07 August 2019

Why the UN Needs the Bet Hamikdash

6 Av 5779


(Can you find the source for this pic? I can't.)


by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher | first posted here

One of the 13 Principles of Faith listed by the Rambam is the belief that Mashiach will come and build the Final Temple. Why is the belief in the rebuilding of the Holy Temple an Essential of Judaism?



The Bet Hamikdash was much more than just a magnificent physical building in which G-d’s Holy Divine Presence dwelt. The Bet Hamikdash was the place where every human being, not just a Jewish person, could connect with G-d, and form a unique, special bond of love and closeness with Him.



The concentration of Holiness that was contained in the abode of G-d’s Glory enabled EVERY person to develop a special closeness and love that nourishes one’s G-dly soul and spiritual existence. The Holy Temple was the spiritual center of the ENTIRE world, which served as a conduit through which every human being’s prayers ascended to G-d in Heaven. And through which an abundance of Divine Grace and bounty descended to the physical world. The Holy Temple was truly the Stairway to Heaven for ALL mankind.



This is why G-d tells Yeshayahu in ch. 56 “…for My House will be called a House of Prayer for ALL the (United) Nations.” G-d is not just the G-d of Israel but He is the G-d of ALL mankind, and He calls all peoples to acknowledge and worship Him.



The Talmud in Menachot 53 states that the Bet Hamikdash has to be built by a person who is called a YEDID, which means a lover of G-d. That is why King Solomon, who built the First Temple, was called Yedidiyah by G-d, which means G-d’s Lover.



And that is why the first two Temples and the Final Temple are all located in the territory of the Tribe of Binyamin, because Binyamin is the only son of Yaacov who is called The Yedid Hashem, the Lover of G-d (Devarim 33). Why is Binyamin so special? After all, he is the youngest of Yaacov’s 12 sons. The Ramban answers that he is the only son of Yaacov who was born in the Holy Land. Therefore all the Holy Temples are located only in his territory. 

 The message to us is to appreciate and cherish the merit of dwelling in G-d’s Holy Palace!



 

26 July 2019

The Three Weeks: Mourning or Redemption? Two Views of haShem's Plan A and Plan B

23 Tammuz 5779

As I've said before, "...when religious and secular Jewish colleagues agree on something, or they discuss the same matter, major events are about to happen."

Here we are again. Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher and Ariel Natan Pasko, the independent analyst and consultant who writes The Think Tank, write about the dual nature of the Three Weeks. Is it about mourning or redemption? Plan A or Plan B? Both articles are reprinted in total here.

As R' Sprecher says, "You make the call." That goes for each and every one of us.

***

Tisha B’Av – PLAN A or PLAN B?
by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher | first published here

The Mitzva to mourn on Tisha B’Av is only temporary, (PLAN B) until it becomes a permanent day of joy and celebration when Mashiach comes as stated in Zacharya 8. Thus, Tisha B’Av is destined to be part of our Halachic tradition, but NOT as a day of eternal mourning.

Therefore, in Megillat Eicha, which is read on Tisha B’Av, Yirmiyahu refers to Tisha B’Av as a MOED – Festival (Eicha 1:15 and in 2:22). That is why we don’t say Tachanun and Selichot on Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch 559).

An example of this idea appears in Yirmiyahu 31 “Then (in the Messianic Era) the young women will dance joyously. Young men and elders will also dance together. I (G-d) will turn their mourning to joy. I (G-d) will comfort them and cheer them from their grief and sorrow.”

This verse clearly echoes the statement expressed by Zacharya. Yirmiyahu is NOT predicting some new, joyous celebration with no roots in the past. Rather, G-d will turn the mourning of centuries of exile into joy and celebration when Mashiach comes.

Why is it that in the time of Mashiach the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz and the Fast of Tisha B’Av commemorating the CHURBAN will become joyous festivals and not just ordinary days? Why is it not sufficient that these fasts will just be cancelled?

The answer is that these tragic mournful days will assume their ORIGINAL intent.

The 17th of Tammuz was the date when G-d gave us the First Tablets of the Ten Commandments. It was supposed to be a day of great joy, celebrating G-d’s gift to us in His own Handwriting!

However, that is the very day that we worshipped the Golden Calf, and Moshe smashed G-d’s Holy Tablets. Moshe had to re-ascend Mt. Sinai and plead for G-d’s forgiveness for the Jewish People. The Second Tablets were not given until Yom Kippur.

When we do TESHUVA and merit the arrival of Mashiach, we will have fully rectified the Sin of the Golden Calf. Thus, the 17th of Tammuz will assume its ORIGINAL character, a day of festive celebration for receiving G-d’s First Tablets.

Tisha B’Av was also supposed to be THE day that the Jews resolved to enter the Holy Land and conquer it. The Sin of the Spies in slandering the Land of Israel, which took place on Tisha B’Av, prevented the Jewish People from entering the Promised Land.

When Mashiach comes, we will have rectified this Sin of the Spies also, and Tisha B’Av will return to PLAN A.

Thus, Tisha B’Av will assume its ORIGINAL intention of intense national joy of celebrating, appreciating, and cherishing the Holy Land of Israel!


23 July 2019

Will the FINAL Mikdash be a Physical Building?

the light of 21 Tammuz 5779


by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher

Zecharya ch. 8 tells us that Tisha B'Av will become a joyous festive Yom Tov when Mashiach comes and builds the third and final Beit Hamikdash. The prophet Yechezkel deals with the construction of the Third and Final Temple in great detail.

A major problem is that Yechezkel’s vision of the Third Beit Hamikdash in ch. 48 describes a Sanctuary Structure of enormous, gigantic dimensions. The Third Temple Building will be so huge that Abarbanel claims it will be even larger than the entire Temple Mount. The structure will be so humongous that the Malbim in Zecharya ch. 2 claims that Yechezkel’s Temple will surpass even beyond the borders of Jerusalem!

Is there a way to bridge the gap between Yechezkel’s Heavenly vision of a super-enormous sanctuary and his prophecy that very much seems to depict a physical building that exists here on earth?

The Minchat Yitzchak compares the relationship between Yechezkel’s Heavenly Temple and the Earthly Temple to the relationship between the human body and the soul. Just as the body is a product of this physical world, into which the Heavenly Soul descends, so too, the Final Temple will be built in this world by Mashiach, and then the Spiritual Heavenly Temple will descend into it.

Now, just as the G-dly soul is not measureable in human terms in this world, so too, the Heavenly Temple, which is so immense in Yechezkel’s vision, may not manifest itself in the same way here on earth.

It may be that the model of a spiritually enormous entity – the Heavenly Temple - occupies, animates, and transcends the physically limited confines of a body or a physical building, which is being described here by Yechezkel.

Thus, all the pieces of the Final Temple puzzle may fit together. We can integrate Yechezkel’s prophecy with the Heavenly Jerusalem and Final Temple, and the geographic locations of Jerusalem and the Third Sanctuary.

All of this makes sense in a Final Temple that is physically constructed by human beings, but infused with a Spiritual Soul Temple sent by G-d from Heaven. This is very similar to the G-dly Soul filling up a physical body.

This profound idea should challenge us to realize that we, too, need to transcend our physical limitations to reach a higher and more spiritual existence.

***
 

15 July 2019

Bil'am: A Threat, a Promise...or Both? Rabbis N. Kahana and E. Sprecher

Reblogged 12 Tammuz 5779 (week of Parashath Balak outside Eretz Yisrael)



BS”D Parashat Balak 5775
Rabbi Nachman Kahana

Two Evil Forces within Bil’am Threaten
the Jewish Nation Today


Albert Einstein once explained that the difference between genius and idiocy is that genius has its limitations.

On a similar note, the difference between genius and anti-Semitism, is that genius has its limitations.

Balak was under great pressure to drive the Jews out of the land of Mo’av.

He sent emissaries to the infamous Bil’am requesting his help in removing the threat of conquest by the Jewish nation through the powers invested in Bil’am to bless and to curse, as the pasuk says (Bamidbar 22:6)
ועתה לכה נא ארה לי את העם הזה כי עצום הוא ממני אולי אוכל נכה בו ואגרשנו מן הארץ כי ידעתי את אשר תברך מברך ואשר תאר יואר:

“Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”
When HaShem appeared to Bil’am asking him to explain who these emissaries were, Bil’am replied that they were sent by Balak because in the words of Balak…
(יא) הנה העם היצא ממצרים ויכס את עין הארץ עתה לכה קבה לי אתו אולי אוכל להלחם בו וגרשתיו:

“A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”
Rashi quotes the Midrash that points out the discrepancy between what Balak actually requested and what Bil’am told HaShem.

Balak said: “Then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land”, meaning the land of Moav.

When Bil’am quoted Balak to HaShem, he said: “Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away,” omitting the end of Balak’s words “drive them out of the land.”

The Midrash and Rashi deduced that Balak hated the Jews as any goy in good standing would do, but he also feared them for good reason. And Balak would have been satisfied had the Jews just left his “land”.

Bil’am did not mention the “land” but intentionally misquoted Balak saying, “ to drive them away”, meaning not only from the “land” but from the world – in other words the Shoah, holocaust.

Balak’s anti-Semitism was immense, but it had a limit. Bil’am’s hatred knew no limitations, only total annihilation with not one Jew to be left in the world.

Bil’am, the man, comprised within himself the two evil forces which are threatening the Jewish nation today.

He is the murderous, sadistic Muslim who supported Paro’s suggestion to physically enslave the entire Jewish nation. He is the cursing, venomous voice of the United Nation’s Security Council, the United Nation’s General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the European Union. He is the voice of BDS, of J Street betrayers and traitors, of the “turn-the-other-cheek” Christian Churches – the one in Rome and the others to the East.

We, the Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael, will overcome the Bil’ams of the world as we have done in the past, with the help of HaShem. However, humanity as a whole will never be able to rid itself of the Bil’am heritage and restore that which Bil’am destroyed.

When it became apparent to Bil’am that HaShem would not curse the Jewish people, he offered a suggestion to Balak, which in his mind would “circumvent” any veto of the Almighty placing the initiative in Balak’s hands.

Rashi explains that until that time, despite cultural differences between tribes and nations, the world maintained a degree of modesty regarding relations between men and women in the tradition of the seven Noachide commandments.

Bil’am, by suggesting to Balak to use the Moabite and Midianite women to seduce the Jewish men as weapons of war, pushed back the fences of chastity never again to be returned as they were before. The gentile women seduced the Jews first by sexual means and then brought them to idolatry at Baal Peor; 24,000 Jews died for the sins which Bil’am had instigated.

We are now witnessing a continuation of the Bil’am syndrome of reducing the world’s moral level on a grand scale. It is being performed by the Supreme Court of the United States, by declaring same-sex marriages to be recognized in all the 50 states of their country. By this legal recognition of perversity, the hands of the clock to gentile obliteration have edged one minute closer to midnight.

As the world edges closer to suicidal psychopathy, at least we the Jewish nation will know that there is an island of kedusha, sanity and morality here in Eretz Yisrael.

Excerpt from the book “With All Your Might” on Parashat Balak
Balak of old, the King of Moav, was a great deal smarter than the evil men we have to deal with today.

Balak knew that militarily there was no way he could defeat the Jewish people, so he sought to upgrade the level of engagement from the physical to the metaphysical.

Towards this end, he had to bring in the only man in his time who was connected to the source of the metaphysical — and this was the prophet Bil’am.

Rabbi Yochanan (Sanhedrin 105b) reveals the workings of the malevolent mind of this arch anti-Semite, Bil’am. Behind the impressive rhetoric were the most menacing and forbidding thoughts against God’s chosen people.

Bil’am looked out over the Israelite camp and said:
מה טבו אהליך יעקב משכנתיך ישראל:
כנחלים נטיו כגנת עלי נהר כאהלים נטע ה’ כארזים עלי מים:
יזל מים מדליו וזרעו במים רבים וירם מאגג מלכו ותנשא מלכתו:
אל מוציאו ממצרים כתועפת ראם לו יאכל גוים צריו ועצמתיהם יגרם וחציו ימחץ:
(ט( כרע שכב כארי וכלביא מי יקימנו מברכיך ברוך וארריך ארור:

How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters.
Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water.
Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.
Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse them?

“May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”
And Rabbi Yochanan explains what Bil’am really meant:

“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! “
(May they not have synagogues and the Divine Presence should not dwell among them)

“Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters.”
(May their monarchy not extend, and may they not have olives nor vineyards, and may their kings not be prominent)

“Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water.”
(May they not have succession of kings, and may their kings not rule over other peoples)

“Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. “
(May their kings be weak and their enemies unafraid of them)

“Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse them?
May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”
(May they never be confident as a lion, and may those who curse them be blessed)

If we consider all of Bil’am’s curses together, they create a definite pattern. He wanted to see the Jewish people and our leaders as being meaningless, sordid, cowardly, irrelevant, immaterial, inconsequential, insignificant, nonessential, peripheral, and pointless.

Hashem reversed his curses and blessed us to be a great, monumental and historic nation — the soul and conscience of humanity.

Notwithstanding these blessings, Bil’am’s curses have had an impact on us, as R. Aba bar Kahana says in Sanhedrin 105b:
אמר רבי אבא בר כהנא: כולם חזרו לקללה, חוץ מבתי כנסיות ומבתי מדרשות.

They all returned to be curses, except the curse to abolish our synagogues and yeshivot
But I am not sure that this is an accurate assessment of today’s reality.

It would not be far-off to say that even our houses of prayer and yeshivot are infected with the curse of mediocrity — if not worse.

The curse was that the people of Israel will not have the desire to be anything more than irrelevant. The innate desire for greatness, which Hashem placed in every Jew when we received the Torah, and the energy to rise above the mundane and achieve greatness, have dissipated into mediocrity.

The energy to achieve more than mere existence is lacking in most Jews today. We have all seen photos of Jews in the shtetls with the peddlers selling herring in the marketplace, and the cart pushers rushing to their destinations. They were satisfied with the life they led. Each had his little shack, a little income, his shtiebel to daven in three times a day — what was missing? If the day passed without being beaten by the local Gentiles, it was a blessed day.
Did they ever dream that the Divine prediction of the prophets would be realized, and that the Jewish nation would return to our ancient homeland? Where were the dreams of the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt anew on the Temple Mount; the Sanhedrin in the Lishkat Hagazit and the restoration of the Davidic monarchy? The Jews of the shtetl could not break out of the limited ambitions imposed on them by the galut.

The Jewish energy was depleted in the security of the shtetlekh.

But are we any different? The homes we own in the galut are not the shacks of the shtetlekh, but the mindset is the same. Millions of Jews are seduced by the security of their four walls, a little nest egg in the bank and a 9-to-5 job. Where are the big dreams of God’s Chosen People?

Are the yeshivot educating their thousands of students to dream the great dream? Are they being taught the details of the Beit Hamikdash and its service? Do they know the history and geography of God’s holy land? Are the yeshivot preparing their students for the day when we will have to take over the leadership of this land?

Bil’am succeeded more than he could ever have hoped. By staying in the galut, the Jew is renouncing and abdicating the great energy of holiness which is his God-given gift.

You are no more than the desires of your heart, just as everything else in the world.

Where do your desires take you — to be part of God’s greatest miracle since the Exodus, or to cling to the mediocrity of your lives in the exile?

Shabbat Shalom | Nachman Kahana | Copyright © 5779/2019 Nachman Kahana

***
 ***

BONUS: Here's an insight based on these two divrei Torah as to how Balak and Bil'am come together in this parashah: Balak's name hints (בלק, from ללקק l'lakek) that his part is to lick the blood of Am Yisrael, and Bil'am's name (בלעם, from לבלוע livlo'a) hints that he comes to swallow the People.

MAY THEIR INTENTIONS BE ERASED, AND MAY THE LION OF ISRAEL RISE UP FOR LIFE ETERNAL!!!!!

01 July 2019

Para Aduma – A Little Dab Will Do Ya

28 Sivan 5779


A kohen pours pure water into red cow ashes (Temple Institute)
 Rabbi Sprecher shares with us a rarely discussed issue: The effectiveness of the Para Aduma sprinkling, and the difference between this and mikveh immersion.
 

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher | first published here

“He (the defiled person) shall purify himself (with the Red Cow ashes) on the third and on the seventh day, then he will become pure.” ….(Bamidbar 19:12)

The classic example of a CHOK (a Mitzva beyond human understanding), is the Red Cow, whose ashes are used to purify a person from defilement by a dead body. As Rashi notes, immersion in a MIKVEH is insufficient to remove the tumah conveyed by a dead body, even though MIKVEH is effective for many other types of TUMAH.

As our verse describes, the purification process of the Red Cow ashes takes place on the third and the seventh day, when these ashes are mixed with water and sprinkled on the impure person. The Rambam (Para Aduma 12) rules that it is sufficient for the ashes to be sprinkled even just on the tip of one finger. This reminds me of the old Brylcreem commercial which said “A Little Dab Will Do Ya.” Even one drop of Para Aduma ashes causes purification to take full effect.

Despite being a CHOK, Rav Pam explains that Para Aduma contains a fascinating practical insight to everyday life. When the Torah requires immersion in a MIKVEH to remove impurity, EACH and EVERY part of the person’s body must be immersed. Even if just one hair is not covered by the MIKVEH water, the entire immersion is invalid and must be repeated.

Yet, regarding the ashes of the Red Cow (called Waters of Purification), even if a tiny part of the body, like the fingernail is sprinkled, it is sufficient for the person to attain total purification. Why is there a difference between the power of the Para Aduma ashes to purify, as opposed to TOTAL immersion in a MIKVEH to become pure?

Rav Pam clarifies the difference between the purification of the Red Cow ashes verses the MIKVEH. Tuma is a symbol of sin and purification is a symbol of TSHUVA. Ideally, a person should strive to become a complete Baal Tshuva for ALL his sins. Nevertheless, for the majority of people this can be extremely difficult, if not almost impossible.

Thus, instead of becoming discouraged and giving up altogether, one should at least attempt the lesser method of purification, symbolized by the Red Cow ashes. Let us attempt to improve in at least ONE aspect of our Mitzva observance and to correct at least one character deficiency.

          This method will be one huge step in the right direction, as the Mishna in Avot states, “One Mitzva brings along another Mitzva.” With G-d’s help, one will STEP BY STEP bring significant changes in his Divine Service and Mitzva Performance.

***

11 June 2019

"Just Do It!": Make Aliyah and Be Here for the Redemption!

8 Sivan 5779


This post started out to be the continuation of a previous post, Rainbow Flags: Gay Pride or Noahide? However, it goes beyond the same-gender-attraction theme to...well, possibly the end of the world as we know it. Not because of that alone, but in spite of all the efforts being made to keep it going. The current system seems to be failing from the inside and may never recover.

Am I exaggerating? I don't know yet.

First we have a video from R' Yehuda Richter, "Just Do It" - where he points out the cultural appropriation by Nike, the sneaker (plimsoll, for my British readers) manufacturer, of the concept behind the slogan. After all, people have been criticizing Jews for ages about our impulsivity, which started with our slogan, "Na'aseh v'nishmah!" (We will do [it], and [then] we'll hear [the explanation]!)



We did this during our time at Har Sinai because we knew, even back in those days of our exodus from Egypt, that when the Creator of the Universe offers something, it must be taken whole, without "checking it out" first. This is the TORAH, the Holy Word of G-d that believing Jews live by (including the prophets and the writers - Torah is the core and the rest is all encouragement to us to live by it), that we're talking about! Apparently the rest of the world didn't consider Who they were dealing with!

Secondly, we have a high-level explanation of the Israeli government's predicament.

Who knew that there would be so much trouble deciding who will rule over the Jewish State? Apparently a couple of Israel's greatest rabbis did, a fairly long time ago:

Over 40 years ago (1980) Harav Kaduri, zsk'l, has said...

 לפני שיבוא משיח הסימן הוא שיהיו בחירות ויהיה תיקו ולא יצליחו להקים קואלציה ואחר כך יבוא משיח !!!
One of the biggest sign of Moshiach's arrival there will be elections and the 2 main parties will receive similar votes but they will not be able to build a coalition.
And 
20 years ago, Harav Eliezer Abuchazera, zsk'l, said, "Moshiach will come when Israel will be unable to build a coalition"
“וּבְנֵי פָּרִיצֵי עַמְּךָ יִנַּשְּׂאוּ לְהַעֲמִיד חָזוֹן וְנִכְשָׁלוּ”
In the time of Moshiach, they will not be able to form a coalition and will fail
Nava of Dreaming of Moshiach there calculates the time from the dissolving of the 20th Knesset (the last successful Knesset) on 18 Tevet 5779 until the upcoming elections on 17 Elul, which turns out to be...9 months (266 days) of birth pangs...
***Many thanks to Devash for her two posts on 4 and 8 [later deleted - HDG] Sivan respectively.***

Meanwhile, a third factor has come up: our "cousins" who live among us plan on an uprising against US President Trump, taking it out on us as is their wont...and what is our leadership going to do about it? Can they even operate properly under these conditions?

And if not, will they realize that they don't deserve to govern AT ALL? That the whole system is set up to operate against the Jews and therefore ROTTEN TO THE CORE??? 
That the whole question is not whether Jews should come home to live in Eretz Yisrael, but how we should be governed here, by whom and under what kind of government?
(Parenthetically, the remark by MK Avigdor (Evette) Liberman that his party, Yisrael Beytenu, doesn't want a Halachic state in Israel, based on what words attributed to MK Betzalel Smotrich and admitted to have taken place IN A YESHIVA  (Mercaz haRav, no less) on Yom Yerushalayim to YESHIVA STUDENTS, may have precipitated all this, even though the decision to go to elections had already been made. (BTW, did you notice this in the previous link? Yisrael Beytenu wasn't the only one who refused; Kulanu was waiting for YB to join before signing the agreement they'd made...and so when YB didn't join, Kulanu's voters also wasted their votes...and all of us lost thereby.) 

We will see whether HaShem will show Himself now, in a time of favor for the Jewish People, for His own Name's sake. 
Ron Jager's article, "Religious coercion issue could weaken the Right in the coming election," and a lot of the results of searching for MK Smotrich's comments show how the shame of prominent Jews on both sides of the aisle about what HaShem really intends for us is what is generating all the lashon hara against us, including the accusations of racism. Let's stop it already, and consider what is really involved, as opposed to what is assumed. If we were to actually demonstrate what this is, the talk would stop.
Notice that in this video about Smotrich's statements, his remarks are not heard and translated, but just talked about. WHAT DID HE REALLY SAY? And won't the Xians who commented on this be shocked by what really happens...)

Back in Shevat (late January 2019) we heard that Mashiah would be revealed before the elections. Now that elections are on again because no coalition was formed, it could still happen — not between Tazria and Metzora, but possibly between Ki Tetze' and Ki Tavo'.

Remember, R' Kanievsky never said which parshiot would be involved. I did, based on the timing of the elections then as well as now. I'm no prophet or great rabbi, and I never claimed to be. Just an observer in my homeland who wants The Forever Geula already. That's why I've been here - and why you should come too, if you're not already here.

And if geula doesn't happen according to this schedule (as hasn't happened in the last 2,000 years), don't worry. It will happen and we will wait for it! I don't know about you, but I'd rather be here in any case.

May my readers be blessed.


07 June 2019

Rabbi Sprecher: Two Shavuot Articles

in honor of Shabbath Naso and Shavuoth 5779




Ruth – Transforming Vice to Virtue
by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher

How can we understand the fact that our Mashiach, King David, descends from sullied and problematic lineage? His paternal ancestors, including his great grandfather Boaz, were the result of an act of incest between Yehuda and his daughter-in-law Tamar. She deceived Yehuda by posing as a harlot in order to have his child. Yet Yehuda is the father of the tribe from whom the Mashiach will emerge (Bereshit 38-39, Ruth 4).

On King David's maternal side, great grandmother, Ruth, was a convert to Judaism, Ruth.* She was a Moabite princess, and although the Torah prohibits Moabite converts to marry into the Jewish People (Devarim 23), the Beth Din of Boaz ruled that this prohibition applies only to male Moabites and not to females. Moreover, Moab, Ruth's ancestor, was the result of incest between Lot and his daughter (Bereshit 19). Therefore Ruth, the great grandmother of the Mashiach, descends from a very problematic past.

What is Judaism teaching by having the Mashiach descend from incestuous acts? The Midrash states that this Messianic ancestry was purposely designed, the proof-text being the strange use of the word ZERA (seed) rather than BEN (son), in reference to Boaz and Lot.

When Boaz married Ruth, the Jews blessed the couple at the gates of the city of Efrat, saying, "May your house become like the house of Peretz, whom Tamar bore to Yehuda, from the ZERA (seed) which G-D gives you from this NA'ARA, (young woman)" (Ruth 4).

It is strange for the text to refer to Ruth, a widow for at least a decade as a NA'ARA, and the reference to Lot's act of incest with his daughter which seems like a bizarre blessing. Based on this verse in Ruth, the Midrash interprets the verse in Bereshit 19, "And the elder daughter said to the younger, 'Come let us make our father drunk with wine and let us be with him, so that we may enable our father to give life to his ZERA (seed)." The Midrash continues that this ZERA in the Book of Ruth is the SAME ZERA that comes from Lot and his daughter (Midrash Ruth Zuta).

The idea that good can emerge from evil is built into the Jewish concept of the Mashiach. Just as the grand-daughter of the cruel and immoral King of Moab could become the loving, modest, and gracious Ruth, all sinful people can rehabilitate and re-Jewvenate themselves and bring the Mashiach. As the Mishnah in Avot states, “According to the effort and the pain is the gain.”

Rav Soloveitchik understood this idea from this Midrash. The Rav explains that this idea is precisely the lesson that Lot's daughter wanted to impress on her younger sister in Bereshit 19, "The elder sister said to the younger, 'Our father is old and there is no man on earth to come to us in the manner of all societies.'" The Midrash Bereshit Rabba states that Lot’s daughters believed the entire world had been destroyed as in the days of Noach's Flood.

Thus, Rav Soloveitchik explains, the elder daughter suggested that they each deceive and seduce their father through intoxication, so that they could repopulate the earth. The younger daughter hesitates at the act of incest, and she sees no point in attempting to restart the world. After all, G-D attempted to establish a perfect world, first in Eden with Adam and Chava and again with Noach and the Covenant of the Rainbow (Bereshit 9). Both ended in failure, for humanity sank repeatedly into immorality and corruption. This daughter felt it would be absurd and in this case of incest, immoral, to begin humanity once again.

The elder daughter would not give up, said Rav Soloveitchik. She argued that G-D would never have created the human being in the Divine Image if evil were to triumph, and if human civilization would destroy itself.

No, she insisted, there must be a way to transform Vice into Virtue. Because we must have faith in the possibility and the awesome power of Teshuva. As the verse in Mishlei states, "The Tzaddik will fail and fall 7 times, but he keeps rising up." The Baal Shem-Tov explains this verse as ONLY after a person fails and falls 7 times, and doesn't give up, but continues to try to better himself, only then is he a Tzaddik!

One of the Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith is belief in the coming of Mashiach. Rav Soloveitchik explained that this faith and belief in Mashiach is based on faith and belief in the power of Teshuva!

*corrected per Rabbi Sprecher after my conversation with him during the week of  Parashath Pinchas. - HDG