1. This is a time when every person is obligated to do all that depends on him to bring about the coming of Mashiach immediately for “All the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have passed.” This is cogently true at present after the conclusion of the month of Nissan. Surely, in the immediate future, Mashiach will actually come and everyone will point to him and say, “Here look, Mashiach has actually come.”

These concepts, the imminence of Mashiach’s coming and every Jew’s responsibility to act to bring that coming closer are connected to this week’s Torah reading, Tazria-Metzora.

To explain: Parshas Tazria begins with the mention of a woman giving birth to a son. This is an allusion to the coming of the future redemption which is often described using the metaphor of birth. In particular, the birth of a son can be interpreted as a reference to the strength and permanence that will characterize the ultimate redemption, for this redemption will not be followed by an exile.1 In this context, the woman is an allusion to the Jewish people whose service will ultimately bear fruit in the advent of the Era of Redemption.

Parshas Metzora also shares a connection to Mashiach’s coming. Our Sages teach: What is Mashiach’s name? “The leper of the School of Rebbi” as implied by the prophecy, “He has borne our sicknesses and endured our afflictions.” Mashiach will sit among the lepers and be a leper himself.2

(Based on the above, we can appreciate the derivation of the name of the parshah from the verse, “This is the law applying to the leper on his day of purification.” Although the commonly accepted name of the parshah is Metzora, “the leper,” in some communities, it is referred to as Parshas Taharah, “the portion of purification.” Based on the above, we can appreciate both names as applying to the Mashiach; Metzora, refers to him as he exists within exile, and Taharah, refers to his state after he reveals himself and redeems the Jewish people.)

To explain the above concept: Commenting on the verse, “When a man will have a blemish on his skin,” the Alter Rebbe explains that Adom (the Hebrew term used for “man”) refers to a person who is completely developed in all aspects of his personality. Therefore, the blemish is only on his skin,3 i.e., it affects only the lower and more superficial elements of his being which have not been refined as of yet.

The Alter Rebbe continues, explaining that leprous blemishes are “Sublime matters. They are not impure until they are determined to be so by a priest.... Until then, they are not impure, but rather sublime lights.”4

These two explanations of leprous blemishes — that reflect the superficial aspects of one’s being that have not yet been refined and that they are a reflection of sublime G‑dly lights — are interrelated. Because they are a reflection of such sublime lights, even when there is a descent and nurture is derived by undesirable forces, the effects are only superficial.

In this context, we can appreciate the purification of a leper’s blemishes in a different context: The purification process does not represent the introduction of a new quality, but rather the revelation of the inner, true dimension possessed by these blemishes, their existence as sublime lights. This is reflected by the phrase, “on the day of one’s purification.” This implies that the purification from leprosy is connected with “day,” i.e., with revelation, revealing the inner nature of these sublime lights.

To focus on this concept: It is precisely the sublime nature of these Divine lights that allows for the derivation of nurture by undesirable forces. These lights are too powerful to be enclothed within vessels and therefore, there is the possibility for descent.5

When these powerful lights shine to vessels which cannot enclothe them, they cause the vessels to feel a yearning to rise above their immediate situation and to become included within the light of G‑d. This state is described as ratzu. This allows for the possibility for nurture to be derived by the external forces because there is no downward influence of holiness directed toward worldly involvement. To give an example of this on the personal level: After a person feels tremendously inspired in prayer, the energy he feels may be expressed in anger directed at another person.

What is necessary? To develop equilibrium with such feelings of ratzu, it is necessary to put a stress on shuv, involvement in the world. This is characterized by bittul. The yearning for G‑dliness has an element of yesh, self-concern, for in any love relationship, the person expressing love feels his personal identity. Conversely, in the approach of shuv, one must be like a subject who is totally overwhelmed when in the presence of his master and who feels no self-importance whatsoever.

This bittul will find expression in various efforts to draw Divine light downward, thus fulfilling G‑d’s desire for a dwelling within the lower worlds. Thus, this thrust of shuv has the potential to draw down the “sublime lights” that are too transcendent to be enclothed in vessels to be revealed within this world.

The fusion of these two tendencies of ratzu and shuv comes about through the revelation of a light that transcends both qualities. This is reflected in the quality of Tiferes (beauty) which has the power to create a synthesis between Chessed (kindness) and Gevurah (might), because within it, is revealed a light which utterly transcendent in nature.

This process is reflected in the description of the purification of a leper as toras hametzora, “the law of the leper.” Seemingly, the verse should have stated taharas hametzora, “the purification process for the leper.” Why does it use the word toras? To indicate that, in a spiritual sense, the purification of a leper comes about through the Torah.

Torah study requires bittul, as implied by fusion of the phrases in our prayers, “My soul will be as dust to all. Open my heart in Your Torah.” It is Bittul that makes one an appropriate recipient for the Torah.

The Torah is associated with the attribute of Tiferes as our Sages declared, Tiferes is the giving of the Torah.” Thus, the Torah has the potential to unite the two thrusts of ratzu and shuv and hence, cause the sublime lights to be drawn down and revealed within the vessels of this world.6 This revelation, in turn, prevents the external forces from deriving nurture.

Based on the above, we can consider leprosy an analogy for exile and the purification from this impurity as an analogy for the redemption. Exile is characterized by the concealment of G‑dly light. This darkness, however, has its source in sublime lights which are too transcendent to be revealed within this material world. Since the source of this darkness is so high, it affects only the lower and more superficial elements of our existence.

This conception also leads to another idea: Our efforts to refine the world in the time of exile do not involve the introduction of a totally new idea, but rather the revelation of the true nature of the exile itself. Therefore, the exile need not be nullified entirely, but rather transformed into redemption.

This concept is revealed in the relationship between the Hebrew words for exile and redemption, golah (גולה) and geulah (גאולה). The difference between these two words is one letter, the Alef, which stands for G‑d, Alufo Shel Olam (“L‑rd of the world”). Through our service in the present era, we can reveal the sublime G‑dly lights that are not revealed in the time of exile.

In particular, this is brought about through service that is characterized by bittul and mesirus nefesh. These qualities bring the yechidah of the Jewish soul into expression and thus, lead to the expression of the Divine level of Yochid (“One”) which brings about the fusion of ratzu and shuv and thus causes the sublime Divine lights to be revealed within the vessels of this world.

Based on the above explanation, we can understand the sequence in the two portions that are read this week. As a preface to the concept of leprosy described in both parshiyos, the Torah speaks of a woman giving birth which is an analogy of how our service at present can lead to the redemption. In continuation, the Torah reading mentions leprosy the exile, for in truth the exile relates to sublime G‑dly heights which ultimately will be revealed in this world in the Era of the Redemption.

Afterwards, Parshas Metzora whose very name alludes to exile begins with the description of the leper’s purification process, the revelation of the true nature of the exile.7 This is further emphasized by the fact that Mashiach is called a leper and is described by our Sages as living among lepers.

This teaches us that Mashiach also exists in the world in the midst of the exile.8 He is also in exile and he waits anxiously to become revealed and to proceed to redeem the Jewish people.

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2. This week, we study the second chapter of Pirkei Avos. The first teaching of that chapter states:

Rebbi said: Which is the right path that a man (adom) should choose for himself? That which is honorable (tiferes) to himself and brings him honor (tiferes) from man.

There are several difficulties which are raised by this teaching: a) The very question “Which is the right path?” is problematic. Can there be a right path other than the path of the Torah and its mitzvos. b) Why does the Mishnah use the term adom which, as mentioned above, refers to a person whose service of G‑d is complete? c) What is the connection between this statement and its author, Rebbi? And why does the Mishnah refer to him in this manner and not by name, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi?

These questions can be answered within the context of the concepts explained above regarding Mashiach’s coming: In Rebbi’s generation, his colleagues said: “If Mashiach is among those alive today, he is surely our holy teacher [i.e., Rebbi] for he suffers physical afflictions and is the epitome of piety.” Therefore, Rebbi speaks about an adom, a person who like himself has reached a perfect level of fulfillment and therefore has to elevate only the superficial elements of his being and yet suffers the pains of exile.

It must be emphasized that, at present, since we — as the final generation of the exile — have already completed all elements of service demanded of us by G‑d, every Jew in this generation is on the level of adom.

And the question is: Since we have completed everything demanded of us, “What is the right — i.e., the most direct and most effective — path” to bring about the actual coming of Mashiach?

The answer brings out the advantage of the quality of Tiferes, which, as explained above, has the ability to fuse together the two thrusts of ratzu and shuv. Conduct in this manner has the potential to hasten the coming of Mashiach for Mashiach will serve two functions, king (as he is called Melech HaMashiach) and teacher (for he will teach the Torah to the entire people), which represents a similar fusion of two opposite tendencies.

To explain: Our relationship to a king depends on the quality of Kabbalas Ol, i.e., a person goes beyond himself and nullifies himself to the king’s authority. In contrast, teaching implies the establishment of an internal bond.9 Thus, the fusion of these two qualities parallels drawing down transcendent G‑dly light into revelation within our limited world.

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3. The above concepts can be associated with the present month, the month of Iyar. In contrast to the month of Nissan which is associated with redemption and revelation from above, Iyar represents man’s contribution, the advantage achieved through service on this plane. Thus, the relationship between these two months also relates to the concept of drawing down transcendent G‑dly light into revelation within our limited world.

The fusion between these two months is established through the second of Iyar, Tiferes sheb’Tiferes, the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash.10 This allows for the revelations associated with Nissan, the month of redemption to be drawn into the world through our service.

Iyar (אייר) is an acronym for the names, Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Rachel. The three Patriarchs represent the three vectors of the Sefiros and Rachel represents the vessels which receive this Divine light. Thus, this constitutes a further parallel to the concept described above.

Rachel is also remembered for her mourning over the Jewish people having been sent to exile. G‑d promises her that “there will be a reward for your efforts,” and that ultimately, “the children will return to their borders,” i.e., the redemption will come.

4. There is also a connection between the above concepts and the Sefirah which was counted last night, Malchus sheb’Tiferes (kingship within beauty). In general, the Counting of the Omer is intended to refine our souls (“May it rectify our nefesh, ruach, and neshamah) and the world at large (“May abundant influence be bestowed upon all the worlds”). Ultimately, it will also bring about the redemption as reflected in the prayer “May the Merciful One restore the Beis HaMikdash.”

This year, there is a unique dimension to the Counting of the Omer, because Pesach was celebrated on Shabbos. Therefore, each week, the Counting of the Omer begins Saturday night and concludes on Shabbos. Thus, each week Shabbos is associated with the Sefirah of Malchus as manifest within each of the Sefiros (e.g., Malchus sheb’Chesed, Malchus sheb’Gevurah, etc.). There is an interrelationship between the two concepts. Shabbos reflects in microcosm, “the era which will be all Shabbos and rest for eternity,” the Era of the Redemption. Similarly, in this era, we will see the ultimate expression of Malchus; Mashiach will restore the Jewish monarchy. Through his activities, G‑d’s Kingship will be established throughout the world, “And G‑d will be king over the entire earth.”

Our Sages state: “The king’s word can uproot a mountain.” Even the strongest elements of existence, mountains, cannot oppose a king. To explain this concept on a deeper level: It is impossible for any person or entity in a country to oppose a king. The life-energy of the entire nation derives from the king and no entity can stand in opposition to its own source. Similarly, in regard to the ultimate kingship, the sovereignty of Mashiach. Mashiach is the essence of all existence as our Sages state, “The world was created solely... for Mashiach.” Therefore, there can be no real opposition to the revelation of Mashiach and the redemption. On the contrary, the redemption will reveal the genuine existence of every entity within the world.

{At this farbrengen, the Rebbe Shlita called for active efforts to bring about the coming of Mashiach by: a) increasing our study of Torah, and in particular, studying about the redemption and Mashiach, and b) enhancing our performance of mitzvos behiddur, in a beautiful and conscientious manner, and in particular, increasing our gifts to tzedakah.

This call was published by Sichos In English in an essay entitled “Bringing Mashiach Now.”}