Is this why Moshiach hasn’t come yet, according to Chassidic teaching?

(Yes, you are at the right blog. For those who have been waiting with bated breath for the next installment of the riveting endangered minhogim series, don’t panic! We will אי”ה get back to the minhogim, endangered or robust, do not worry. Just taking a break here, mixing it up a bit, need a change of pace sometimes.) 😉

While going through הישיבה הרמה בפיורדא, in the chapter on Rav Yosef Steinhart, there is a discussion about his position with regard to the contemporary Chassidic movement, which began in his time. As part of this, it shows part of the famous letter sent by the בעל שם טוב to his brother in law, R. Gershon of Kutov, which was first printed in the sefer בן פורת יוסף, printed in תקמ”א, in which the בעש”ט says that he met Moshiach in the course of an aliyas neshomo (heavenly ascent of the soul) that he had on ראש השנה of the year תק”ז.

Usually, when people hear, talk, and write about this letter, only a small snippet of it is mentioned. Actually, it is a lengthy letter, discussing various things. Usually what is mentioned is that the Besht asked Moshiach, ‘when are you coming Sir?’, and the reply given was ‘when your wellsprings spread forth outward’, which is explained to mean something like Chassidus spreading through the world.

When one looks at the actual letter, however, one sees that that is only part of the story, and that some important additional information was omitted. The relevant passage is as follows:

ושאלתי את פי משיח, אימת אתי מר? והשיב לי, בזאת תדע, בעת שיתפרסם למודך, ויתגלה בעולם, ויפוצו מעינותיך חוצה מה שלמדתי אותך והשגת, ויוכלו גם המה לעשות יחודים ועליות כמוך, ואז וכלו כל הקליפות, ויהי’ עת רצון וישועה. ותמהתי ע”ז והי’ לי צער גדול באריכות הזמן כל כך מתי זה אפשר להיות. אך ממה שלמדתי בהיותי שם שלשה דברים סגולות ושלשה שמות הקדושים, והם בנקל ללמוד ולפרוש, ונתקרר דעתי וחשבתי אפשר ע”י זה יוכלו גם כן אנשי גילי לבוא למדרגה ובחינה כמותי, דהיינו בהיותם יכולים לעליות נשמות וילמדו וישיגו כמו אני. ולא נתנה רשות כל ימי חיי לגלות זאת ובקשתי עבורך ללמוד אותך ולא הורשתי כלל ומושבע ועומד אני על זה

You can see it here, a bit over half way down the page. So basically it says that when others are able to make yichudim (Kabbalistic unifications) and aliyos (heavenly ascents) as the Besht, then Moshiach will come. Not just a generic ‘spreading of Chassidus’.

So my question is, how many people can do such things, today or then, Chassidim or non Chassidim, Kabbalists or non Kabbalists? And indeed the letter goes on to say that the Besht was very distressed about it, how long it would take to reach such a point. But from what he learned there in shomayim, three segulos and three שמות הקדושים that are easy to learn and explain, he was calmed, and thought that perhaps through them other people would be able to reach his level, namely to make aliyos neshomos like him, and to learn and attain, but permission was not given him all the days of his life to reveal it. And he asked on behalf of R. Gershon to teach him, but was not permitted at all, and was so sworn.

So perhaps, according to this letter, we can say that Moshiach didn’t come (according to Chassidic teachings) because others didn’t reach that level?

Am I missing something here? I know that there has been much written about the letter. Perhaps someone can explain?


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14 Responses to “Is this why Moshiach hasn’t come yet, according to Chassidic teaching?”

  1. Sam Says:

    A man I know that learned in Telz Cleveland as a bochur told me, that once R. Ruderman came for Shabbos, and at the meal the bochurim were singing mosai kaosi mar, etc., and R. Ruderman told them to stop, because he felt it was kefirah, since Chazal clearly tell us the ways to bring Moshiach, and this isn’t one of them.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Interesting story there Sam, thanks.

      What I don’t understand is how people were singing it in Telz in the first place! Maybe it was just a small thing that was under the radar screen, or tolerated because it was just a temporary, minor phenomenon.

      • Sam Says:

        It’s a catchy tune. Case closed (if people can sing “Rabbosai mir vellen bentchen”, I think they aren’t really too interested in the words).

  2. Kalman Says:

    I don’t mean to nitpick, but the phrase is “eimossai koassi mar”.
    In any event, let’s just hope it’s soon!

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Hi Kalman –

      Nitpicking is good, if it keeps things from being lousy!

      I know what you mean, I used to think that it was קאתי too. But if you look at the blatt in the sefer here, a bit more than halfway down the page, you will see that it just says אתי.

      Thanks for bring this up though, as it caused me to look at the page again, just to be sure, and I noticed that I had made a different mistake. I wrote אימתי and it seems, upon scrutiny, that the lashon is actually אימת, so I will correct that now.

  3. Simcha Geller Says:

    Perhaps Moshiach referred to the integration of behavior and ideals in the individual, like in the Besht, who had achieved authority and responsibility because his behavior as a Jew and his ideals for Judaism were integrated in his personality.

  4. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    That is a fancy pshetl in contemporary sophisticated lingo, but not the plain meaning of the words written circa two hundred and fifty years ago.

  5. Simcha Geller Says:

    it is neither fancy nor sophisticated, but the plain meaning of the relations between ideals and behavior in Judaism

  6. max lineman Says:

    I just chanced upon this blog. I would like to clarify this letter written by the besht. Firstly I am chassidish , from birth. The meaning of the letter is that at times there is whats called a zman pikuda or shas hakosher, meaning that at that moment, special kabbalistic inyanim can bring moshiach. This idea is brought down in many kabbalistic seforim. So all the Besht was saying was, that if he would be able to get some people to have those kavanos at that time, moshiach would come. However we were not zocheh. Take a look in divrei yoel parshas tzav

  7. sholom Says:

    See this article on this topic that explains that once chasidus of the baal shem tov has been brought down into our understanding through chabad chasidus, that includes the ability automatically for every person who understands chasidus to contemplate yichudo illo’o and yichudo tatto’o which causes the greatest yichudim and aliyos above, which this ability is now in reach of every jew who learns chabad chasidus, which has now been spread to every corner of the globe, so moshiach should now be imminent, maybe he is just waiting for you to also learn these concepts and meditate upon them when saying the shema, and when going about your daily mundane life, which is what causes the greatest aliyos and yichudim. You just might be the person who tips the scale. See the article here:

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      I looked at the link but don’t see how that fulfills the plain meaning of the letter, part of which is that people will be able to have aliyas neshomo. Do Lubavitcher Chasidim today have aliyas neshomo? Have you personally ascended on high, been to a היכל משיח for example, as the letter claims the Besht did? If not, I don’t see how the letter’s condition was fulfilled.

      Anyway, for the record, this whole post was not according to מסורת אשכנז, which does not accept the letter. For Masores Ashkenaz, אימתי אתי מר is connected to what the gemara in Sanhedrin 98a, near the bottom says, where R. Yehoshua ben Levi asked Moshiach when he was coming, and he said Hayom. Which was explained to mean היום אם בקולו תשמעו, when we listen בקול ה.

      The post was לשיטתם, according to Chassidus, not according to standard Ashkenazic tradition.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Obviously this whole post takes on the premise that one believes the letter of the baal shem tov. If you look carefully in the letter it doesn’t say that one has to have aliyas haneshomo. It says to make yichudim and aliyos. Which in its practical meaning means milmaalo lematto and milmatto lemaalo. Bring G-dliness down into this world by contemplating yichudim and meditating on these concepts as explained in chasidus in general during davening etc, and more specifically through learning torah through the understanding of chasidus, and elevating this world (aliyas ha’oylamos) by refining ones understanding of the source of the world when performing mitzvos through the understanding of chasidus. That combination of above to below and below to above through our understanding and it’s spiritual effect (kavonas hamitzvas) that is the aliyos and yichudim being effected in the entire creation as per the response of moshiach. Moshiach’s era is not brought about by our neshomos leaving our bodies but through the drawing down of G-dliness into this world and the elevation of this world through our collective understandings and perception of our actions. I understand that this is an interpretation of the letter, but it is a very consistent interpretation with the philosophy of chasidus for one that has learned chasidus in depth.

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        To me that seems like drash, while I am trying to go with poshut pshat.

        Thanks for your comments.

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