1) THE YETZER HA'RA'S LAST STAND
QUESTION: The verse says that before Mashi'ach comes, "Those who go out and come in will have no peace from the enemy" (Zecharyah 8:10). Rav explains that this means that even Talmidei Chachamim -- who "have much peace" (Tehilim 119:165) -- will not have peace from the enemy at that time. RASHI, in one explanation, says that the enemy is the Yetzer ha'Ra.
Why does the Gemara teach, according to this explanation of Rashi, that the Yetzer ha'Ra will be less of a threat to a Talmid Chacham than to everyone else? The Gemara in Sukah (55a) states that the greater the person is, the greater is his Yetzer ha'Ra!
ANSWER: The Gemara in Sukah (52b) teaches that although a Talmid Chacham has a greater Yetzer ha'Ra, while he is learning Torah he is free from the influence of the Yetzer ha'Ra. However, during the time before Mashi'ach comes, even his involvement in Torah will not protect the Talmid Chacham from the Yetzer ha'Ra.
The TORAS CHAIM explains the reason for this as follows. When a force is about to be overpowered, it gathers all of its remaining strength in a final attempt to vanquish its opponent. This is why the last moment of the night, immediately before the light of dawn, is the darkest point of the night. Similarly, the day or so before a sick person succumbs to his illness and passes away, he seems healthier than he was until then. (In the same manner, a plant that is being starved for water will use its final strength to flower and produce seed.)
When Mashi'ach comes, Hash-m will "slaughter" the Yetzer ha'Ra (Sukah 52a). For this reason, immediately before Mashi'ach comes the Yetzer ha'Ra will use its last vestiges of strength to overpower even those who are normally free of its influence.
The Toras Chaim adds that this is why the Gemara (97a) says that before Mashi'ach comes, there will be extra brazenness in the world, and the young will be arrogant and disrespectful towards the aged.
2) AGADAH: "B'ITAH" OR "ACHISHENAH"?
The Gemara points out that there is a contradiction between the verses concerning when Mashi'ach will come. The verse (Yeshayah 60:22) first says that Hash-m will bring the Ge'ulah "in its time" ("b'Itah"). The verse then says that Hash-m "will hasten" ("Achishenah") the Ge'ulah, implying that Mashi'ach will come before the predestined time. The Gemara answers that if the Jewish people are worthy, then the coming of Mashi'ach will be hastened. If they are not worthy, then the Mashi'ach will come only in his predestined time.
The Gemara continues and says that if the Jewish people are worthy, then the Mashi'ach will come riding "upon the clouds." If the Jewish people are not worthy, then the Mashi'ach will come as a pauper riding on a donkey.
(a) It is clear that these two points are related to each other. RASHI explains that riding upon the clouds is a metaphor for coming speedily. Riding a donkey is a metaphor for coming slowly. If the Ge'ulah will come in its time -- in the pre-determined year, which is the last moment at which Mashi'ach will come (see 97b and Insights there) -- it will unfold slowly and appear to occur in a natural manner that will not appear to herald the Ge'ulah until the process is entirely complete. If the Jewish people are worthy and Mashi'ach comes before his time, he will come speedily, accompanied by miracles and supernatural occurrences.
The Gemara relates that the Persian king taunted Shmuel, asking, "Why should Mashi'ach ride a donkey? I will give him my royal horse to ride!" Rashi explains that the royal horse was either a very handsome horse or a very fast horse. The king's taunt seems to refer to what the Gemara says in the preceding Derashah. When Mashi'ach comes "b'Itah," at the predestined time, he comes slowly and, in addition, his glory is not immediately revealed. This is because his arrival will follow a seemingly natural course, which will be fraught with tribulations, and which will lead to the coming of Mashi'ach only at its culmination. This is comparable to the "ugly" animal, the donkey. The king, accordingly, asked why should the Mashi'ach not come speedily and conspicuously.
Shmuel replied that the donkey of Mashi'ach has its own unique qualities; it will have "one hundred colors." This means that if the Jewish people do not merit the coming of Mashi'ach but, instead, the Mashi'ach comes because the predestined time has arrived, then he will not be able to reveal his presence too quickly, lest many Jews be caught unprepared to accept his leadership. The Mashi'ach will need to give time to people to absorb and to learn from the events to accept Hash-m's dominion and to repent before it is too late. The Mashi'ach must also be able to deal with each person according to his level of Yir'as Shamayim. These are the "one hundred colors" of the Mashi'ach's donkey; the way in which he comes (represented by the donkey upon which he rides) will have many aspects to it, in accordance with the needs of the people. (See Insights to 90b.)
In contrast, if the Jewish people earn the redemption by repenting and being worthy of the Ge'ulah, then the Mashi'ach can come swiftly, since the people will not need to prepare for his coming.
(b) The Gemara says that Mashi'ach will come either when the generation is entirely meritorious (Zakai) or entirely guilty (Chayav). The fulfillment of the hastening of his arrival, "Achishenah," will occur if he comes as a result of the righteousness of the entire generation. However, it seems that even if the generation is entirely unworthy (Chayav), the Mashi'ach also will need to come immediately so that the people will not sink to the fiftieth and lowest level of Tum'ah, as was the case with the redemption at the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim. It seems, therefore, that there is a second type of "Achishenah" that can occur even when the Jewish people are not worthy of Mashi'ach. Why, then, does the Gemara say that the Ge'ulah of "Achishenah" occurs only when the Jewish people are meritorious?
The TORAS CHAIM (see also KOVETZ MA'AMARIM, p. 45) writes that this hastened arrival due to the sins of the nation is what the Gemara refers to as "b'Itah." The arrival of "b'Itah" means the time that he *must* come in order to save the Jewish people. According to this interpretation, riding on the donkey might be a metaphor for the tribulations that will precede the arrival of Mashi'ach. This is based on what the Gemara says earlier (97b): Mashi'ach will come even if the nation has not done Teshuvah on their own, because "Hash-m will bring a wicked king like Haman" who, with his evil decrees, will forcibly bring the Jewish people to repent.
A similar process occurred when the Jewish people left Mitzrayim, when Hash-m allowed the Egyptians to afflict the Jews with exceedingly hard labor until they cried out to Hash-m (Shemos 2:23).
(The donkey, "Chamor," might also allude to the fact that the Jewish people will be completely focused on material ("Chomri") pursuits. The Mashi'ach will come then because the nation is entirely Chayav.)
(c) If this is the Gemara's intention in explaining "b'Itah," then the question arises, why does the Gemara omit a third form of Ge'ulah? Since there is also a predetermined time at which Mashi'ach definitely will come, why is that Ge'ulah not mentioned in the verse?
The answer might be that the predetermined Ge'ulah and the Ge'ulah that comes when the generation is entirely Chayav are one and the same. Hash-m knows when the time will come at which the Jewish people will sink to the lowest depths, and that is the predetermined time of the Ge'ulah which the Mal'ach described to Daniel with a specific number of years.
Why, though, should this be referred to as "b'Itah" any more than the coming of Mashi'ach when the generation is entirely meritorious? Hash-m also knows if and when the nation will be meritorious, and, accordingly, that time of Ge'ulah is also predetermined from the perspective of Hash-m!
An answer to this may be proposed based on the teachings of the VILNA GA'ON. In the Parshah of the Bris Bein ha'Besarim (Bereishis 15), the Torah gives two different descriptions of when the Ge'ulah will come. The Torah says that the descendants of Avraham Avinu will be subjugated for four hundred years. The Torah then says that the fourth generation will return. The Vilna Ga'on points out that the punishment brought about by spiritual corruption is linked to a *span of time*, whereas correcting that corruption is linked to *human effort*. This is why the time of exile is described in terms of a number of years, while the Ge'ulah is described in terms of the number of generations of people. (The Vilna Ga'on's words apparently are based on the Midrash Tanchuma Bo #9 and Yalkut Shimoni 1:210. RAV YITZCHAK HUTNER zt'l in PACHAD YITZCHAK (Pesach) mentions that a similar concept is found in the end of Makos (23b). The Gemara there links the number of negative commandments to the number of days in the solar year, and the number of positive commandments to the number of limbs in the human body.)
The Vilna Ga'on might be alluding to the two forms of Ge'ulah mentioned in the Gemara. One is the Ge'ulah that comes when a predetermined number of years has passed. The other is the Ge'ulah that can come due to the repentance of the people and their good deeds. The first form of Ge'ulah involves a time limit that is linked to the corruption which caused the exile. If this corruption is not corrected before a given number of years, then the nation will sink to such a low level that the Ge'ulah will have to come in order to save them from being lost forever.
The second form of Ge'ulah is the Ge'ulah that comes when the nation repents and is entirely worthy. The Torah links that form of Ge'ulah not to a number of years, but to the people (four generations). This may be understood as follows. If Hash-m reveals to a prophet that a certain person will commit a sin, or that a certain person will act meritoriously, then that person's freedom of choice, Bechirah, will have been compromised. Therefore, the Torah does not say that the Ge'ulah will occur after a certain *number of years*, at which time the nation will perform meritorious acts and deserve to be redeemed, because that would require that the meritorious acts be done by that time. Instead, the Torah links the Ge'ulah that comes through meritorious acts to the *people* themselves, saying that it will come if the people are worthy. The Torah *does* write the amount of years after which the people will sink to the lowest level, since that does not compromise the people's Bechirah. The number simply represents the evil that is already inherent in the nation, and which will cause the nation to reach a certain level after a certain amount of time if no changes are made. (M. KORNFELD)
3) THE NAMES OF MASHI'ACH
QUESTION: The Gemara mentions that the students of three different Tana'im maintained that the name of Mashi'ach is the same as that of their mentors. The students of Rebbi Shilo maintained that the name of Mashi'ach is "Shilo." The students of Rebbi Yanai maintained that the name of Mashi'ach is "Yinon." The students of Rebbi Chaninah maintained that the name of Mashi'ach is "Chaninah," and others said that his name is "Menachem ben Chizkiyah."
Why was it specifically these Tana'im who had students who maintained that the name of Mashi'ach is the same as the names of their mentors?
(a) The VILNA GA'ON in KOL ELIYAHU (#236) points out that the first letters of the four names attributed here to Mashi'ach spell the word "Mashi'ach" (Mem, Shin, Yud, Ches). The Vilna Ga'on may mean that the actual name of Mashi'ach is Menachem, and he is the son (descendant) of Chizkiyah, the king of Yehudah who was nearly proclaimed to be the Mashi'ach (see 94a). The students of these three academies understood that their teachers manifested certain aspects of the Mashi'ach, since there are allusions in the verses to these names as names of the Mashi'ach. They also understood that their mentors had certain qualities of the Mashi'ach from the fact that the word "Mashi'ach" includes the first letter of their mentor's name, and the first letter of a name is the main part of the name which alludes to the qualities of the person.
(b) The MAHARAL (in Netzach Yisrael, ch. 41) explains that the Mashi'ach's outstanding quality will be that he is not limited to any particular quality. Rather, his personality will encompass all of the positive qualities that appear in the nation. This corresponds to the prayer of Moshe Rabeinu that the leader whom Hash-m appoints over the nation after him should be able to lead the nation according to the needs and the personality of each individual in the nation (Rashi to Bamidbar 27:16).
In particular, the Mashi'ach will incorporate the three Midos of the Avos, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov, which are the Midos of Chesed/Gedulah (Avraham), Yir'ah/Gevurah (Yitzchak), and Emes/Torah (Yakov). The three Tana'im mentioned in the Gemara each had a quality of one of the Avos. Their students were teaching that Mashi'ach will have all of those qualities.
The quality represented by the name "Shilo" is the Midah of Yakov Avinu. Yakov Avinu succeeded in forging a unique combination of Ahavah and Yir'ah, of Chesed and Gevurah, by combining the traits of his father and grandfather. This is the quality of Torah, in which everyone has a place. This is why Yakov Avinu was blessed by "a boundless heritage" ("Nachalah Bli Metzarim"; see Shabbos 118b).
The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 2:420) interprets the word "Shilo" in the verse quoted by the Gemara to mean that "Shai Lo" -- "presents will be brought to him." All of the nations of the world will bring presents to the Mashi'ach. This means that the Mashi'ach will be able to join together all of the nations of the world through his connection to each one of them (just as those who learn Torah (the Midah of Yakov Avinu) bring peace to the world through their learning (Berachos 64a).) The SEFORNO writes that the letters "Shin" and "Lamed" of the word Shilo allude to "Shalom," referring to peace and wholeness (Shalem), which was the attribute of Yakov Avinu.
The name "Yinon" represents the Midah of Avraham Avinu. Rashi interprets the word "Yinon" to mean "authority." One who performs Chesed and gives to everyone earns the respect of everyone and thus achieves prominence and authority. This is why Avraham Avinu was respected by all to a great degree, as the people of Ches said to Avraham, "You are our prince" (Bereishis 23:6).
The name "Chaninah" represents the attribute of Yitzchak, which was Yir'ah, the fear of Hash-m. A person filled with the fear of Hash-m appeals to Hash-m's mercy and prays that Hash-m will be "Chonen" to him and grant him his needs even though he is unworthy.