Zimri’s Messianic Hopes and What It Means for Us

If you trace the Messianic timeline from the beginning of time until the present, you will find it in the most unlikely of places. Just think of Lot and his daughters, Yehuda and Tamar, David and Batsheva, and Ruth and Boaz. Moab had in it the ultimate spark of Mashiach. Why did Mashiach have to emerge from such questionable and improbable relationships? Rabbi Duvi BenSoussan, based on the Zohar, explains that Satan will be eradicated once Mashiach arrives. Therefore G-d has to hide the process in the most unlikely of places so that Satan can’t eliminate the realization of a redeemer.

Rabbi Duvi BenSoussan further explains that Zimri was lined up with this thought process. He knew Mashiach was going to emanate through Moab. Once he saw Cozbi was a princess of Moab and embodied malchut, he believed this was the union that would bring Mashiach. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 82b) brings one opinion that says Zimri cohabited with Cozbi 424 times. The kabbalist, Imrei Yosef, notes that the gematria of 424 equals the words “Mashiach ben David.” Zimri believed he was delivering Mashiach. This is exactly why the Sanhedrin (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 9:7) wanted to put Pinchas in cherem, for they believed Pinchas just killed the potential Mashiach.

Rabbi Akiva, who Rabbi Chaim Vital, the student of the Ari, writes (Sefer Gilgulim 66) was a gilgul of Zimri, had that same passion to bring Mashiach as Zimri did. He thought he had it in Bar Kochba, but it didn’t materialize. However, Rabbi Akiva does the tikkun for Zimri as Rabbi Akiva died through kiddush Hashem which rectified the chillul Hashem done by Zimri.  

What does all of this mean for us? Firstly, you see the great leaders in our history desired Mashiach with great fervor so that all the troubles would come to an end. This must make an impression on us to have our minds on Mashiach constantly, especially in today’s times when the challenges in Israel and the diaspora are unprecedented. Secondly, the story of Zimri exhibits the fact that the four amos of halacha supersedes unlawful, zealous acts. We must first have our full allegiance to the halacha and then take action. In this way we can greet Mashiach in the right way and at the right time.