Mashiach (The Messiah): "Until Moshiach comes, Judaism is simply a 'religion,' seemingly relegated to its houses of worship"
"We await the coming of Moshiach because we look forward to finally having peace and reaping the rewards of our millennia-long exile toil. But the Messianic Era isn't all about us and our benefit—it's primarily about a world set right, a world that will be a reflection of its Creator, a world where the rights and wrongs of the Torah are self-evident truths. Until Moshiach comes, Judaism is simply a 'religion,' seemingly relegated to its houses of worship, the tomes which preach its laws and ideologies, and the lives of its faithful adherents. During the Messianic Era, however, the truths of the Torah will be as self-evident as the laws of gravity and mathematics." - N. Silberberg
Moshiach: Belief and Anticipation
By Naftali Silberberg
"Any individual who does not believe in [the coming of Moshiach], or does not await his arrival, is rejecting not only the prophets, but the Torah and Moses, too—for the Torah promises us regarding his arrival (Deuteronomy 30:3-5): 'G-d, your G-d, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you... Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens... G-d, your G-d, will bring you [to the land which your forefathers possessed].' "
—Maimonides Laws of Kings 11:1
We await the coming of Moshiach because we look forward to finally having peace and reaping the rewards of our millennia-long exile toil. But the Messianic Era isn't all about us and our benefit—it's primarily about a world set right, a world that will be a reflection of its Creator, a world where the rights and wrongs of the Torah are self-evident truths. Until Moshiach comes, Judaism is simply a "religion," seemingly relegated to its houses of worship, the tomes which preach its laws and ideologies, and the lives of its faithful adherents. During the Messianic Era, however, the truths of the Torah will be as self-evident as the laws of gravity and mathematics.
Hence, in a deeper sense, belief in the Redemption is belief in the supreme truth of the Torah. The belief that the world was created by G-d who used the Torah as His blueprint, and that the day will come when this truth will be patently obvious.
Furthermore, as Maimonides mentions, it is not sufficient to merely believe in the coming of Moshiach, it is also of primary importance to "await his arrival." For it is clear that one who does not yearn for Moshiach's arrival is demonstrating a lack of belief too. Is it conceivable for one to believe that such a magnificent era will indeed be arriving and not eagerly await that day?
Yearning for the Redemption is of such importance that according to the Talmud (Shabbat 31a), one of the very first questions a soul is asked when facing the Heavenly Court is: "Did you yearn for the Salvation?" The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms 736) says that "if the Jewish people have no merit other than their yearning for Redemption—they are worthy of being redeemed for that alone!"
Our nation has yearned for and awaited the Redemption for nearly 2,000 years now. The anticipation, however, reached a fevered pitch in recent years, following the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory's, announcement, in the early 1990s, that the Era of Redemption is upon us, and we must only increase in acts of goodness and kindness in order to be worthy to greet our redeemer.
The Rebbe pointed to various global phenomena that are clear indicators that the process of redemption has indeed started, and asked that we prepare ourselves for Redemption by beginning to "live with Moshiach,"—living a life that is dominated by the values that will characterize the Messianic Era. One primary way this is accomplished is through studying about the Messianic Era. Studying about it makes it a reality in our lives, and allows us to live a life of redemption even in these last moments before we witness the complete and true redemption.
By Naftali Silberberg
Rabbi Naftali Silberberg, a native of Detroit, is on the editorial team of Chabad.org. He resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Chaya Mushka and their three children.
The Messianic Era
A. Restoration of the Bet Hamikdash
Mashiach shall restore the Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem.1 This refers to the third Bet Hamikdash that will stand forever, in fulfillment of the Divine prophecy of Ezekiel 37:26-28: "I shall give My Sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling-place shall be over them… The nations shall know that I am G-d who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary shall be in the midst of them forever."2
B. Ingathering of the Exiles of Israel
Through Mashiach shall be effected the ingathering of all the exiles of Israel:3
Deuteronomy 30:3-4: "G-d, your G-d, shall bring back your captivity… and He will return and gather you from all the nations whither G-d, your G-d, has scattered you. If your banished shall be at the utmost end of the heavens, G-d, your G-d, shall gather you from there, and He shall take you from there."
Isaiah 11:11-12,16: "It shall be on that day that G-d shall again set His hand for a second time to acquire the remnant of His people that shall remain from Assyria and from Egypt, from Pathros and from Cush and from Elam, from Shinar and from Chamat and from the islands of the sea… There shall be a highway for the remnant of His people that shall remain from Assyria, as there was for Israel on the day they went up from the land of Egypt."
Isaiah 43:5-6: "Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your seed from the east and gather you from the west. I shall say to the north, `Give up,' and to the south, `Do not hold back, bring My sons from far and My daughters from the end of the earth.' "
Amos 9:14-15: "I shall return the captivity of My people Israel and they shall build the waste cities and settle… I shall plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked out of their land that I have given them, says G-d, your G-d."
Jeremiah 23:7-8: "Therefore behold, days shall come, says G-d, that they shall no longer say, `As G-d lives who has taken up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt;' but `As G-d lives who has taken up and brought the seed of the House of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where He had banished them,' and they shall dwell in their land."
Ezekiel 39:25, 27-29: "…Now I shall bring back the captivity of Jacob and I shall have compassion on the whole House of Israel, and I shall be zealous for My holy Name… When I shall have returned them from the nations and gathered them from the lands of their enemies… They shall know that I am G-d, their G-d, in that I exiled them to the nations and gathered them unto their land, and I will not leave any one of them there. I will no more hide My face from them, as I will pour out My spirit upon the House of Israel…"4
The Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, exiled by the Assyrians before the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash (II- Kings, ch. 17), and dispersed beyond the river Sambation and the `Mountains of Darkness,' will also return.5
This Divine promise of the return and restoration of Israel is unconditional. It will occur even if the people should not want to return:
"That which arises in your mind shall not come to pass, namely that which you say, `We shall be like the nations, like the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.' As I live, says the Lord G- d, I shall surely rule over them with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with fury poured out. I shall take you out from the nations and gather you from the lands in which you were scattered, with a mighty hand, an outstretched arm and with fury poured out… I shall pass you under the rod and bring you into the covenant… For on My holy mountain, on the mountain of the height of Israel, says the Lord G-d, there shall all of the whole House of Israel serve Me… when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the lands where you were scattered, and I shall be sanctified in you in the eyes of the nations. You shall know that I am G-d when I bring you to the earth of Israel, to the land about which I raised My hand to give it to your fathers." (Ezekiel 20:32-37, 40-42)
"Therefore say to the House of Israel, Thus said the Lord G-d: I am not doing (this) for your sake, House of Israel, but for My holy Name which you profaned among the nations wither you came. I shall sanctify My great Name that was profaned among the nations, that you profaned in their midst, and the nations shall know that I am G-d, says the Lord G-d, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. I shall take you from the nations, and I shall gather you from all the lands, and I shall bring you to your land. I shall sprinkle pure waters upon you and you shall be purified from all your sins, and I will purify you from all your idols…" (Ezekiel 36:22-25)
C. End to Evil and Sin
The Messianic era will mark the end of evil and sin:
Ezekiel 37:23: "They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and with their abominations and with all their transgressions…"
Zephaniah 3:13: "The remnant of Israel will not do any wrong, and they will not speak lies nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth."
Zechariah 13:2: "It shall be in that day… that I shall cut off the names of the idols from the earth and they shall no longer be remembered; and I shall also remove from the earth the [false] prophets and the spirit of impurity."
Malachi 3:19: "For behold the day comes burning like a furnace, and all the wanton sinners and everyone that does wickedness shall be stubble… that to them shall not be left root and branch."
Isaiah 60:21: "Your people shall all be righteous, they shall inherit the land forever…"
Jeremiah 50:20: "In those days and in that time, says G-d, the iniquity of Israel shall be searched for but it will not be, and the sins of Judah but they shall not be found…"6
D. Awareness and Knowledge of G-d
The Messianic era will be a time of universal awareness, perception and knowledge of G-d:
Isaiah 11:9: (cf. Habakuk 2:14): "…the earth shall be full of knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea."
Isaiah 40:5: "The glory of G-d shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see together that the mouth of G-d has spoken."7
Isaiah 52:8: "…for eye to eye they shall see as G-d returns to Zion."
Jeremiah 31:32-33: "…I shall put My teaching in their inward parts and write it in their heart, and I shall be to them for G-d and they shall be to Me for a people. They shall no longer teach one another, and a man his brother, saying `Know G-d,' for they shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them…"
The Divine spirit will be upon the people, endowing them with the power of prophecy and vision:
Joel 3:1-2: "…I shall pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your elders shall dream dreams, your young shall see visions. In those days I shall pour out My spirit also upon the servants and handmaids."8
E. Universal Worship of G-d
Mashiach shall mend the whole world so that all shall serve G-d in unity:9
Zephaniah 3:9: "For then I shall turn to the peoples a pure tongue that all shall call upon the Name of G-d to serve Him with one consent."
Isaiah 2:2-3 and Michah 4:1-2: "…The mountain of G-d's House shall be established at the top of the mountains and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall go and say, `Come, let us go up to the mountain of G-d, to the House of the G-d of Jacob, and let him [Mashiach] teach us of His ways and we shall go in His paths;' for from Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem."10
Zechariah 9:16: "…every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to bow before the King, G-d…"
Zechariah 14:9: "G-d shall be King over the entire earth. In that day G-d shall be One and His Name One."
F. Universal Peace and Harmony
The awareness and knowledge of G-d will remove the narrow-minded dispositions that lead to strife and war. It will be an era of peace and harmony in the Holy Land11 and throughout the world:
Isaiah 2:4 and Michah 4:3: "…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift a sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more." [Michah 4:4 continues: "Each man shall sit under his vine and under his fig- tree, and none shall make them afraid…"]
Hosea 2:20: "…I shall break from the earth the bow, the sword and warfare, and I shall make them lie down securely."
Zechariah 9:10: "…the bow of war shall be cut off, and [Mashiach] shall speak peace unto the nations…"
This new attitude of mankind will also be reflected in the animal world:
Isaiah 11:6-9: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie with the kid, and a calf with a lion's cub and a fatling together, and a small child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like cattle. An infant shall play over the hole of an asp, and the weaned child shall put out his hand over the eyeball of an adder. They will not harm or destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea."
Isaiah 65:25: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like cattle, dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not harm nor destroy in all My holy mountain, says G-d."12
G. Resurrection of the Dead
"Your dead shall be revived, my corpses shall arise; awaken and sing you who dwell in the dust, for a dew of lights is your dew…" (Isaiah 26:19)
"Behold I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the Land of Israel. You shall know that I am G-d when I open your graves and when I revive you from your graves, My people. I shall put My spirit into you and you will live, and I will place you upon your land, and you will know that I, G-d, have spoken and done, says G-d." (Ezekiel 37:12-14)
"Many of them that sleep in the land of dust shall awake…" (Daniel 12:2)13
H. Blissful Utopia: End to Disease and Death
The Messianic era will witness ultimate physical and spiritual bliss. All will be healed.14 The blind, the deaf and the dumb, the lame, whosoever has any blemish or disability, shall be healed from all their disabilities: "The eyes of the blind shall be clearsighted, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened… the lame shall leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb shall sing…" (Isaiah 35:5-6).15 Death itself shall cease, as it is said, "Death shall be swallowed up forever and G-d shall wipe the tears from every face…" (Isaiah 25:8)16
There will be a life of ease.17 Our physical needs will be taken care of by others, as it is said, "Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks and aliens shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers." (Isaiah 61:5)18
The earth will manifest extraordinary fertility, yielding an overabundance of every kind of produce, and trees growing ripe fruits every day.19 Zion's wilderness will be made "to be like Eden, and her desert like the garden of G-d" (Isaiah 51:3). "I will call for the grain and increase it… and I will increase the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field…" (Ezekiel 36:29-30) "… The plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; and the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt." (Amos 9:13)20
"At that time there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor strife. All good things will be bestowed in abundance, and all delicacies will be accessible like dust."21
The wondrous events and conditions of the Messianic era will completely overshadow all and any miracles that happened before then, even those associated with the exodus from Egypt.22
Even so, these Divine blessings are not an end in themselves. They are but a means towards a higher goal:
Our longing for the Messianic era is not for the sake of dominating the world, to rule over the heathens, or to be exalted by the nations. Nor is it that we might eat, drink and rejoice,23 "have much produce and wealth, ride horses and indulge in wine and song, as thought by some confused people."24
It is, rather, to have relief from the powers that presently do not allow us to be preoccupied with Torah and mitzvot properly.25 Our aspirations are to be free to devote ourselves to Torah and its wisdom, with no one to oppress and disturb us. We long for that time because there will be an assembly of the righteous, an era dominated by goodness, wisdom, knowledge and truth. It will be a time when the commandments of the Torah shall be observed without inertia, laziness or compulsion (other version: "worries, fear or compulsion").26
The sole preoccupation of the whole world will be to know G-d. The Israelites will be great sages: they will know things that are presently concealed, and will achieve knowledge of their Creator to the utmost capacity of human beings, as it is said, "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9)27
1. From some sources it appears that Mashiach will build the third Bet Hamikdash (Vayikra Rabba 9:6; Bamidbar Rabba 13:2; Shir Rabba end of ch. 4 etc.; followed by Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:1 and 4). From other sources it follows that the third Bet Hamikdash is built by the Almighty Himself (Zohar I:28a, 114a, 183b and III:221a etc. [and cf. Zohar II:240b!]; followed by Rashi and Tossafot on Sukah 41a, Rosh Hashanah 30a, and Shevu'ot 15b). Cf. Torah Shelemah, Beshalach 15:17 (especially note 211); and Sha'arei Zohar on Sukah 41a (see there; and R. Menachem M. Schneerson shalita, Likkutei Sichot Vol. XI, p. 98 note 61; Vol. XVII, p. 418; and Vol. XXVII, p. 204f.; for ways to reconcile the two views).
2. See also Ezekiel ch. 40ff.; and cf. Isaiah 2:2f. cited below ch. II-E.
3. See Bereishit Rabba 98:9; Midrash Hagadol on Genesis 49:11.
4. Additional sources for the ingathering of the exiles are: Isaiah 27:12, 49:8-9, and 60:4; Jeremiah 30:2 and 31:7; Ezekiel 34:11-13 and 37:21; Zechariah 8:7-8; etc.
5. Sanhedrin 110b; Bamidbar Rabba 16:25; Tanchuma, ed. Buber, Shlach- Hossafot:6 (and see the editor's notes there); Pesikta Rabaty 32:10 (ed. Friedmann, ch. 31). Cf. Ramban, Sefer Hage'ulah , sha'ar I.
6. For further details on the eradication of evil, the evil inclination and Satan, see Sukah 52a; Eliyahu Rabba ch. 4; Bereishit Rabba 48:11; Pesikta Rabaty 33:4; and Yalkut Shimoni, I:133, on Genesis 33:13, p. 42a.
7. "In the present world, the Shechinah manifests Itself only to certain individuals [prophets]; in the time to come, however, `the glory of G-d shall be revealed and all flesh shall see together…';" Vayikra Rabba 1:14. The Messianic era will thus witness an empirical manifestation of Divinity even as occurred with the revelation at Sinai; see Tanchuma , Bamidbar: end of par. 17; and Tanya , ch. 36. Cf. Sha'ar Ha'emunah , ch. 25; and see note following.
8. "The Holy One, blessed is He, said: `In the present world [only] certain individuals prophesied; in the world to come, however, all Israel will be made prophets, as it is said, `It shall come to pass afterwards that I shall pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…';' " Tanchuma , Beha'alotecha: end of par. 16. Cf. Tikunei Zohar 18:36b; and above, in the previous note.Note Igeret Teyman, end of ch. 3, that there will be a restoration of prophecy even before the actual manifestation of Mashiach. Cf. Likkutei Sichot, vol. II: Balak, p. 588f.
9. Hilchot Melachim 11:4
10. See also Isaiah 60:14; and Zechariah 8:23.
11. See Leviticus 25:18-19 and 26:5; Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16; Ezekiel 28:26 and 34:25-28; Joel 4:17.
12. See also Hosea 2:20
13. Resurrection of the Dead is another of the 13 fundamental Principles of the Faith (Rambam, Article 13), distinct from that of the Messianic redemption. It will occur after the redemption, the very last event of the Messianic era (see Zohar I:139a), thus in a way distinct from it. Even so, there are various stages in the process of resurrection itself, with some individuals rising before all others. Moses and Aaron, for example, will be present already in the very early period, when the Bet Hamikdash will be re-established, in order to guide the order and procedures of the Temple-service (see Tossafot on Pesachim 114b; and cf. Devarim Rabba 3:17 and similar passages). A number of other saints,too, will be revived at various stages prior to the general resurrection of the dead (see R. Joseph Albo, Ikkarim IV:35; R. David ibn Zimra, Teshuvot Radvaz III:no. 644; R. Daniel Tirani, Ikrei Hadat (Ikrei Dinim), vol. II: Yoreh De'ah 36:66; Sdei Chemed, Kuntres Hakelalim, s.v. mem:klal 218; and the sources cited there).For the whole subject of the resurrection, see especially Sanhedrin 90a-92b; Pirkei deR. Eliezer ch. 33-34; R. Saadiah Gaon, Emunot Vede'ot, sect. VII; Rambam, Ma'amar Techiyat Hametim; Ramban, Sha'ar Hagemul; R. Chasdai Crescas, Or Hashem III:4, ch. 1-4; and R. Menachem M. Schneerson shalita, Teshuvot Ubi'urim, ch. 8 and 11 (offering a comprehensive and systematic analysis of this subject).
14. Bereishit Rabba 20:56
15. Bereishit Rabba 95:1; Tanchuma, Vayigash:8 and Metzora:2 (and see ed. Buber, Vayigash:9 and Metzora:7).
16. Pesachim 68a; Shemot Rabba 30:2. See also Midrash Tehilim 145:1.
17. Eliyahu Rabba ch. 4.
18. See also Isaiah 49:23 and 60:10-12.
19. Shabbat 30b; Ketuvot 111b.
20. Cf. Leviticus 26:5; and Joel 4:18, and see Vayikra Rabba 17:4, and Pesikta deR. Kahana, ch. VII, p. 65bf., and the notes there. See also Hosea 2:23f.Note that Amos 9:13 is one of the few Scriptural verses that contain all the letters of the aleph-bet. On the significance of this, see Hadar Zekeinim, R. Bachaya, and Ba'al Haturim, on Exodus 16:16; and R. Bachaya and Ba'al Haturim on Deuteronomy 4:34. Cf. below, note 99.
21. Hilchot Melachim 12:5. Cf. Midrash Tehilim 87:3 ("gold and silver will be like dust").
22. Jeremiah 23:7-8; Berachot 12bf.Note that in Rambam's view the Messianic era will not see a setting aside of the laws of nature, but "the world will follow its normal course… `The only difference between the present world and the Messianic days is delivery from servitude to foreign powers' (Berachot 34b)." The prophecies of super- natural events and conditions are to be understood figuratively. (Hilchot Melachim 12:1-2; and cf. Hilchot Teshuvah 9:2) Even so, Rambam himself qualifies this view as a personal opinion and interpretation, allowing for the possibility that everything may be quite literal. (Ma'amar Techiyat Hametim, sect. 6. Cf. Hilchot Melachim 12:2 that no one is in a position to know the details of the events to occur until they have come to pass etc.) As noted by the commentaries on Hilchot Melachim, Rambam's view is fraught with many difficulties, as even he himself enumerates events and conditions (not the least of which would be the resurrection of the dead) which are clearly beyond the normal course of the laws of nature (cf. notes 22, 41, 51 and 68). One resolution to this problem is by distinguishing between two general periods in the Messianic era: a first stage following an essentially natural order, and a later stage marked by supra-natural events and conditions. See R. Yitzchak Abarbanel, Yeshu'ot Meshicho, Iyun Hashlishi:ch. 7. For a comprehensive analysis of this subject, see Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XXVII, pp. 191-206. Cf. also Or Hachayim on Exodus 21:11 and Numbers 24:17!
23. Hilchot Melachim 12:44
24. Rambam, Perush HaMishnah, Introduction to Sanhedrin ch. 10.
25. Hilchot Teshuvah 9:26
26. Sources cited in notes 24-26.
27. Hilchot Melachim 12:5. Cf. Netzach Yisrael , ch. 42.
By J. Immanuel Schochet
Rabbi Immanuel Schochet has written and lectured extensively on the history and philosophy of Chassidism and topical themes of Jewish thought and ethics. He is a renowned authority on Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism. He is rabbi of Cong. Beth Joseph, and professor- emeritus of Philosophy at Humber College, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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