On Moshiach and Olam HaBa

Rabbi Shlomo Cohen

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There are many today who “want Moshiach now!” I often relate two pieces of advice for those who profess the ‘want’ with little understanding of the ramifications.

1- INVEST YOUR MONEY IN BUYING STOCK – Hard to believe I’m saying this. Remember, originally Wall Street was an area at the very top of settled New York. There was an actual wall there. Farmers would meet there to buy and sell cows, sheep and pigs – livestock. Later on, when the area became a financial center, the name stuck. Why do I suggest buying livestock? When Moshiach comes, Bim’heira V’Yameinu, we, or should I just speak for myself, I will need quite a few young sheep (well, maybe a lot more) for my Korban Chatos (sin offerings). So, be prepared, buy now before the prices skyrocket.

2 – START LEARNING TAHAROS – When asked if Moshe Rabbeinu would recognize Yiddishkeit were he to come back today I answer “no”. Not because some old gray bearded rabbis changed a perfectly good religion. Just the opposite, we only keep a fraction of what is there. Of the six orders of Mishna, Zeraim (agricultural laws) is only now beginning to be kept again in Israel after a 2000-year hiatus. We do keep Moed (Shabbos and holiday law). Most of Nashim is followed as is most of Nezikin (civil law). Very little of Kodshim (Temple law) or Taharos (laws of purity) is kept. Moshe Rabbeinu would be appalled at the low level of observance. Half of the Mishna is simply not kept. When Moshiach comes, those laws will be back in force. You will not be able to simply hang your coat in the cloakroom, eat from any old pots and dishes or sit down in just any chair. These laws are myriad, complex and would drastically change our lifestyles. Get a head start and start learning them now.

One further notion. For some reason people think that the day Moshiach comes we will all be on the next flight to Israel and find a gorgeous, furnished apartment awaiting each of us, all within a two minute walk of the Kosel. No bills, perfectly behaved children, in-laws who don’t mix in, spouses who are everything we want them to be, wonderful health, no problems. While some Mifarshim espouse a miraculous and utopian vision of Yimay HaMoshiach, the above stretches credibility by a long shot.

Others, notably the Rambam, maintain that there will be very little immediate change. I generally explain it thusly. We presently live in a world of Sheker (falsehood). Moshiach will be the harbinger of an age of self-evident truth. This explains the Navi who says that every Jew who wears Tzitzis will have one thousand gentiles, for every string, following him around. The gentiles will realize that they lost the opportunity to be a servant of G-D since they could no longer convert. The best they could do is to become a servant to a servant of G-D. Thus each Jew would have a fan club of some 32,000 gentiles. What good would that do? They would realize, as would the Jew, that his job is to be learning Torah, ideally in Israel. Unfortunately, the mortgage, utility bills, tuition, food, clothing, health insurance premiums etc. are all still due. There would be a glut of houses on the market in Jewish neighborhoods and a severe shortage of housing in Israel. Your fan club would see their task as that of supporting you, buying your house and finding a little two-room apartment somewhere north of Haifa that you will be ecstatic to have.

Olam HaBa is a difficult concept. How are we to understand the ideas of reward and punishment or the belief that every Jew has a share in the world to come? To explain this in terms which are clear I utilize a modern scenario that people can relate to easily. (I hope the reader does not find this facile.) Picture a rabid football fan who lives for the game. His favorite team has made into the Super Bowl. At scalper’s prices he manages to purchase a ticket for standing room only, behind a pole, way up in the bleachers. He maxes his credit card to get airline tickets to the city in which the game will be played. He borrows money to reserve the only hotel room available, miles away from the stadium. He takes an advance on his salary for spending money and uses up all of his vacation time. Leaving his family, he travels out several days early so he can party and ‘get into the mood’. He can barely contain his excitement as The Day approaches. Rising early, he takes a cab to the stadium. Traffic is horrendous but he gets there with time to spare. The line is enormous but he finally gets to the gate still able to watch the coin toss, reaches into his pocket for the ticket… and realizes that, in his excitement, he had left his ticket on the dresser in the motel room. Imagine how he feels. As he’s standing there, in tears, he hears the roar of the crowd at kickoff. That galvanizes him into action. He races out of the parking lot, finally manages to find a cab, races back to the motel, grabs the ticket and heads back to the stadium. He misses most of the game and half-time show. They’re sold out of beer and hot dogs. He really can’t see a thing from behind the pole. But he got in. He was at the Super Bowl. When he gets back home, it’s all he can talk about. Does he tell anybody what a fiasco it was? Absolutely not.

What is the parable?

 

 

 

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