As discussed in the previous lesson, the role of the prophets is fundamental to Jewish law and our relationship with the Holy One, both individually and collectively. Also as discussed, the Talmud records an amazing account about the proper role of the prophets. It says that once the sages were debating a certain point of Torah law and were unable to come to an agreement. The majority opinion was one way while the equally certain minority opinion went another. Suddenly a divine voice rang out supporting the minority view. What were the sages to do? Most felt they had resolved the issue to their satisfaction, one way of another. Hearing the "voice from the heavens" the sages maintained their original judgements citing the Torah passage that says, "it is not in the heavens" (Deuteronomy 30:12, Bava Metzia 59). The authority of Torah is absolute. Being the teachings of Moshe his word is absolute. Torah's proper interpretation is in the hands of the spiritual heirs of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Rabbinate So we read:"Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua [Joshua], and Yehoshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples and make a fence for the Torah" -- Pirkei Avot 1.1
The "Men of the Great Assembly" are the founding Pharisees/Rabbis. Their lineage of authority began with the last of the prophets and the rise of the Men of the Great Assembly. When rabbis seek understanding they go first to the Torah and its historic presentations by earlier rabbis and sages. Since G-d does not contradict Himself they established the rule that older revelations always carry more weight.
The Written Torah is the preeminent authority and source of all later revelations. For this reason later proposed 'revelations' can not supersede Torah, even if they come as seeming 'voices from the heavens' or are accompanied with diverse seeming miracles. Torah is our bedrock. Because HaTorah is our original and eternally binding revelation, Moshe Rabbeinu, through whom the Torah was transmitted, must be our ultimate and definitive prophet and teacher. This also explains the rabbinic authority to reject would-be Messiahs who fail to meet the biblical qualifications. We will discuss these in a later lesson. The point is, who is qualified to make legal (Halachic) determinations for Israel? Who else but the lead Rabbis of the generation? This is made clear as Moshe's successor is chosen:And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands upon him. And the children of Israel obeyed him, and they did as the Lord had commanded Moses.
And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,
as manifested by all the signs and wonders, which the Lord had sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and all his servants, and to all his land,
and all the strong hand, and all the great awe, which Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel.. -- Deuteronomy 34:8-12, emphasis mine.
Note that verse nine states that the anointing and authority of Joshua was only upon him, "because Moses had laid his hands upon him," transmitting the authority HaShem has given him. This is the beginning of the ongoing Torah-defined lineage of Israel as confirmed at Joshua 1:1-9. From generation to generation this laying on hands (known as smicha) has maintained our lineage and traditions. It is for this reason that we are known as "Rabbinic Jews" and it is for this reason Karaite and other factions are generally not accepted as members of our people. Only the rabbis hold this ongoing smicha throughout the generations. Only the rabbis 'sit in the seat of Moshe Rabbeinu'.
Notice that Joshua was not able to "fill the shoes" of Moshe Rabbeinu! When Moshe ruled his word stood. Even HaShem recognized his authority! We discover this when HaShem says, "Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again!" regarding Moshe's repeated request to live and to enter the Holy Land with the people. HaShem orders him to drop this request, lest G-d Himself be obliged to relent (this, according to rabbinic discussion on Deuteronomy 3:26)!
Incidentally it is opined that had Moshe lived and entered the Land of Israel he would have become HaMashiach then and there. The problem was that the people were not yet ready for Mashiach. After thousands of years we still are not ready and yet Rambam and other sages assure us that one day Mashiach ben David will come and rescue us. May that day come soon and in our generation!
While even HaShem regarded the authority of Moshe, Joshua was overseen by Elazar the priest (who later became Cohain Gadol after his father Aaron). Such awesome power has never been held in the hands of any single person other than Moshe. It was held collectively by the Levites, by the Judges, by the kings, by the Prophets, and now by the rabbinate and by the local minhagim (traditions) of the Jewish people. A system of "checks and balances" has always existed among us. Judaism has no Pope. Each Jew, each family, each community, hopefully with correct knowledge of Torah and Tradition, lives out his/her Yiddishkeit according to their level of understanding and desired observance level.
There are, by the way, interesting discussions concerning the name and work of Moshe and the title Moshiach. For instance we read at Shmos Rabbah 2:4; Zohar I 253a tells us:"Moses was the first Redeemer and he is the final Redeemer."
According to the major opinion of our sages this does not mean that Moses the man will return as the final Redeemer. There are apparent problems with this since Moshe is a Levite and HaMashiach comes from the lineage of King David through the House of Judah. Our Sages explain that rather this means that it will be through the "spark" or spiritual power within Moshe, Israel's first Redeemer, that HaMashiach, our final Redeemer, will arise. Not that it will be Moshe himself.
This "spark" exists within every Jewish neshama (soul). It is initially bestowed upon Moshe Rabbeinu (at the Burning Bush) and then upon each Israelite at Mount Sinai as we individually accept HaTorah and its obligations there (Exodus 19:8). It is this "spark of Mashiach" that marks us as the "Elect of HaShem." It establishes our eternal mandate as the "Nation of Priests" (Exodus 19:6). Every Jew carries this spark within their consciousness, however it blazed within Moshe Rabbeinu as within none other.
In each and every generation of Jews there are the Tzadikim Nistarim, the 36 (or more) "hidden righteous ones." When the final generation of the conclusion of the present world order arises, one of these men will be anointed King of Israel, Mashiach ben David. The rabbis will recognize and anoint him such based on his accomplishments as revealed by Rambam in the Mishna Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 11, Law #4.
Knowing the collective decisions of humanity in advance, this "holy spark" was ignited and set among the first created things. This spark has always existed and it will never be extinguished. This is why the Jews will never suffer complete genocide despite the attempts of those throughout the generations that despise us. One day this holy spark will blaze like a wildfire within the consciousness of the man HaMashiach ben David, our coming king. It will completely devour the hatred and ungodliness of that generation through holiness of Mashiach ben David. His mission is based on the teaching of Moshe Rabbeinu for the good of the people he continues to lead. Through him HaShem will transform the Olam Hazeh into Olam Haba, the "World to Come."
King David, ancestor of HaMashiach ben David, was inspired to pen the majority of our Tehillim (the Book of the Psalms). These Tehillim inspire the spark within every Jew to flame forth their innate nature glory as the Children of King. As these flames burst forth their combined energies call out into the heavens and the Holy One responds by sending for our deliverer, Mashiach ben David. Thus far we have failed to kindle enough if this energy! Recite ever more Tehillim if you truly are a student of Moshe Rabbeinu and if you desire the scion of David!
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches us:
"Mashiach will conquer the entire world without firing a single bullet" -- Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-67 "
"Mashiach's main weapon is prayer!" -- Likutey Moharan I, 2
Mashiach will conquer the world only through simple people who recite the Psalms simply and sincerely.
You may understand this through a parable about a certain king who went hunting dressed in ordinary clothing for greater comfort. A sudden cloud-burst, a literal flood of water, sent all the ministers scattering in search of shelter. The king was in great danger but finally found the house of a villager, who invited him inside with great honor, dressed him in warm clothes and gave him simple peasant food, lighting a fire and leaving him there to sleep and warm up. The king was so exhausted that the food and rest in the home of the peasant were the sweetest delight, the like of which he felt he had never tasted.
The ministers searched for the king until they came to the peasant's house and found the king asleep. They waited until he awoke. They wanted him to return home with them, but the king said to them: "None of you came to save me: you all scattered in different directions to save yourselves! Only this peasant saved me. Since I have tasted the sweetest delight with him, he will bring me home in his wagon and I will sit on my royal throne in the very clothes in which he dressed me!
Likewise, just before Mashiach comes, there will be a flood of atheism - not a literal flood of water but one of strange thoughts that will cover all the "high mountains" even in the land of Israel, which was not affected by Noah's flood. The rains will teem down with such force that even the "mountains of Israel " will be drenched - even the hearts of the pure will be affected.
Wisdom and sophistication will be of no avail. The only ones who will hold firm are the simple Jews who recite Psalms simply and sincerely. That is why, when the Mashiach comes, they will be the ones who place the royal crown on his head -- Sipurim Niflaim
In the next lesson we will consider the sources of the teachings of our principle teacher, Moshe Rabbeinu. In Lesson 13 we will discuss Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David.
Points to Consider:
- Why is Moses so important to Jews?
- Which is more important: Torah or divine visitations and miracles??
- Was Joshua equal to Moses?
- How was the authority vested in Moses transmitted through the generations?
- Why are rabbis recognized as the authority figures of biblical understanding?
- Who were the Men of the Great Assembly and why do they matter?
- Which prophet(s) was greater than Moses?
- Are the rabbis prophets?
- Will Moses be the Messiah?
- Why does the Zohar say, "Moses was the first Redeemer and he is the final Redeemer"?
- Who are the Tzadikim Nistarim?
- Could any Jew be the Messiah?
- What does Rebbe Nachman say about the Messiah?
- Can we impact when Messiah will come?
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