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Multimedia Q & A Library Meditations Stories Holidays Moshiach101

The Personality of Mashiach

The Personality of Mashiach

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A. Mashiach Human

Mashiach and the Messianic age are the ultimate end for the world, preconceived from the very beginning, for which the world was created.1 Mashiach, therefore, is one of the things that precede the creation.2 This refers, however, to the principle and soul of Mashiach. On the actual level of the physical world’s reality, Mashiach is a human being:

Mashiach is a human being, born in normal fashion of human parents.3 The only qualification about his origins is that he is a descendant of King David,4 through the lineage of his son Solomon.5 From his birth onwards his righteousness will increase continually, and by virtue of his deeds he will merit sublime levels of spiritual perfection.6

B. Mashiach In Every Generation

Any time is a potential time for the coming of Mashiach.7 This does not mean, however, that at the appropriate time he will suddenly emerge from Heaven to appear on earth.8 On the contrary: Mashiach is already on earth, a human being of great saintly status (a tzadik) appearing and existing in every generation. “In every generation is born a progeny of Judah fit to be Israel’s Mashiach!”9

On the particular day that marks the end of the galut, when Mashiach will redeem Israel, the unique pre-existing soul of Mashiach ‘stored’ in Gan Eden from aforetimes will descend and be bestowed upon that tzadik.10 R. Mosheh Sofer summarizes this principle in his responsa:11

“As for the coming of the scion of David, I need to posit the following premise: Moses the first redeemer of Israel, reached the age of eighty years and did not know or sense that he would redeem Israel. Even when the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘Come and I will send you to Pharao…’ (Exodus 3:10), he declined and did not want to accept that mission. So it will be with the final redeemer.

“The very day that the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed, was born one who, by virtue of his righteousness, is fit to be the redeemer.12 At the proper time G-d will reveal Himself to him and send him, and then will dwell upon him the spirit of Mashiach which is hidden and concealed above until his coming.

“Thus we find also with Saul that the spirit of royalty and the Holy Spirit which he had not sensed at all within himself came upon him after he was anointed…

“The tzadik himself does not realize this potential. Because of our sins many such tzadikim passed away already. We did not merit that the Messianic spirit was conferred upon them. They were fit and appropriate for this, but their generations were not fit…”13

This explains why R. Akiva would consider Bar Kochba to be Mashiach (Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 4:5; see Hilchot Melachim 11:3; and cf. Yeshu’ot Meshicho, Iyun Harishon:ch.4). Furthermore, it explains a discussion in Sanhedrin 98b about the name of Mashiach, with different authorities suggesting Shiloh, Yinon, Chaninah and Menachem (cf. Yeshu’ot Meshicho, Iyun Hasheni, ch. 3, that the term Mashiach is an acronym of these four names): each school picked the name of its own master (Rashi). The implication is clear: each school regarded its own master as the most likely potential Mashiach of that generation by virtue of his saintliness and perfection; see R. Tzadok Hakohen, Peri Tzadik, Devarim:13. In later generations, too, we find the same attitude among the disciples of R. Isaac Luria, the Baal Shem Tov, the Vilna Gaon, R. Chaim David Azulay, and many other extraordinary personalities, as stated explicitly in their writings. 4

C. The Character and Qualities of Mashiach:

“The spirit of G-d will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of G-d. He shall be inspired with fear of G-d, and he shall not judge with the sight of his eyes nor decide according to the hearing of his ears. He shall judge the poor with righteousness and decide with equity for the humble of the earth; he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his reins.” (Isaiah 11:2-5)14 “Through his knowledge My servant shall justify the righteous to the many…” (Isaiah 53:11)

“Behold, My servant shall be wise, he shall be exalted and lofty, and shall be very high.” (Isaiah 52:13). His wisdom shall exceed even that of King Solomon;15 he shall be greater than the patriarchs, greater than all the prophets after Moses, and in many respects even more exalted than Moses.16 His stature and honor shall exceed that of all kings before him.17 He will be an extraordinary prophet, second only to Moses,18 with all the spiritual and mental qualities that are prerequisites to be endowed with the gift of prophecy.19

As a faithful shepherd he already cares so much about his people that he volunteered to suffer all kinds of agonies to assure that not a single Jew of all times will be lost.20

Mashiach shall meditate on the Torah21 and be preoccupied with mitzvot. He shall teach all the Jewish people and instruct them in the way of G-d. He will prevail upon Israel to follow and observe the Torah, repair its breaches, and fight the battles of G-d.22

Mashiach will reveal altogether new insights, making manifest the hidden mysteries of the Torah,23 to the point that “all the Torah learned in the present world will be vain compared to the Torah of Mashiach.”24

Though Mashiach comes first and foremost to Israel, all the nations will recognize his wisdom and sublimity and submit to his rule.25 He will guide and instruct them as well.26

There is no need for Mashiach to perform signs and wonders to prove himself.27 Nonetheless, he will do so.28

FOOTNOTES
1. Sanhedrin 98b; Pesikta Rabaty 34:6 (ed. Friedmann, ch. 33). See also Bereishit Rabba 2:4; and cf. R. Bachaya on Genesis 1:2; and Netzach Yisrael , ch. 43.
2. Pesachim 54a; Pirkei deR. Eliezer ch. 3 (see there Bi’ur Haradal note 14); Bereishit Rabba 1:4 (and see there Minchat Yehudah). Cf. Yeshu’ot Meshicho, Iyun Hasheni:ch. 3.
3. Or Hachamah on Zohar II:7b; R. Chaim Vital, Arba Me’ot Shekel Kessef, ed. Tel Aviv 5724, p. 241a-b. See also Yeshu’ot Meshicho, Iyun Hashelishi:ch. 3ff.
4. See Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:14ff. See also II-Samuel 7:12-16, and Psalms 89. In this context, Mashiach is often referred to as (and identified with) David see Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24 and 37:24-25 (cf. below. note 51).
5. Tanchuma, Toldot:14, and in ed. Buber, par. 20 (and see there note 139); Agadat Bereishit ch. 44. (See Emek Hamelech, Hakdamah, ch. 12, p. 14d, and Sha’ar Kiryat Arba, ch. 112, p. 108d). Rambam, Principles, Article 12, and Igeret Teyman, ch. 3. (Cf. also his Sefer Hamitzvot II:262). Cf. Zohar I:110b and III:188a, and commentaries there.
6. Sources in notes 4 and 5.
7. See below, ch. V.
8. A superficial glance at Zohar II:7b would seem to suggest this; but see the commentaries cited in note 45.
9. R. Ovadiah of Bartenura, Commentary on Ruth (appended to Mikra’ot Gedolot-Bamidbar, p. 479), see there.
10. Ibid. Cf. Igeret Teyman, ch. 4: “With respect to his arising, he will not be known beforehand until it is declared to him… a man, unknown prior to his manifestation, shall rise, and the signs and wonders that will come about through him will be the proof for the authenticity of his claim and pedigree…”Note that this concept of the ‘bestowal and infusion’ of Mashiach’s soul unto a living tzadik (related to the Kabbalistic concepts of gilgul and ibbur reincarnation and ‘impregnation’) explains the identification of Mashiach with King David himself (see Yeshu’ot Meshicho, Iyun Harishon, ch. 5:hakdamah 6; and see also R. Ya’akov Emden’s commentary on the hymns of Hoshana Rabba, end, s.v. hu David atzmo). Likewise, it explains the identification of Mashiach with Moses, when he is called “the first redeemer and the last redeemer” (see Shemot Rabba 2:4, and Devarim Rabba 9:9); and as noted in Zohar I:25b and 253a that the numerical equivalent of Mosheh is the same as that of Shiloh (the term in Genesis 49:10 denoting Mashiach): the soul of Mashiach is the “soul-of-the-soul” of Moses, so that in effect Moses will be the final redeemer (and there is no problem with the seeming discrepancy of Mashiach being a descendant of David of the tribe of Judah while Moses is a descendent of the tribe of Levi). See R. Chaim Vital’s Likutei Torah, and Sha’ar Hapesukim, on Genesis 49:10. Note also Or Hachayim on Genesis 49:11!
11. Responsa Chatam Sofer VI:98. See also Chatam Sofer al Hatorah, ed. Stern, vol. II: p. 18a, on Exodus 4:26, and note 9 there.
12. See Agadat Bereishit ch. 67 (68). See also Yerushalmi, Berachot 2:4, and Eichah Rabba 1:51.
13. See also Sdei Chemed, Pe’at Hasadeh: Kelalim, s.v. aleph:sect. 70.
14. See Likkutei Diburim , vol. II, p. 628ff.
15. Hilchot Teshuvah 9:25
16. Tanchuma, and Agadat Bereishit, cited above, note 47. Cf. Yeshu’ot Meshicho, Iyun Hashlishi:ch. 1. See also Or Hatorah-Na”ch , vol. I, p. 265f.
17. Rambam, Introduction to Sanhedrin X; Principles, Article 12 (in popular versions, though not in ed. Kapach); and Igeret Teyman, ch. 4.
18. Hilchot Teshuvah 9:2; Igeret Teyman, ch. 4.
19. See Igeret Teyman, ch. 4.
20. Pesikta Rabaty 37:1 (ed. Friedmann, ch. 36).
21. See Midrash Tehilim 2:9 and 110:4.
22. Hilchot Teshuvah 9:2; Hilchot Melachim 11:4. Note also Yalkut Shimoni, Pinchas:par. 776, that Mashiach will have the unique gift of understanding and persuading each individual despite the wide diversity in people’s minds and attitudes.
23. Eliyahu Zutta ch. 20; Oti’ot deR. Akiva, s.v. zayin. See Rashi (and other commentaries) on Song 1:2. Cf. Zohar III:23a; and Vayikra Rabba 13:3. See also Tanchuma , ed. Buber, Chukat:24, and Pesikta deR. Kahana , ed. Buber, ch. IV (p. 39af.), and the editor’s notes there.
24. Kohelet Rabba 11:12. For a comprehensive analysis of the concept of the new manifestations of Torah in the Messianic era, discussing the various Halachic and philosophical issues involved, see R. Menachem M. Schneerson shalita, Kuntres Be’inyan “Torah Chadashah Me’iti Tetze”. Cf. also the commentaries on Zohar III:23a; and R. Abraham Azulay, Chessed Le’Avraham, Mayan II: 11 and 27, and ibid. Mayan V:36.
25. Midrash Tehilim 2:3 and 87:6-7.
26. Bereishit Rabba 98:9 (see there Minchat Yehudah); Midrash Tehilim 21:1. Cf. above II-E.
27. Hilchot Melachim 11:2.
28. See Midrash Pirkei Mashiach; and end of Perek R. Yoshiyahu. Note Or Hachayim on Exodus 21:11; and cf. above, note 23.
Rabbi Immanuel Schochet (1935–2013) wrote and lectured extensively on the history and philosophy of Chassidism and topical themes of Jewish thought and ethics. He was a renowned authority on Jewish philosophy and mysticism. He was rabbi of Cong. Beth Joseph, and professor of Philosophy at Humber College, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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