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The Haftora for Acharon Shel Pesach is from the book of Yeshayahu. It begins with a prophecy about the destruction of Sennacherib and the Assyrians, who already captured the Ten Northern Tribes and were now threatening the kingdom of Yehuda. It continues with prophecy of Moshiach, what he will be like and what the world will be like when he comes. Followed by the ingathering of the exiles, and the joy we will experience.
The whole Haftora is about the time of Moshiach. Even the beginning, which speaks of the destruction of Sennacherib, is a message about the coming of Moshiach. First, because the king of Yehuda at that time was Chizkiyahu, of whom the Talmud says, that "Hashem wanted to make Chizkiyahu Moshiach." And second, to Chizkiyahu and Yehuda, it seemed impossible to overcome Sennacherib and his powerful army, who exiled the Ten Northern Tribes, who were much stronger than Yehuda. Yehuda was gripped with fear and the futility of their situation. Hashem destroyed Sennacherib and his army, and the kingdom of Yehuda had a miraculous salvation. Same is true about the times of Moshiach, although we are suffering and it seems impossible, our salvation will come quickly and in a miraculous way.
Why do we read about Moshiach on Acharon Shel Pesach?
The first days of Pesach are about the Exodus from Egypt. The last days of Pesach are about the future redemption. Because of this, we read the Song of David on Shevii Shel Pesach, instead of the Song of Devorah. Because David is the father of Moshiach.
The light of Moshiach shines bright on the last days of Pesach, but even stronger on Acharon Shel Pesach, which is only celebrated outside of Israel. This is because, we transform the day from mundane to holy, as we take a plain weekday and turn it into Yom Tov. And that is what the coming of Moshiach is all about, the total transformation of the world from mundane to holy.
The Haftora now tells us about King Moshiach, and what he will be like.
"And a staff will come out from the shoot of Yishai and a branch will sprout from his roots. The spirit of Hashem will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of Hashem."
What is this spirit of Hashem that will rest upon him? It is a very high level of G-dliness, where the neshama and Hashem's Essence are one. It is beyond the world, it is a place of total unity and it is not subject to any kind of division that is found in the world, even in the most sublime spiritual realms.
Moshiach will therefore be a unifier of opposites. First the unification of above and below, the spiritual realms and our physical world. We experienced this at the splitting of the sea, a brief taste of Moshiach, in preparation of receiving the Torah. At Mount Sinai we again experienced this in a more powerful way, as we were given the power to connect heaven and earth, to imbue the physical with G-dliness through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvahs. However this will only be complete when Moshiach comes, and the essence of Hashem will dwell openly in this physical world, there will be a total unification of opposites.
We see this in the Haftora, first with Moshiach himself, he will have a spirit of "wisdom (chochma) and understanding (bina)," chochma is the opposite of bina. Chochma is the ability to conceive a new idea. In order to do this, you must totally not exist, it is only the idea, that is why, when a new idea comes to you, all of a sudden you recognize where you are and that you were thinking, because at the time that you conceived the new idea, it was like you weren't there. Bina is contemplation, it is you thinking about the idea and its details, you are totally there.
Then it says that he will have "a spirit of counsel and strength," which are opposites. Counsel is from the mind, strength is from the body and emotions. He will have a spirit of "knowledge and fear of Hashem," again opposites. Knowledge of Hashem, brings you to love Him, the opposite of fear.
This uniting of opposites continues with the world. First the animals as it says, "And the wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat, and the calf, the lion, and the fattened ox together, and a young boy will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze Together," all opposites. Then even the earth will know Hashem, and earth doesn't have the ability to think, as it says, "for the land will be full of the knowledge of Hashem like the waters cover the sea." The earth, which is the opposite of the ability to think, will be full of the knowledge of Hashem.
Are these expressions to be taken literally or metaphorically? The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim says, that they are a metaphor for how the Jewish people and the nations of the world will act towards one another. However, in his Igeres Techiyas Hameisim he says, that what he wrote in Hilchos Melachim (about taking it metaphorically), is not to be taken as the law, rather, that it could be understood that way. In other words, even according to him, it is possible that it will be literally. There is a rule that, "a verse shouldn't be taken out of its simple meaning," Then perhaps it should be taken liberally, and accordingly some do take it literally. So it is a sure thing that the nations of the world, even those that are vicious like snakes, will become tame and friendly.
The Haftora says about Moshiach, "He will smell the fear of Hashem, He won't judge by the sight of his eyes, nor by the hearing of his ears." Meaning, that he will judge by his ability to smell. The Talmud tells a story of how the rabbis used this as a test to see if Bar Kuziba (Bar Kochba) was Moshiach. They saw that he could not judge by smell and they knew that he wasn't. According to the Zohar, this sense of smell is higher than wisdom and understanding. But didn't it say, that he will have " a spirit of wisdom and understanding?" What is the point of the wisdom and understanding, if he will be judging people by his ability to smell? Here again you have opposites, smell is higher and on the outside, wisdom and understanding are lower and on the inside, but by Moshiach these abilities will unite, the higher and lower, the inside and outside will also be one.
How will he be able to judge without witnesses? Doesn't the Torah require witnesses? Some suggest that he will only confirm that the judgements are accurate. But the indication of the Talmud, that he will "smell and judge," is that he will actually judge cases, and not merely confirm. So how can he do that?
The law is, that a king can judge without witnesses in certain cases. For example, to maintain order. This kind of judgment he will do by scent. The difference between a regular king and Moshiach, is that a regular king would do it as a one time thing, however, with Moshiach it will be a regular occurrence.
Then it says, "with the utterance of his lips he will slay the wicked." This is difficult to understand, because as we mentioned above, Moshiach will bring with him such a great level of awareness of Hashem, and the Torah that he will teach will be deeper than that of Moshe Rabbeinu. So how is it possible that any wickedness will exist? What wicked will he slay?
The reason that Moshiach will have such a profound effect on the world, is because his neshama is from the highest place, higher than any other. The rule is, that what ever is higher falls down lower, so that things that seem low to us, like wickedness and evil, originate from a very high spiritual source, just they fall so low, that we can't see the good in them. Since Moshiach comes from even a higher source, he will be able to reveal the good in the lowest of things. "He will slay the wicked," means that we won't see them as wicked anymore, rather as good. We will see that everything Hashem created is truly good.
It also works the other way around. If we raise the lowest and most mundane parts of our lives to Hashem, we draw Moshiach closer.
It is interesting to note, that there is a special prayer that we add on Yom Tov, when the Holy Ark is opened before Torah reading, it begins "Ribono Shel Olam," In it, we ask that the words of the verse, "The spirit of Hashem will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of Hashem," should be actualized in us. This verse is clearly talking about Moshiach, on what basis do we ask that we should be like Moshiach?
The highest level of our soul, the "yechidah," is equal in every one of us. That is the part of us that is one with Moshiach, so in our essence, we all have a bit of Moshiach. Even though we don't feel it, it effects us, and we are blessed one way or another with this blessing. When we see miraculous things happening in our lives, and tremendous success, out of the normal, we know that these blessings are coming true.
In addition to the wolf, the leopard, the lion and the bear, the Haftora says, "A baby will play at a vipers hole and an infant will stretch out his hand over an adder's den. (These snakes) will not damage nor harm anywhere on My Holy Mountain, for the knowledge of Hashem will fill the earth like the waters cover the sea." What does the knowledge of Hashem have to do with snakes and wild animals and not damaging?
Another question. It seems that all the people with the dangerous animals, are little children. First a young boy, then a baby and finally an infant. Why children?
These wild animals will remain the same, and yet not damage, because if they become tame, then what is the big deal saying that they won't damage? The amazing thing that will occur is that they will remain wild and still not damage. And this will be because "The knowledge of Hashem will fill the earth." How will this work?
Another question. Why isn't it enough that the world should become filled with the knowledge of Hashem? Why is it necessary to be filled, so much so, that it will be like the waters cover the sea?
The people in the world have a direct effect on it. The world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem because there will be a broadening of the minds of humanity. And because they will have a profoundly deeper understanding, they will recognize the truth of Hashem. This will cause a transformation in humanity. And being that humanity will be affected, the animals will as well.
However, if the world will only be filled with the knowledge of Hashem, that would mean that every part of the world will be filled according to its ability to understand. That would mean that a smart person would know more than someone who is less smart, and that can breed different opinions, which can lead to arguments and strife.
That is why it will be, like the waters cover the sea. In the sea there are mountains and valleys, there are also all different types of creatures and plants, but when you look from above the water, all you see is the water. The same will be when Moshiach comes, there will still be smart people and less smart, but because they will be totally engulfed by the knowledge of Hashem, everybody will be equally nullified before Hashem, in other words, there will be no clashing egos, it will only be about Hashem. This is the ultimate unity that is possible, therefore there will be peace, the ultimate level of peace that can possibly be achieved.
When you speak about children, especially babies, it automatically includes everybody, but if it would have said adults, we would think that children are excluded.
Symbolically the child is the Jewish people, as it says, "Israel is a young child and I love him," it symbolizes all that is innocent and pure, and all that is good and holy in the world. The snakes symbolize the first snake that instigated the first sin with the tree of knowledge and it symbolizes all that is bad in the world. Since the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem, and the source of the evil will be revealed, that it is really good, there will be true peace and harmony between them.
May we merit to see the coming of Moshiach today, on Acharon Shel Pesach, when the light of Moshiach shines brightest. We surely deserve it. The time has come.
Dedicated to my son Eli Chaim who celebrates his birthday on Acharon Shel Pesach. We are so proud of you, may Hashem give you a successful year.