|קונטרס "מאורעות ציון"
The concept of Mashiach ben Yosef appears once in the entire Gemara, in an obscure aggadah in (Sukkah 52a) that expounds upon a verse in Zechariah. At the end of a prophetic portrayal of the war of Gog and Magog, it relates: The land will eulogize, each family by itself, the family of David by itself and their wives by themselves (12:12). One opinion amongst the Tannaim identifies this as the eulogy of Mashiach descended from the tribe of Yosef, who will have been killed in the war. The Maharsha explains that Mashiach ben Yosef will precede the coming of Mashiach ben David, saving the Jewish People, but dying in the process. After this, Mashiach ben David will be able to bring about the complete and total redemption.
Although little mention is given to Mashiach ben Yosef in the gemara, the Vilna Gaon teaches in Kol HaTor (1:2): It is incumbent upon each of us to learn and understand all the aspects and spiritual qualities of Mashiach ben Yosef, that they be a candle to light the way of our steps and accessible to us like a set table, to guide us in the way of action and the particular tasks that are upon us in order to assist the redemption of Yisrael, and bring it speedily.
The concept of Mashiach ben Yosef is discussed at great length in the Zohar and the writings of the AriZaL. It is also discussed in later Kabbalistic works by the RamChaL, the Vilna Gaon, and others. Upon deeper analysis of verses in Tanach and Midrashei ChaZaL, numerous references and teachings about Mashiach ben Yosef become apparent.
I was motivated by the above injunction of the Vilna Gaon to develop some of these ideas and to commit them to writing in English, in order to present an introduction to the concept of Mashiach ben Yosef, for the English speaking public and to encourage the dissemination of the teachings of the Vilna Gaon which illuminate and clarify the Redemption process, which we are witnessing the unfolding of, each day. My ideas are based on the teachings of the Vilna Gaon, which appear in “Kol HaTor”, of Rav Hillel of Shkolov; the Vilna Gaon’s primary student.
This work came about through the influence of many Rabbeim whom I’ve had the merit of learning from. I would like to thank, in particular, Rav Pinchas Winston for opening me up to and helping me gain a basis in, this area of Torah. I must also extend my deepest heartfelt thanks to Rav Yehoshua Gerzi for playing such a large role in my development in this area of Torah and other areas of my spiritual development, and for encouraging me to take on this project. Last but not least, I offer thanks to my wonderful wife Malka. Without her constant love and encouragement, none of this would have been possible.
About this Work
This work, entitled: "מאורעות ציון", “The Events of Tzion”, is based on the second chapter of the book “Kol HaTor”, written by R’ Hillel of Shkolov, the main student of the Vilna Gaon. There, R’ Hillel records the teachings of the Vilna Gaon regarding Mashiach ben Yosef and his relationship to the Redemption process of the Jewish people.
This work is not a direct translation. My goal in writing this work was to provide an English version of the “156 Aspects of Mashiach ben Yosef”, discussed thoroughly in the second chapter of “Kol HaTor”, which could be studied by those lacking the proficiency in Hebrew, and the conceptual background necessary to successfully grasp the content contained in the original work.
Wherever possible, I have tried to remain as close to the actual wording and order in which the concepts appear. However, because of the concise and holistic style in which these concepts were written, where R’ Hillel assumes the reader’s strong background in all the traditional Torah sources, as well as a firm understanding of Kabbalah and the sefiros; I felt the need to fill in the gaps by giving background, expanding on certain concepts, and being more explicit in pointing out the conceptual connections and flow from one idea to the next. At times, I also may have presented the ideas in a different manner in order to add clarity and fluidity to the content being given over.
To this end, at times I may also have subtracted or de-emphasized certain points which were not essential to understanding the main concept being given over. At times I may also have added points for clarification and added explanation which were not included in the original text.
Titles and verses, related to each concept, are presented in both Hebrew and English, while sources for reference remain primarily in Hebrew.
The ideas are arranged according to the same mode of organization used in the original work. Each of the 156 aspects is presented individually and is ordered, roughly, according to the Hebrew alphabet, with each concept beginning with a conceptual title or verse that the ideas are based on.
Because many of the concepts discussed are either based totally or partially on Kabbalistic understandings of the sefiros and interrelations between them, I have attempted to give brief explanations of the sefiros, on site, according to the need in understanding a particular section. With this aid, I feel that even one with little background in Kabbalah will be able to comprehend the main thrust of the ideas presented in such sections. However, for one to really appreciate many of the teachings of this work, in depth, I suggest that the reader familiarize themselves with at least a basic understanding of the sefiros and their interrelationships.
The reader is also encouraged to look up the sources presented inside and gain greater appreciation and scope of understanding from seeing the ideas expressed in context.
Lastly, I encourage the reader to eventually study the original work, “Kol HaTor” in its original Hebrew and style, with this work hopefully having laid a stronger foundation in the concepts therein.
Introduction to the Concept of Mashiach ben Yosef
Before Adam HaRishon sinned, by eating from the Etz HaDaas, his personal avodah was primarily to perfect himself spiritually. He was placed in Gan Eden in an environment that would allow him to achieve the spiritual goal of self-perfection and knowing G-d. His relationship to the physical world centered on its use as a means toward his perfection. After the sin, Adam’s previously high spiritual standing was greatly reduced and a great amount of spiritual imperfection became included in his being. Not only that, but he also caused tremendous spiritual damage to the physical world, unraveling the once ordered and harmonious web that bound the physical and spiritual in unity allowing for G-d’s light to be revealed in the world in the proper way. As a result, death, tumah (impurity) and imperfection all became incorporated into Adam’s body and the physical world as a whole. Now, the world itself would require great tikun (rectification) and fixing in order to restore it to the harmony and unity that once existed and allow for the correct environment for man’s spiritual growth and self-perfection to enable him to bind himself to G-d properly (see Derech Hashem, chapter 3).
As a result of the worlds need for rectification, post-sin, a new concept was added into Adam’s avodah in this world. His pre-sin avodah was of self-perfection and drawing closer to G-d. Now, his avodah also included the rectification of the physical world through the retrieval of the sparks of holiness that had descended into impurity. This could only be done though direct and rigorous involvement in the physical world. In doing so, he would remove the power and influence of tumah and evil, which had increased in the world, and re-establish the total good and unity that existed in creation pre-sin. Then the world would serve as the ideal environment for man to choose the good and perfection of doing the will of G-d and to partake of the infinite good that G-d intended for him.
This mission of man is referred to as Tikun Olam (World-Rectification). It exists one step below and feeds into, man’s original purpose, Tikun Adam (Self or Soul-Rectification). This dichotomy makes up the complete picture of all of man’s challenges and experiences in this world: Man’s relationship to the world around him, his outer world; and his relationship to his inner world, within himself.
Throughout the generations that proceeded Adam, people began to take on these two rectifications in their lives, some succeeding but many failing, causing more damage to creation and creating a greater need for continued rectification. The Avos (Forefathers) and other great personalities in Tanach, at different points in their lives, became the main movers in the world in one of these two areas of rectification: at some points manifesting the Tikun Adam aspect and at others the Tikun Olam aspect. For example, Avraham primarily began to express the spiritual mission of Tikun Olam upon arriving to Eretz Yisrael; Yitzchak from after the Akeidah; Yaakov from the time of his wrestling with the angel; Yosef from the time of his first dream; Moshe Rabbeinu from Yetzias Mitzrayim before the giving of the Torah; and Yehoshua from the beginning of the war with Amalek (see Kol HaTor, chapter 1:23.)
However, these two missions of rectification are said to have reached a point of fruition and maturity while climaxing within two separate personalities in Jewish History: The aspect of Tikun Adam within David HaMelech and the aspect of Tikun Olam within Yosef HaTzaddik. From this, the concept of Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef becomes introduced. In their lives the qualities associated with Tikun Adam and Tikun Olam became perfected to such an extent that anyone who would later express and develop any such qualities would be referred to as manifesting an aspect of Mashiach ben David or Mashiach ben Yosef. Ultimately, two people will usher in the final redemption, through each focusing on one of these two rectifications as their life mission. They will be called, respectively, Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef proper.
Until the shoes of the final two Mashichim are filled and the redemption arrives fully, in every generation there is one person who manifests and predominates the aspect of Mashiach ben David and another who manifests and predominates the aspect of Mashiach ben Yosef; two people who may potentially fulfill the ultimate missions of both Mashichim in together, bringing about the final Redemption. In a more micro-level perspective of this concept, every Jew manifests one of these two aspects predominantly in their lives at one point or another, as a ben Yosef or a ben David. His manifestation of one of the two aspects depends on the circumstances and challenges of his life as well as his place in the grand scheme of bringing about the rectification of the entire world.
The 156 Allusions to the Various Aspects of Mashiach ben Yosef and his Mission in Bringing about the Final Redemption
The Vilna Gaon revealed 156 aspects of Mashiach ben Yosef in which all the qualities of Mashiach ben Yosef are alluded to, throughout Tanach and other areas of Torah; all of which are components of the Redemption process. The significance of the number “156” is that the gematria of “Yosef”, as well as “Tzion”; the focal point of the Redemption process, is “156”.
(1) "אפרים": The name Efrayim refers to Mashiach ben Yosef who is descended from the tribe of Efrayim; specifically in the context of Yirmiyahu’s prophecy found in (ירמיה לא') where the name “Efrayim” appears as:
(a) "אפרים בכורי", “Efrayim, My firstborn”;
(b)"הר אפרים", “the Mountain of Efrayim”;
(c) "אפרים מתנודד", “Efrayim wanders”; and
(d) "הבן יקיר לי אפרים", “Efrayim My precious son”. Each usage of Efrayim represents a different aspect of Mashiach ben Yosef’s mission.
He is called “Efrayim, my firstborn” because he is the first Mashiach, who precedes Mashiach ben David, and who gathers the Jewish people together in Eretz Yisrael, from exile. He is called “the Mountain of Efrayim” because he gathers the Jewish people to Tzion, as the verse says: "נצרים קראו מהר אפרים קומו ונעלה ציון אל ה'-
א-לקינו- ,“the watchmen will call out on the Mountain of Efrayim, ‘Arise, let us ascend to Tzion, to Hashem our G-d”. Mashiach ben Yosef is referred to as “Efrayim wanders” because he has no rest, constantly wandering from north to south and south to north, in fulfillment of his mission; for about him the verse in Shir HaShirim (ד' טז) says: "עורי צפון ובואי תימן", “Awake from the north and come from the south”. The first letters of each word in that phrase is, all together עצו''ת , , equal to the gematria of “Mashiach ben Yosef”(566). “Efrayim, My precious son” represents how Mashiach ben Yosef is spiritually rooted in the sefirah of Gevurah which receives from the sefirah of Chesed, meaning Gevurah whose purpose is ultimately motivated and governed by Chesed. “Efrayim” represents Gevurah, for Yosef placed him to Yaakov’s left when Yaakov was to bless Menashe and Efrayim (בראשית מח' יג); the left representing Gevurah. Yaakov moved his right hand onto Efrayim to manifest that even though Efrayim was essentially rooted in Gevurah, he would be governed by Chesed, represented by the right. Thus, the love expressed for Efrayim, "הבן יקיר לי", “My precious son” represents that Efrayim has the love, of his Father; that is, Mashiach ben Yosef, who stems from Gevurah, receives and channels Chesed, from Hashem (also see (142) below). It is also a mitzvah to speak about Mashiach ben Yosef constantly, as the verse continues: "כי מדי דברי בו זכור אזכרנו עוד", “Whenever I speak of him, I remember him more and more”; and Hashem pledges: “I will surely take pity on him”.(לא' יט)
(2) "אנוח ליום צרה": “The time I should have rested will become a day of distress”(חבקוק ג' טז) . This refers to a time at which Mashiach ben Yosef is manifest. This similarly connects to the verse in Yirmiyahu(ל' ז) : "עת צרה היא ליעקב וממנו יושע" , “It will be a time of trouble for Yaakov, but he shall be saved from it”. It is also known that any usage of the language of "ישועה", refers to the qualities of Mashiach ben Yosef. Thus, although Mashiach ben Yosef’s mission requires difficult human effort and struggle, Hashem will ultimately come to his aid, and the hardship of his endeavor will result in salvation.
(3) "אמת מארץ תצמח וצדק משמים נשקף": “Truth will sprout from earth and Righteousness will peer from heaven” (תהילים פה' יב). The next verse continues,
"ה' יתן הטוב וארצנו תתן יבולה", “Hashem, too, will provide what is good, and our land will yield its produce”. These two verses together refer to the efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef and their results. “Truth sprouting from the earth” is a reference to Mashiach ben Yosef, who is rooted in the middah of "דין", “Judgment” which dictates human effort and worthiness. This is additionally referred to, here, as "צדק", “righteousness” (i.e. righteousness in judgment). The result is Hashem’s reciprocating Chesed, "טוב", and the land of Eretz Yisrael yielding its physical, as well as spiritual, fruits; "וארצנו תתן יבולה".
(4) "אבן מאסו הבונים היתה לראש פינה": “The stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone” (תהילים קיח' יב). This refers to Mashiach ben Yosef, who serves to establish the physical structure and framework that will serve as the spiritual vessel which reveals Hashem in the world. During the process, this may not be apparent and Mashiach ben Yosef may receive strong opposition, but his efforts will in the end be revealed for their true spiritual intentions and applications. The first letters of each word in this verse: אמההל"פ, has a total gematria of “161”; the same gematria as "יהוסף"; Yosef’s name, when the letter "ה" was added to it, the night before Yosef first spoke with Pharaoh (see סוטה לו:).
(5) "אבן שלימה וצדק": “a perfect and honest weight (shall you have)”-
(דברים כה' טו). This refers to Mashiach ben Yosef, who is connected to the middah of "דין", “Judgment”; represented by the weights, which judge and assess value, the aspect of "דין". It thus follows that the next paragraph in the Torah deals with the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek; which is also associated with the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef (see (55), (62) and (78) below). The conceptual progression continues into the beginning of the next paragraph in the Torah, the parsha of "כי תבוא", which refers to inheriting the land of Eretz Yisrael, dwelling there securely, and fulfilling the Mitzvos which are specifically dependent on the Land; all of which are also connected to the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef.
(6) "אור זריע לצדיק ולישרי לב שמחה": “Light is sown for the Righteous, and for the upright of heart, gladness” (תהילים צז' יא). Any usage of: "צדיק", without specification, in Tanach, refers to Mashiach ben Yosef, stemming from Yosef, who essentially personified the “Tzaddik”. (See also Zohar: ח"א נט ע'ב, which associates the "צדיק" of this verse, with Yosef; and see (121) and (127) below)
(7) "אהל בת ציון": “the Tent of the Daughter of Tzion” (איכה ב' ד). This refers to the physical infrastructure of Tzion, whose establishment and rebuilding are under the responsibility of Mashiach ben Yosef. For this reason the term: "אהל בת ציון", “the Tent of the Daughter of Tzion”, is used; for this is connected to the concept described in (ישעיה נד' ב): "הרחיבי מקום אהלך": “Broaden/expand the place of your tent” which refers to the efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef in expanding the presence of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, and primarily, Tzion, through physical, human, effort (see (36) below). Also, "ציון", “Tzion” alludes to Mashiach ben Yosef; the word: “Tzion” sharing the same gematria, “156”, as “Yosef”, from whom Mashiach ben Yosef stems and receives his spiritual qualities and abilities in furthering the Redemption process. Thus the term: “Tent of the Daughter of Tzion” refers to that which is included in the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef in rebuilding Tzion and establishing the presence of the Jewish people there, in preparation for the complete Redemption, with the arrival of Mashiach ben David.
(8) "אילת השחר": “the Morning Star” (תהילים כב' א). The Midrash Tehillim and gemara (מגילה טו:) describe this verse as referring to Queen Esther, of Megillas Esther; who prayed to Hashem, in the following verse: "אלי אלי למה עזבתני", “My G-d, my G-d, why have you abandoned me?”. This verse refers to Esther as she manifested Mashiach ben Yosef of her generation. For this reason she is called the “Morning Star”; the first light of dawn, which serves as the point of transition from night to day. Thus, she acted as the turning point from distress to salvation, for the Jewish people. In the same way Mashiach ben Yosef effects the transition from exile, characterized by “night”, to redemption, characterized by “dawn”. This is connected to how ChaZaL described the redemption process, as the breaking through of the dawns light: "כך היא גאולתן של ישראל...בתחילה היא באה קימעא קימעא ואחר כך היא מנפצת ובאה", “Such is the Redemption of Yisrael, at first it comes a little bit at a time until it breaks through and arrives”(ירושלמי ברכות א' ה). This accurately describes the redemption process as building up slowly, through the human effort of Mashiach ben Yosef, culminating in the revelation of Mashiach ben David. The word "אילת", implying a connection to Mashiach ben Yosef is also expressed in the Torah as "אילה שלוחה", “a Hind sent off” (בראשית מט' כא); for Mashiach ben Yosef is sent out into the world in fulfillment of his mission in rectifying the world (a concept to be discussed more, later on). Thus, the next verse in the Torah describes Yosef.
(9) "א-לקים יושיע ציון ויבנה ערי יהודה": “For G-d shall save Tzion and he will build the cities of Yehudah”(תהילים סט' לו). This similarly connects to the verse "דלותי ולי יושיע", “I was brought low, but He (Hashem) saved me” (see (27) below). Mashiach ben Yosef is the subject alluded to in both verses. In the first verse, “G-d shall save Tzion”, Tzion refers to Yosef, through their shared gematria of “156”. As a result of G-d’s saving Mashiach ben Yosef, “he” i.e. Mashiach ben Yosef, “will build the cities of Yehudah”. Similarly, in the second verse, although Mashiach ben Yosef will be “brought low” as a result of the difficulties involved his mission, Hashem will provide him with salvation and success in fulfilling it (also see (2) above.)
(10) "בצר הרחבת לי": “You have relieved me in my distress”(תהילים ד' ב). And, a similarly connected verse: "מן המיצר קראתי י-ה ענני במרחב י-ה", “From the straits I called out to G-d, G-d answered me with expansiveness” (תהילים קיח' ה). Any unspecific messages related to calling out from "צר", “distress”, and being answered with relief and expansiveness; alludes to Mashiach ben Yosef, whose relationship with Hashem is defined strongly by such conditions. Similarly, we see by (תהילים פא' ו): "עדות ביהוסף שמו", “He appointed it as a testimony for Yosef (Yehosef):"בצרה קראת ואחלצך אענך בסתר רעם", “In distress you called out, and I released you; I answered you when you called privately with a thunderous reply”(ח); the connection here to Yosef/Mashiach ben Yosef becomes quite apparent.