One of the special insights of Chasidut is a perspective on how to integrate the spiritual and the physical. In 1957, the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave specific directives how to overcome the seeming contradiction between being in a physical world and living a life consistent with spiritual values. Quoting from the Ari, the Rebbe wrote that today's souls are reincarnations from previous lives that have returned to complete specific required deeds in the world. The Evil Inclination in each person is especially stubborn to thwart these actions, so it requires extra vigilance on the part of the person to be able to fulfill his mission; thus, we find that people will reject Jewish education for their children as too expensive, yet plunge into debt for the sake of the quality and details of their clothing, home and car, making decisions not based on need but on what their neighbors seem to have. To both outwit the Evil Inclination and achieve ultimate success, one must make a careful account of how much money is actually available for necessary expenses, while always being careful to allot for the family's Jewish needs and Jewish education first.

Mashiach…will raise the physical until not only will it not oppose holiness, but it will itself radiate G‑dliness….

Based on this week's Torah portion, the Rebbe once discussed this issue from a broader perspective. Moses left Midian at G‑d's directive to go to Egypt, as the verse states, "Moses took his wife and children and placed them on the donkey" (Ex. 4:20). Rashi cites the Midrash that this is the donkey that Abraham saddled for the offering of Isaac, and in the future it will be this donkey that Mashiach will ride upon when he reveals himself to the world, as it is written, "a poor man, riding on a donkey" (Zachariah 9:9).

The Hebrew word for "donkey", "chamor", is from the same root as the word for "physical". Involvement with a donkey is often an analogy for interaction with the physical world. In the different expressions used with the donkey we learn about the special roles in the divine plan played by Abraham, Moses and Mashiach. Abraham's job was to make war on idolatry. He was the first to spread G‑d's name. This is why, when the Torah says "he saddled", it uses the term "chavash", which also means "conquered", implying that in saddling the donkey Abraham was subduing the physical.

By Moses' era, the situation had progressed. His job was to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt and bring them to Mount Sinai, so that through the commandments received there the physical world could be used to serve G‑d. Therefore, he "yarkivaim", Hebrew for "placed" - and also meaning "joined" - his family to the donkey, because the donkey now had an additional purpose, to carry the holiness with it. The final stage will be with Mashiach, who will raise the physical until not only will it not oppose holiness, but it will itself radiate G‑dliness. His function is to bring the entire world to realize G‑d's dominion. So Mashiach will "ride on top of", i.e. be revealed upon, the donkey. The physical itself will reveal spiritual truth.

This is the uniqueness of the time of Mashiach. No longer will we have to battle with the physical world on its different levels, rather the physical world itself will help us do our job of revealing G‑d. It will be at this time that the truth of the verse will be borne out, "The world will be filled with knowledge of G‑d, like water fills the sea". Until that time, we have to continue to use the physical to serve G‑d. Our fulfillment of this will ultimately bring the Final Redemption.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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