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Split Personality

Moses the man of G-d (33:1)

"Moses the man of G-d" - Says the Midrash: his upper half was G-dly, his lower half, that of a man.

Every Jewish soul possesses a spark of the soul of Moses, enabling it to be a "man of G-d": one who integrates the eternal and infinite perfection of the Divine with the realities of the human condition.

- The Rebbe

The Talmud relates the following story:

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked Moshiach: "When are you coming?"

Replied Moshiach, "today".

Later, Rabbi Yehoshua met Elijah the Prophet and complained: "He told me that he is coming today, yet he didn't come." Answered Elijah, "This is what he meant: 'Today, if His voice you will harken' (Psalms 95:7)."

Asks the Lubavitcher Rebbe: What is the meaning of this seemingly evasive and misleading statement? Does Moshiach engage in diplomatic wordplay?

What Moshiach is conveying, the Rebbe explains, is an attitude: The Jew knows that the world is inherently good, that the true, intrinsic state of G-d's creation is the perfect world of Moshiach. He knows that the currently deficient 'reality' is superimposed and unnatural. The fact that things have been this way for thousands of years makes it no more genuine or real.

So despite centuries of 'experience' to the contrary, The Jew fully and realistically expects Moshiach instantaneously. His response to the question "when is Moshiach coming?" is an unhesitant "today". Only if, G-d forbid, a moment passes and somehow Moshiach has not arrived, is he compelled to explain "… if His voice you will harken." Namely, G-d desires that the world undergo a process of refinement and elevation before its true, quintessential reality may come to light.

Someone once asked my father in law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch: "We are told to stand ready to receive Moshiach, confident that he is indeed coming immediately. Yet at the same time, we are charged with the mission to build, to found new organizations, to lay the groundwork for future work. Which state of mind is one to adopt, that of the anticipant believer or that of the pragmatic doer?"

Indeed, the Jew must straddle both worlds. He must adopt two diverse mind-sets side by side. On the one hand, he must bring holiness to a mundane world by working to perfect an imperfect 'reality'. In doing this, he deals with conditions as they are. So he formulates budgets, contracts for construction, and plans long-term projects.

At the same time, he anticipates, nay expects, Moshiach's immediate coming. An instantaneously perfect existence is not only feasible but the most natural thing in the world.



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