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What Is the Jewish Belief About Moshiach?

What Is the Jewish Belief About Moshiach?

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What is the “End of Days”?

The term “End of Days” is taken from Numbers 24:14. This has always been taken as a reference to the messianic era. Here we shall explore—albeit briefly—the Jewish belief in the coming of Moshiach.

What does the word Moshiach mean?

Moshiach is the Hebrew word for “messiah.” The word messiah in English means a savior or a “hoped-for deliverer.” The word moshiach in Hebrew actually means “anointed.” In Biblical Hebrew, the title moshiach was bestowed on somebody who had attained a position of nobility and greatness. For example, the high priest is referred to as the kohen ha-moshiach.

In Talmudic literature the title Moshiach, or Melech HaMoshiach (the King Messiah), is reserved for the Jewish leader who will redeem Israel in the End of Days.

What is the belief in Moshiach?

One of the principles of Jewish faith enumerated by Maimonides is that one day there will arise a dynamic Jewish leader, a direct descendant of the Davidic dynasty, who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and gather Jews from all over the world and bring them back to the Land of Israel.

All the nations of the world will recognize Moshiach to be a world leader, and will accept his dominion. In the messianic era there will be world peace, no more wars nor famine, and, in general, a high standard of living.

All mankind will worship one G‑d, and live a more spiritual and moral way of life. The Jewish nation will be preoccupied with learning Torah and fathoming its secrets.

The coming of Moshiach will complete G‑d’s purpose in creation: for man to make an abode for G‑d in the lower worlds—that is, to reveal the inherent spirituality in the material world.

Is this not a utopian dream?

No! Judaism fervently believes that, with the correct leadership, humankind can and will change. The leadership quality of Moshiach means that through his dynamic personality and example, coupled with manifest humility, he will inspire all people to strive for good. He will transform a seemingly utopian dream into a reality. He will be recognized as a man of G‑d, with greater leadership qualities than even Moses.

In today’s society, many people are repulsed by the breakdown of ethical and moral standards. Life is cheap, crime is rampant, drug and alcohol abuse are on the increase, children have lost respect for their elders. At the same time, technology has advanced in quantum leaps. There is no doubt that today man has all the resources—if channeled correctly—to create a good standard of living for all mankind. He lacks only the social and political will. Moshiach will inspire all men to fulfill that aim.

Why the belief in a human messiah?

Some people believe that the world will “evolve” by itself into a messianic era without a human figurehead. Judaism rejects this belief. Human history has been dominated by empire builders greedy for power.

Others believe in Armageddon—that the world will self-destruct, either by nuclear war or by terrorism. Again, Judaism rejects this view.

Our prophets speak of the advent of a human leader, of a magnitude that the world has not yet experienced. His unique example and leadership will inspire mankind to change direction.

Where is Moshiach mentioned in the Scriptures?

The Scriptures are replete with messianic quotes. In Deuteronomy 30:1 Moses prophesies that, after the Jews have been scattered to the four corners of the earth, there will come a time when they will repent and return to Israel, where they will fulfill all the commandments of the Torah. The gentile prophet Balaam prophesies that this return will be led by Moshiach (see Numbers 24:17–20). Jacob refers to Moshiach by the name Shiloh (Genesis 49:10).

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Joel and Hosea all refer to the messianic era. (For full references, the reader is referred to the book Moshiach by Rabbi Dr. J. I. Schochet.) It is interesting to note that the wall of the United Nations Building in New York is inscribed with the quote from Isaiah (11:6), “And the wolf shall lie with the lamb.” Furthermore, it is clear from the prophets, when studied in their original Hebrew, that Moshiach is a Jewish concept, and his coming will entail a return to Torah law, firmly ruling out any “other” messianic belief.

What sort of leader will Moshiach be?

Moshiach will be a man who possesses extraordinary qualities. He will be proficient in both the written and oral Torah traditions. He will incessantly campaign for Torah observance among Jews, and observance of the seven universal Noahide laws by non-Jews. He will be scrupulously observant, and encourage the highest standards from others. He will defend religious principles and repair breaches in their observance. Above all, Moshiach will be heralded as a true Jewish king, a person who leads the way in the service of G‑d, totally humble yet enormously inspiring.

When will Moshiach come?

Jews anticipate the arrival of Moshiach every day. Our prayers are full of requests to G‑d to usher in the messianic era. Even at the gates of the gas chambers, many Jews sang “Ani Maamin”—I believe in the coming of Moshiach!

However, the Talmud states that there is a predestined time when Moshiach will come. If we are meritorious, he may come even before that predestined time. This “end of time” remains a mystery, yet the Talmud states that it will be before the Hebrew year 6000. (The Hebrew year at the date of this publication is 5772.)

This does not rule out the possibility of Moshiach coming today and now, if we merit it. It should be noted that many Torah authorities are of the opinion that we are in the “epoch of the Moshiach,” and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, stated on numerous occasions that the messianic redemption is imminent.

Could Moshiach come at any time, in any generation?

Yes. In every generation there is a person who potentially could be the Moshiach. When G‑d decides that the time has arrived, He will bestow upon that individual the necessary powers for him to precipitate that redemption.

Any potential Moshiach must be a direct descendant of King David, as well as erudite in Torah learning. It should be noted that many people living today can trace their lineage back to King David. The chief rabbi of Prague in the late 16th century, Rabbi Yehuda Loew (the Maharal), had a family tree that traced him back to the Davidic dynasty. Consequently, any direct descendant of the Maharal is of Davidic descent.

Maimonides, a great Jewish philosopher and codifier of the 12th century, rules that if we recognize a human being who possesses the superlative qualities ascribed to Moshiach, we may presume that he is the potential Moshiach. If this individual actually succeeds in rebuilding the Temple and gathering in the exiles, then he is the Moshiach.

What exactly will happen when Moshiach comes?

Maimonides states in his Mishneh Torah—a compendium of the entire halachic tradition—that Moshiach will first rebuild the Temple and then gather in the exiles. Jerusalem and the Temple will be the focus of divine worship, and “from Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the L‑rd from Jerusalem.”

The Sanhedrin—the supreme Jewish law court of 71 sages—will be re-established, and will decide on all matters of law. At this time, all Jews will return to full Torah observance and practice. It should be noted that in this present age of great assimilation and emancipation, an unprecedented return of Jews to true Torah values has taken place. This baal teshuvah phenomenon is on the increase, and paves the way for a full return in the messianic era.

Will miracles happen?

The Talmud discusses this question and again arrives at the conclusion that, if we are meritorious, the messianic redemption will be accompanied by miracles. However, the realization of the messianic dream, even if it takes place naturally, will be the greatest miracle.

According to some traditions, G‑d Himself will rebuild the third Temple. According to others, it will be rebuilt by Moshiach; still others suggest a combination of the two opinions. Some suggest that there will be two distinct periods in the messianic era: first a non-miraculous period, leading into a second, miraculous period.

Maimonides writes, “Neither the order of the occurrence of these events nor their precise detail is among the fundamental principles of the faith . . . one should wait and believe in the general conception of the matter.”

What will become of the world as we know it?

Initially, there will be no change in the world order, other than its readiness to accept messianic rule. All the nations of the world will strive to create a new world order, in which there will be no more wars or conflicts. Jealousy, hatred, greed and political strife (of the negative kind) will disappear, and all human beings will strive only for goodness, kindness and peace.

In the messianic era there will be great advances in technology, allowing a high standard of living. Food will be plentiful and cheap.

However, the focus of human aspiration will be the pursuit of the “knowledge of G‑d.” People will become less materialistic and more spiritual.

What are the “birthpangs” of Moshiach’s arrival?

The Talmud describes the period immediately prior to the advent of Moshiach as one of great travail and turmoil. There will be a world recession, and governments will be controlled by despots. It is in this troubled setting that Moshiach will arrive.

There is a tradition that a great war will take place, called the war of Gog and Magog, and there is much speculation as to the precise timing of this war in relation to Moshiach’s arrival.

There is a tradition that Elijah the Prophet will come to the world and announce the imminent arrival of Moshiach. However, according to other opinions, Moshiach may arrive unannounced. Elijah would then arrive to assist in the peace process. Some suggest that if the Moshiach arrives in his predestined time, then Elijah will announce his arrival; but if Moshiach comes suddenly, then Elijah will appear after Moshiach has come.

As mentioned before, it is unclear as to exactly how these events will unfold. However, this uncertainty does not affect the general matter of Moshiach’s arrival.

When will the resurrection of the dead take place?

One of the principles of Jewish faith is belief in the resurrection of the dead. According to the Zohar—an early Kabbalistic text—the resurrection will take place forty years after the arrival of Moshiach. However, certain righteous individuals will arise with the coming of Moshiach. All the dead will be resurrected in the Land of Israel.

There is a small bone in the body called the luz bone (some identify this bone as the coccyx), from which the body will be rebuilt at the time of resurrection. Our daily prayers are replete with requests for the resurrection, and there are many customs connected with it. (See the book To Live and Live Again by the present author, published by S.I.E. Publications.)

What can be done to bring Moshiach?

In general, mankind must strive to perform more acts of goodness and kindness. The Jew is mandated to learn and be aware of the messianic redemption, and strengthen his or her faith in Moshiach’s ultimate and imminent arrival.

Charity is a catalyst for redemption. And every day in our prayers, we sincerely plead many times for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the ingathering of the exiles and the return to Torah observance under the leadership of Moshiach. The Lubavitcher Rebbe mounted a worldwide Moshiach campaign to heighten the awareness of Moshiach’s imminent arrival. The Rebbe constantly urged every Jew to prepare on a personal, family and community level for the arrival of Moshiach. This can best be achieved by “living with Moshiach”—that is, by learning about Moshiach and yearning for his coming.

Summary

In conclusion, the Jew always was and remains the eternal optimist. Even in his darkest hour, he hopes and prays for a brighter future—a world of peace and spirituality.

Rabbi Nissan D. Dubov is director of Chabad Lubavitch in Wimbledon, UK.
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Discussion (114)
August 6, 2015
Dont just wait for Messiah.

Be like, and act like Him
Rabbi Happyman
NEW ROCHELLE
August 6, 2015
Return: we recycle
We have all been in each other's tents around the world. G-d wrote us all into a story. A massive Cosmic Story. I am turning up the mic on this. It is a language-based Story. I am crossing Babel. We actualize all aspects of names and naming. The path is em-path-thy. A woman? Not necessarily so! Because it is a soul story. The keys are in the words. You cannot refute a totally synchronous Story in total alignment, a line meant, already on line. I am not asking. I am telling. There is El in this. G-d wrote not parts but the entire Story. This Story will move to Jerusalem to The Wailing Wall. We can petition for a new chapter in an ancient Book.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
August 4, 2015
DNA testing, awareness, observance later in life
What men living at the present time are "top contenders" (i.e. descendent from King David (and the Maharal of the 16th century)? Must this Jewish man have always known he was Jewish or could he discover this late in life by way of DNA testing and, after his discovery, become proficient and scrupulously observant in both the written and oral Torah traditions leading to his incessant campaign for Torah observance among Jews and observance of the seven universal Noahide laws by non-Jews?
Anonymous
Sav'h GA USA
June 2, 2015
Thoroughly enjoyed your wonderful article "What is the Jewish Belief about Moshiach?" I am now hungry to learn more.. Shalom .
Anonymous
Australia
May 18, 2015
I believe Judaism has always been advanced in their belief of spirituality and inner power. If people knew how vital of a role optimism and trust in a higher power plays in all our lives, I believe it would gain a lot of attention.
Valentin S.
Los Angeles
February 16, 2015
i believe that each and every Jew has the potential to be the Mashiach. All you need is a strong connection to G-d, and unwavering desire to fulfill His expectations for mankind.
Anonymous
February 5, 2015
Baruch Hashem, when he comes...
How will people react to Moshiach before he is crowned King? How will we know it is him before allowing him authority in Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, gather the Jews, and achieve world peace?
Mr. Isaac
Baja, California
August 8, 2014
36 Kohanim ministering in watches Deut. 18.6-9
I think we should see the success of the miracles right in front of our faces. I just feel the Moshiach is coming soon or new Jewish king in my opinion. Positive mitzvoth #2 Unity of HaShem Deut. 6.4 and positive mitzvoth #8 Walking in HaShem’s ways Deut. 10.13/10.20. Here is a negative mitzvoth #58 Not fearing heretics in time of war Deut 3.22/7.21/20.3 or negative mitzvoth #48 Not to make a covenant with the Seven Nations of Canaan Ex 23.32. To sum this up in a small message , I love my Jewish family even thou they maybe don't even know who I am and I welcome the Moshiach with Hashem and the Torah there is nothing we can not lose at period, we are born to save what ever is left of our home. Baruch Hashem may we merit to see the world to come Shabbat Shalom everybody
Richard Raff
BonneyLake,WA
August 7, 2014
The Jewish Beliefs of Moshiach
B"H What would happen if all the Jewish people had Absolute Certainty in the power of HaShem to cause the hearts of man to turn away from hatreds, murders, wars, and all forms of violence? If one fears death more than Hashem, then death has become your g-d, which is worshiped by hatred of others, and whose ceremonies are practiced with the weapons of war. All of which is based upon FEAR. You shall Not Fear them. Have Faith in Him, and in each other. They think their g-d is the true one and like All other Empires, they adhere to the mindset of 'Might Makes Right'. They are like street gangs wanting respect as the inmates in a prison do. The only solution is to escape the prison, not to simply become the biggest baddass on the cell block. If you do NOT believe HaShem has the power to not only protect you, but that He also has the Power to raise the dead, then go join Hamas, or emigrate to Iran. After the Nuclear Holocaust which IS coming, most of our machines will be useless anyway.
Anonymous
Pasadena, CA
August 7, 2014
Many or One
Some would say that the proof is in the pudding and I am leaning towards that. But in some weird way the human being, (whether women or man) has the potential to be a super conductor of Hashem divine light. That same electricity you get when you get emotionally charged up is the same atomic power needed to power up the body. Maybe its essence done the right way with Hashem's permission and what we already know by laws and principals can protect us from spiritual and physical damage. Don't let what you see scare you away from our goals and that is to save as much of what He ever created. We have the right to a Defense lets not offend our Creator in this process. Don't wait for someone to come walking down the road, strive to learn Torah be Giants for the good and if your wrong except that as something Hashem teaches His children that He loves. Answers, no, no, no we are left with more questions.
Anonymous
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