Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a noted 19th century sage and biblical commentator, writes:
“The whole earth is thirsting for deliverance. Sorrow and misery, in hovels and palaces, in cities and states awaken a yearning and hope for the Messiah in every human breast. It is not the Jewish salvation alone which depends on the resurrection of Zion.” (Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Volume 1, Av 1, published by Feldheim, page 347)
When I began to discuss with you the Six-Day War in June, 1967, and the subsequent spiritual searching, I suggested that the amazing events of that period may have been the Redeeming One’s way of preparing us for the future messianic age. This may be why the Six-Day War evoked among many Jews a renewed yearning for the birth of this age when, “They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain, for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed.” (Isaiah 11: 6-9). In this age, “Torah will go forth Zion” (Isaiah 2:3). Regarding this universal spiritual goal of our path, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:
“Once all humankind will look to Zion as the lofty center of its sanctification, then all the earth will become known as His sacred mountain.” (Commentary to Psalm 15:1)
Our tradition teaches that one of the ways to prepare ourselves for the birth of the messianic age is to “anticipate” the arrival of this new age and the salvation that it will bring to Israel and the world. We should therefore give prior thought to the deep significance of this age of salvation and to expect its arrival. This is why the Talmud states that on the “Judgment Day” of each person, one of the questions the person will be asked is: “Did you anticipate the salvation?” (Shabbos 31a). Why, however, should this question be asked of each person?
There is a danger that a person can become overly involved in the material pursuits of this world and thereby forget that the goal of our journey on earth is to enter the messianic age, when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Compassionate and Life-Giving One. As a result of this spiritual enlightenment, there will no longer be injustice, violence, and disunity on earth. A person who forgets about this spiritual goal can therefore become indifferent to the injustice, violence, and disunity which are found within our unredeemed world. To avoid this forgetting, we are to anticipate the ultimate salvation. I learned from my teachers that to anticipate this salvation also means that we should strive to bring the age of salvation closer through Torah study, praying, improving our character traits, and doing good deeds. This process is known as tikun olam – the perfecting of the world – including our inner world.
Within our Sacred Scriptures, the birth of the messianic age is associated with the beginning of our return to the ideal state of the “Garden of Eden” – the peaceful and fruitful garden which is described at the beginning of the Torah (Genesis 2:8-17). For example, the Prophet Ezekiel mentions that those who witness the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies regarding Zion will say:
"This very Land, which had been desolate, has become like the Garden of Eden!" (36:35)
In this spirit, the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed:
“For Hashem will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her ruins; He will make her wilderness like Eden and her wasteland like the Garden of Hashem; joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music” (Isaiah 51:3).
In the previous letter, we began to discuss how our story represents the human story. Does our return to the ideal state of the peaceful and fruitful Garden represent the return of humanity to this ideal state? An answer can be found in the following prophecy of the Prophet Micah regarding the messianic age:
“He (the Messiah) will judge between many peoples, and will settle the arguments of mighty nations from far away. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore. They will sit, each person under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid, for the mouth of Hashem, God of the hosts of Creation, has spoken.” (Micah 4:2-4)
The classical biblical commentators, Radak and Ibn Ezra, explain that the peaceful and pastoral vision of “each person under his vine and under his fig tree” includes all humankind; thus, all humankind will find their way back to the ideal state of the Garden.
Beginning with the summer of 1967, the hippies began to yearn for the Garden of Eden, and this yearning was expressed in the following verse from a song by Joni Mitchell about the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969, which attracted several hundred thousand hippies:
“We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden.”
During the period when there was a renewed yearning among many Jews for the messianic age, when Zion will become like the Garden of Eden, the hippies began to experience a yearning for the Garden! This served as another reminder that our story is connected to the human story.
As we shall discuss at a later stage, the Torah is our path of return to the Garden, and when the Torah will go forth from Zion, all humanity will find the way back to the Garden.
May we be blessed with a healing and comforting Shabbos.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
P.S. The following is a link to a short video of a Modzitzer Chassidic celebration which was held after the conclusion of Simchas Torah in Bnei Brak, Israel. The video begins with the Chassidim singing the song of faith in the coming of “Moshiach” (the Messiah). The melody was composed during the Holocaust by Reb Azriel David Fastag, a Modzitzer Chassid. The singing of this song is dedicated to those who perished in the Holocaust, and the lights are turned off during the singing. The video concludes with a dance, as they sing a joyous Yiddish song about the approaching redemption, and the room becomes full of light: