More on Yosef and Rosh Hashana

Yesterday I was reviewing the Gemara in Rosh Hashana that speaks about when Moshiach will come, either in Tishrei or Nissan. I had forgotten that the Gemara there says something very significant that I never understood. The Beraisa lists off a number of things that occurred on Rosh Hashana and Pesach. One of the events enumerated is that on Rosh Hashana Yosef was released from jail. I never got the connection. Why was Yosef released on Rosh Hashana, and what is the significance of it?

Based on the thoughts I shared in the previous post on Rosh Hashana, however, I think it is beautiful. As we saw, Rosh Hashana is the day of Adam’s sin, and therefore the day of the ultimate rectification of that sin – the job which is attributed to Moshiach ben Yosef.

To add a little more depth to this, I would like to share something I heard from Rav Kessin. He talks about Yosef as being the trailblazer who led the Jewish people into the exile of Egypt. The ultimate purpose for the Jewish descent to Egypt was to release the sparks that were contained in Egypt, bringing them back to the side of Good. This was accomplished either by staying strong to the Torah, by doing Teshuva, or by undergoing difficulties (yisurin). Yosef was the first to go down, and thus he began that process and underwent tremendous challenges to his convictions, as well as difficult physical conditions. Ultimately Yosef triumphed and succeeded in his job, completely releasing all of the sparks that he was meant to release. This ultimately led to Yosef becoming the ruler over Egypt. The fact that he was placed in this position over all of Egypt represented the fact that he had released all the sparks, and thereby placed them (and their former hosts) entirely beneath his dominion.

Amazingly, when did he complete this task, ensuring his rise to rulership? On Rosh Hashana! The sparks were completely removed and he was released to advise Pharoah, who would in turn appoint him – on that very day – to his position. Thus we see, yet again, that Rosh Hashana is a powerful day for the rise of Moshiach ben Yosef, a day that holds the potential for his ascension.

This brought into focus something I read in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Handbook of Jewish thought, in which he speaks about the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef. There he explains that the two different ways the Torah describes Moshiach (one miraculous, one more natural) can be said to be speaking of the two different Moshiachs. Moshiach ben Yosef comes in more of a natural way, involving less miracles, whereas Moshiach ben Dovid is the king at the advent of a more miraculous period, and thus his advent involves more supernatural events.

I also realized that the argument in the Gemara as to when Moshiach comes – in Tishrei or Nissan – may actually not be an argument, as we will soon see.

Tosfos points out that the argument as to when the world was created also need not be a contradiction. The world could have been created in potential in Tishrei, while it was brought to actualization in Nissan. This actually explains the phrasing of what we say on Rosh Hashana “היום הרת עולם” – today the world was conceived. Rosh Hashana (in Tishrei) is conception, Nissan is actualization of potential. (It is significant that Rochel conceived with Yosef on Rosh Hashana as well.)

Moshiach ben Yosef represents the concept of potential – he completes the tikkun hakilkul, removing the effects of Adam Harishon’s sin, and sets the stage for the ultimate tikkun, which is accomplished by Moshiach ben Dovid. Thus, Moshiach ben Yosef’s job is accomplished in Tishrei – Rosh Hashana. Moshiach ben Dovid, on the other hand, will theoretically accomplish his job in Nissan – the time of actualized potential.

Thus, the one who says redemption will come in Tishrei is speaking of Moshiach ben Yosef, who represents the first stage of Geulah. The one who says redemption will come in Nissan is spekaing of Moshiach ben Dovid, who will complete the Geulah and the tikkun of נהמא דכיסופא.

This also helps us understand one more enigma. We find that the haftara we read during Succos has to do with the war of Gog and Magog. The reason for this is that there is a tradition that this war will take place during Succos. The question is, Why will the war of Gog and Magog take place at this time?

Based on what we’ve said, it would seem that Tishrei is the time of the height of Moshiach ben Yosef’s power, and being that he is the one who will fight this war and ultimately vanquish the forces of Evil – among them Edom and the Erev Rav – the time for this war is in Tishrei.

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