Are you desperate for Mashiach? If so, why? You live in the most stable and prosperous generation that Jews have experienced since the beginning of our exile. Why do you need Mashiach? You are not oppressed, suffering, impoverished, or persecuted. You are living well, you have the admiration of your peers, and are successful in your endeavors, what are you lacking?
How would you answer this question?
I would answer it simply that we are lacking Mashiach. And how special it is that we can finally say for what is likely the first time in history that we want Mashiach for its own sake. We don’t need him to save, feed, protect, or heal us. We are doing a pretty good job of that on our own. We don’t even need him to make things better for us. We need him, we are desperate for Mashiach, because we want Mashiach.
And what does Mashiach represent? Why do we want Mashiach?
He represents a state of mind that is sorely lacking today. Did you notice that when I described all the comforts of our day, I did not talk about the freedom to study Torah and practice Judaism? Did you notice it at all? I didn’t. It is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of luxury, liberty, affluence, and pleasure.
And how confining is that? We take our pleasures from transient temporal things that have no lasting value. Their value is not only finite, it is infinitesimal. How much pleasure do you gain from a piece of art or a gourmet meal? How much fun is a sailing trip around the world in a pleasure yacht? After all, these are just things. Things that we can live with or without.
The Torah, however, is a portal into infinity. It is a pleasure so vast that G-d Himself, Infinite, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Perfect and Eternal as He is, delights in it. It is impossible to absorb G-d in our finite minds. But when we study the Torah, we absorb His thoughts and ideas. When we study the Torah we walk away with a piece of G-d in us. The only place where we can go to embrace G-d, is the Torah.
Think about how much expense and effort we expend on our vacations. No matter how majestic, grand, and exquisite our destination, it is still finite. Instead, we can sit with a book of Torah and take in G-d’s infinity for free. Imagine standing near a telescope that can peer into distant galaxies while you focus on a speck of dust on the tip of your little finger. What a waste of opportunity, right? Yet, the speck of dust and the galaxies are both finite, and G-d is infinite.
Why do we freely discard the chance to hold infinity in the palm of our hand—embrace and absorb the pleasure of a moment alone with G-d, and opt instead for temporal pleasures and transient delights?
The answer is that we are so stuck in the finite that are unable to appreciate the infinite. Our scopes are too narrow to take it in. It is like a beautiful symphony that we can’t hear because it is on a different frequency. It is like an explosion of beautiful color that is missed completely by the color blind.
Imagine, though, that with the arrival of Mashiach, in one fell swoop, we will hear the music, feel the passion, see the color, and all in sharp relief. All at once, we will be able to absorb infinite delight, endless pleasure, unlimited stimulation, undreamed of grandeur, unfathomable stimulation, and unimaginable inspiration. Imagine that our capacity for all of this will grow exponentially every moment because infinity is truly without end.
Imagine all this being available to us simply by gazing at the world. We will look out at the ocean and glimpse G-d. We will enter the bakery and embrace sanctity. We will walk out into the park and gaze at the Divine. We will sit in our living room and encounter the Creator. We won’t see Him far off in the distance. We will see Him in the ocean, in the tree, in the couch, and in ourselves.
Luxurious resorts, beautiful vistas, international travel, and gourmet restaurants won’t rouse our passions. We will view them as infinitesimal compared to the pleasure of knowing G-d. We will be unable to tear ourselves away from the Torah. The portals of understanding and wisdom will be thrown open, and we will plumb their unfathomable depths and scale their unimaginable heights. And every day we will discover new peaks. Peaks that were not visible from the plateau on which we stood the day before.
There will be no end to happiness. No end to joy. No end to pleasure. No end to delight. No end to stimulation. No end to inspiration. No end to the lofty transcendental heights that we will experience and gain. It will be truly magnificent and otherworldly except that it will all be experienced right here in this world. In the here and now.
You can now appreciate why we might be desperate for Mashiach despite the unprecedented prosperity and stability that we experience in our generation. You can also appreciate why it is magnificent to be able to desire Mashiach for its true gifts rather than for simple relief from trouble and oppression. That would be akin to using an exquisite diamond to scrape the mud off the sole of our shoe. Only today, in an age of unprecedented bounty, longevity, and health, can we aspire for Mashiach for the right reasons.
This is the deeper meaning of G-d’s instruction to Moses to instruct the Jews to bring to Moses, “pure olive oil that is pressed for illumination.” Pure olive oil is a metaphor for the essence of the Jewish soul. That point deep within our core that experiences itself as one with G-d. Where the chatter of the world stills, where the flashy lights dim, and where we can hear G-d’s “still silent voice.”
This part of our soul is symbolized by pure olive oil. Just as oil rises to the top, so is this part of our soul at the very apex of our being. But just as oil saturates everything it touches, so can the core of our soul leave an indelible impact on the way we view every aspect of daily life. Bathed by the light of our souls, things that seemed mundane and prosaic take on new depth and Divine meaning. Life becomes filled with profundity and the search for truth, unity, meaning, and fulfillment becomes an existential quest.
When the pure olive oil, the core of our soul at one with G-d, awakes, when this inner quest filters through our defenses and saturates our conscious mind, we start searching in earnest. We are not content with surface pleasures. We seek something deeper—a connection with G-d and existential meaning. We seek to surrender to His ultimate truth and become part of His absolute oneness. We grow desperate for Mashiach.
This is the inner meaning of the words, “pressed for illumination.” Oil is produced when the olive is pressed. And when the oil is present, it provides illumination. When we grow tired of the spiritual oblivion in which we function every day, when we grow weary of the darkness that grips us like a vise and presses at our very core, we feel “pressed for illumination.”
When Mashiach comes, the universe will be bathed in Divine luminescence. Our pure olive oil, our deep soul core, seeks this illumination. It feels pressed and squeezed without it. It feels trapped in the vise of bodily and worldly stimulation. When squeezed this way, we pine for something more. We yearn for higher. We are desperate for better. And that, in a word, is why we are desperate for Mashiach.
Rabbi Eliezer (Lazer) Gurkow, currently serving as rabbi of congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario, is a well-known speaker and writer on Torah issues and current affairs.