If the Messiah were to ride into Jerusalem tomorrow on a white donkey, it would be a terrible disappointment. We live in the best of times and the worst of times, and this makes us busy. Some of us are busy building, and some busy tearing down. Some trowel the mortar of the status quo, while others push at revolution’s sad spoon. Each of us pushes, in our own small (or, if we want to get really destructive, big) way for “making the world a better place.”
What is “making the world a better place” beyond a repugnant cliché? For many, we refer not to the moral good per se but to the alleviation of physical (and now, increasingly, mental) suffering. It is exactly this that will distract us from Moshiach. He will offer to reveal God within the world and we will say, we are too busy fixing our own suffering and the suffering of others. He will assure us that with God’s revelation within the world suffering will burn up like a cloud shredded by the morning. We will tell him that sounds terrifying because then there will be nothing for us to do.
In short, our joy, as noted in many Science Fiction films, seems to derive from our imperfection, because a human being cannot be perfect and be human, and if the messianic age is an eternal life of goodness, then by definition is cannot be a human life, and the Messiah’s imminence begins to sound like the looming existential impotence of death, like a crushing boredom that will not let us wring free.
But Moshiach is not death because what we take for life is not life. We have chosen, in our modern pursuits, the life of the body and the life of the soul, but not the point of their interweaving that in earlier times was taken to constitute a man.
The soul and the body make a strange pair. They are opposites, spirit and material, form and matter. Yet, paradoxically, the more they are themselves, the more they are each other. In other words, the essence of the soul is close to the essence of the body, and vice versa, whereas at their superficial points of coarsest expression they are as far from each other as East and West. It is the secret of the body that it needs a soul, and the secret of the soul that it needs a body, but both must leave the house in the morning and go to work and pretend they wish the enemy’s destruction. Or something.
Look, because bringing the Moshiach is the hardest thing in the world(tm), it shouldn’t surprise us too much that our natural tendency is to sort of work around the edge of the idea, getting as close as reason dares and always circling around the center point. That’s why we cannot just apply our soul’s choice and will to make decisions that reveal G-d in the world but must be distracted by dumb garbage that involves either the body or the soul screaming at the top of their lungs but never at each other.
The body taken roughly on its own will, for its own good, reject Moshiach. Not the truth of the body, which points toward the soul, but the thing materialists think makes the whole man. These bodies are terrified of Moshiach. The time will come when they are not needed. A Messianist’s input isn’t needed on this. It’s happening already. With “smarter” AI developed all the time, machines are quite likely to continue taking away more of the body’s work. What used to take a farm full of workers now takes a man; some factories are nearly completely automated; McDonald’s has started rolling out its kiosks. What, if we are not at work, and sustaining food is so cheap, are we to do with our time? The Messianic age of delights common as dust weighs on the soul like the void.
The soul taken on its own also rejects Moshiach. It is a being of pure will; it claims that the apparent facts are irrelevant before the inner truth of a man. And this superficial soul is just as busy as the superficial body. While the body is busy at work or play, the soul fights against reality. Practical concerns are, for it, notwithstanding. Thousands of years of viewing the sexes in one way must come to a close. Money must be paid with no concern of where it comes from. Love can solve all problems because all problems are soul perspective problems; problems of those who want the wrong thing. The soul, too, is afraid of Moshiach removing its purpose. Then, there will be no beauty higher than G-d, and no need to seek out a unique story or point of view. There will be no compassionm, empathy, or love to set us apart and define us. It will be obvious to all that many of the things we love now are empty compared to the eternal Creator. What is desirable will be objective and shared. We will not desire otherwise.
If man is a body, he will be replaced by machines, and if man is a soul, he will be replaced by angels and spiritual realms.
If we do not have a purpose when Moshiach comes, what purpose do we have now?
And indeed, what applies to man applies here to the whole world alike. Why is Moshiach a time when the world becomes more itself rather than simply ceasing to be? Perhaps the “Chad Charuv” is the Messianic Devourer, come to return the world to naught, for it no longer serves any need.
But on the contrary: we and the world have purpose as a soul and a body, tied together at their cores.
The reason why man becomes more a man and the world more the world when Moshiach comes is because Judaism is a monotheism that believes G-d actually created and sustains the creation. This is more revolutionary than it first sounds. A G-d who actually creates the world in its entirety, who creates everything and is bound by nothing, therefore creates for some end. And the end is Moshiach.
What is Moshiach? Moshiach is the commandments carried out.
What are the commandments carried out? A soul in a body, fulfilling their purpose.
And because the commandments are the soul and body fulfilling their purpose, the soul and body are not merely means to an end but part of the end itself. The commandment is only performed if it is performed by a soul in a body. And so these things persist.
Soon a time will come when all of our causes and protests and well-reasoned positions and well-sculpted muscles will be unnecessary.
Soon a time will come when everything we think we live for will fade away to dust.
Why are we not terrified?
Because though ranks of infinite angels cry out to G-d with divine wisdom, souls in bodies are why they exist. The robots are coming to do our work, and our various protests will soon be pointless. But the printing press has not turned the scribe obsolete, nor has a machine been found that can tie the Tztizit with intention. Never will the Seraphim’s perfect prayer be as essential as a half-asleep Sh’ma that falls from our cracked lips.
That a soul says the Sh’ma, is necessary.
That the lips are involved, is necessary.
This is all that matters.
This is what we must live for, if we want to want Moshiach.