One of the thirteen principles of the Jewish faith is the belief in the coming of Moshiach (the messiah). Maimonides goes so far as to state that "one who does not believe in him, or one who does not anticipate his coming, not only denies the prophets, he denies the Torah itself."

Why is belief in Moshiach so fundamental to Judaism? Could not a person conceivably accept the Torah as the divinely ordained guide to life and commit himself to observing its laws, without accepting its vision of a future perfect world?

But let us take a closer look at those laws. The Torah details a code of behavior governing every aspect of the human experience. It takes a lifetime of committed labor, tremendous self-discipline, and every iota of man's intellectual, emotional and spiritual prowess to bring one's life into full conformity with the Torah's edicts and ideals.

Accordingly, there are two possible ways to view the Torah's vision of life. One way is that the level of perfection expected by Torah is beyond feasible reach for a majority of people. From this perspective, Torah provides a vision of absolute goodness as a point of reference for imperfect man. A person should strive towards this ideal although he will probably never reach it, for he will much improve himself in the process.

The second view takes the Torah at its word: each and every individual is capable of, and expected to attain, the perfectly righteous life it describes. Torah is not an abstract ideal, but a practical and implementable blueprint for life.

These two views reflect two ways of understanding the nature of reality. If man is inherently or even partly evil, there is no reason to assume that he will, or even can, attain a state of perfect righteousness. A world in which every single individual acts in harmony with the purpose for which he was created can only be the dream of a chronic optimist who is hopelessly out of touch with "reality."

On the other hand, if a person believes that G‑d has imbued His every creation with the potential to reflect His absolute goodness and perfection, his concept of reality is radically different. To that person, it is our currently harsh reality that is the anomalous state, while the reality of Moshiach is the most natural thing in the world.

In other words, where we stand on Moshiach expresses our attitude towards the entire Torah. If the Torah is nothing more than a theoretical utopia, then one does not expect a world free of greed, jealousy and hate any time in the near future. But if the Torah mirrors the essence of man, then one not only believes in a "future" Moshiach, but understands that the world is capable of instantaneously responding to his call. Indeed, every moment that goes by without the Redemption taking place is far, far more "unrealistic"--that is, less in keeping with the true nature of things—than the prospect of its immediate realization.

Moshiach means that the Torah is for real.