Tazriah-Metzorah: Meshiach’s name

When the Jewish messiah (meshiach) arrives, he’ll have a name.  He’ll be a soul in a body, and for that very reason, he will need a name. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98B) suggests that his name will be Chivra, meaning “pale one,” or “white one.” Rashi explains that he’ll be pale and white because he will be a leper. This is because, “he bore our illnesses and endured our troubles, and yet we considered him stricken by God and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).  Still we may ask, why should he be specifically a leper, as opposed to any other disease?

Chasidic literature (Likutei Torah of the Alter Rebbe on our parsha) explains that the “plague” strikes the highest human beings, who have worked on perfecting themselves.  When such people have refined their internal qualities and it remains only for them to perfect the outer “garments of the soul,” such as speech, that is when the plague strikes. It affects the external aspect of the person – his skin – to inform him that this is what he must work on at this stage in his spiritual process.  Perhaps this is the reason that the meshiach will arrive pale and white like a leper – at the time of his arrival perhaps the collective Jewish nation will have perfected itself so that all that remains to work on is our “outer” traits, such as speech. And for that reason, his name will be Chivra, or “pale one.”

The problem with this explanation is that it emphasizes the negative side – the necessity to rectify and refine centuries of misdeeds and transgressions. However, the arrival of meshiach will be mainly a positive event; his arrival will bring peace, happiness and abundance to the world. Therefore, we need to find some positive content in the name, Chivra!

The positive content also comes from the Alter Rebbe, who emphasizes that the appearance of plague is a representation of very high spiritual illumination, so high that it cannot descend to our normal everyday spiritual level.  We, as souls in a physical body, cannot adequately absorb the greatness and goodness of this high spiritual level and for that reason, the high illumination descends to us garbed in the negative manifestation of the plague.  Sometimes, when God desires to bless us with something very high, it descends to us in the opposite guise, because we are just not capable of absorbing it in its true nature – such is the “blessing” of the plague.

In concrete terms, the Alter Rebbe explains that the plague is the result of a greater desire to ascend to the spiritual worlds (this is called ratzoh, or “desire”) than to descend with spirituality to the physical world.  One who desires to go “up,” spiritually, without coming “down,” may suffer a visitation of the plague.  In that case, it comes to tell him that he hasn’t yet fully come to terms with his hitzoniyut – his speech, action, dress and way of life.  Such a person only values his inner life – the life of his soul – and fails to appreciate the necessity of working on his connection with the physical world in order to uplift and refine it. To such a person, the One above sends the “plague” in order to remind him that his more external faculties are also important.

Now, we can appreciate the positive content in the potential name of meshiach, “Chivra.”  He will be “white” and “pale” because that is the nature of the extremely high spiritual illumination that he will bring down to the physical world.  There are other potential names for the meshiach, such as Yinon, and Menachem, but the name Chivra represents the high illumination that will be available to us – souls in bodies – when he arrives. The only difference is that at that time, we will be receptacles, capable of absorbing and integrating the high illumination for what it is – the infinite kindness and revelation of Godliness, even within the physical world.

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vol. 37, pp 33-36

For a longer and more detailed version, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org

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