Reader: I have been praying and talking to G-d for over 30 years, and have come to the realization that I have not been enthusiastic nor joyous with my attitude and actions for the Redemption. I have not been inspired nor have been mildly inquisitive to find out what this Era of Moshiach is all about. Have I been lulled into complacency by the exile? Are there hundreds or even thousands of other Jews who are devoid, like me?
In my davening, I briefly ask for Hashem’s Salvation, the coming of the new offspring of David, and then my words fly onto the next prayer. Maybe I should add another prayer, “To have Hashem help me seek out the knowledge and joy of the Redemption."
What would you recommend to counteract the negativity of the Exile? Where would I find, in-depth information about Moshiach, about the Era of Redemption?
Mesora: In his Laws of Kings chapters 11 and 12, Maimonides addresses Messianic times. In 12:2, he quotes the Rabbis who teach: "There is no difference between now, and the Messianic Era except for the subservience to foreign governments alone". If so, what's all the hype about?
There may be a number of factors that have lulled you towards a complacent disposition. But perhaps the primary reason the Messianic Era is not on our radar is due to our lack of Torah study. Those who learn Torah regularly are quite taken back – on a daily basis – by the beauty of Torah thought and ideas. Nothing gives a person more fulfillment than apprehending God's will as seen through Torah, creation, or the sharp ideas realized after seemingly incongruous Talmudic portions reveal deep insights. King Solomon wrote Proverbs in this very fashion, so that ideas are hidden and only expose them elves after rigorous study. And when a Torah student uncovers the meaning, the enjoyment is intense.
This is what the Messianic times will offer: an age where study of God will be our main focus, with little exertion to procure our needs. Law12:4 expresses why the wise sages and prophets longed for Messianic times: it would provide the setting for the highest level of Torah study.
What has lulled us into complacency? It is our ignorance of the highest satisfaction only obtained through a life of thought. But if we too attain an appreciation for what Torah is and the enjoyment it affords, we too will anticipate the Messianic times. It is then so crucial that we immediately immerse ourselves in study under a great teacher for hours every day.
Reader: You often talk about "perfection." However, you do not (as far as I know) define what IS perfection. It seems too abstract. Would you mind shedding some light on this idea?
Mesora: Perfection refers to a person who is in full control of his/her emotions and does not violate a negative command. This person is also morally upright, seeks to help others, and does not give in to ego emotions, or other destructive urges. He or she fulfills all commands as they are to be fulfilled, as he or she recognizes God, what He is, and what he is not. This person is "perfect" in his thoughts and ideas, and in his emotional life. His intellect guides all his actions, and he or she seeks knowledge as their true joy and primary occupation.
Reader: I was reading The Guide for the Perplexed and I had a question on Maimonides' opinion on wisdom and perfection. He states that metaphysical opinions of G-d is more important that having knowledge of the Law and moral principles, if I understand him correctly. I would think it would be the other way around. It is the very last chapter of the book. (Part 3 Ch 44)
It would seem he's saying that an Albert Einstein is more perfected than say, a Rabbi. Or am I getting metaphysics and science confused? I understand metaphysics is how G-d relates to man, animals, the universe, science, etc.
Thank you in advance,
Mesora: You have not misunderstood metaphysics. But I feel your misunderstanding is in what is known by the Rabbi and Einstein.
Metaphysics refers to "knowledge of God" which includes His justice. This area addresses God, as opposed to physics, which addresses nature. Therefore, metaphysical knowledge is more essential than moral knowledge, such as laws of stealing. Possessing a corrupt view of God – poor metaphysical knowledge – a person is further from the truth, than if his ideas of stealing are corrupt. Thus, one who steals but knows as best as humanly possible what God is, is more perfected than one who never steals, but thinks God is physical.
Now, your suggestion the Rabbi is involved in moral law and not metaphysics is not a true assessment. A Rabbi will – or should – be fully versed in metaphysics. This area is not reserved for scientists and metaphysicians, but as Maimonides teaches, it is primary in life for all mankind. The "fundamental of fundamentals". The Rabbi will certainly be on a higher level than an Einstein, since he possesses not only metaphysics, but knowledge of morality and its perfection too.