conflagration

Pondering the Birth Pangs of Mashiach

Update: I was going to publish this last Friday morning but as you all know by now, certain events have resulted in me making a rather drastic change in my comments policy as well as my writing schedule. I decided to go ahead and let this blog post publish since I already had it ready to go. What happens after this, I really don’t know.

I’ve received a lot of emails that were very encouraging and I want to thank everyone who took the time to reach out to me with such kind remarks. I have other projects that I can pursue and who knows what the future may bring. Blessings.

In these days especially, when by G-d’s kindness we stand at the threshold of redemption, we must make every conceivable effort to strengthen every facet of our religion. Mitzvot must be observed b’hidur, with “beauty,” beyond minimal requirements. Customs must be kept scrupulously, nothing compromised. It is a Mitzva and duty of every Rabbi in Israel to inform his congregation that the current tribulations and agonies are the “birth-pangs of Mashiach.” G-d is demanding that we return to Torah and mitzvot, that we not hinder the imminent coming of our righteous Mashiach.

“Today’s Day”
for Tuesday, Sh’vat 8, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

This is exactly what I was trying to say yesterday. This is the idea communicated in Ezekiel 36:27:

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

This is a direct link between the New Covenant promises God made “to the house of Judah and the House of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:31), Israel’s observance of Torah, and Israel’s apprehension of the Divine Spirit.

And as we see, this also illustrates a link to the “current tribulations and agonies” of our times, which are defined as the “birth-pangs of Mashiach.”

But those words should also be familiar to most Christians:

And Yeshua (Jesus) answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Mashiach,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”

Matthew 24:4-8 (NASB -adapted)

Seems to be a close parallel to what you read in the quote at the top of this blog post. Here’s something more:

Rab said: The son of David will not come until the [Roman] power enfolds Israel [2] for nine months, as it is written, Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. [3]

‘Ulla said; Let him [The Messiah] come, but let me not see him. [4]

Rabbah said likewise: Let him come, but let me not see him. R. Joseph said: Let him come, and may I be worthy of sitting in the shadow of his ass’s saddle. [5] Abaye enquired of Rabbah: ‘What is your reason [for not wishing to see him]? Shall we say, because of the birth pangs [preceding the advent] of the Messiah? [6] But it has been taught, R. Eleazar’s disciples asked him: ‘What must a man do to be spared the pangs of the Messiah?’ [He answered,] ‘Let him engage in study and benevolence; and you Master do both.’

Sanhedrin 98b (emph. mine)

Talmud Study by LamplightI’m periodically accused of misusing Jewish writings and I can see how some folks may see me playing fast and loose with ancient and modern Rabbinic commentary. On the other hand, I don’t see any other valid lens by which to view and comprehend my faith. Chances are I’m getting at least something wrong, and perhaps a good many things in the details. But it’s the only way for me to read the Bible and understand the plan of God as a single unit rather than a “Plan A” shifting to “Plan B” some time around Acts 2, or worse, as the Almighty pulling the world’s biggest “bait and switch” with His people Israel.

The New Covenant promises and prophesies (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36) God made with Israel must come true, otherwise, not only does Israel have no hope but the rest of the nations of the world (i.e, Gentiles and particularly Christians) are hopeless as well.

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

John 4:22 (NASB)

That’s the Master speaking to a Samaritan woman and he might as well have been speaking to all the Gentile nations, that is, to us.

For nearly two-thousand years, Gentile Christianity and devout Judaism have charted divergent paths through history, pulling apart starting in the late first century and extending into the second, and traveling many light years away from each other ever since.

But I think that’s changing, at least a little. One of the “birth pangs” I see happening (and this is just my personal opinion), is the dialog and debate occurring between Judaism and Christianity or more specifically between mainstream/normative Judaism and Messianic Judaism, including with those of us who identify as “Messianic Gentiles.”

It almost seems like a (well-mannered) battle at times.

But at least we’re talking.

I mentioned before that Jewish Torah observance is a requirement for the return of the Messiah and particularly for Jewish disciples of Yeshua. We have historical records of individuals and small communities of Jews who were Yeshua disciples and who lived wholly religious and observant Jewish lives. This is also beginning to happen today, although such communities are small and far apart.

There are accusations that the number of Jews in the Messianic movement is actually decreasing. I can’t speak to that except to say if true, this is also part of the birth pangs as I understand them. It’s supposed to get darker, more bleak, and look more hopeless as the “birth pangs” continue. The gate is supposed to be narrow.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

Of course that’s less than an opinion. It’s just a belief that God will call as many as who will listen to Him. I’ve been reminded recently that how God calls people, particularly Jewish people to Him, can be seen in at least a couple of different ways. I think I know just a tiny bit how a Jew might feel being proselytized by a Christian when just about everything I write is challenged from an Orthodox Jewish point of view (Hi, Gene).

pregnantBut I truly believe what I’ve written. I believe that supporting Jewish Torah observance is part of the requirement for the return of Messiah and the establishment of the Messianic age. I just don’t know how to get that point across without both Christians and Jews more or less quarreling with me, forging an unwilling partnership for the sake of my personal growth (as Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would put it).

I guess you could say this is part of the personal “birth pangs” we go through when different individuals and factions are involved and presenting their particular theologies and doctrines. Somehow, I think it’s important to survive with my relationship with God intact, for in the end, I won’t be judged in the religious blogosphere, but in the court of the God of Heaven, in spite of (or maybe because of) the “current tribulations and agonies.” So will we all.

There are questions to which G-d says to be quiet, to be still, to cease to ask.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Be Quiet”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Sounds like good advice and maybe I’ll take it for awhile. We’ll see.

Oh, if you are looking for me, I’ll be over here. No “religious” comments allowed.

Footnotes

2. I.e., the whole world in which Israel is scattered.
3. Micah V, 2: ‘therefore will he give them up’ is interpreted as meaning to a foreign — viz., the Roman — power, and the duration of their servitude is fixed by ‘until the time etc.’ i.e., nine months, the period of pregnancy.
4. V. n. 7.
5. [Following the reading in Yalkut (v. Levy,) [H]. Our texts read: [H], ‘dung’.]
6. These troubles are generally referred to as birth pangs, being the travail which precedes the birth of a new era.

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