12 Tamuz 5776
Excerpted from Redemption Unfolding by Alexander Aryeh Mandelbaum (Chapter 11, Birth pangs of the World of Mashiach):
The Pains of the Transition Process
In the writings of the Maharal [1520-1609] we find a profound insight into this issue.
He wrote (Netzach Yisrael, Chapter 36) that in nature, all transitions, from one condition to another, involve yissurim. For example, the period of transition from summer to winter, or winter to summer, often brings on physical and/or emotional ailments. Similarly, the period of transition from childhood to adulthood is known to be a very difficult time, during which the teenager and everyone around him or her are prone to tensions and misunderstandings.
So, too, wrote the Maharal, the transition to the system of the Messianic Age will involve yissurim.
The Messianic Era
Many of us were brought up to think that in the Messianic era, the world will continue to exist as it exists today, albeit with a few improvements. Wealth and peace will be abundant; life will be full of happiness and contentment. However, the Maharal (Netzach Yisrael, Chapter 47) wrote, this is a superficial and unrealistic understanding of the times of Moshiach. In reality, a complete change will come over the world, to the extent that the world of Moshiach will be considered a new creation in comparison to the world as we know it.
Our Sages said (see Maharal, ibid.) that the world of Moshiach will be a spiritual world of true reality. It says in Tehillim (126:1): "...with the return of Zion [we understood that we had been] dreaming." When we witness the spiritual world of Moshiach, we will understand that our current world was superficial, unreal - a fantasy dream (Machsheves Charutz 3).
The Changeover of Systems
In that new world all the old systems will undergo regeneration.
An example of such a changeover of systems is the birth of a baby. At the exact moment of birth all of the life support systems of the fetus (respiratory, blood systems, etc.) undergo a radical change. The systems that enabled life in the womb would cause instant death outside the womb. Likewise, if the new life support systems took over inside the womb, they, too would cause death to the fetus.
Our Sages called the troubles before the coming of Moshiach, 'birth pangs of the Moshiach.' Just as birth pangs precede and actuate the changing of the life systems, so too the troubles of Ikvesa DeMashicha allow for the changeover of world systems, from our present world to the world of Moshiach.
The World of True Reality
The transition to the world of Moshiach necessitates the negation of all of the false systems which abound in our world.
In this vein, Rav Eliyahu Dessler wrote (Michtav Me'Eliyahu, Part 3, page 205): "The destruction of Edom [our last exile] will only come through the destruction of this world [as we know it]. The Holy One Blessed be He will cause the very foundations of life on earth to collapse. Tranquility will be disrupted, personal lives will be filled with worry, fear and yissurim, and the entire world will cower in dread of destruction and devastation.... Only then will the light of Moshiach be revealed - 'and the saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Eisav....' (Ovadya 1:21).
"For only by achieving nullification and obliteration of this world will mankind be able to rise up and see with a true spiritual perspective. Then the kingdom of Edom will be destroyed, and the light of Moshiach will be revealed."