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The Challenge
Generally speaking, grown people know themselves; their weaknesses and strong points. They know which challenges they can meet and which are beyond their reach. In the privacy of their own thoughts, people draw themselves a generally accurate picture of their own successes and failures; what they have accomplished, what they still need to work on.
However, there is one area where even the most confident person seems to doubt his or her own prowess. This is in the challenge of transforming their surroundings. Suddenly everyone becomes stricken with self-doubt and insecurity. How can I have an impact on the world at large, enough to bring the Redemption, when so many others greater and wiser than me have tried and failed?
This question is, indeed, a valid one. It is heard from people who have a good understanding of the topic of Redemption, who know that this has been our task and challenge throughout the ages. They understand that one needs to have a certain spiritual maturity to be able to take part in this enormous transformation. And that’s why they doubt their own ability to take part in it; if their puny spiritual tools are sufficient to bring about such a miracle.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe addressed this dilemma on a number of occasions. His basic reasoning is that the revelation of Moshiach does not depend on the spiritual qualities of each individual person, but on the combined efforts of the people as a whole. Therefore, when the spiritual state of the people reaches a certain peak – as a result of the cumulative efforts of all the generations – then even if we have room for improvement on an individual level, we can nevertheless merit the Redemption by Moshiach. However, we still have the responsibility to do what we can to improve our own spiritual situation, even if the Redemption can come before we complete this task.
And when Moshiach does come, all of us will be swept along. Nobody will be left behind, unlike the Redemption from Egypt, when, as the Haggaddah says, there were wicked people who did not merit to be redeemed.
What is guaranteed, though, is that the more effort we put forth into preparing ourselves before Moshiach’s coming, the more we will be able to appreciate and benefit from the revelations when they do appear. It’s like the difference between someone who takes the time to learn a foreign language before traveling and the one who doesn’t. They will both enjoy the same vacation, but one will have more pleasure because they will have more awareness and understanding of what is going on around them.
The division between our preparations as individuals and our merits as a people is highlighted in the week’s Torah portion, Pekudei. In the parshah, all the gifts that the Jewish people made towards building G-d’s sanctuary are listed. Each person donated freely according to his or her heart’s desire. Some people might have given more and some less; however, each person’s choice of donation did not hold up the building of the Mishkan. As soon as the necessary amount was gathered, the building commenced.
And the same is true of our preparations for Redemption. Each of us can do our part according to our own free will. We can throw ourselves in with enthusiasm to prepare to greet Moshiach, or we can be content to watch from the sidelines. One way or another, at some point the Jewish people will accumulate enough merits, through the good deeds of all the generations combined, and Moshiach will come.


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