In describing the advent of Moshiach, the Prophet states,1 “He will be lowly and riding upon a donkey.” Pirkei D’Rav Eliezer2 notes that this is the same donkey mentioned by Moses, as is written,3 “And Moses set them (his family) upon a donkey” and it is the same donkey used by Abraham, as in,4 “and he saddled his donkey” (in preparing for the akeidah — (the binding of Isaac upon the altar).

Is this factor, that Moshiach will ride on a donkey of such paramount importance? Does it matter how Moshiach will come? And of what significance is it to know whose donkey it is? Obviously, as our Sages see it, there is more to it than the physical animal itself.

In this comparative study we see that Abraham, Moses and Moshiach are a continuation of one central theme.

Abraham began the 2,000 year period of Torah.5 The Talmud states that the world exists for 6,000 years. The first 2,000 years were desolate; the second 2,000 years (beginning with Abraham) are devoted to Torah; and the last 2,000 years are the Messianic era.

Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Klal Yisroel.6 Although the verse that Moses set them upon a donkey took place before Mattan-Torah (Revelation at Sinai) yet, it relates to the Exodus from Egypt which is a prelude to Mattan-Torah, as G‑d told Moses,7 “When you bring forth the people out of Egypt, you will serve G‑d upon this mountain.”

The goal of Mattan-Torah will be revealed through Moshiach.

We find, however, a distinction in the use of the donkey by Abraham, Moses and Moshiach.

Abraham used the donkey for carrying the wood and knife for the Akeidah, while he and his servants went by foot. Only the wood and knife — he placed on the donkey.

With reference to Moses, the Torah relates that he set his wife and sons upon the donkey. A wife and children are obviously much closer to a person than wood and a knife. A wife is her husband’s helpmate;8 she is even considered like his own body.9 A son is his father’s thigh,10 this being the lowest part of the person’s body itself.

With reference to Moshiach, he himself will be riding on the donkey.

Apparently, this donkey alludes to a higher spiritual dimension than the simple animal itself. The purpose of using and riding a donkey is to enable the person and his belongings to reach such a place which — due to its height or distance — would be unreachable without the donkey.

The same is true in the spiritual act of “riding on a donkey.” Chamor (a donkey) is linked with chomer, materialism. The purpose of a Jew, and every human being, is to refine the coarseness of this materialistic world, one’s body, household, etc. through the study of Torah and observance of mitzvos. In so doing one is elevated to such a level that the soul, in and by itself, is unable to attain. Only when the soul enters the corporeal, physical body (at birth) does it have the challenge — and G‑d-given powers — to refine the body and all materialistic aspects through a life devoted to G‑dliness and Torah.

Each one, Abraham, Moses and Moshiach — set the examples for refining their physical lives and elevating themselves to spirituality. Moshiach will enable everyone to reach the peak of refinement, whereby “he rides on a donkey,” totally subjugating materialism to the Divine Will and Wisdom.

The donkey is also an allusion to the physical aspects of the world which will be truly refined and elevated through Moshiach and his teachings.