The best sefer (book of Judaica) on the mystery and concept of Mashiach (Messiah) ben Yosef is unquestionably “Kol Ha’Tor”, written by the brilliant sudent of the Vilna Gaon; Rabbi Hillel of Shklov (over 200 years ago). Everything in that sefer – literally every word – are quotes and teachings of the Vilna Gaon on this topic. Here are four highlights from that sefer, as taught by the great master, the Vilna Gaon:
“Everything involved in the ingathering of the exiles (i.e. Jews from outside the land, moving to Israel), building of Jerusalem (the Bet Ha’Mikdash) and settlement of Eretz Yisrael… are included in the mission of the first Messiah; Mashiach ben Yosef. (Chapter 1:2)
“The two Messiahs are; Mashiach ben Yosef who will sustain and strengthen Israel physically and Mashiach ben David who will sustain both the Jewish People and the individual Jew spiritually... They cooperate and assist each other… They live and endure in every single generation… If not for their strength, valor and protection, Israel could not survive for even one moment…” (Chapter 2, Part 2:1)
When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food, they met with Joseph and the verse says; “Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him” (B’resheit 42:8). The Vilna Gaon writes; “This is one of Joseph’s attributes. Not just in his generation, but in every generation, Mashiach ben Yosef recognizes his brothers and they do not recognize him.” (Chapter 2, Part 1:39)
“The general tasks of the two Messiahs; Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David, together throughout the generations, is defense and was against the three chiefs of impurity – Esav, Yishmael and the Erev Rav (mixed multitude). Mashiach ben Yosef’s job is to confront Esav, Mashiach ben David must confront Yishmael and together they work against the unity of Esav and Yishmael.
Before I bring this all together, allow me to quote the Ramban. After the Children of Israel crossed the sea, the nation of Amalek was there to fight us and the Ramban raises an interesting point. In other battles, Moshe appointed a leader to fight and then stepped back. However, in the battle vs Amalek, Moshe appointed Joshua to lead the battle but he stayed involved, holding his hands up to motivate Bnai Yisrael. Why?? The Ramban’s answer will give you chills; “Esav’s descendant, Amalek, initiated the first war of the nations against us. Esav’s seed brought upon us the exile and the last destruction which we are still suffering from today… Therefore, Moshe and Joshua fought them together and in the future, Elijah (Eliyah Ha’Navi) and Mashiach ben Yosef will fight their descendants. This is why Moshe exerted himself so much in this battle.” (Sh’mot 17:9)
And finally, the big question: When will the Mashiach appear on the scene? Rabbenu Sa’adya Gaon, in his monumental work, “Emunot Ve’Deot” (Article 8, Chapter 5) addresses this point and states that if we repent, we will be redeemed immediately and if not, we will still be redeemed… but only at the set time (which is much later). He writes; “If our repentance is incomplete, we will remain unredeemed until the end comes… This is in line with Talmud Sanhedrin 97b: ‘If Israel repents, they will be redeemed…”
Let’s summarize all of the above in a few short sentences. First of all; there are two Mashiachs and the first one to come – led by Eliyahu Ha’Navi – will be Mashiach ben Yosef. He is here now (as is Mashiach ben David) but we don’t recognize him. He is hidden and waiting for either a fixed time or for the Jewish people to do what is required of them. When that happens – hopefully soon, when we do our part – Mashiach ben Yosef will then bring the Jews home (Aliyah!!), settle the Land, fight the bad guys and build the Bet Ha’Mikdash (and you thought you had a lot to do??!!)
OK, and now to my main point. For 2,000 years we have been waiting for some hero to ride into town and simply “save the day”. Unfortunately, this is not a Jewish concept. Our Mashiach needs to accomplish many tasks – all listed above, very clearly by the Vilna Gaon – so if you are waiting for a WhatsAPP that he’s here… you are going to be very disappointed.
Therefore, instead of just waiting, let’s make his job easier! Mashiach ben Yosef is going to bring the Jews home to Israel??? Let’s go home now! Mashiach ben Yosef is going to settle Eretz Yisrael? We can do that too! Mashiach ben Yosef is going to fight the Jewish enemy? Let’s join the IDF and do exactly that! In other words… let’s each become a Mashiach ben Yosef!!! Don’t get me wrong; we shouldn’t ride around Jerusalem on a white donkey proclaiming our kingdom (there are far too many weirdos who do that already!) but we should perform the tasks that the real Mashiach ben Yosef is obligated to do.
I am totally serious about this. Stop just waiting for Mashiach and stop singing Mashiach songs. Instead, learn the things he must do… and do them yourself! We have never been a nation of “watchers”… we are a nation of “doers”. So, dearest friends, don’t wait for it to happen – MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Am Yisrael Chai!!
Shmuel Sackett is the Founder and Director of the Am Yisrael Chai Fund, which supports agricultural, educational and building projects across Eretz Yisrael.