“A Ruler Shall Go Forth”

One of the prophecies of Billam recorded in the Torah portion of Balak is that “a ruler shall go forth from Yaakov.”1 Rashi explains2 that this refers to Moshiach, concerning whom the verse adds:3 “he shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth.”

Since the obvious intent of the verse is that Moshiach will rule the entire world, why doesn’t it simply say so? Moreover, why is it necessary to state “from sea to sea” when Moshiach’s primary dominion will be over the land masses and their inhabitants?

The Alter Rebbe explains4 that the “ultimate perfection of the Messianic Era … is dependent on our actions and [divine] service throughout the period of exile.” The spiritual service of the Jews prepares the world as a whole, and themselves in particular, for the ultimate perfection that will be realized in the Messianic Era.

Since G‑d repays “measure for measure,”5 it follows that those “actions and service” that lead to the Messianic Era are to be somewhat similar to the events of that time. In other words, in order to attain the revelation of Moshiach’s kingdom, a dominion that stretches “from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth,” it is necessary that our individual spiritual service be performed in a like manner.

This will be better understood in light of the statement of the Baal Shem Tov6 that “it is necessary for every Jew to rectify and prepare that portion of the rank of Moshiach that is allied with his particular soul.” For each and every Jew has an element within his divine soul that is a portion of Moshiach’s stratum.

In light of the above, we can understand why the verse states that Moshiach’s rule will be from “sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth,” rather than simply stating that Moshiach will rule the entire world. By doing so, it informs us that in order to merit the general redemption which Moshiach will bring about in the entire world, we must redeem our particular souls. We accomplish this by seeing to it that the spark of Moshiach within each of us — the innermost point of our heart7 — rules all the components of our persona.

These components are referred to by the phrase “from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth.” They are so designated for the following reason:

The difference between “sea” and “land” is that “sea” denotes those things that are hidden, just as the creatures of the sea are concealed by its waters. “Land,” on the other hand, alludes to that which is revealed. Thus, in terms of man’s divine service, the “sea” represents a person’s individual soul powers and actions as they pertain to his own self, while “land” refers to his actions as they relate to the world around him.

Since the verse says “from sea to sea,” it is to be understood that in terms of man’s spiritual service, “sea” has two elements. These are in accordance with another verse regarding the Era of Moshiach, at which time “living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half to the foremost [eastern] sea and half to the endmost [western] sea.”8

In terms of man’s service, the “foremost sea” refers to the foremost soul power of wisdom, while the “endmost sea” refers to the lowest of our powers, the power of action. The verse is thus telling us that just as Moshiach will rule “from sea to sea,” man’s service is not complete until he achieves dominion over all his powers, from his lofty intellect to his lowly power of action; all of them are to be used in his divine service.

But the above kind of service alone does not suffice. Man must also “rule” unto “the end of the earth.” Not only is he to see to it that he is as he should be, but he is to purify, sanctify and elevate the world around him as well.

It is this kind of effort, both regarding ourselves as well as the world around us, that assures the complete and perfect divine service that will lead to the ultimate perfection realized with the speedy arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Balak 5751, pp. 8-10.