Monday 11 August 2014

035) Kotzk and Mashiach - An Unpopular View

Much of the Jewish world today is ablaze with talk of Mashiach.

Had the Kotzker Rebbe lived in our times, his views on Mashiach may have proved to be rather unpopular. Remember, ours is not the first generation to popularize Mashiach, and the Kotzker was well aware of similar messianic excitement in generations preceding his. 

He says;
It is better for people to remain unaware of the time of redemption and instead live in the tension of not knowing which times are more auspicious than others.
(Kochav HaShachar p 60 par1)

From this teaching it seems clear that instead of promising people an imminent end to their suffering (which may or may not be accurate) - it would be better for these same people to rather deal with realistic uncertainty in terms of the timing (not the concept) of Mashiach. Human beings have to dig deeper within their souls when faced with any type of angst, and it is precisely in states of profound uncertainty that we grow the most.

In a similar vein, the Kotzker writes about Eliyahu HaNavi, the prophet who is tasked with the official duty of announcing the arrival of Mashiach;
Regarding the custom of opening the door for Eliyahu on Passover night- don’t think Eliyahu really enters through the physical door of your house. Instead he enters through the doors of your heart and mind.
(Kochav HaShachar p 59, par 2)

Even here the Kotzker takes the edge off the immediacy and literalness of the famed mystical figure Eliyahu HaNavi, the great harbinger of Mashiach. He doesn't deny that Eliyahu will foreshadow Mashiach. He simply questions the popular perception thereof.

In another, and perhaps his most poignant comment about Mashiach, he says;
Why is it that Jews always cry out to G-d that He have mercy on us and send Mashiach? Rather we should cry out to ourselves to have mercy on G-d. And we ourselves effect the change that will be Mashiach.
(Kochav HaShachar p 59, par 1)

The Kotzker’s tenor in all these teachings is not to add to the hype by promising immediate and miraculous salvation which only tends to create confusion and inevitable disappointment. He reminds us that determination through uncertainty and not grand predictions, is the essence of spiritual growth. He directs us more inward than outward. He encourages us to think more conceptually than literally. And he tells us to become the miracle rather than wait for it.   

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