I sat in a class recently and listened to an Orthodox rabbi expound on the convoluted path that had to be taken in the past and will presumably be taken in the future to get to Moshiach. I may not convey all of the ideas correctly but to summarize:

Some of the scandalous or questionable events that took place in the Bible were necessary to happen in what would seem like an improper way in order to prevent the Sitra Achra from stopping or slowing the progress of history and thus delaying Moshiach. Some examples of this would be Lot and his daughters (leading to Moab thus leading to Ruth and thus King David), Tamar and Yehudah (leading to Peretz and thus to King David), Rahab of Jericho, David and Bathsheba. I think there were other examples, but that is what I remember.

I do not think this rabbi made up this intricate thought process himself. I would like to know what earlier published sources expounded similar reasons for how history occurred and how human weakness and sin were either transformed for good or were used as a cloak for the real mission. I have some theological problems with this line of thought since it implies that another power besides G-d and human free will was at work (the Sitra Achra actively trying to prevent Moshiach), but I want to refrain from judging these ideas too harshly until I read the original sources which may present the ideas differently than this particular rabbi did. So, what earlier rabbis, Jewish philosophers, or mystics presented ideas like this, and what works would be useful to study to understand these ideas better?

  • 1
    This sounds like one of Shabtai Tzvi's Shabbos afternoon drasho's.
    – user6591
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 12:07
  • @user6591 Ha ha ha. I kinda thought that, but did not want to criticize it in the class in front of everyone.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 18:15
  • Key difference between these cases and Shabtai Tzvi's ideas: they were either inadvertent (Lot and his daughters - they thought the whole world had been destroyed) or not technical violations of halachah (for example, Bathsheba was divorced).
    – Shamiach
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 21:40
  • Shamiach, Or they did sins, will get punished, etc. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 23:15

3 Answers 3


This understanding of the retrospective way in which even negative history ultimately leads to the culmination of G-d's plan is a very standard Kabbalistic idea. This is not a statement about future sin, which is always undesirable. See, for example, the ילקוט ראובני quoted here:

הנה כבר נתבאר, כפי ערך גודל הנשמה, כן הוטבעה בתוך הקליפה, והם מבקשים לטנפה, כדי שישאר תמיד אצלם להיותם נהנים ממנה, והנה מתייראים שמא על ידי צדיק גמור יצא מביניהם בעת זיווגו אותה נשמה קדושה, ויאבדו מזון שלהם, לכן כשרואים איזה פגם עד מאד, אז מוציאים אותה הנשמה קדושה משם, כדי שתכנס שם למקום פגום שתחטא ותקלקל יותר מבתחלה, ותחזור לידם פגומה כבתחלה, ותעמוד בידם תמיד, וחושבים שהיא לטבתם, והנה הוא לרעתם, כי השי"ת תמים פעלו, וכיון שעל ידי חטא שלטו באלו הנשמות, אינו רוצה להוציא מהם שלא כדין, ומה הוא עושה, ממתין עד שיהא איזה מקום פגום, ומרמז לחיצונים שיצאו ויכניסו הנשמה קדושה בזה הטינוף, והמה חושבים שהוא לטובתם, נמצא הקב"ה עושה בדין, וברשותם, כענין סוד שעיר המשתלח, כנזכר בזוהר, שעל ידו נוטלים כל עונותיהם של ישראל, והמה חושבים, שיהיה אור נשמה קדושה בבן אדם רשע או בנר אחד שעדיין הוא ברשותם, וכבר נתייאשו ממנו, שחושבים שאין לה עוד תקומה. ולהיות הנשמה קדושה ועצומה, מתעוררת ומישרת מעשיה, ונפרדת לגמרי מן הקליפות, ולא עוד אלא שמביאה עוד ניצוצות אחרות עמה, וזה ענין אברהם בן תרח עובד עבודה זרה, ונאמר בו ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן, וכל גרי הצדק, כגון רות ורחב וכל מלכי בית דוד, משיח, ורבי עקיבא ורבי מאיר וכיוצא בהם, וכן דוד יצא מהם, אחר כך הכרית כל הקליפות שהיה הוא מלובש בתוכם, שהוא קליפת מואב, ששם היה נפש דוד טבועה,והיה ממדד את מואב חבלים והרגם, נמצא שליט האדם בליעל באדם הקדוש לרע לו. והעולה מזה, הנשמה היותר עצומה מוטבעת בתוך הקליפות, ויצא גדול מאד, ובזה תבין מעשה דוד ואביגיל ובת שבע, גם בזה תבין למה הוא צדיק בן רשע, ומן הראוי לצדיק שיוליד כמותו

I'm avoiding translating as a literal translation won't really communicate the idea, and explaining at length is probably better done directly with someone familiar with the ideas.

The idea is really echoed in the Rambam in the end of Hilchos Malachim where he defines the purpose of Christianity and Islam as preparing the way for Moshiach, but it adds, as is the Kabbalistic approach, a more direct reality to the underlying spiritual forces involved.

In terms of your theological question, the basic idea is that if G-d wanted a world of Moshiach, perfected, the world to come, etc. He could have that right now. The whole point is that the world should get there on its own. If it has to get there on its own, then it has a "say", as in its perspective has to be satisfied so that it is transformed, not destroyed.

Further ideas inter-related to this idea for you to explore: the idea of זדונות נעשות לו כזכויות - sins become merits trough repentance, מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדים אין צדיקים יכולים לעמוד - a repentant is in a greater place than one who never sinned, and the general relationship between Klipah and Kedushah in Kabbalah.

For the latter concept, you could start here, but I would encourage you to learn from a teacher.


This idea is found in Malbim Ruth 4:17, Or Hachaim Braishis 49:9

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya Greatest! Thanks for the answer. Consider summarizing the contents of these sources.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 16:24
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – kouty
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 20:50
  • @kouty I think you are a little confused. Normally source only answers are inappropriate, as they don't contain the answer, but only point to it. Here, however, the OP requested sources, so the sources are the answer!
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 22:35

Rabbi Manis Friedman explains this clearly, and this is generally explained in Tanya classes like this:

This is to do with free will, not a nefarious force.

The whole point of this level of creation is that here Hashem hides, which enables us to have free will.

Anything that takes us above nature / is miraculous is an obvious example, but also excessive revelation of His goodness, holiness, and life force would give Him away as well, and this is less known and understood.

This has to be hidden as well, and therefore it is hidden under a deliberate layer of mundanity and other obscuration. This is not some external force, but just Hashem's necessary ingredient to ensure our free will.

There are some holy events that are moments of very intense goodness and holiness (along with the people these events surround). They would be complete giveaways. There is therefore a need for extra darkness for these moments, to create enough of what we might call in today's terms a psychological block on noticing it.

The nefarious force, the sitra achra that wants to ruin things is nothing but the yeitzer hara, who is created by Hashem for the exact same reasons - to ensure our free will.

See Derech Hashem 1 and 2, and Tanya early chapters on the animal soul.

This is part of wider ideas touching on theodicy, Hashgacha Pratit, and, as you touched upon, certain things that are going on in the cosmic plan and mission that are traditionally hidden from man, and part of the metaphysical areas of study of the Torah.

  • There's still the concept of norah alilah, that Hashem puts a thumb on the scale to shape the course of events.
    – shmosel
    Commented Apr 16 at 21:10

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