12. I believe with perfect emunah
in the coming of the Messiah,
and though he may delay,
I wait daily for his coming.
One Way Or The Other!
Innate in the human psyche is the knowledge that this world is not as it should be. Something is fundamentally wrong. Something critical is missing. People throughout the ages have sensed this and sought to identify it. Some have sought to manipulate this shared forboding for their own despotic purposes. To address this inward realization real prophets and charlatans alike have proclaimed myriad promises of a coming global teacher and judge who, it is claimed, will set the world aright. We are not unique in this.
As Jews we have complete emunah in the revelations of HaShem and His prophets. These truths have been transmitted through our prophets by the power of ruach hakodesh, divine inspiration. Our Tradition reveals the truth concerning this needed global liberator known as Mashiach ben David (i.e. Messiah, son of David) or HaMashiach (the Messiah). The Jewish conviction that one day this redeemer will come to liberate our people, and then the world entire, has impacted most other traditions, especially Christianity and Islam which base their prophecies on usurping ours. Their conceptions however are frequently at odds with the revealed truth of our prophets and the Torah of HaShem. For this reason we reject their prophecies and dogmas completely. Torah is the foundation stone upon which all true prophecy abides.
While we will have enough information to recognize Mashiach ben David when he finally comes, the details are intentionally sketchy on certain points. This is because, as discussed previously, we have been granted free will. While HaShem fully and precisely knows how and when the Messianic era, also known known as the Olam Haba or World to Come, will be attained, it is the Jewish people who must determine the date and method of our liberation. At least this must be our perception in order to maintain our free will. The only reason Messiah has not come already is that we have not merited it through our free will. When will HaMashiach come? When we merit it, either positively or negatively.
Our Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that the main reason for the continuing Galut (i.e. the exile or diaspora of the Jewish people from our Homeland) is our tenancy to deny the importance of emunah and the reality of miracles (Likutey Moharan 1.7.1). HaMashiach's coming is dependent on the development and exercise of Jewish emunah! Emunah in HaShem is the answer to everything! Despite this, many of our communities are actually rejecting the role of emunah! We tend to say, "I'll believe it when I see it," but the Way of G-d is built squarely on emunah. "I'll see it when I believe it!" The Olam Haba will begin when we place our emunah in HaShem alone.
Consider that the Holy One, blessed be He, lead our people through the Red Sea, through the barren deserts, through so many impossible events, and then finally to the Promised Land and yet we still refused to trust Him! Instead we sent out the spies just to make sure! After everything that generation experienced they still doubted HaShem and His promises! Where was their emunah? Not that we're doing any better today! Consider how He led us from the pogroms of Russia and the Shoah of Nazi Germany to the reestablishment of our independent Homeland (at least partly thus far)! Where is our emunah?
When we look to HaShem with emunah we see miracles! They are happening all around us today even with our collective lack of faith in Him! The Olam Haba (or World to Come) will be a time of miracles because it will be the age of emunah! We're simply not ready such a time yet. The question is, why not?
Inactive and/or blind Faith alone is not enough. We must stand with bitacon (active trust) which is born of true emunah. The notion that 'It does not matter what one believes, as long as one believes' is not the teaching of Torah! Real Emunah (or active, complete faith) must be based firmly on Truth and Truth is purely revealed through Torah. Our Messianic hopes must be based on reality as well. As we read:It is impossible to reach emunah without emet (truth), as taught in the Zohar (iii:198b): "Righteousness will gird his loins, and emunah [will gird his waist]" (Isaiah 11:5): "Is not righteousness identical with emunah?" [one might ask] and the Zohar answers, "When righteousness is combined with truth, it is called emunah." (Likutey Moharan 1.7.2.)If the Jewish people of any generation collectively choose to humble themselves before HaShem and embrace the truth of His Torah that generation of Jews will lead the world to HaShem. Then:Isaiah 56:7 I will bring them to My holy mount, and I will cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
What We Know
In terms of our present discussion, such emunah will lead to the sure coming of HaMashiach! If this increase and exercise of emunah does not happen however, and history is not encouraging on this score, then one day HaShem will make our teshuvah (or return to Him) happen through a man known as Mashiach ben Yosef. This man will precede Mashiach ben David and pave the path for his reign. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains:Mashiach will conquer the entire world without firing a single bullet (Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-67).Such will not be the case with ben Yosef however! He will lead the armies of Israel to victory over the global tyrant known as "Gog of Magog." The first mention of these two names is found in the Book of Ezekiel. There "Gog" is depicted as an individual while Magog is the land he rules over. Scholars debate what is implied by this. Ezekiel's prophecy does not seem to attach any particular emphasis to the names, they appear as non-specific passing identifiers. While the term Magog may refer to the Moskva River (The origin of the name Magog is unclear. It may come from the Akkadian mat Gugi, "land of Gog", that is, the land of Gyges: Lydia), the entire planet, other than Israel, will be freed from Antisemitism of being "Magog." After reassuring our people that HaShem will never abandon us (in chapters 38 and 39) he warns the Jews of the end of days that this ruler will rise against us in a time when Israel has been restored. This coming despot, referenced in the Talmud as "the man like unto Haman" (Sanhedrin Folio 97a,b) will be granted temporary successes intended to bring on Jewish teshuvah (repentance), but in the end the despot will be destroyed. His destruction will be at the hands of Mashiach ben Yosef.
To the great Rebbe Nachman of Breslov it was also revealed that:As to what will become of me, I have no idea. But this much I have achieved with the Almighty: the Mashiach will be one of my offspring (Chayey Moharan #274).Again, as for when HaMashiach will come we are not told. According to Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson:The Talmud tells us that this world, as we know it, will last for six thousand years, with the seventh millennium ushering in the cosmic Shabbat, the Messianic Era. Six days a week we work, and on the Shabbat we rest and enjoy the fruits of our labor; the same is true with millenniums. However, it is certainly possible for Mashiach to come earlier. And we believe, hope, and pray each day that this is the day when Mashiach will come... So yes, we don't know exactly when Mashiach will come, but we do know that it will be before the year 6000. [It is currently the Hebrew year 5779, or 2018].Know however that HaShem will not allow our people to perish from the earth nor will He allow this rebellion to go on forever. He will put an end to this at some point, if we do not. If we continue to be unwise the Olam Hazeh (our present age) will end with the global conflagration. According to the Talmud:Sanhedrin Folio 97a: ...Thus hath R. Yochanan said: in the generation when the son of David [i.e. Messiah] will come, scholars will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.'In this overview we wont go too deeply into this part of the subject, however it is abundantly clear that one way or another Mashiach ben David will come. Israel will be redeemed and, as stated at Bereshit 12:3, through Israel all nations will be blessed. Global peace and justice will be achieved. One way of another. For more information on Mashiach ben Yosef and the One Like Haman see my study Here.
Sanhedrin 97b continues: ... Rab said: All the predestined dates [i.e. for our Redemption] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on [our] repentance and good deeds...
R. Eliezer said: if Israel repent, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed.
R. Joshua said to him, if they do not repent, will they not be redeemed! [i.e. your point is incorrect] because the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman's, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and he will thus bring them back to the right path.
We know that our sages like Rambam, Rashi, and others believed with complete emunah in the coming of Mashiach ben David. We know that the vast majority of our sages believed HaMashiach will be an individual, fully human, Jewish male king. The modern belief in some circles that the prophecies of Mashiach refer to a general awakening among the human race and not to an individual Jewish leader sent to our people has no basis in our prophets nor in the traditional views of our people, nor in the writings of our sages. The prophets are abundantly clear on this point. For instance:This should be more than enough to identify HaMashiach once he comes. Thus far no one has accomplished these wonderful things and so we know for certain that he has not yet come. In the Mishna Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars Maimonides (Rambam) explains the following in chapter 11, law #4:And a shoot [descendant] shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a twig shall sprout from his roots.The Messiah will be a human descendant of Jesse and King David through a clearly defined lineage that is recorded in the Hebrew Bible (Tanach). He will accomplish very specific things by which we will recognize and accept his reign over us. Although Israel is sometimes referred to collectively as an individual servant, such as at Isaiah 52-54, here the reference is clearly to an individual Jew who will arise through the House of David to reign as our king.
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and heroism, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
And he shall be animated by the fear of the Lord, and neither with the sight of his eyes shall he judge, nor with the hearing of his ears shall he chastise.
And he shall judge the poor justly, and he shall chastise with equity the humble of the earth, and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips he shall put the wicked to death... (read all of Isaiah chapter 11).
This chapter of Isaiah gives us much information about HaMashiach. Let's look a bit more closely:
- HaMashiach will be human, Jewish, and a descendant of Kind David (11:1).
- HaMashiach ben David will be righteous, meaning fully Torah observant with motivated by deep emunah (11:2).
- His actions will be performed based upon on his deep awe of G-d. Through this awe and Torah knowledge he will eventually judge the entire earth righteously. His judgements will be fair and balanced always. He will wield the authority to act upon his judgements. He will protect the innocent and hold the guilty accountable (11:3,4).
- Mashiach ben David will not only yield authority in fully restored Israel. By his authority and wisdom the other nations will cease their aggressions towards us and each other. This is the meaning of the wolf and lamb, the leopard, the lamb, the kid and so on coming together in peace.
The Radak describes two ways this verse can be understood. The first is literally, that in the Messianic era G-d will change the nature of carnivorous animals so that they become herbivores. There is precedent for this view. We know that prior to the global flood humans did not eat the animals and they had no fear of us. The implies if not directly states that they lived peacefully with humans and their fellow animals previously. This changed after the global flood, however once humans were permitted to eat their flesh, with certain restrictions presented in our laws of Kashrut (Genesis 9:3). In the Olam Haba or Messianic Era this peace will be restored (Leviticus 26:6). It appears (a minority opinion differs) that all creatures will again become vegan (or at least vegetarian). Some posit that as the Age of Redemption advances we may even become solartarians, extracting nourishment from the sun! The second understanding – preferred by the Radak and most other authorities – is that this verse is a metaphor. The lion, wolf and leopard referring to the aggressive nations and individuals who prey on the innocent, while the lamb and kid represent humble peace loving people, especially the Jews. In my opinion, both of these interpretations are true. In the Olam Haba people will no longer mistreat nor take advantage of one another, the animals, nor the earth (11:9). We will all come to live in harmony. The Jews will dwell securely with the other nations and with all creatures, and hence will no longer eat their flesh nor make them fearful. We will then become the proper caretakers of the planet as originally intended (Genesis 1:26). Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David will gradually lead us all into the peaceful new reality all of humanity dreams of.
- Under the banner of the Davidic Kingdom all the world will choose to embrace the Noahide Covenant and attain peace. We know from related prophecies that the people of the globe will make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and will worship the One True G-d in the holy Third Beit HaMikdash (Temple of literally "House of the Holy").
- Once this is done Noahides from around the globe will say to our people: "Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you' (Zechariah 8:3) and then:
And the foreigners who join with the Lord to serve Him and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who observes the Sabbath from profaning it and who holds fast to My covenant.
I will bring them to My holy mount, and I will cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:6,7)
- Despite what other religions teach, this Golden Age will not happen all at once. First 'the One Like Haman" mentioned above must arise, be defeated, and driven from Israel, and then from all other nations.
- The Third Temple must be built and consecrated on its Holy site (hence the Pagan shrine that is currently there must be removed and the land cleansed).
- Israel must be restored to all of the lands granted us by HaShem and be transformed from a secular republic into a righteous theocratic kingdom. The current secular nation only controls a small part of our Homeland.
- Righteousness must be restored to all of Eretz Israel.
- The identification and restoration of the full Twelve Houses of Israel must take place.
- The proper pronunciation and holiness of the Sacred Name must be restored.
- Peace and Security will reign throughout the planet.
If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in Torah observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d; - we may, with assurance, consider him MashiachThere is a cautionary note impled here that many people miss. Rambam says that if a king arises in Israel who accomplishes the first paragraph of conditions above, "we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach" He does not say this man is HaMashiach! Given the warning of Sanhedrin Folio 97a and 97b above concerning the one who is "like Haman" it could be that a man might arise from among us who seemingly fulfills the conditions of the first paragraph, possibly even rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash, but who in reality would be our enemy, the "one like Haman." Jews have been deceived before by failed Messiahs! May HaShem show us mercy and grant us insight! Just because we see one or more viable candidates for this position does not mean the real Appointed King has arisen! HaMashiach must fulfill all of the requirements, including the remainder of those specified in the Mishna Torah. G-d forbid we should be fooled again.
If he succeeds in the above, builds the Beit HaMikdash on its site [i.e. the Third Jerusalem Temple on the Holy Mount], and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach
He will then perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written [at Zephaniah, 3:9], "I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose."
According to our sages there are two way Mashiach ben David may come.
There are other specific requirements by which we will know and embrace the true Messiah but these should suffice for our purposes here. Read my study here, which also includes the full text of Rambam's Melachim u'Michamot (Laws of Kings), Chapter 11 Halacha.
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