Reading through the latest Hebrew edition of Garden of Emuna got me thinking about this because Rav Shalom Arush emphasizes the nisayonot of both David Hamelech and Yosef Hatzaddik as aspects of Mashiach.
And while we know that the ultimate Mashiach descends from the line of David Hamelech (who originates from Yehudah and before that, Leah Imeinu and Yaakov Avinu), Mashiach ben Yosef precedes Mashiach ben David.
Yosef Hatzaddik: Life in the Pits
Yosef ended up in Mitzrayim surrounded by a society that stood for everything he despised, then was accused of a particularly heinous crime after withstanding an unparalleled and grueling nisayon, which led him to be unjustly thrown into prison.
Then he spent years in an underground prison surrounded by the worst of what was already a dark and depraved society.
(You can imagine someone in his situation thinking, "What, thrown in a pit AGAIN? How much of my life do I have to spend underground with either scorpions and snakes or human beings who act like scorpions and snakes?")
His mother was dead, his father and stepmothers/aunts thought he was dead, his brothers had rejected him, and Egyptian society either didn’t know about him or had also rejected him.
He was truly alone in a way that’s hard for even the loneliest of us to really comprehend.
Yet the Gemara states that while in the depths of this seemingly hopeless and endless situation, Yosef danced.
Year after year, Yosef Hatzaddik danced and bonded with Hashem.
Then in the blink of an eye, he was released and raised to the heights of society, then reunited with his family, who realized their mistake and embraced him.
David Hamelech: Suffering Unjustified Yet Rabid Hatred
When your own father and brothers are willing to abandon you to being torn apart by hungry lions in the wilderness, then that is pretty serious rejection.
Later, the king himself ended up pursuing David with the intent to kill.
His wife Michal, though a very special person in her own right, laughed at him for dancing l’Shem Shamayim.
His own child turned against him in addition to behaving in a humiliating and abominable manner.
Throughout David's life, there were always people plotting against him unjustly or disparaging him and defaming him. Very humiliating, lonely, and painful.
Not to mention the physical attacks on him by both the surrounding non-Jewish warriors and the lions in the desert. So sometimes life was heart-stoppingly frightening too.
Yet David Hamelech persevered and bequeathed us with the amazing and powerful book of Tehillim as a result. In there, you can see all his pain and emuna poured out on the page. And by reciting his words, we also derive comfort and encouragement regarding our own pain.
And the ultimate Melech Hamashiach will come from him.
Leah Imeinu: A Life of Loneliness
Her father was the terrible occultist Lavan; just think of how scary it must have been to have those grotesque teraphim (shrunken human heads that talk via occult ritual) around.
We don’t know much about their mother, but at least Leah and Rachel had each other.
Furthermore, Leah and Rachel grew up knowing who they were destined to marry. Lucky Rachel Imeinu was destined for Yaakov Avinu. But Leah was meant to marry the evil depraved Esav. Years of prayers and weeping to the point that her eyes grew “soft” changed that destiny. Ultimately, she was given to Yaakov Avinu in marriage with self-sacrificing help from her sister Rachel.
This was a big relief to be sure, but what could Yaakov Avinu do that his very feelings were preordained from Heaven to love his true zivug: Rachel Imeinu? She was the other half of his soul.
The Torah states plainly that Leah felt “hated” by Yaakov Avinu. But of course he didn’t hate her! As a very holy and spiritual person, Yaakov loved her very much. But compared to his profound love for Rachel, his feelings toward Leah felt like “hate.”
Yaakov Avinu only ever meant to have one wife—Rachel Imeinu—but due to Leah’s prayers, Lavan’s trickery, and the later insistence of Leah and Rachel on taking in Bilha and Zilpah, Yaakov Avinu ended up with four wives.
There is no question that he treated every one of these women with love and respect. But Rachel Imeinu was his original zivug and the love of his life.
It was no one’s fault, but still a very painful reality for Leah.
Think about Leah growing up surrounded by all the dark occultism and depravity common and even venerated in Canaanite society, with her own father being the darkest and strongest of them all. And then seeing the man she was destined to marry: a depraved and violent hypocrite.
That’s pretty depressing, isn’t it?
But even as her prayers saved her from marrying Esav, her marital situation remained far from ideal. Again, it was no one’s fault and she knew that. But it was what it was.
Interestingly, Mashiach ben David comes from the union of Yaakov and Leah, and not the Divinely ordained union between Yaakov and Rachel.
This is also despite the fact that Rachel sacrificed so much for others (she saved Leah from disgrace on her wedding night by passing on the secret signs she’d originally worked out with Yaakov and then later died giving birth to Binyamin). It’s Rachel’s voice that is listened to in Shamayim when even the pleas of Moshe Rabbeinu and Avraham Avinu can no longer effect Heavenly mercy on the Jewish people.
But the man destined to redeem the entire world ultimately descends from Leah Imeinu.
Loneliness & Rejection: An Aspect of Mashiach
Even if they have friends and family members whom they love very much and who love them, a lot of people still feel that there is a part of them that just isn’t being seen or validated.
Maybe you feel this way even though the people around you are good (like with Leah Imeinu after her marriage; her husband and co-wives/sisters were very good people), but they just can’t completely relate to you - or you to them - or see you for who you really are.
Or maybe the people around you really aren’t good, like in Leah’s case before her marriage (except for her sister).
Remember: There were people who literally wanted to kill David Hamelech and Yosef Hatzaddik.
There might be people in your life whom you feel want to totally annihilate you too, may Hashem have mercy.
Innocent people can and do suffer slander, abuse, and rejection.
Or maybe people reject you because you aren’t so good.
Maybe you've hurt people so much that people who want to love you can no longer tolerate you.
(One defining characteristic of a personality disorder is that one always sees oneself as the victim, which in the personality disordered mind gives one the “right” to victimize others while always playing the innocent.)
Or maybe you're experiencing some combination of the above.
Or maybe you feel perfectly loved and cherished; your challenge of growth is not in the area of loneliness or rejection.
But if you’re feeling lonely or rejected for whatever the reason, I hope you’ll take comfort in the fact that it’s an aspect of Mashiach and that one can’t really achieve spiritual greatness and release certain brilliant sparks of holiness without going through this kind of nisayon.
You’ve obviously been chosen for a very special role even if it feels like you’re just a loser in a dark lonely endless pit with no hope in sight.
But whatever you can do (no matter how small or lackluster) to sing, dance, rejoice, and make Hashem your Best Friend...that's the surest way to ultimately achieve the kinds of things only you can achieve.