The haftarah1 for the final day of Passover is from the book of Isaiah. It begins with a prophecy about the destruction of Sennacherib and the Assyrians, who had already captured the 10 Northern Tribes and were now threatening the kingdom of Judah. It continues with a prophecy of Moshiach. It describes the personality of Moshiach, and portrays what the world will be like when he comes. All this is followed by a depiction of the ingathering of the exiles, joining as one in Israel, and the joy the Jews will experience when this happens.

The entire Haftarah is about the time of Moshiach. Even the beginning, which speaks of the destruction of Sennacherib, is a message about the coming of Moshiach. Firstly, because the king of Judah at that time was Hezekiah, concerning whom the Talmud2 says, "G‑d wanted to make Hezekiah Moshiach." And second, to Hezekiah and the people of Judah, it seemed impossible to overcome Sennacherib and his powerful army, which had exiled the Ten Northern Tribes, who were much stronger than Judah. Judah was gripped with fear and hopelessness. But G‑d destroyed Sennacherib and his army, and the kingdom of Judah had a miraculous salvation. The same is true about the times of Moshiach, that although we are suffering and it seems impossible, our salvation will come quickly and in a miraculous way.3

Why Do We Read It Today?

The first days of Passover celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. The last days of Pesach are about the future redemption. Because of this, we read the Song of David (progenitor of Moshiach) on the seventh of Passover, instead of the Song of Deborah, which would have been equally appropriate.

The light of Moshiach shines bright on the last days of Passover, but even stronger on Acharon Shel Pesach (the final day of Passover), which is only celebrated outside of Israel. This is because we transform the day from mundane to holy, making plain weekday into Yom Tov. That is what the coming of Moshiach is all about, the total transformation of mundane into holy.

Unifying Opposites

The haftarah now tells us about King Moshiach, and what he will be like.

"And a staff will come out from the shoot of Jesse and a branch will sprout from his roots. The spirit of G‑d will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of G‑d."4

What is this spirit of G‑d that will rest upon him? It is a very high level of G‑dliness, where the soul and G‑d's Essence are one. It is beyond the world, in a place of total unity, a place not subject to the division found in this world, even in the most sublime spiritual realms.

Moshiach will thus be a unifier of opposites. He will bring about the unification of the spiritual realms and our physical world. We experienced this at the splitting of the sea, when we had a brief taste of Moshiach in preparation of receiving the Torah. At Mount Sinai we again experienced this in a more powerful way, as we were given the power to connect heaven and earth. Our mission was to imbue the physical with G‑dliness through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot. However, this will only be complete when Moshiach comes. At that time, the essence of G‑d will dwell openly in this physical world,5 and there will be a total unification of opposites.

We see this in the haftarah’s description of Moshiach, who will have a spirit of "wisdom (chochmah) and understanding (binah)." Chochmah is the opposite of binah. Chochma is the ability to conceive a new idea. In order to do this, you must totally not exist—it is only the idea. (That is why, when a new idea comes to you, all of a sudden you recognize where you are and that you were thinking, because at the time that you conceived the new idea, it was like you weren't there.) Bina is contemplation, it is you thinking about the idea and its details—you are totally there.

Then it says that he will have "a spirit of counsel and strength," which are opposites. Counsel is from the mind, whereas strength is from the body and emotions. He will have a spirit of "knowledge and fear of G‑d," which are again opposites. Knowledge of G‑d brings you to love Him, the opposite of fear (which comes when something is unknown).

This uniting of opposites continues in our world as well. First with the animals, as it says, "And the wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat, and the calf, the lion, and the fattened ox together, and a young boy will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze together."6 All of these animals, opposites in every aspect, will join and live in peace and harmony. Then even the earth, which heretofore did not have knowledge of G‑d, will know Him, as it says, "for the land will be full of the knowledge of G‑d like the waters cover the sea."7

A question arises: Are these expressions to be taken literally or perhaps they are merely a metaphor? Maimonides writes in his halachic code8 that they are a metaphor for how the Jewish people and the nations of the world will live in peace. However, in his Igeret Techiyat Hameitim,9 he says that what he wrote in Hilchot Melachim (about taking it metaphorically), is not to be taken as the law, rather, that it could be understood that way. In other words, even he agrees that it is possible that it will be literally so. There is a rule that, "a verse shouldn't be taken out of its simple meaning."10 Accordingly, some do take this prophecy literally.11 Regardless, it is a sure thing that the nations of the world, even those that are vicious like snakes, will become tame and friendly.12

A Judge by Scent

The Haftarah says about Moshiach, "He will smell the fear of G‑d, he won't judge by the sight of his eyes, nor by the hearing of his ears."13 Meaning, he will judge by his ability to smell. The Talmud14 tells a story of how the rabbis used this as a test to see if Bar Kochba was Moshiach. They saw that he could not judge by smell and they therefore disqualified him. According to the Zohar,15 this sense of smell is higher than wisdom and understanding. However, did it not say that Moshiach will have "a spirit of wisdom and understanding?" What is the point of the wisdom and understanding if he will be judging people by his ability to smell? Here again we have opposites, smell is a higher level (and focused outward), while wisdom and understanding are lower (and on the inside). By Moshiach, however, these abilities will unite, the higher and lower, the inside and outside will all be one.16

How will Moshiach be able to judge by smell alone, without witnesses? Doesn't the Torah require witnesses? Some suggest that he will only confirm that the judgements are accurate. But the indication of the Talmud,17 that he will "smell and judge," is that he will actually judge cases through sniffing, and not merely confirm. So how can he do that?

The law18 is that, in certain cases, a king can judge without witnesses. For example, when he deems it necessary in order to maintain order. Moshiach will perform this kind of judgment by scent.19 The difference between a regular king and Moshiach is that a regular king would do it as a one time thing.20 However, with Moshiach, it will be a regular occurrence.21

Revealing the Good in Everything

It then says, "with the utterance of his lips he will slay the wicked."22 This is difficult to understand, because, as mentioned above, Moshiach will bring with him such a great level of awareness of G‑d that the Torah that he will teach will be deeper than that of Moses.23 So how is it possible that any wickedness will exist? Which wicked people will he slay?

The reason that Moshiach will have such a profound effect on the world is because his soul is from the highest place, higher than any other. The rule is that whatever is higher falls down lower, so that things that seem low to us like wickedness and evil actually originate from a very high spiritual source. They have fallen so very low, due to the tremendous fall they experienced. Since Moshiach comes from even a higher source, he will be able to reveal the good in the lowest of things. "He will slay the wicked" means that we won't see them as wicked anymore, rather as good. We will see that everything G‑d created is truly good.

It also works the other way around. If we raise the lowest and most mundane parts of our lives to G‑d, we draw Moshiach closer.24

A Bit of Moshiach in Each of Us

It is interesting to note that there is a special prayer that we add on Yom Tov, when the Holy Ark is opened before Torah reading. It begins "Ribono Shel Olam." In it, we ask that the words of the verse, "The spirit of G‑d will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of G‑d," should be actualized in us. This verse is clearly talking about Moshiach. On what basis do we ask that we should be like Moshiach?25

The highest level of our soul, the "yechidah," is equal in every one of us. It is the part of us that is one with Moshiach, so in our essence, we all have a bit of Moshiach. Even though we don't feel it, it affects us, and we are blessed with this blessing. When we see miraculous things happening in our lives and tremendous success beyond what could have been expected, we know that these blessings are coming true.26

Knowledge of G‑d Will Change the World

In addition to the wolf, the leopard, the lion and the bear, the Haftarah says, "A baby will play at a viper’s hole and an infant will stretch out his hand over an adder's den. [These snakes]27 will not damage nor harm anywhere on My Holy Mountain, for the knowledge of G‑d will fill the earth like the waters cover the sea."28 What does the knowledge of G‑d have to do with snakes and wild animals not damaging?

Also, it seems that all the people with the dangerous animals are little children. First a young boy, then a baby and finally an infant. Why children?

The animals will not be tamed. For if that were the case, what is so impressive about not damaging?

The amazing thing is that they will remain wild and still not damage. And this will be because "The knowledge of G‑d will fill the earth."29

How will this work?

Another question. Why isn't it enough that the world should become filled with the knowledge of G‑d? Why is it necessary to be filled “like the waters cover the sea”?

The people in the world have a direct effect on it. The world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d because there will be a broadening of the minds of humanity. They will recognize the truth of G‑d, and this will cause a transformation in humanity. And since humanity will be elevated, so will the animals be.

However, if the world would merely be filled with the knowledge of G‑d, that would mean that every part of the world will be filled according to its capacity. A smart person would know more than someone who is less smart, and that can breed different opinions, which can lead to arguments and strife.

That is why it will be like the waters covering the sea. In the sea there are mountains and valleys, there are also all different types of creatures and plants, but when you look from above the water, all you see is water. The same will be when Moshiach comes. Everyone (and everything) will be totally engulfed by the knowledge of G‑d, and everybody will be equally nullified before G‑d. There will be no clashing of egos because it will only be about G‑d. This is the ultimate unity possible. There will therefore be peace, the ultimate peace that can possibly be achieved.30

When we speak about children, especially babies, it automatically includes everybody, but if it would have said adults, we would think that children are excluded. Symbolically, the child is the Jewish people, as it says, "Israel is a young child and I love him."31 It symbolizes all that is innocent and pure, and all that is good and holy in the world.

The snakes symbolize the first snake that instigated the first sin with the Tree of Knowledge and it symbolizes all that is bad in the world.32 Since the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d, and the holy source of the evil will be revealed, there will be true peace and harmony.33

May we merit to see the coming of Moshiach today, when the light of Moshiach shines brightest. We surely deserve it. The time has come.