Tag Archives: Mashiach

A Quick View of the Coming of Messiah Through a Jewish Lens

cloaked-in-light-tallitBelief in the eventual coming of the mashiach is a basic and fundamental part of traditional Judaism. It is part of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith, the minimum requirements of Jewish belief. In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, recited three times daily, we pray for all of the elements of the coming of the mashiach: ingathering of the exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end of wickedness, sin and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service.

Modern scholars suggest that the messianic concept was introduced later in the history of Judaism, during the age of the prophets. They note that the messianic concept is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).

However, traditional Judaism maintains that the messianic idea has always been a part of Judaism. The mashiach is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, because the Torah was written in terms that all people could understand, and the abstract concept of a distant, spiritual, future reward was beyond the comprehension of some people. However, the Torah contains several references to “the End of Days” (acharit ha-yamim), which is the time of the mashiach; thus, the concept of mashiach was known in the most ancient times.

from “Mashiach: The Messiah”
Judaism 101

The Jewish people are compared to the stars twinkling in the high heavens. By their light, even he who walks in the darkness of night shall not blunder. Every Jew, man or woman, possesses enough moral and spiritual strength to influence friends and acquaintances, and bring them into the light.

-from “Today’s Day”
Wednesday – Cheshvan 5 – 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Tales of the Messianic Era series

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post called A Quick View of Revelation Through a Christian Lens, which presented what I thought was a traditional fundamentalist Christian viewpoint of the Book of Revelation and the “end times.” It turned out to be one of my more popular blog posts and I hope laid the groundwork for further investigations into this area of study.

I want to be fair, and since I’m searching for a more Jewish understanding of this topic, I thought the next step should be for me to offer the opposite side of the coin: to show a portrait of a wholly and non-Messianic Jewish perspective on the coming of Moshiach. What would a distillation of the Jewish prophesies about Messiah taken just from the Tanakh (Old Testament) look like? Fortunately a few days ago, one fell quite conveniently in my lap.

The real Jewish messiah appears on the scene. He’s not Jesus, but a virtuous and devout Jewish man who is able to unite all Jews, a scholar and wise military leader. The nations of the world hate and oppose him and work against him, as they’ve done to every Jewish leader in Israel’s history. He’s nothing like what they expected to see – not the glorious all-powerful heavenly Jesus. He regathers the rest of the Jews from all around the world. Many wars against Israel break out, but the Messiah leads Israel in defeating their many enemies and in rebuilding the Third and final Temple.

True prophets once again appear in Israel and they are able to recognize the lineage of all Jews, including of priests, Levites and especially that of the Messiah himself, with many Jews recognizing their leader as the awaited Messiah. Christians, however, almost unanimously speak against him, brand him the “antichrist” of their bible, preaching fiery sermons in their churches against the “antichrist” and against the Jews who fell “under his spell just as Jesus, Paul and John predicted”. No Christian may believe in him, or they risk losing their salvation. Jews are ridiculed and the New Testament is held up as having predicted everything the Jews will do. Muslims, who along with Christians likewise believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that no one else fits the bill, also reject the kingship of the Jewish Messiah and join with the Western world in their opposition to him and the nation of Israel.

Finally, all nations gather against Israel for the ultimate conflagration, attacking Jerusalem and causing much damage. The war against Israel appears to be won and situation is hopeless. However, G-d himself intervenes, and sends his fire on earth and destroys the armies of “G-g and Magog and all the cohorts.” The weakest in Israel chases away thousands. The nations of the world are humbled, they are in awe of what G-d has done for Israel, of His salvation. The idols of the nations which do not save (including Jesus) are destroyed, are put away for good and are remembered no more. All false prophets and idol worshipers will be ashamed, they will realize that they inherited nothing but lies from their forefathers. The earth will be finally at peace. G-d raises all the righteous dead and all peoples of the earth are required to come to Jerusalem to worship Hashem in his Temple. The true Messiah of Israel (which could be the resurrected king David himself) will fear G-d, rule justly and will forever reign as prince/king over the Jewish people.

Jewish in Jerusalem(I just want to mention that although Islam considers Jesus a prophet, they do not see him as their “Messiah.” Rather, the Mahdi is the redeemer of Islam).

Just about all Christians and not a few Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish adherents are bound to find the above rendition of the coming of Messiah disturbing. The Jewish Messiah is treated by Christians as the “antichrist” because he’s “too Jewish” and fits the description of Moshiach in Jewish understanding too closely. The Church is waiting for someone who never comes, waiting for a rapture up to Heaven that never occurs. In the end, Christianity becomes just another enemy of Judaism and Israel that God defeats. Humiliated, Christians all over the world discover that they’ve been following a false god all along, and either they surrender their “faith” and pay homage the true King of Israel and worship Israel’s God, or they remain defiant, and continue to pray for a Jesus who never existed and who will never answer.

That’s a horrible thought. Here’s a worse one.

The above summary, at least on the surface, seems to fit quite well with what we understand of the Messianic prophesies in the Tanakh. That is, if we don’t factor in the New Testament, this summary seems to connect almost seamlessly with the words of the ancient Jewish prophets about the coming Moshiach.

You don’t have to worry about the distinctions between the raptured Church and resurrected Israelites because no such dissonance exists. It’s all about Israel. Period.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t tremendously far from what I’ve been trying to find in Messianic Judaism, a completely Jewish Messiah King whose focus is first and foremost on national Israel and the Jewish people. From this focus, the people of the rest of the world receive blessings, but ultimately it’s all about Israel. Period.

If there isn’t a “happy meeting place” between the ancient portrait of the Jewish Messiah King who has yet to come and the promise of a resurrected Yeshua who will come again, then either New Testament Christians must be ready to admit that there is a very fuzzy connection between the Old Testament prophesies of Messiah and how the New Testament describes Jesus, or we have to take a whole new look at the Messianic prophesies in the Tanakh and see who we are really supposed to be waiting for.

This isn’t going to be easy, especially when I’m tossing aside the Church’s assumptions and traditions that make it possible to reconcile what doesn’t seem to fit very well, and re-examine the identity of Messiah and his redemptive mission at its core.

I know in my previous blog post, I received a large number of responses explaining the problems with some of the Christian assumptions about the return of Jesus. I’m hoping a similar reaction will be forthcoming, discussing the Jewish viewpoint of Moshiach and how (or if) a Jewish perspective can factor in and make it understandable that Jesus is the same Messiah we find in the Old and New Testaments.

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
never again will they learn war.

Isaiah 2:2-4 (NASB)

tallit-prayerWho is the Messiah who will redeem Israel, gather in her exiles, restore tranquility within her borders, vanquish her enemies, rebuild the Temple, and establish a rule of peace and justice over the entire world? Is it the man we see described by such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah? Or is it the Son of God who we encounter in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the one spoken of by the apostle Paul as he established the churches of the Gentiles, and the one who we find in all majesty and glory within the pages of Revelation?

Or somehow, is it both?

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On Choosing God

TrustNegate your own will in favor of God’s will.

-Ethics of the Fathers 2:4

If I surrender my will and turn my life over completely to the will of God, do I not thereby abrogate my power of free choice?

Certainly not. Take the example of a child who receives money for his birthday. An immature child may run off to the toy store or candy store and spend the money on everything his heart desires. He may indeed have several moments of merriment (although a stomach ache from indulging too heavily in confections is a possibility). Without doubt, however, after a short period of time those moments of enjoyment will be nothing but a memory, with the candy long since consumed and the broken toys lying on the junk heap.

A wiser child would give the money to a parent and ask that it be put into some type of savings account where it can increase in value and be available in the future for things of real importance.

Did the second child abrogate his prerogative of free choice by allowing the parent to decide how to invest the money? Of course not. In fact, this was a choice, and a wise choice as well as a free choice.

We can choose to follow our own whims or we can choose to adopt the will of an omniscient Father. We are wise when we make the second choice.

Today I shall…

…turn my will over to God, and seek to do only that which is His will for me.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Nisan 23”
Aish.com

How much is this like the choice Jesus made on that last night?

saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Luke 22:42

Last week, I started talking about free will and Divine Election and how that describes the nature of man and our relationship with God. I still don’t think that we are wind up toy soldiers, pre-programmed by God in all our responses, including the most important response, accepting or rejecting the Almighty.

I don’t think this issue comes up for Jewish people, but then, all Jews are born into a covenant relationship with God just by virtue of being Jewish. Still, the recognition and acceptance of Messiah is a vital task that remains hidden from most Jews, largely due to how Gentile Christianity has “morphed” the Jewish Messiah into a Goyishe King. Still, many Jews see God, not as a harsh overseer with a whip controlling the gates of life and death, but as a teacher, gently but firmly guiding us in the lessons of life as we walk the path with our companion.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 23:13-27

Imagine having this conversation with the Master along the road, but imagine it being a picture of your entire life.

Jewish in JerusalemRabbi Twerski paints for us an image of giving our lives over to God by conscious choice. Even if a Jew is born into covenant, he or she can still completely reject God, and many Jews have done so. The majority of the Jewish population of Israel is secular, so even in the Holy Land, which contains Jerusalem and the Holy Temple Mount, most of the Jewish inhabitants choose not to connect to God.

Both Easter and the Week of Unleavened Bread are now done. Religious Jews continue to Count the Omer, but Christians just “coast” into April and for most of the church, Pentecost (Shavuot) is hardly a little blip on our radar. This is why it is so important for those few of us who are conscious of the season to remind everyone else.

The presence of Mashiach is revealed on Acharon Shel Pesach, and this revelation has relevance to all Israel: Pesach is medaleg, “skipping over” (rather than orderly progress), and leil shimurim, the “protected night.” In general the mood of Pesach is one of liberty. Then Pesach ends, and we find ourselves tumbling headlong into the outside world. This is where Mashiach’s revealed presence comes into play – imbuing us with a powerful resoluteness that enables us to maintain ourselves in the world.

“Today’s Day”
Wednesday, Nissan 23, Issru chag, 8th day of the omer, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

After the week of Matzot, we see that beyond the Omer count, some Chassidic Jews carry forward the revealed presence of the Mashiach into the outside world with them. How much more should we, who know for certain that Messiah is revealed in Jesus Christ, should carry him forward into the world with us?

Any Jew alive on the face of this planet today is a walking miracle. Our mere existence today is wondrous, plucked from the fire at the last moment again and again, with no natural explanation that will suffice.

Each of us alive today is a child of martyrs and miracles.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Walking Miracle”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I can only imagine that just seeing a Jew walking the streets of the old city in Jerusalem, buying falafel for lunch, davening at the Kotel, must all be miraculous. Who would have thought such a thing possible a scant six decades before? Yes, of course it is a miracle of God that there are any Jewish people left alive today in our world and that they live in a Jewish nation.

But it is also a miracle that there are any Christians, for who of his own free will and in his nature of sin, would choose the Almighty, to come to Him through His Son, unless the Spirit of God were not whispering in our ear, urging us, pleading with us, exploring our heart?

And once Moshiach Rabbeinu has opened our eyes to God, and our minds and hearts to the scriptures, and we choose Him, and we learn of Him and who we are as His sons and servants, what would we not do, from the wisest among us to the most simple, to serve Him who is the author of our story and the lover of our soul?

Choose Love. Choose God. Choose Life.

The Rabbi and The Taxi Driver

HumbleThe position which baalei teshuvah [penitents] occupy cannot be occupied even by tzaddikim [completely righteous].

-Berachos 34b

A surgeon once encountered difficult complications during an operation and asked his assistant to see if there was anyone in the surgical suite who could help. The assistant replied that the only one who was there was the chief of the surgical staff. “There is no point in calling him,” the operating surgeon said. “He would not know what to do. He never got himself into a predicament like this.”

As far as people’s own functioning is concerned, it might be better not to have made mistakes. Still, such perfection makes them relatively useless as sources of help to others who have made mistakes, because they have no experience on which to draw to know how to best help them correct their mistakes.

A perfect tzaddik may indeed be most virtuous, but may not be able to identify and empathize with average people who need help in correcting their errors. The “position” to which the Talmud is referring may be the position of a helper, and in this respect the baal teshuvah may indeed be superior to a tzaddik.

Today I shall…

…reflect on how I dealt with the mistakes I have made, and share my experience with others who may benefit from them.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Shevat 8”
Aish.com

I love stories. I suppose you know that if you’ve been following these “meditations” for very long. I like the stories the Rabbis tell. Many of them are very inspiring without being particularly schmaltzy.

I like stories that tell a lesson or impart a moral, and one of my favorite movie lines about this comes from an unlikely source:

But there’s a bright side to this, and a moral. I think morals are good for you, I love morals, and the moral of this story is: If you’re walkin’ on eggs, don’t hop.

-Jack Braddock (played by Warren Oates)

I didn’t include that quote randomly. Mr Oates, who sadly passed away in 1982 at the age of 53, often played tough guys and other character roles rather than the “leading man.” In that way, he could be much more relatable to the audience than the handsome and always capable hero-type. The above-quoted line was delivered with his usual Kentucky drawl that, in spite of him playing a rather intimidating character, was like the advice you might get from your father or favorite uncle.

I think that’s what a life of holiness is supposed to be like.

Now I suppose that last statement requires an explanation. After all, how can a tough guy character actor delivering a line in a 1983 action film remind me of a life of holiness?

Time for another story.

I once had this exact conversation with a taxi driver. He was Catholic, and asked me if rabbis marry. I told him that not only are rabbis allowed to marry, they are obligated to marry. “Be fruitful and multiply” is a command to all, regardless of career or position in the community.

The taxi driver shook his head and said, “You Jews have got it good. In my community, when someone is dating and confused, or is going through a rough patch in his marriage, or needs guidance on how to discipline their kids, who should we turn to? Our celibate priest? He wouldn’t have a clue what it means to argue with your wife, he’s never been dumped, and certainly doesn’t have a kid that pokes other kids’ eyes out. If I have a question in theology, or need to know which prayers to say, then sure, I’ll go to him. But real-life issues—he can’t help me!”

This taxi driver’s comments brought home for me an important truth. Judaism does not differentiate between “clergy” and “laymen.” Whether you are a rabbi or a taxi driver, you are expected to live a “normal” life, to be involved with the struggles and pleasures of the mundane world.

But it works the other way as well. Whether you are a taxi driver or a rabbi, you are expected to make your everyday mundane world a home for G‑d. The Torah’s ideal is to create a society of holy people. Sanctity and morality are not the domain of rabbis alone: every individual must live to the same standard, and each one of us can engage in direct dialogue with G‑d and Torah.

The rabbi is there just to help others bridge the needs of the spirit with the realities of life. But he has to do the same in his own life.

Perhaps that cab was a microcosm of an ideal world. What could be more beautiful than a society in which taxi drivers share spiritual wisdom, and rabbis change diapers?

-Rabbi Aron Moss
“Can a Rabbi Get Married?”
Chabad.org

taxiRabbi Twerski and Rabbi Moss are almost telling the same tale. In the first story, we have a picture of two “experts,” two surgeons, one who is “ordinary,” and one who is “chief of the surgical staff.” In this instance, although the first surgeon has encountered a problem and needs help, no one believes the “chief,” or in the case of a moral dilemma, the “perfect tzaddik,” will be much help, because they’ve never encountered the problems of an ordinary person.

Rabbi Moss adapts that to the relationship between a married Catholic who has children and a Priest. How could the celibate Priest possibly understand the problems of a husband and a father, at least by direct experience?

But the Rabbi can. Further, not only can the Rabbi relate because he is not only allowed but commanded to marry and have children, but he is, in many ways, no greater keeper of holiness or wisdom than the taxi driver.

What could be more beautiful than a society in which taxi drivers share spiritual wisdom, and rabbis change diapers?

That’s a life of holiness we can all live and pursue. In some ways, maybe that’s the only way we can understand God and other human beings, by being immersed both in a world of spirituality, and in a world of going to work every day, taking out the garbage, and changing diapers. Life has many troubles, but a journey of faith does not serve God if it is undertaken in some ivory tower or study hall where you never encounter pain, frustration, or tears.

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”
Thursday, Sh’vat 8, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

The baal teshuvah and the tzaddik both live inside of you, and you will see the return of Mashiach, may he come soon and in our day.