One of the basic tenets of the Jewish faith is the belief in the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah). At this time, the Jewish people will be redeemed, return to their land, and rebuild the Holy Temple under the leadership of a king known as Moshiach (“the anointed one”). Maimonides states1 that one who does not believe in Moshiach, or does not await his coming, denies the validity of the Torah and of our teacher Moses.

Following is a collection of the sources from the Torah that serve as the basis for this belief, and which provide some of the details regarding Moshiach and the era that his arrival will usher in:

Maimonides2 lists three sources in the Five Books of Moses that teach us about the arrival of the ultimate redeemer.

  1. In the Book of Numbers,3 Balaam prophesies:

    The word of Balaam, son of Beor . . . I see it, but not now; I behold it, but not soon. A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel, which will crush the princes of Moab and uproot all the sons of Seth . . . and Israel shall triumph.

    Moshiach will be a ruler who will vanquish the enemies of the Jewish nationFrom the above verses we learn that Moshiach will be a ruler who will vanquish the enemies of the Jewish nation.
  2. In Deuteronomy,4 we are promised an end to our exile in foreign lands:

    And it will be, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where G‑d, your G‑d, has banished you. And you will return to G‑d, your G‑d, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day, you and your children—with all your heart and with all your soul. Then, G‑d, your G‑d, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where G‑d, your G‑d, had dispersed you . . . And G‑d, your G‑d, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you [too] will take possession of it, and He will do good to you . . .

    These verses teach us that the redemption is dependent upon the Jewish people doing teshuvah (repentance), and that Moshiach’s arrival will include an ingathering of the exiled Jews.
  3. Also in Deuteronomy,5 in reference to the command to designate cities of refuge for people who committed manslaughter,6 we are told that in the future, the borders of Israel will expand:

    And when G‑d, your G‑d, expands your boundary, as He swore to your forefathers, and He gives you all the land of which He spoke to give to your forefathers . . . you shall add three more cities for yourself, in addition to these three.

    Since the borders of the Holy Land have not yet expanded, this verse must be referring to a time period in the future—the time of Moshiach.

    The prophecies concerning Moshiach are to be understood in the literal senseThis prophecy is stated within the framework of a mitzvah—to create cities of refuge. This demonstrates that the prophecies concerning Moshiach are to be understood in the literal sense, not as a symbol or parable, just as all of the mitzvot must be observed in the literal sense. In addition, since G‑d does not command a mitzvah without reason, it stands to reason that this prophecy must be fulfilled, and cannot be retracted even if the Jewish people sin.7

Other Sources Within the Five Books of Moses

Maimonides lists only these three sources, because he considers them the most explicit. In fact, there are numerous additional references to the coming of Moshiach in the Five Books of Moses.8

As well, as Maimonides writes, the Nevi’im (books of the Prophets) are full of prophecies regarding the ultimate redemption.

Here is a partial list of the references to Moshiach in the Nevi’im: Isaiah 11, 12, 14, 24–27, 40, 41, 49, 51–54, 60, 61–63, 66; Jeremiah 20, 31, 33; Ezekiel 34, 36–39, 43–47; Hosea 2; Joel 2–3; Amos 9; Obadiah 1; Micah 4, 5, 7; Nahum 2; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 1, 2, 8, 9, 12, 14; and Malachi 3.

In the Ketuvim (Writings, Hagiographa), there are also multiple references to Moshiach. Some of them are: Psalm 2, 45–48, 98–99, 117, 126; Daniel 7–8, 11–12.

Who Will Moshiach Be?

According to Maimonides,9 Moshiach must be a king who is a (patrilineal10) descendant of Kings David and Solomon, well versed in Torah and exemplary in the fulfillment of mitzvot, as was King David his ancestor.

What Will Moshiach Do?

Moshiach will accomplish (at the very least) the following:11

  1. Influence all of the Jewish nation to follow the path of Torah.
  2. Fight the “battles of G‑d” and be victorious.
  3. Lead the Jews back to the Holy Land.
  4. Rebuild the Holy Temple on the Temple Mount.
  5. Motivate all of the nations to serve G‑d in unity.

In the era of Moshiach, there will also be peace and prosperity, which will enable the Jews to spend time delving into the secrets of the Torah and understanding G‑d as much as humanly possible.12 There will also be clarification as to which tribe each Jew belongs to.13

According to the simple reading of the verses, all animals will become herbivorous, and all trees will bear fruitIn addition, according to the simple reading of the verses,14 all animals will become herbivorous, and all trees will begin to bear fruit. While some authorities15 interpret these verses in the literal sense, Maimonides believes them to be metaphors. He does, however, agree that if the Jewish people are meritorious, they will receive these blessings in the literal sense.16

The Resurrection

After a certain period of time (perhaps forty years17), there will be a resurrection, in which all of the Jewish people18 who have passed away will be brought back to life.19 At that time,20 there will no longer be a desire for sin.21 In addition, obligatory commandments will be nullified.22 This means that the desire to fulfill the commandments will come naturally—“obligation” will be superfluous.

What Must We Do?

It is incumbent upon every Jew to do his or her part in hastening the arrival of Moshiach.23 The Talmud teaches that every mitzvah that we do hastens the advent of the final Redemption.24 The following mitzvot in particular hasten Moshiach’s arrival:

  1. Belief in the Redemption.25
  2. Prayer for the Redemption.26
  3. Increasing the giving of tzedakah (charity).27
  4. Increasing “spiritual tzedakah”—influencing others to further their observance of the Torah.28
  5. Teshuvah (repentance from one’s sins).29
  6. Studying about—and “living with”—the era of Moshiach.30
  7. Increasing our love for our fellow Jews.31
  8. Being meticulous in the observance of the laws of kashrut and Family Purity.32
  9. Having more children.33

Before He Comes

The prophet Elijah will herald his arrivalThe Talmud34 says that before Moshiach comes, the prophet Elijah will herald his arrival.35 He will inspire the Jewish people to repent and better their ways before the actual redemption.

In addition, it is clear from the writings of the prophets36 that there will be a war that precedes the arrival of Moshiach. The king of the nation leading the war against the Jews will be called “Gog,” and the name of his nation, “Magog.” (It is possible that this war has already taken place.37) Some say that Elijah will come before this war, and some say he will come after the war, directly prior to the arrival of Moshiach.38

The Talmud39 says that there will be a moshiach (anointed king) who is a descendant of the tribe of Joseph, who will come before the arrival of the Moshiach descended from Judah. It seems that he will die in the battle of Gog and Magog.40

When Will He Come?

  • The Talmud41 says that all of the appointed times have passed, and Moshiach is now eligible to come any time.
  • One opinion in the Talmud maintains that Moshiach will come in the Jewish month of Tishrei. Another opinion—the more accepted view—argues that he will come in the month of Nissan.42

The understanding is that he is more likely to come at these times. Certainly he may come at other times as well. In addition, these two times represent different levels of divine service. Whether Moshiach arrives in one month or the other will be a reflection of the type of divine service the Jewish people are performing.43

The Generation of Moshiach

The Talmud44 mentions various signs to identify the generation in which Moshiach will arrive. In that generation:

  • Torah scholarship will be diminished.
  • There will be many troubles and difficult decrees.
  • The younger generation will not respect their elders.
  • There will be inflation in food prices.
  • The government will turn towards heresy (denying the Torah).
  • People will despair of the Redemption.
  • People will have no money left in their pockets (i.e., savings).
  • The Jewish people will not have supporters.
  • The generation will be either entirely righteous or entirely wicked.
  • There will be no fish available for purchase, even for sick people.
  • There will be no arrogant people left amongst the Jews.
  • There will be no judges or enforcers left amongst the Jewish people.

Moshiach—In Our Time

The teshuvah of one person may be sufficientRabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, announced in 194145 that the arrival of Moshiach was imminent. He encouraged the Jewish people to do teshuvah (to repent) immediately, and foretold that the redemption would then come immediately. His son-in-law, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, said46 that now that so much time has passed since that announcement, certainly the Jewish people have done teshuvah and therefore Moshiach is expected to arrive at any moment. Even if teshuvah is yet needed, the teshuvah of one person may be sufficient. And this teshuvah can be done instantaneously. Indeed, according to all of the signs, the Rebbe assured us, this is the final generation of the exile and the first generation of the Redemption.

May we merit the coming of Moshiach now.

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