Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David
by HaRav Dov Begon, Head of Machon Meir.
Joseph was the “dreamer” (Genesis 37:19), as well as the dream interpreter. It looked as though he lived in a world of dreams and imaginings, but really, as Pharaoh said (41:39), there was no one with as much wisdom and insight as he. Joseph was a complex personality. On the one hand his dreams accompanied him throughout his life and he knew full well that they would ultimately be fulfilled. On the other hand, he was “a very successful man” (39:2) who knew how to manage the Egyptian economy and to prepare Egypt, with his wisdom and insight, for the years of famine. He was well aware that all the situations he found himself in, whether he was in prison or viceroy, were all part of his dreams being fulfilled, at the climax of which was a dream about the Jewish People being born as tribal units in Egypt. His head was in his dreams, but his feet were set on the ground, in the complex, intricate reality he experienced in Pharaoh’s house and with his own family.
Today, “as G-d returns His people to Zion, we are as dreamers” (Psalm 126:1). As is well-known, our sages viewed the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of a Jewish State as part of the fulfillment of the task of “Mashiach ben Yosef” [the Messianic descendant of Joseph] (see Kol HaTor by the disciples of the Vilna Gaon). In other words, just as Joseph was wise and insightful, and successful in everything he did, and just as he engaged in saving Egypt economically, so, too, our generation is one whose chief preoccupation is ensuring our survival and our economic welfare.
Yet this is just the first stage in Israel’s rebirth. The second stage is the appearance of Mashiach ben David, the Messianic descendant of King David, for “the ultimate purpose of the Jewish People is not just to be defined and set apart as a nation, but also the longing to unite all of mankind in one family, in which all proclaim G-d’s name” (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Orot 109). Indeed our sages interpreted the words, “Bring us upright [komemiyut] to our land” (blessings before the Shema) as meaning that the ingathering will happen in two stages [komot]. First will come national rebirth, represented by Mashiach ben Yosef. From within that will come the universal rebirth of all mankind, represented by Mashiach ben David.