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Shabbat Parashat Ki Teitzei 5772

Ein Ayah: Clouds and Stages Before Mashiach

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:152)

Gemara:  Rabbi Shmuel bar Yitzchak said: The clouds of the morning have no essence to them, as the pasuk says: “Your kindness is like a morning cloud” (Hoshea 6:4). Rav Pappa asked Abayei: Don’t people say that if when you open the door in the morning there is rain, you can tell the donkey driver to fold up his bag and sleep on it? It is not a question. It depends if the cloud is thick or flimsy.


Ein Ayah: If we connect the teachings of ethics to details in nature, we can learn a great lesson from this gemara.

Clouds are needed for the world, yet the clouds of the morning have no essence. The same is true of the spiritual ‘clouds,’ i.e., ethical ideas that cause people to act with fine qualities and to apply the teachings of the Torah throughout their lives with the highest levels of spirituality. The purpose of all these things is so that the Divine spiritual light will take hold in the hearts of man and pure and true ideas will be firmly entrenched in their souls.

Things, though, become more complicated when a new period in the history of our nation emerges. Divine Providence provides new energies that lead to a new and higher level of national life. However, in the beginning, before the light shines and there is still a need for the powers to strengthen, there is a problem of instability and spiritual deterioration. During ikveta d’meshicha (the ‘heels’ of, i.e., time prior to the coming of, Mashiach) there will be new powers that prepare us for the light of the scion of the House of David and of Hashem to shine upon us. However before everything is in working order there will be an abundance of chutzpa. This is what is referred to as the “birth pangs of Mashiach.” People will look for new light that they have never experienced, and, as a result, many will stray from the conventional paths of good ethics and observance. This is metaphorically referred to by the clouds of morning: there is a new, glorious period in the making, but the positive elements are not yet reliable or of sufficient substance. Many will leave the proper path because the energies are present but the useable light has not appeared.

The gemara goes on to discuss rain’s impact on the donkey driver, considering that rain is more directly beneficial than the clouds that bring rain. Indeed, there will be spiritual influences that can impact even on materially-oriented people who are not prepared to absorb more abstract spirituality. These people are represented metaphorically by the donkey driver. Due to the rain, the donkey will not run after things it sees, but will be at rest. The bag, which was prepared to be filled with all sorts of physical matters, will be folded up rather than used. Even the simple donkey driver, representing the person who is less initiated in the ways of intellectuality and spirituality, will be at rest due to the more direct spiritual impact. This represents the possibility of escaping the birth pangs of Mashiach.

Whether people will prosper or flounder spiritually depends on whether the spiritual leaders of the generation will prepare the people on an ongoing basis. Proper spiritual preparation is referred to by a sky full of thick clouds, which will withstand the challenges of the new period. If there will only be exposure to weak spiritual powers (represented by flimsy clouds), then they will dissipate and be of little value, and people will experience serious deterioration. Therefore the rabbis have to teach the people how to appreciate and make proper use of the time’s spiritual opportunities. Then people will be able to increase their fear of Hashem until they will be ready to usher in the desired result of “the liberator will come to Zion” (Yeshaya 59:20).


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