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Jewish messiah

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Jewish messiah

Messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ‎; mashiah, moshiah, mashiach, or moshiach, "anointed [one]") is a term used in the Hebrew Bible to describe priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil as described in Exodus 30:22-25. For example, Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, though not a Hebrew, is referred to as "God's mashiach" in the Bible.

Views

Historical

In Jewish eschatology, the term mashiach, or "Messiah," came to refer to a future Jewish King from the Davidic line, who is expected to be anointed with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age.[1][2][3] The Messiah is often referred to as "King Messiah" or, in Hebrew, מלך המשיח (melekh mashiach), and in Aramaic, malka meshiḥa.[4]

Orthodox views have generally held that the Messiah will be descended from his father through the line of King David,[5] and will gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel, usher in an era of peace, build the Third Temple, father a male heir and re-institute the Sanhedrin, among other things. Jewish tradition alludes to two redeemers, both of whom are called mashiach and are involved in ushering in the Messianic age: Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef. In general, the term Messiah unqualified refers to Mashiach ben David (Messiah, son of David).[1][2]

Talmud

The Talmud extensively discusses the coming of the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98a, et al.) and describes a period of freedom and peace, which will be the time of ultimate goodness for the Jews and for all mankind.

Tractate Sanhedrin contains a long discussion of the events leading to the coming of the Messiah, for example:

R. Johanan said: When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him [the Messiah], as it is written, "And the afflicted people thou wilt save."[II Samuel 22:28] R. Johanan said: When thou seest a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him, as it is written, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him;" which is followed by, "And the Redeemer shall come to Zion."

R. Johanan also said: The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. in a generation that is altogether righteous, — as it is written, "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever." Or altogether wicked, — as it is written, "And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor;" and it is [elsewhere] written, "For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it."[6]

The Talmud tells many stories about the Messiah, some of which represent famous Talmudic rabbis as receiving personal visitations from Elijah the Prophet and the Messiah. For example:

R. Joshua b. Levi met Elijah standing by the entrance of R. Simeon b. Yohai's tomb. He asked him: "Have I a portion in the world to come?" He replied, "if this Master desires it." R. Joshua b. Levi said, "I saw two, but heard the voice of a third." He then asked him, "When will the Messiah come?" — "Go and ask him himself," was his reply. "Where is he sitting?" — "At the entrance." "And by what sign may I recognise him?" — "He is sitting among the poor lepers: all of them untie [them] all at once, and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately, [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, [it being time for my appearance as the Messiah] I must not be delayed [through having to bandage a number of sores]." So he went to him and greeted him, saying, "Peace upon thee, Master and Teacher." "Peace upon thee, O son of Levi," he replied. "When wilt thou come, Master?" asked he. "Today," was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, the latter enquired, "What did he say to thee?" — "peace Upon thee, O son of Levi," he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] observed, "He thereby assured thee and thy father of [a portion in] the world to come." "He spoke falsely to me," he rejoined, "stating that he would come today, but has not." He [Elijah] answered him, "This is what he said to thee, To-day, if ye will listen to his voice."[6]

Views of Maimonides

One Jewish understanding of the messiah is based on the writings of Maimonides, (also known as Rambam). His views on the messiah are discussed in his Mishneh Torah, his 14 volume compendium of Jewish law, in the section Hilkhot Melakhim Umilchamoteihem, chapters 11 & 12.[7]

According to Maimonides, Jesus of Nazareth is not the Messiah, as is claimed by Christians and Muslims.[8]

Ancient Israel

Main article: Hebrew Bible

Many of the scriptural requirements concerning the Messiah, what he will do, and what will be done during his reign are located in the Book of Isaiah, although requirements are mentioned by other prophets as well. Views on whether Hebrew Bible passages are Messianic may vary from and among scholars of ancient Israel looking at their meaning in original context and from and among rabbinical scholars.

  • Isaiah 1:26: "And I will restore your judges as at first and your counsellors as in the beginning; afterwards you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City." Some JewsIsaiah 1:26)
  • Once he is King, leaders of other nations will look to him for guidance. (Isaiah 2:4)
  • The whole world will worship the One God of Israel (Isaiah 2:11-17)
  • He will be descended from 2 Chronicles 7:18)
  • The "spirit of the Lord" will be upon him, and he will have a "fear of God" (Isaiah 11:2)
  • Isaiah 11:4)
  • Knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9)
  • He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations (Isaiah 11:10)
  • All Isaiah 11:12)
  • Death will be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:8)
  • There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8)
  • Isaiah 26:19)
  • The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness (Isaiah 51:11)
  • He will be a messenger of Isaiah 52:7)
  • Nations will recognize the wrongs they did to Israel (Isaiah 52:13-53:5)
  • The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)
  • The ruined cities of Israel will be restored (Ezekiel 16:55)
  • Weapons of war will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9)
  • The people of Israel will have direct access to the
  • He will give you all the worthy desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4)
  • He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Second Temple period and apocalypticism

The majority of Second Temple texts have no reference to an individual end-time Messiah.[11] Exceptions among the Dead Sea Scrolls include 4Q521, the "Messianic Apocalypse." Other messianic concepts are found in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.[12] Messianic allusions to some figures include to Menahem ben Hezekiah who traditionally was born on the same day that the Second Temple was destroyed.[13]

Present-day Jewish positions

Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism maintains that Jews are obliged to accept the 13 Principles of Faith as formulated by Maimonides in his introduction to Chapter Helek of the Mishna Torah. Each principle starts with the words Ani Maamin (I believe). Number 12 is the main principle relating to Mashiach. The text is as follows:[14][15]

אני מאמין באמונה שלמה בביאת המשיח, ואף על פי שיתמהמה עם כל זה אחכה לו בכל יום שיבוא

Ani Maamin B'emunah Sh'leimah B'viyat Hamashiach. V'af al pi sheyitmahmehah im kol zeh achake lo b'chol yom sheyavo.

I believe with full faith in the coming of the Messiah. And even though he tarries, with all that, I await his arrival with every day.

Hasidic Judaism

Hasidic Jews tend to have a particularly strong and passionate belief in the immediacy of the Messiah's coming, and in the ability of their actions to hasten his arrival. Because of the piousness, wisdom, and leadership abilities of the Hasidic Masters, members of Hasidic communities are sometimes inclined to regard their dynastic rebbes as potential candidates for Messiah. Many Jews, (see the Bartenura's explanation on Megillat Rut, and the Halakhic responsa of The Ch'sam Sofer on Choshen Mishpat [vol. 6], Chapter 98 where this view is explicit) especially Hasidim, adhere to the belief that there is a person born each generation with the potential to become Messiah, if the Jewish people warrant his coming; this candidate is known as the Tzadik Ha-Dor, meaning Tzaddik of the Generation. However, fewer are likely to name a candidate.

Notably, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson declared often that the Messiah is very close, urging all to pray for the coming of the Messiah, study Torah sources about him, and do everything possible to hasten his coming through increased acts of kindness, and so on. In fact, many Chabad Hasidim still regard him posthumously as the Messiah (See Chabad messianism and '.)

Conservative Judaism

Emet Ve-Emunah, the Conservative movement's statement of principles, states the following:

Since no one can say for certain what will happen in the Messianic era each of us is free to fashion personal speculation. Some of us accept these speculations are literally true, while others understand them as elaborate metaphors... For the world community we dream of an age when warfare will be abolished, when justice and compassion will be axioms of all, as it is said in Isaiah 11: "...the land shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." For our people, we dream of the ingathering of all Jews to Zion where we can again be masters of our own destiny and express our distinctive genius in every area of our national life. We affirm Isaiah's prophecy (2:3) that "...Torah shall come forth from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.



We do not know when the Messiah will come, nor whether he will be a charismatic human figure or is a symbol of the redemption of humankind from the evils of the world. Through the doctrine of a Messianic figure, Judaism teaches us that every individual human being must live as if he or she, individually, has the responsibility to bring about the messianic age. Beyond that, we echo the words of Maimonides based on the prophet Habakkuk (2:3) that though he may tarry, yet do we wait for him each day.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism

Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism generally do not accept the idea that there will be a Messiah. Some believe that there may be some sort of "messianic age" (the World to Come) in the sense of a "utopia", which all Jews are obligated to work towards (thus the tradition of Tikkun olam).

In 1999, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the official body of American Reform rabbis, authored "A Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism", meant to describe and define the spiritual state of modern Reform Judaism. In a commentary appended to the platform, it states:

Messianic age: The 1885 Pittsburgh Platform rejected the traditional Jewish hope for an heir of King David to arise when the world was ready to acknowledge that heir as the one anointed (the original meaning of mashiach, anglicized into "messiah"). This figure would rule in God’s name over all people and ultimately usher in a time of justice, truth and peace. In the Avot, the first prayer of the Amidah, Reformers changed the prayerbook’s hope for a go-el, a redeemer, to geulah, redemption. Originally this idea reflected the views of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the French Positivist philosophers that society was growing ever more enlightened. The cataclysmic events of the first half of the 20th Century smashed that belief, and most Reform Jews saw the messianic age as a time that would probably be far off. Still, we renew our hope for it when we express the belief that Shabbat is mey-eyn olam ha-ba, a sampler of the world to come, when we sing about Elijah, herald of the messiah, when Havdalah brings Shabbat to a close, when we open the door for Elijah late in the Pesach Seder, and when we express the hope in the first paragraph of the Kaddish that God’s sovereignty will be established in our days.[16]

See also

Notes

References

  • Emet Ve-Emunah: Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism, Ed. Robert Gordis, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1988
  • Persian, Hebrew, and Braille translations)
  • Miriam Naomi Mashiah
  • Mishneh Torah, Maimonides, Chapter on Hilkhot Melakhim Umilchamoteihem (Laws of Kings and Wars)
  • Moses Maimonides's Treatise on Resurrection, Trans. Fred Rosner
  • Philosophies of Judaism by Julius Guttmann, trans. by David Silverman, JPS. 1964
  • Reform Judaism: A Centenary Perspective, Central Conference of American Rabbis

External links

  • Jewish Encyclopedia: Messiah
  • Messiah Truth Messiah Wanted!
  • Moshiach Online
  • Outreach Judaism
  • Moshiach and the Future Redemption
  • Principles of Moshiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law
  • Who is the Messiah? by Jeffrey A. Spitzer
  • Shraga Simmons (about.com)
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