156 aspects of MBY

Rav Daniel Krentzman recently finished a new sefer which he graciously gave me permission to publish here.

Author’s Introduction 

The concept of Mashiach ben Yosef appears once in the entire Gemara, in an obscure aggadah in (Sukkah 52a) that expounds upon a verse in Zechariah. At the end of a prophetic portrayal of the war of Gog and Magog, it relates: The land will eulogize, each family by itself, the family of David by itself and their wives by themselves (12:12). One opinion amongst the Tannaim identifies this as the eulogy of Mashiach descended from the tribe of Yosef, who will have been killed in the war. The Maharsha explains that Mashiach ben Yosef will precede the coming of Mashiach ben David, saving the Jewish People, but dying in the process. After this, Mashiach ben David will be able to bring about the complete and total redemption. 

Although little mention is given to Mashiach ben Yosef in the gemara, the Vilna Gaon teaches in Kol HaTor  (1:2):  It is incumbent upon each of us to learn and understand all the aspects and spiritual qualities of Mashiach ben Yosef, that they be a candle to light the way of our steps and accessible to us like a set table, to guide us in the way of action and the particular tasks that are upon us in order to assist the redemption of Yisrael, and bring it speedily. 

The concept of Mashiach ben Yosef is discussed at great length in the Zohar and the writings of the AriZaL. It is also discussed in later Kabbalistic works by the RamChaL, the Vilna Gaon, and others. Upon deeper analysis of verses in Tanach and Midrashei ChaZaL, numerous references and teachings about Mashiach ben Yosef become apparent. 

I was motivated by the above injunction of the Vilna Gaon to develop some of these ideas and to commit them to writing in English, in order to present an introduction to the concept of Mashiach ben Yosef, for the English speaking public and to encourage the dissemination of the teachings of the Vilna Gaon which illuminate and clarify the Redemption process, which we are witnessing the unfolding of, each day. My ideas are based on the teachings of the Vilna Gaon, which appear in “Kol HaTor”, of Rav Hillel of Shkolov; the Vilna Gaon’s primary student.  

This work came about through the influence of many Rabbeim whom I’ve had the merit of learning from. I would like to thank, in particular, Rav Pinchas Winston for opening me up to and helping me gain a basis in, this area of Torah. I must also extend my deepest heartfelt thanks to Rav Yehoshua Gerzi for playing such a large role in my development in this area of Torah and other areas of my spiritual development, and for encouraging me to take on this project. Last but not least, I offer thanks to my wonderful wife Malka. Without her constant love and encouragement, none of this would have been possible. 

About this Work 

This work, entitled: ” מאורעות ציון “, “The Events of Tzion”, is based on the second chapter of the book “Kol HaTor”, written by R’ Hillel of Shkolov, the main student of the Vilna Gaon. There, R’ Hillel records the teachings of the Vilna Gaon regarding Mashiach ben Yosef and his relationship to the Redemption process of the Jewish people. 

This work is not a direct translation. My goal in writing this work was to provide an English version of the “156 Aspects of Mashiach ben Yosef”, discussed thoroughly in the second chapter of “Kol HaTor”, which could be studied by those lacking the proficiency in Hebrew, and the conceptual background necessary to successfully grasp the content contained in the original work.

Wherever possible, I have tried to remain as close to the actual wording and order in which the concepts appear. However, because of the concise and holistic style in which these concepts were written, where R’ Hillel assumes the reader’s strong background in all the traditional Torah sources, as well as a firm understanding of Kabbalah and the sefiros; I felt the need to fill in the gaps by giving background, expanding on certain concepts, and being more explicit in pointing out the conceptual connections and flow from one idea to the next. At times, I also may have presented the ideas in a different manner in order to add clarity and fluidity to the content being given over.

To this end, at times I may also have subtracted or de-emphasized certain points which were not essential to understanding the main concept being given over. At times I may also have added points for clarification and added explanation which were not included in the original text.  

Titles and verses, related to each concept, are presented in both Hebrew and English, while sources for reference remain primarily in Hebrew. 

The ideas are arranged according to the same mode of organization used in the original work. Each of the 156 aspects is presented individually and is ordered, roughly, according to the Hebrew alphabet, with each concept beginning with a conceptual title or verse that the ideas are based on.  

Because many of the concepts discussed are either based totally or partially on Kabbalistic understandings of the sefiros and interrelations between them, I have attempted to give brief explanations of the sefiros, on site, according to the need in understanding a particular section. With this aid, I feel that even one with little background in Kabbalah will be able to comprehend the main thrust of the ideas presented in such sections. However, for one to really appreciate many of the teachings of this work, in depth, I suggest that the reader familiarize themselves with at least a basic understanding of the sefiros and their interrelationships.  

The reader is also encouraged to look up the sources presented inside and gain greater appreciation and scope of understanding from seeing the ideas expressed in context.  

Lastly, I encourage the reader to eventually study the original work, “Kol HaTor” in its original Hebrew and style, with this work hopefully having laid a stronger foundation in the concepts therein.

The 156 Allusions to the Various Aspects of Mashiach ben Yosef and his Mission in Bringing about the Final Redemption  

The Vilna Gaon revealed 156 aspects of Mashiach ben Yosef in which all the qualities of Mashiach ben Yosef are alluded to, throughout Tanach and other areas of Torah; all of which are components of the Redemption process. The significance of the number “156” is that the gematria of “Yosef”, as well as “Tzion”; the focal point of the Redemption process, is “156”. 

(1) “אפרים”: The name Efrayim refers to Mashiach ben Yosef who is descended from the tribe of Efrayim; specifically in the context of Yirmiyahu’s prophecy found in ( ירמיה לא ) where the name “Efrayim” appears as:

(a) ” אפרים בכורי “, “Efrayim, My firstborn”;

(b)” הר אפרים “, “the Mountain of Efrayim”;

(c) ” אפרים מתנודד “, “Efrayim wanders”; and

(d) ” הבן יקיר לי אפרים “, “Efrayim My precious son”. Each usage of Efrayim represents a different aspect of Mashiach ben Yosef’s mission.

He is called “Efrayim, my firstborn” because he is the first Mashiach, who precedes Mashiach ben David, and who gathers the Jewish people together in Eretz Yisrael, from exile.

He is called “the Mountain of Efrayim” because he gathers the Jewish people to Tzion, as the verse says: ” אל הנצרים קראו מהר אפרים קומו ונעלה ציון א-לקינו ‘ – “the watchmen will call out on the Mountain of Efrayim, ‘Arise, let us ascend to Tzion, to Hashem our G-d”.

Mashiach ben Yosef is referred to as “Efrayim wanders” because he has no rest, constantly wandering from north to south and south to north, in fulfillment of his mission
; for about him the verse in Shir HaShirim (ד’ טז) says: “עורי צפון ובואי תימן”, “Awake from the north and come from the south”. The first letters of each word in that phrase is, all together עצו”ת , , equal to the gematria of “Mashiach ben Yosef”(566). 

“Efrayim, My precious son” represents how Mashiach ben Yosef is spiritually rooted in the sefirah of Gevurah which receives from the sefirah of Chesed, meaning Gevurah whose purpose is ultimately motivated and governed by Chesed. “Efrayim” represents Gevurah, for Yosef placed him to Yaakov’s left when Yaakov was to bless Menashe and Efrayim ( בראשית מח’ יג ); the left representing Gevurah. Yaakov moved his right hand onto Efrayim to manifest that even though Efrayim was essentially rooted in Gevurah, he would be governed by Chesed, represented by the right. Thus, the love expressed for Efrayim, “הבן יקיר לי”, “My precious son” represents that Efrayim has the love, of his Father; that is, Mashiach ben Yosef, who stems from Gevurah, receives and channels Chesed, from Hashem (also see (142) below). It is also a mitzvah to speak about Mashiach ben Yosef constantly, as the verse continues: ” כי מדי דברי בו זכור אזכרנו עוד “, “Whenever I speak of him, I remember him more and more”; and Hashem pledges: “I will surely take pity on him”.(לא’ יט) 

To be continued…

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