Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Waiting for Moshiach

It is well known that the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, was very particular not to accumulate unnecessary belongings. He reasoned that since we are merely travelers in this world on a business trip to procure our place in the world to come we have no reason to hoard anything beyond our needs. As a matter of fact, for most of his life the Gadol Hador had a dirt floor, like the simplest of Polish Jews.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, the Chofetz Chaim did own one very respectable garment which was set aside and never used. When asked why he owned a frock coat that he never actually put on, he explained, “I have set this coat aside so that I will have a distinctive garment in which I will be able to greet Moshiach, bimheira b’yameinu!”
Someone once approached the Gadol and asked, “I heard that you have a coat set aside in which you plan to greet Moshiach. But doesn’t the Gemara say that Eliyahu Hanavi will come three days before Moshiach to herald his arrival? Keeping an extra coat seems superfluous since the Gemara indicates that you will have three days to procure one!”
The Chofetz Chaim patiently explained, “Our forefathers were supposed to be in Egypt for four hundred years. However, every child knows the Jewish people actually stayed there for only two hundred and ten years. Chazal explain that the calculation of four hundred years started from the birth of Yitzchak Avinu. So we see that what appears to be simple on the surface actually has an entirely different meaning!”
The Gadol continued, “So too with the arrival of Moshiach. Although the Gemara does indicate that it will be announced, Chazal also said that he will arrive suddenly, b’hesech hada’as. (Sanhedrin 97a) The fact is that anyone who prepared ahead for the sudden arrival of Moshiach will be able to greet him with due respect. Afterward, we will work out a solution to the problem of how he could have arrived so suddenly, without our having heard the announcement of Eliyahu Hanavi!”


Shorty said...

Of course, don't forget that if there are three days notice, won't EVERYONE be out procuring a new coat...?

Just a little humour...

I learn a lot reading your blog. Thank you!

yaak said...

Nice post.

Also, the gemara in Eiruvin 43 seems to say there is only 1 day notice. And some say none at all.

See here for the different Shittot.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Shorty: Very clever!
As surprising as this sounds, I think that many people won't think of buying a new coat!
Rebbe Nachman said that when Moshiach arrives everyone will be filled with acute inner turmoil. The only exceptions will be those who are unusually focused through daily hisbodedus (intense personal prayer to Hashem in one's own words.)
Thank you for the encouragement! I am very glad that you enjoy the blog.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Yaak: I appreciate your pointing out a great on-line resource. Thank you for this and for the compliment.
It is actually not clear that the gemara in Eiruvin argues on the opinion that Eliyahu will come three days before.(Psikta Rabbati quoted in the source you directed to.)
The Meiri there writes that Eliyahu will come AT LEAST a day before Moshiach--Rashi says he will come a day before, but may also mean at least a day.
Also it is not clear from there that the revelation three days before will be known to the public (although presumably at least the greatest of the generation will know.)
In addition, it says Eliyahu will lament. Possibly only those who know will understand that this is three days before Moshiach. The rest need to be told a day before.