The October 7th attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel was a double surprise. The brutality and barbarism of the attack, the unspeakable cruelty of the terrorists that stunned the civilized world, was shocking but hardly a surprise. The stunning failure of the Israeli intelligence services to anticipate the attack despite the writing on the wall was a surprise. The complete and shocking unpreparedness of the IDF, which took many hours to mount an organized response, after terrorists breached the security fence, killed many hundreds of civilians, and took many hostages, was another surprise. The Israeli intelligence was blissfully unaware of year-long preparations by Hamas and the Israeli army that was caught with its pants down, unprepared to defend Israel’s border with Gaza.

The Torah describes three stages of the development of Mashiach consciousness. The first stage described in the current Torah portion, Vayera, is hinted at by the story of Lot and his daughters:

And the elder said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on earth to come upon us, as is the custom of all the earth. Come, let us give our father wine to drink, and let us lie with him, and let us bring to life seed from our father.” And they gave their father wine to drink on that night, and the elder came and lay with her father, and he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the elder said to the younger, “Behold, last night I lay with my father. Let us give him wine to drink tonight too, and come, lie with him, and let us bring to life seed from our father.” So they gave their father to drink on that night also, and the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up. So they gave their father to drink on that night also, and the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up. And the elder bore a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of Moab until this day.

Genesis 19:31-37

According to our Sages, this is how the progenitor of Mashiach was conceived. This was the stage of constricted consciousness—“he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up.” Lot was sound asleep and blissfully unaware of what happened and with whom it happened—he was doubly clueless. Alternatively, we can say that the two encounters Lot had with his daughters, during which he was asleep, indicate a double constriction of Lot’s consciousness.

Orazio Gentileschi – Lot and His Daughters (1622), J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The second stage of the development of Mashiach consciousness was the encounter of Judah and Tamar:

And it was told to Tamar, saying, “Behold, your father in law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” So she took off her widow’s garb, covered [her head] with a veil and covered her face, and she sat down at the crossroads that were on the way to Timnah, for she saw that Shelah had grown up, but as for her she was not given to him for a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she covered her face. So he turned aside toward her to the road, and he said, “Get ready now, I will come to you…”

Genesis 38:13-16

In this instance, Judah knew what he was doing but was unaware of who was before him. Compared to Lot, he was not asleep and was only partially aware. This indicates an expansion of consciousness—from a double constriction to a single constriction. As a result of this intimate encounter, Tamar conceived and gave birth to twins, one of whom was Peretz, the progenitor of Mashiach. Thus, this was the second stage in the development of the Mashiach consciousness.

The third stage is described in the Book of Ruth, where Ruth the Moabitess (a descendent of Moab) offers herself to her relative, Boaz (a descendent of Peretz):

And Boaz ate and drank, and his heart was merry, and he went to lie at the edge of the stack, and she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. And it came to pass at midnight, and the man quaked and was taken around, and behold a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, “Who are you?” And she said, “I am Ruth, your handmaid, and you shall spread your skirt over your handmaid, for you are a near kinsman.” And he said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter; your latest act of kindness is greater than the first, not to follow the young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear, all that you say I will do for you, for the entire gate of my people know that you are a valiant woman. And now, indeed, I am a near kinsman, but there is a kinsman closer than I. Stay over tonight, and it will come to pass in the morning, that if he redeem you, well, let him redeem you, but if he does not wish to redeem you, I will redeem you, as the Lord lives; lie down until morning.”

Ruth, 4:7-13

In this story, Boaz is fully aware—he knows who Ruth is and does the right thing—he marries her properly, and Ruth gives birth to a son. “And they called his name Obed-he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”

The evolution of Mashiach consciousness is described as a series of three events: Lot, who was doubly clueless about what he was doing and who he was with; Judah, who knew what he was doing but was unaware of the identity of the woman he was intimate with; and Boaz, who was fully aware who he was with and who did the right thing by marrying Ruth. The connection between these events is highlighted by the fact that both Tamar and Ruth were descendants of Moab, conceived from the union of Lot and his daughter.

Let us turn to the modern history of the State of Israel, which experienced three major wars (not including the War of Independence)—the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and now, the present war with Hamas.

Before the Six-Day War, Israeli intelligence uncovered the plan by Egypt to attack Israel and recommended a preemptive strike. The Government gave the order, and the Israeli Air Force preemptively attacked Egypt, destroying its airfields and airplanes on the ground. Israel quickly achieved a spectacular, miraculous victory. Israeli intelligence was fully aware, and the government did the right thing—a preemptive strike followed by a swift victory. This was a glorious moment in the history of Israel. We will call it the “Boaz” moment—being aware and doing the right thing.

Israeli troops examine destroyed Egyptian aircraft

Before the Yom Kippur War, Israeli intelligence also learned that Egypt and Syria were planning an attack on Israel. However, Gold Meir, concerned that Israel might look like the aggressor and cowed by warnings from the U.S. not to take any preemptive action, did nothing. As a result, Israel took heavy losses at the beginning of the war. The war was ultimately won[1] by the Grace of G‑d. Israeli soldiers fought heroically, with many losing their lives in that war. It was the most difficult moment in Israel’s history (until recent events). We will call it the “Judah” moment—being aware but not doing the right thing.

Egyptian military trucks cross a bridge laid over the Suez Canal on October 7, 1973, during the Yom Kippur War/October War

Forward to the present day, and Israel is fighting a war once again. This time, it was a bloody and, frankly, shameful moment in the history of Israel. Its leaders and military neither knew anything nor were prepared to defend its borders. It is a “Lot” moment in Jewish history—the moment of doubly constricted consciousness.   

One wonders, why the history of the last three wars in Israel—the country’s collective consciousness—evolved in the opposite direction. Indeed, it followed precisely the Biblical sequence of Lot-Judah-Boaz but in reverse order: Boaz-Judah-Lot. An easy explanation may be to assume that Israel, convinced of its military superiority, rested on its laurels and got complacent. I hope not.

Our sages say that Mashiach will come at a time of hesech hada’at—concealment (or constriction) of consciousness. In the entire history of Israel, there has never been greater concealment of the national consciousness than during the time leading up to the current war. The end of the exile, ikvita d’Meshicha, when we begin hearing the footsteps of the messianic redemption, is characterized by the Sages as the time of double concealment, as it is written:

V’Anochi haster estir ponai bayom hahu (“And I will hide My face on that day”)

Deuteronomy 31:18

In the above verse, the word “hide” appears twice— haster estir. This “Lot” moment in Israeli history surely fits the bill. The blood we see and the pain the entire Jewish nation feels are chevlei Mashiach—the birthpangs of Mashiach, heralding the coming redemption. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said, “All we need to do is open our eyes!” Indeed, this Torah portion is called Vayera—“And He appeared” (lit. “was seen”). May this war between good and evil be the last in the history of Israel, culminating with total victory and the vanquishment of evil. May the immediate return of the hostages be followed by the return of exiles and the messianic redemption, and may it happen immediately!

[1] Strictly speaking, the war ended in a cease-fire imposed by the United States and the Soviet Union.