The Twin Messiahs
Help accelerate the Messianic Era by unravelling the riddle of the Twin Messiahs – the Josephic and Davidic Messiahs according to the secret teachings of the Gaon of Vilna.
(Excerpt from the book, The Secret Doctrine of the Gaon of Vilna by Rabbi Joel Bakst
Only over the last few decades the formerly obscure and enigmatic Jewish tradition of the Josephic Messiah—Mashiach ben Joseph—has become known to the public. In the overall picture, however, and certainly with its plethora of ornate details, this funamental teaching continues to remain unknown. At best, Judaism’s secret doctrine of the Josephic Messiah, as elaborated in the Kabbalah, is very confusing, even being subject to misuse and gross distortion. One should be prepared as the explanation presented here of the Messiah has little to do with the Christian and Western cultural understanding. Yet, this phenomenon is precisely so. Hiddenness and unrecognizability are part of the essence of the Josephic Messiah. He is a master of the art of disguise. This is also the Torah’s intention in the verse: “Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him” (Genesis 42:8).
R. Hillel Rivlin of Shklov (1758-1838) writes:
“Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him” — This [hiddenness] characterizes Joseph, not only in his generation, but in every generation in which the Josephic Messiah recognizes his brothers but they do not recognize him. It is part of a diabolic scheme that the qualities of the Josephic Messiah are concealed in [the final period of] the Footsteps of the Messiah. Due to our many sins, he is scorned, as well. If this were not the case, our suffering would already have ended. If only Israel would recognize the Josephic Messiah’s “footprints” [i.e., the signs of his presence], the ingathering of the exiles, etc. [including the messianic role of science and technology], we would already have seen the complete Redemption.
What makes the Josephic Messiah such a complex subject is that it is only one half of a larger picture. The other half, which is more familiar to everyone, is known as The Davidic Messiah, the Davidic King Messiah, or simply the Messiah. Together, they are known in the Zohar and in the Gaon of Vilna’s commentaries as the Trein M’shechin — the Zohar‘s Aramaic term for the Two Messiahs — The Josephic Messiah and Davidic Messiah. The Josephic Messiah between these two cosmological forces that forms the hidden landscape upon which the drama of the entirety of world history unfolds. It is for this reason that I have chosen to translate the term as the Twin Messiahs.
It must be emphasized that in the language of the Torah masters and Kabbalah sages, the appellations of the Josephic Messiah and the Davidic Messiah refer to much more than the historical Joseph and David. These two “messianic forces” were in existence, potentially and manifestly, not only before the historical Joseph, viceroy of Egypt and David King of Israel, but even before creation. Rather, Joseph and David are specific constellations of the forces of the Twin Messiahs incarnating, as it were, in historical time and space. The historical Joseph and David then reciprocally become prototypes for the Twin Messiahs from whence we derive many of the subtle yet crucial details of the phenomenon of the Twin Messiahs.
At the onset, a Torah based definition of the concept of Messiah is called for. It will be a simplified definition, which will require qualification and much elaboration afterward. But it is essential in allowing us to approach the Twin Messiahs with some sense of perspective.
Why two messiahs? Why any messiah at all? What is the purpose of a messiah? The Messiah is an individual who is responsible for, and who, either overtly, or covertly, spearheads a collective process of tikkun. Tikkun is perhaps the single most important concept in all of Judaism. The word tikkunmeans “rectification” or “mending.” In the Kabbalah, tikkun also refers to a process of “elevation” and “transformation.” Whereas the second definition implies taking something that is already complete into a more refined state, the first definition implies that something has broken, or has become torn, and the immediate goal is only to return it to its original state of completion. These are the two processes, or modes, of tikkun.
When something has been broken, it obviously is not complete, and it cannot function to its full capacity. It is, in a sense, in a state of “fallenness” or “captivity,” until it receives its proper tikkun. Its tikkun is then its redemption from its captive state; the one who performs that act of restoration is said to be its redeemer (goel), which is another quality and name for messiah. As we shall see, the Torah teaches that a certain type of breakage, or primordial “fall,” took place which affected and continues to affect the entirety of creation. Therefore, the Messiah is simply the one who is responsible for the restoration – the tikkun – and the redemption of creation.
Yet, even the second definition of tikkun, as elevation and transformation, also implies a subtle form of captivity, which requires a process of redemption. Something can be complete, but still have the capacity to evolve to a higher level. As long as it has not yet attained that higher level, then it too, relatively speaking, can be said to be in a state of captivity that requires redemption. The one who accomplishes the act of transformation has released it from the bondage of its static level of completion. This type of redeemer is also a messiah.
At present, we can understand the need for the first type of messiah — one who will restore the world to its former state. But where does the second type fit into the picture? When was the world so complete that it needed only to be elevated to higher and higher levels of completion and perfection?
The answer is the Garden of Eden. When Adam HaRishon (the original higher-dimensional consciousness/being composed of both masculine and feminine) was created, he was placed into a higher-dimensional reality that was essentially perfect. His mission was to elevate and transform that which was already in a completed state. In spite of the fact that nothing had broken and nothing had been torn, all life was still undergoing a staggering spiritual evolution. The entire hierarchy of life — human, animal, plant, and mineral — was rising higher and higher. The one orchestrating this was Adam. Even in the original utopian description of the Garden of Eden, Adam was life’s redeemer and the World Messiah.
After the proverbial eating from the higher-dimensional fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Duality, reality and Adam’s mission radically changed. The “fall” of man was a cosmic shattering and an existential rip that reverberated throughout the entire fabric of creation. Adam now had a new task to perform, for through his actions everything had collapsed into a lower world order. A new mode of tikkun was therefore required — the tikkun of rectification, restoration, and purification. This does not mean that his original task of higher transformation had been nullified. It only means that until he mends that which has been torn asunder, his original task gets delayed awhile. In the end, he must, and will, return to complete it as well.
Thus, Adam, presently wearing the form of world humanity, is now two steps removed from God’s true intent. First, we, as humanity, have to fix up what has been shattered, and then we have to take up where Adam left off and finish his original work of elevation and transformation. Where there was originally intended to be one singular mode of tikkun, now there are two modes. Where there was originally intended to be one redeemer for all of creation, now there are two — one for each mode of tikkun. These two modes of tikkun are referred to in Torah literature as the Trein M’shechin — the Twin Messiahs. Adam had, in effect, split his own self into two personae. Adam is the Twin Messiahs.
(The creation of a dual world order, now dependent upon a two-staged tikkun, is the actual origin of all duality — good/bad, male/female, heaven/earth, sun/moon, “This World”/”Next World,” etc. — that is the bedrock of our present reality. These sharp distinctions did not exist in the higher world of transformation, which functioned according to a law of singularity known as the Tree of Life. All duality is a direct consequence of Adam’s act of partaking from the Tree of Knowledge of Opposites (“good” and “evil”), which, as its name implies, is the primal source of all duality.)
In general, the redeemer, whose mission is fundamentally one of restoration and purification, is known as the Josephic Messiah. The redeemer, whose mission is fundamentally one of elevation and transformation, is known as the Davidic Messiah. Similarly, the period of time that we are in now, i.e., after Adam’s fall and expulsion from Eden, is broadly designated as the Era of the Josephic Messiah. This is the period of time for his mode of tikkun.
As explained in the Introduction [to thebook], the present world order is scheduled to exist for six thousand years. It is during this time that the tikkunof rectification must take place in small increments. (Although, in general, this entire period is the providence of he Josephic Messiah, it is the second half of the six millennium, i.e., from the year 5600-1740, which is the essential period for the tikkun of the Josephic Messiah). After this tikkun will be completed, i.e., near the very end of the six millennia, then we will enter the period of time designated as the Era of The Davidic Messiah, since it will then be time to finish the mode of the original tikkun of transformation.
Surprisingly, the famous Era of the Messiah (ben David) so much described by the prophets and formulated by the sages, yet so clouded in obscurity, is none other than a return to the original, but unfinished Garden of Eden, and the Davidic Messiah is none other than the original Adam HaRishon himself before the Fall! This is certainly a return full circle if there ever was one. (This principle is included in the rabbinic formula, sof ma’aseh b’machshavah techilah — “the final act returns to the original intended thought).
The statement that there are distinct modes and periods for each of the Twin Messiahs must now be qualified. In truth, there is much overlapping between the two. The ben David mode is always present in the immediate background of the ben Joseph mode and vice versa. In other words, a fractal spark (nitzotz) of the lower tikkun of the Josephic Messiah is always present within the higher tikkun of the Davidic Messiah. Conversely, a fractal spark of the higher tikkun of the Davidic Messiah is always present within the lower tikkun of the Josephic Messiah.
This interpenetration of the Twin Messiahs is true on two levels and thus the term Trein M’shechin has two meanings. The processes of the Josephic Messiah and the Davidic Messiah occur together, at all times, in every generation, and in all places. The Messianic Era of the Josephic Messiah and the Messianic Era of the Davidic Messiah, however, refer to large scale time-frames where there is a sharper line of demarcation between the two modes of tikkun. The first aspect of the Twin Messiahs that functions on the generational or micro-time scale, i.e., on an annual and daily basis, is the generational Twin Messiahs. The second aspect of the Twin Messiahs, which functions on the millennial or macro-time scale, is the millennial Twin Messiahs.
For the full story of Mashiach ben Yoseph and the Twin Messiahs please refer to books, The Secret Doctrine of the Gaon of Vilna, Volumes I and II written by Rabbi Joel Bakst.