Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin's Non-Messianic Vision of the Present and Future

Recent studies have characterized R. Hayyim of Volozhin (1749-1821) as actively preparing for the messianic redemption. Contrary to this, I maintain that R. Hayyim was concerned with the immediate potential of the world in the context of historical time (divre ha-yamim), rather than with a world-to-come, in the context of messianic time (aharit ha-yamim). To R. Hayyim, the existence of the cosmos and the stability of a dynamic life-giving universe are fraught with contingency because of the interdependent organic naturality shared by man and world. This contingency is constant, placing man's conduct as the central determinant of the world's future. R. Hayyim's theory and practice attest to a concern for the immanent and transcendent aspects of this world and for the meanings of our everyday experienced relationship to its variegated pragmata.
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