01 April 2016

"Arab Terror - Birth Pangs of Mashiach?"

22 Adar II 5776
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parshat Shmini - Parah - Mevarchim

Arab Terror - Birth Pangs of Mashiach?
by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students, Diaspora Yeshiva

The Talmud Sanhedrin states that before the arrival of Mashiach, we will experience a period of pain and suffering called the CHEVLEI Mashiach. Literally, this means the birth pangs of Mashiach. It is an interesting choice of words. We understand that the prelude to Mashiach will be painful, a time of war and world-wide terrorism, but why the metaphor of birth pangs? 

On a simple level, we can say that this metaphor is meant to describe the pattern of the Messianic tribulations. When a woman goes into labor, the contractions are light, few and far between. The pain is not so severe yet. But then, as the birth comes closer, the contractions become more painful, and they start coming with greater frequency and lasting much longer. As the labor goes into its final stages, the contractions start to come minutes apart, and they are long, and extremely painful. And then, when it seems that the pain would be unbearable, the child is born.

In the same way, the birth pangs of Mashiach become more frequent, more intense, and more painful as we reach the final phase. And then, when it seems that anymore pain would be unbearable, Mashiach will arrive, and our troubles will be over. This is perhaps what we are experiencing today. The pain and suffering of Arab terror are more frequent, more intense, and more painful. Perhaps we are in the final phase of the birth of Mashiach. The proof is in the painful birth pangs of world-wide terrorism.

The Maharal offers a Kabbalistic insight into the metaphor of the birth pangs of Mashiach. A child growing in the mother's womb is living in a world of his own, that bears no resemblance to the outside world. His life processes, his eating and drinking are all controlled by his umbilical cord connected to his mother. His perceptions and sensations are all controlled by the dark, limited world of the womb.

And then he is born, and he emerges into a world that is completely different from anything he has experienced in the womb. Everything is new. Everything is different. It is a new and wonderful existence. In the same way, says the Maharal, the arrival of Mashiach will be like the birth of a child. We will emerge from our troubled world, with all its perceptions, attitudes and problems, into a new world that is completely different from anything we have ever known. The arrival of Mashiach will not just bring major new changes. It will bring us, like new born babies, into a brave and wonderful new world, without troubles.

(Source: Torah Tidbits - Issue 1178)