Path to Mashiach: Understanding God’s Unity and Misconception of Freewill

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In the depths of Torah wisdom lies the profound understanding of HaShem’s unity and the nature of human free will. This exploration delves into the essence of these concepts, guided by the timeless teachings of our sages and the holy texts. It is through this journey that we seek to understand our place in the world and our relationship with HaShem, ultimately aiming to bring about rectification and hasten the coming of Mashiach.

The Torah, beginning with Exodus 20:3, explicitly forbids the worship of any entity other than HaShem. This prohibition extends beyond the worship of physical idols; it encompasses the elevation of one’s ego and desires to the status of a deity. When a person sins intentionally, it is as if they are declaring their will superior to that of HaShem, thus creating a ‘false god’ within themselves. The sages, in their infinite wisdom, have elaborated on this concept. The Rambam, in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim, elucidates these prohibitions with precision, teaching us the gravity of idolatry in all its forms.

The belief in our separateness from HaShem and from each other is a fundamental error. The expulsion from Gan Eden, as detailed in the Torah and various Midrashim, stemmed from this very misconception. The Zohar, in its mystical teachings, explains that our perception of duality is the root of much spiritual downfall. The Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4, declares the oneness of HaShem. This unity is not just a monotheistic belief but a profound truth that everything exists within HaShem, and there is nothing outside of Him. The Arizal, in his Kabbalistic writings, expounds on this, teaching that the entire creation is a manifestation of HaShem’s will.

The concept of free will is often misunderstood as the ability to choose between following HaShem’s commandments or straying from them. However, this is a superficial understanding. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that true free will lies in aligning our will with that of HaShem, recognizing that our choices are ultimately guided by His divine providence. Every action we take has spiritual consequences. The Vilna Gaon, in his commentaries, explains that the illusion of free will leads to the mistaken belief that we are independent agents, which distances us from HaShem. This distance is the ‘cost’ we pay, as it hinders our spiritual growth and delays the coming of Mashiach.

The first step towards redemption is acknowledging the truth within the Torah and within ourselves. This involves deep contemplation and realization of HaShem’s omnipresence and our interconnectedness with Him and all of creation. True teshuvah (repentance) requires understanding our place in the world and our relationship with HaShem. It’s not merely turning away from sin but realigning our will with that of HaShem. As the Ramban discusses in his commentaries on the Torah, this realignment is key to bringing about personal and collective redemption.

The idea that Mashiach’s arrival has been delayed due to our collective spiritual state is a profound one. It reflects HaShem’s boundless mercy, as He awaits our return to Him. The Talmud Bavli, in Sanhedrin 97b, discusses the conditions necessary for Mashiach’s arrival, emphasizing the need for spiritual readiness among the Jewish people. Every individual has a role to play in bringing the world closer to the era of Mashiach. This involves not only adherence to mitzvot but a deep internal transformation. The teachings of the Rebbe emphasize the importance of acts of kindness and spreading Torah knowledge as means of hastening this redemption.

Consider the parable of a king who invites his subjects into his palace. The palace is filled with countless rooms, each more splendid than the last. Yet, some guests choose to remain in the outer courtyard, never experiencing the true splendor within. This parable, akin to teachings in the Midrash, symbolizes our journey with HaShem. The palace is the Torah and its commandments; the rooms represent deeper levels of understanding and closeness to HaShem. Many of us linger in the courtyard of superficial practice without striving for a deeper connection and understanding.

Another powerful allegory is that of a child who strays from his father, forgetting his way home. After many years, the child no longer remembers his father’s face or the path back home. However, the father never stops searching for his child, leaving signs and guides along the way. This allegory, reflective of the teachings in the Talmud Yerushalmi, illustrates our spiritual estrangement from HaShem and His constant, loving pursuit to guide us back.

Each mitzvah we perform is not merely a commandment to be followed; it is an opportunity to align ourselves with HaShem’s will. The Rambam, in his Mishneh Torah, explains that mitzvot are pathways to connect with HaShem, to understand His essence, and to manifest His will in the physical world. The concept of HaShem’s unity extends beyond theological abstraction. It must permeate every aspect of our lives. When we treat others with kindness, when we engage in learning Torah, when we observe the mitzvot, we are actively acknowledging and reinforcing HaShem’s presence in everything. The Rashi, in his commentaries, often highlights how daily actions and decisions are opportunities to recognize and serve HaShem.

One of the greatest challenges we face is spiritual complacency, a state where we are content with a superficial connection to HaShem and His Torah. The Ramchal, in Mesillat Yesharim, warns against this complacency, urging us to continually strive for higher spiritual levels. Developing a genuine fear and love of HaShem is essential. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that fear of HaShem is not mere dread of punishment but a profound reverence for His greatness. Love for HaShem emerges from recognizing His endless kindness and mercy, as well as our utter dependence on Him.

The transformation of the world towards redemption is intrinsically linked to individual spiritual growth. Every act of teshuvah, every effort to align our will with that of HaShem, contributes to a global shift in consciousness. This concept is echoed in the teachings of the Vilna Gaon, who emphasizes the collective impact of individual spiritual endeavors. Engaging in Torah study and sharing its wisdom is not just a personal endeavor but a communal responsibility. The Talmud Bavli, in Tractate Kiddushin, underscores the importance of Torah study in sustaining the world and bringing it closer to redemption. The teachings of the Rebbe reinforce the idea that disseminating Torah knowledge hastens the arrival of Mashiach.

A complex yet fundamental aspect of our relationship with HaShem is the coexistence of free will and divine providence. The Ramban, in his commentaries, explores this paradox, teaching that while HaShem’s will is supreme, He grants us the ability to choose our path, thereby allowing us to be partners in the unfolding of His divine plan. Recognizing that our sense of independence is an illusion is crucial for spiritual growth. The Ramchal, in Da’at Tevunot, explains that true freedom is found in submission to HaShem’s will, as it aligns us with the ultimate reality and purpose of creation.

Teshuvah is often translated as ‘repentance,’ but its literal meaning is ‘returning.’ It signifies a return to HaShem, to our true selves, and to the purpose for which we were created. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that teshuvah is a continuous process of aligning our will with HaShem’s will. The process of teshuvah is integral to preparing for the coming of Mashiach. As we elevate ourselves spiritually, we contribute to the collective readiness for redemption. The teachings of the Rambam, in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah, provide a roadmap for this spiritual preparation.

Spiritual growth is a lifelong journey, not a destination. Each day presents new opportunities for learning, growth, and aligning our actions with HaShem’s will. The wisdom of the Tanakh, particularly in the books of Proverbs and Psalms, offers guidance for this continuous journey. The path towards spiritual perfection is fraught with challenges and obstacles. The insights of the Vilna Gaon and the teachings of the Midrash offer valuable lessons on overcoming these challenges, emphasizing perseverance, faith, and trust in HaShem.

The ultimate goal of our spiritual endeavors is to glorify HaShem. This involves not only observing the mitzvot but also infusing every aspect of our lives with the intention of sanctifying His name. The teachings of the Arizal highlight the significance of living with this consciousness. Each mitzvah we perform is an act of glorification, a way to manifest HaShem’s presence in the world. The Talmud Bavli, in Tractate Berachot, discusses how even mundane activities can become acts of worship when performed with the intention of serving HaShem.

As we reflect on the insights and teachings explored in this article, it becomes clear that the journey towards spiritual perfection and the coming of Mashiach is both personal and collective. Each individual’s efforts in learning, understanding, and living the Torah’s teachings contribute to a larger, global transformation. The study of Torah and the practice of mitzvot are not static activities but part of a dynamic, lifelong process. This continuous cycle of learning, understanding, and application fosters a deeper connection with HaShem and a greater alignment with His will. The wisdom of the Tanakh, Talmud, and Kabbalah offer endless depths to explore, each providing unique perspectives and insights that guide us on this spiritual journey.

The Jewish people, while diverse in backgrounds and practices, are united in their core mission of serving HaShem and bringing about the redemption. The concept of PaRDeS (Pshat, Remez, Drash, and Sod) in Torah study exemplifies this unity, offering multiple layers of interpretation that cater to different levels of understanding and spiritual awareness. This diversity in unity is a strength that propels us forward in our collective mission. The role of community and spiritual leadership cannot be overstated in this journey. The guidance of rabbis, sages, and spiritual leaders, drawing from the teachings of the great Jewish thinkers like Rambam, Ramban, Arizal, and others, provides direction and clarity. The community offers support, accountability, and a shared space for growth and learning. Challenges and obstacles are an inevitable part of this journey. However, they are not mere hindrances but opportunities for growth and strengthening our faith. The stories and teachings from the Midrash and Aggadah often illustrate how challenges can be transformed into stepping stones towards greater spiritual heights.

Living with the anticipation of Mashiach’s arrival instills hope and purpose in our daily lives. This hope is not passive but active, driving us to live in a way that is consistent with the values and teachings of the Torah, and to create a world that is ready for redemption. Ultimately, the journey towards spiritual perfection and the coming of Mashiach is an eternal one. It transcends time and space, connecting us with past generations and future ones. It is a journey that is deeply personal yet universally significant, a journey of returning to HaShem, to our true selves, and to the purpose for which we were created.

In embracing this journey, we connect with the divine wisdom and understanding that has been passed down through generations. We become part of the ongoing narrative of the Jewish people, a narrative that is filled with challenges, triumphs, and the unyielding hope for a redeemed world. Through our continuous efforts in Torah study, mitzvah observance, and personal growth, we not only fulfill our individual potential but also contribute to the collective destiny of our people and the ultimate glorification of HaShem.

May it be HaShem’s will that the land of Israel and its people be blessed with peace, prosperity, and safety. May the light of Torah shine brightly, guiding the inhabitants and leaders with wisdom, compassion, and justice. May the soil of Israel yield its bounty, and its cities flourish with the joy and unity of its people. May the bonds between Israel and Jews worldwide be strengthened, fostering a deep and lasting connection to our heritage and faith.

And to you, the reader, may HaShem bless you with health, happiness, and success in all your endeavors. May your study of Torah and performance of mitzvot bring you closer to HaShem, enriching your life with spiritual fulfillment. May you always find strength in your faith, comfort in your community, and joy in your journey through life. May HaShem’s light guide your path, and His wisdom illuminate your way, leading you to a life of purpose, meaning, and connection to the divine. Amen.

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