January 10, 2013
Rabbi Yisroel Harpaz in #864, Moshiach & Geula, Viewpoint

Judaism’s clear vision of a perfect world, a world that is free of competition, war, hunger, disease and the other ills that plague life on earth, has inspired many idealistic movements and utopian philosophies.

The common thread running through all these philosophies is that true change can be affected by humanity itself. Through the efforts of people who work hard to eradicate negativity within the world and seek out the benefit of their fellows, the sum total of all these movements will eventually (somehow) equal utopia.

Judaism, on the other hand (why is Judaism always on the other hand?), asserts that the final transformation to utopian existence will only come about through a wise and selfless leader, known as Moshiach (“the anointed one”). Our efforts, of course, are of primary importance to this plot, but our actions alone cannot, for some reason, bring about the final changes necessary to transport humanity into a utopian era.

Clearly, we are at odds with ourselves. On the one hand, those who believe that human effort can and will lead to such a transformation will be alienated by the concept of Moshiach, a G-dly redeemer – hence the flourishing of secular messianic ideologies in the past two centuries. On the other hand, those who believe in the Jewish approach could reason that if the final transformation will only come about through Moshiach, then why bother with our own efforts to create change?

Why, indeed, is Moshiach necessary given the vast energy being exerted by sincere activists around the world?

If it were possible for us to attain a utopian existence on our own, why has humanity not achieved it yet? The simple answer is that the drives that enable us to succeed in bringing about radical change in the world are antithetical to the peacefulness of utopia. The doctor who is working to cure the disease is competing against his colleagues for a prize and recognition, the ambitious entrepreneur is the one who can feed the hungry and the aspiring politician who wants to be remembered as a great humanitarian, or serve the economic interests of his own nation, will send his troops to battle the forces of darkness.

In all of these cases, radical change is affected in the outside world with drives and intentions that are hardly utopian. Aspiration, arrogance, desire, pretension, etc. are decidedly negative qualities. But replacing them with satisfaction, lethargy and laziness would create a very nice but very pathetic human being. These traditionally negative drives, the very characteristics that enable us to affect radical change in the world, hold us back from reaching internal peace.

Perhaps, then, this is the innovation of Moshiach and the Jewish utopia: That with leadership of a wise and selfless sage we will transcend our normal human limitations and attain perfection both inside and outside – which will no longer contradict each other.

The truth is that we are living in a most awesome and ideal time. We produce enough food to feed every mouth on the planet – but we don’t get it all to the right places. We have innovated technological advances that can potentially save countless lives every day and bring people closer than ever – but we’re not utilizing them to their fullest. For the first time, the world values peace and knowledge instead of war and power.

But utopia is not characterized by the external manifestation of good in the world alone. Utopia, by definition, is a perfected existence that affects the very core of our humanity, transforming each one of us while it transforms the world we live in. In the Messianic Era, we will become infinitely more aware of life’s deeper purpose, infinitely more sensitive and connected to one another, and infinitely more conscious of the infinite.

While we work together to improve and perfect the social and material world outside, we must also prepare the fundamental quality of utopian life inside us by striving to live more utopian, meaningful lives, to love and appreciate every person and to utilize the tools of the 21st Century to intensify our understanding of the infinite.

Reprinted with permission from Exodus Magazine


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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