"And the spirit of G‑d shall rest upon him…And he will be permeated with the spirit of the fear of G‑d…The wolf will dwell with the lamb." (Isaiah 11:2)

In this passage the prophet describes the coming of Mashiach who will arrive and redeem us speedily in our days, highlighting several aspects of the King Mashiach's qualities and his conduct.

At the outset, it describes the spiritual level of Mashiach himself: "And the spirit of G‑d shall rest upon him…" And then it continues to describe his conduct: "And he will be permeated with the spirit of the fear of G‑d…" Our Sages interpret (Sanhedrin 93b) this phrase to mean that he will judge the righteous through his sense of smell.

Afterwards, the verse continues: "And a wolf shall dwell with a lamb…," indicating that Mashiach's conduct will bring about1 the revelation of G‑dliness throughout the world, not only among humans, but also among animals2 and within the sphere of inanimate objects,3 as the passage continues, "and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d". (Isaiah 11:9) Even the physical earth will be "filled with the knowledge of G‑d."

…why will it be necessary to have a king in that age?

But seeing that, "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d," why will it be necessary to have a king in that age? [Seemingly, the purpose of a king is to enforce law and order; since all existence will be permeated with the knowledge of G‑d, it would appear that such enforcement will not be necessary.]

In short, the explanation of the concept is that kingship is identified with the quality of exaltedness, the concept that a king is separate and uplifted above his people. Even the commands given by a king reflect closeness; the king draws closer to his people by leading them according to his desires.

His subjects' obedience to the king's commands does not come because they know and appreciate the reason for the commands, but rather out of fear and dread for the king, as our Sages say, (Sanhedrin 22a) "His dread must be upon you." Thus even the goodness the king gives to his people reflects that he is exalted and separate.

A teacher…restricts his own understanding to a level appropriate for the student…

This reflects the difference between the influence given by a teacher and that given by a king. When a teacher influences a student, he draws closer to him, for he restricts his own understanding to a level appropriate for the student so that the student will grasp the idea. The influence of a king, by contrast, remains separate from the people, above their intellectual comprehension; this is because a king communicates his wishes as decrees, to be accepted out of awe of him - and not because the people understand.

The source for these two types of influence which Mashiach will provide, that of a king and that of a teacher, is in the Torah,4 for the Torah contains parallels to both of these influences. There are certain Torah concepts that have been enclothed in an intellectual form, paralleling the influence of a teacher. The essence of the Torah, however, remains above intellect, paralleling the influence of a king.

In the Era of the Redemption, both of these dimensions will become manifest, and thus Mashiach will be called both a teacher and a king.

Mashiach will teach…the Torah's mystic secrets…

Mashiach will teach the Torah to the entire Jewish people and convey a fine discerning and knowledgeable appreciation of the Torah's mystic secrets. Because of this influence, Mashiach will be considered as a teacher.

And yet, Mashiach himself will comprehend infinitely more than he will communicate through intellect. This dimension of his being he will also convey to the people, but he will do so in an encompassing manner, as a king conveys influence.

[The word "encompassing", makif in Hebrew, refers to a light or form of influence that is too powerful to be grasped and internalized and therefore is described as "encompassing." The point is, however, that this encompassing influence is not entirely transcendent. Instead, although it is too powerful to be internalized, it does influence the person.]

Moreover, as is well known, Mashiach will teach people the Torah using the medium of sight, a manner of instruction that transcends ordinary comprehension. Nevertheless, the influence which he will convey as a king is so lofty that it cannot even be revealed through the transcendent influence of sight. And yet, because Mashiach will also serve as a king, he will reveal even these matters to the Jewish people. Their revelation, however, will be in an encompassing matter.

[Adapted from Sefer HaMa'amarim Melukat II pp 45-46; excerpted from "Anticipating the Redemption" Vol. II, pp 33-36 (S.I.E. 1997).]