-Identical to the experience of today:

As mentioned above, our Sages[1] say that there will be no difference between the world today and the world in the times of Moshiach, Yemos Hamoshiach, except that in the times of Moshiach we will no longer be subjugated to the other nations.[2] [But what does this really mean? On the one hand, our literature describes the wonders of the Messianic era, but on the other hand, if nothing really changes, then what wonders will we experience? Will there still be physical suffering during Yemos Hamoshiach? Will people still experience pain in other areas of their life? Will one still be able to sin and have an evil inclination? Will people still have to work for a living? Will we still feel a concealment of G-dliness as we feel today? Doesn’t it state that the knowledge of G-d will fill the earth like water covering the sea? Will there be no extra experience of reward for our work during exile? How can the Sages negate all of these promises of Scripture and Talmudic writing and state that there will be no difference in these times?] 


Yemos Hamoshiach is not Olam Habah-the World to Come:

The above statement of the Sages is only puzzling due to a misconception and confusion of terms between Yemos Hamoshiach and Olam Habah. The prophecies of the future physical and spiritual greatness of that time all refer to Olam Habah, the World to Come, and not to Yemos Hamoshiach. It is specifically in Olam Habah that we will experience the reward for our actions in this world in both a physical and spiritual sense. However, not only is Yemos Hamoshiach not the period of reward, but on the contrary, it is the epitome of the period of service of G-d, about which the Sages state, Hayom Laasosam Ulemachar Lekabel Secharam. The main requirement to serve G-d through His Torah and Mitzvos will be fulfilled specifically during Yemos Hamoshiach but is not completely accomplished today in exile. The times of Moshiach complete our service of Hayom Laasosam in order to merit the Lemachar Lekabel Secharam, the World to Come! This is similar to the level that the world was initially created on prior to the sin of Adam and Chava. Even before their sin, Adam and Chava were commanded by G-d to work the land and guard it. The Sages interpret this to mean that they were commanded by Hashem to bring refinement to the world and usher in the Redemption by fulfilling the 613 commandments, guarding the negative commands, and fulfilling the positive commands. [Adam and Chava’s sin caused a setback to this plan and they then had to work on bringing the world back to its initial state, from where they could fulfill the Mitzvos and bring the Redemption.] Hence the times of Moshiach are similar to the period of the world’s existence prior to the sin of Adam and Chava, in which we were commanded to fulfill the Mitzvos.  


Yemos Hamoshiach – The epitome of serving G-d through Torah and Mitzvos:

In today’s times of exile, there are many Mitzvos that we cannot fulfill. Almost four entire books of the Rambam’s Yad Hachazaka are no longer applicable today and their Mitzvos cannot be observed.[3] Therefore, one cannot say that in today’s times we fulfill the statement of Hayom Laasosam, which is a prerequisite for the times of Lekabel Secharam. The performance of these Mitzvos will only take place in the times of Moshiach, may he come speedily in our times, when we once again have full sovereignty of Eretz Yisrael, rebuild the Temple, and gather in the exiles. Thus, the true fulfillment of Hayom Laasosam will only take place in Yemos Hamoshiach.


Karbanos are the main Avoda of Yemos Hamoshiach:

Among the numerous commandments that will only be fulfilled in the times of Moshiach, the main service of G-d that will take place then will be the sacrificial offerings called the Karbanos. In exile, we are unable to bring actual sacrifices, although we are able to perform a service which is similar and stands in place of the Karbanos. This is the service of prayer.


Why are Karbanos a greater Avoda than Prayer?

The above matter requires clarification. How can it be that the offering of the Karbanos is the epitome of the Mitzvos of Messianic times and is incomparably greater than the Avoda of prayer? Isn’t prayer greater than the service of Karbanos? In prayer we offer our very soul to G-d and elevate it to be united with the Or Ein Sof. It is a service that encompasses one’s very essence and gives the Jew a unique experience of unity with G-d that cannot be experienced otherwise, not even through Karbanos. Karbanos involve the soul of the animal and have no effect on the soul of the Jew. How then can the Avoda of Karbanos be loftier than that of prayer? Furthermore, it is even more puzzling to say that this is specifically the purpose of Yemos Hamoshiach that differentiates it from the Avoda in the times of exile.


The Jewish soul-Like a grape on a vine:

The verse states, Gefen Mimitzrayim Tasia, that Hashem removed a vine [a metaphor for the Jewish people] from Egypt. Thus we see that the Jewish people are compared to a vine. A vine produces grapes, which are later crushed in the winepress and turned into wine. The best and finest wines derive from those grapes that grow near the ground. Various types of wines can be produced; Yayin Misameiach-wine that causes joy and happiness in the drinker-and Yayin Hamishaker-wine that causes drunkenness in the drinker. In general, this is the difference between red wine, Yayin Hamishaker, and white wine, which is Yayin Misameiach. The soul of the Jewish people is an exact replica of the grape from which wine is produced. Every Jewish soul contains a hidden love for G-d. In order for this love to become revealed and expressed, one must be similar to the “ground grapes” and humble himself before Hashem and others, as the verse states, “My soul feels like dust before all”. One must feel broken-hearted and humbled. Through doing so, the wine of the soul pours out and the passionate love for G-d bursts forth. There are two types of love that can be revealed. One is a joyful love for G-d, similar to the experience of white wine, the Yayin Misameiach. Another is a bittersweet, motivated love that is filled with passion and longing on reflection of one’s spiritual defects and shortcomings. Every single Jew must arouse both of these loves within him, and it is the expression of these two loves that fulfill the verse of, “He launders his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes”.


Expressed love of Hashem cleanses one’s Mitzvos:

It was already explained in a previous Mamar[4] that the soul in Gan Eden is incapable of receiving Divine energy without a garment and a shield. The garment and shield are the Mitzvos. The Mitzvos garb one’s soul and facilitate the capability of the soul to comprehend the G-dliness that is shown in Gan Eden. It is not just any Mitzvah that forms a garment for the soul above, as only those Mitzvos that are especially refined have the ability to clothe the soul. The Sages state that even Poshei Yisrael, Jewish transgressors, are filled with Mitzvos like a Rimon, yet nevertheless their Mitzvos do not draw any G-dliness down below. The explanation is as follows: In order for a Mitzvah to draw down G-dliness below, it must be performed with joy, as it states in the verse, “Due to that you did not serve Him with Joy”. This joy is a result of contemplating that in the process of performing the Mitzvah one becomes united and attached to Hashem. This is an expression of the white wine-Yayin Hamisameiach. However, as a prerequisite to being able to reveal this joy in his attachment to G-d, one must first arouse the Yayin Hamishaker, the red wine, within his soul. In order to feel a true pleasure and delight in being attached to G-d, one must first arouse a dire thirst and passion for Him that comes from a feeling of distance and pain due to his separation from Him. The more one arouses this yearning and desire, the greater will be the Taanug, pleasure, in attaching to Him. It is these two forms of love that wash and clean one’s Mitzvos. The Mitzvos of the sinners of Israel are filled with the dirt and filth of the coarse and material world and cannot serve as garments for their soul. It is the love and Simcha Shel Mitzvah that cleanses the Mitzvah and makes it a befitting garb for the soul to wear in Gan Eden. The joy and pleasure in serving G-d [white wine] forms the garment for the emotions of one’s soul, while the longing and bitterness [red wine] form the garment for the face of the soul, its hearing, and sight.


In Galus we elevate the soul-In Yemos Hamoshiach we elevate the world:

The purpose of our Avoda during times of exile is to elevate the soul and garb it with the required garments it needs from the Mitzvos in order to be able to connect and attach it with Hashem in the future. [This is accomplished through the fulfillment of Mitzvos conjoined with prayer from the depths of the heart, revealing inner love, passion, and pleasure for Hashem. Therefore, the Avoda in Galus is very personal and relates solely to the elevation of one’s soul and not to the rest of the world.] However, during Yemos Hamoshiach, we will perform the ultimate intent and purpose of the Mitzvos, to bring Karbanos and elevate every aspect of the world to G-d. This cannot be accomplished during Galus, as how can one elevate the souls of animals through Karbanos if he himself is still connected below? It is only after Moshiach comes, when our souls will be elevated and refined, that we will be able to also elevate even the souls of the animals and the other creations. Then we will elevate even the sparks that fell into the animals. This is exactly the same as the state of the world before and after the sin of Adam and Chava. Before the sin, Adam was required to work the land, perform Mitzvos, and elevate the world. After the sin, Adam was commanded to first fix his own soul and elevate it so that it would once again be on a level that could elevate the world, as was the original intent. Hence, the Galus represents that completion of our personal refinement so that we can enter Yemos Hamoshiach and then perform the work of Adam and elevate the world. This difference of purpose is expressed in all of the other Mitzvos that we perform during exile, as the Mitzvos performed in exile only help refine the soul and not the world. It is for this reason that we say in prayer that, “today we do not fulfill the command of Your will”, as “Your will” regarding the commandments is to refine the world, and today we are unable to do so. However when Moshiach comes, then the Mitzvos will have their true effect and impact and will elevate the world as was their original intent.


Lessons of the Mamar

·         One must place special focus and attention on how he performs the Mitzvos. Mitzvos require feeling and passion to connect to G-d. It is this feeling and passion for G-dliness that cleanses the Mitzvos, makes the Mitzvah a useable soul garment, and refines the soul in preparation for Yemos Hamoshiach and the World to Come. It will be in that time that one will experience a true attachment to Hashem and have the capability to elevate the rest of the world.

·         The main focus today is to elevate one’s soul and character and make it a receptacle for an attachment to G-d. This is accomplished through self-effacement and humility.

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[1] Brachos 34b; Sanhedrin 91b

[2] See also Shabbos 151b; Iggros Kodesh 14/334 regarding that according to this approach there will be poor people even in the times of Moshiach.

[3] This refers to Zeraim, Avoda, Karbanos and Taharah

[4] See our Mamar on Mikeitz, “Mitzvos form a garment for the soul in Olam Habah

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