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Wikipedia: Jewish Messiah
Jewish Messiah
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The concept of the messiah in Judaism is briefly discussed in the Jewish eschatology entry. In Hebrew the messiah is often referred to as Melekh HaMoshiach, literally "Anointed King". This entry discusses the Jewish view of the messiah in more detail.

The messiah according to Maimonides

The predominant Jewish understanding of moschiach ("the messiah") is based on the writings of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides, or the 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, chapter 11. Maimonides writes:

The anointed King ("HaMelekh HaMoshiach") is destined to stand up and restore the Davidic Kingdom to its antiquity, to the first sovereignty. He will build the Temple in Jerusalem and gather the strayed ones of Israel together. All laws will return in his days as they were before: Sacrificial offerings are offered and the Sabbatical years and Jubilees are kept, according to all its precepts that are mentioned in the Torah. Whoever does not believe in him, or whoever does not wait for his coming, not only does he defy the other prophets, but also the Torah and our Rabbi Moses. For the Torah testifies about him, thus: "And the Lord Your God will return your returned ones and will show you mercy and will return and gather you... If your strayed one shall be at the edge of Heaven... And He shall bring you" etc. (Deuteronomy 30:3-5).

These words that are explicitly stated in the Torah, encompass and include all the words spoken by all the prophets. In the section of Torah referring to Bala'am, too, it is stated, and there he prophesied about the two anointed ones: The first anointed one is David, who saved Israel from all their oppressors; and the last anointed one will stand up from among his descendants and saves Israel in the end. This is what he says (Numbers 24:17-18): "I see him but not now" - this is David; "I behold him but not near" - this is the Anointed King. "A star has shot forth from Jacob" - this is David; "And a brand will rise up from Israel" - this is the Anointed King. "And he will smash the edges of Moab" - This is David, as it states: "...And he struck Moab and measured them by rope" (II Samuel 8:2); "And he will uproot all Children of Seth" - this is the Anointed King, of whom it is stated: "And his reign shall be from sea to sea" (Zechariah 9:10). "And Edom shall be possessed" - this is David, thus: "And Edom became David's as slaves etc." (II Samuel 8:6); "And Se'ir shall be possessed by its enemy" - this is the Anointed King, thus: "And saviors shall go up Mount Zion to judge Mount Esau, and the Kingdom shall be the Lord's" (Obadiah 1:21).

And by the Towns of Refuge it states: "And if the Lord your God will widen up your territory... you shall add on for you another three towns" etc. (Deuteronomy 19:8-9). Now this thing never happened; and the Holy One does not command in vain. But as for the words of the prophets, this matter needs no proof, as all their books are full with this issue.

Do not imagine that the anointed King must perform miracles and signs and create new things in the world or resurrect the dead and so on. The matter is not so: For Rabbi Akiba was a great scholar of the sages of the Mishnah, and he was the assistant-warrior of the king Ben Coziba, and claimed that he was the anointed king. He and all the Sages of his generation deemed him the anointed king, until he was killed by sins; only since he was killed, they knew that he was not. The Sages asked him neither a miracle nor a sign...

And if a king shall stand up from among the House of David, studying Torah and indulging in commandments like his father David, according to the written and oral Torah, and he will coerce all Israel to follow it and to strengthen its weak points, and will fight Hashem's wars, this one is to be treated as if he were the anointed one. If he succeeded {and won all nations surrounding him. Old prints and mss.} and built a Holy Temple in its proper place and gathered the strayed ones of Israel together, this is indeed the anointed one for certain, and he will mend the entire world to worship the Lord together, as it is stated: "For then I shall turn for the nations a clear tongue, to call all in the Name of the Lord and to worship Him with one shoulder" (Zephaniah 3:9).

[Added from mss.:]
But if he did not succeed until now, or if he was killed, it becomes known that he is not this one of whom the Torah had promised us, and he is indeed like all proper and wholesome kings of the House of David who died. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, only set him up to try the public by him, thus: "And from the seekers of wisdom there shall stumble, to purify among them and to clarify and to brighten until the time of the ending, for there is yet to the set time" (Daniel 11:35).

Maimonides next writes why Jews believe that Jesus was wrong to create Christianity (and why they believe that Mohammed was wrong to create Islam;) he laments the pains that Jews felt as a result of these new faiths that attempted to supplant Judaism. However, Maimonides then goes on to say that both faiths help God redeem the world.

As for Jeshua of Nazareth, who claimed to be the anointed one and was killed by the court, Daniel had already prophecied about him, thus: "And the children of your people's rebels shall raise themselves to set up prophecy and will stumble" (Ibid. 14). Can there be a bigger stumbling block than this? All the Prophets said that the Anointed One saves Israel and rescues them, gathers their strayed ones and strengthens their mitzvot whereas this one caused the loss of Israel by sword, and to scatter their remnant and humiliate them, and to change the Torah and to cause most of the world to erroneously worship a god besides the Lord. But the human mind has no power to reach the thoughts of the Creator, for His thoughts and ways are unlike ours. All these matters of Jeshua of Nazareth and of the Ishmaelite who stood up after him (Mohammed) are only intended to pave the way for the Anointed King, and to mend the entire world to worship God together, thus: "For then I shall turn a clear tongue to the nations to call all in the Name of the Lord and to worship him with one shoulder."

How is this? The entire world had become filled with the issues of the Anointed One and of the Torah and the Laws, and these issues had spread out unto faraway islands and among many nations uncircumcised in the heart, and they discuss these issues and the Torah's laws. These say: These Laws were true but are already defunct in these days, and do not rule for the following generations; whereas the other ones say: There are secret layers in them and they are not to be treated literally, and the Messiah had come and revealed their secret meanings. But when the Anointed King will truly rise and succeed and will be raised and uplifted, they all immediately turn about and know that their fathers inherited falsehood, and their prophets and ancestors led them astray."

The messiah in Orthodox Judaism

Most Orthodox Jews hold that Jews are obligated to accept Maimonides's 13 Principles of Faith; most have an unwavering belief in the coming of the messiah. Hasidic Jews also claim to adhere to Maimonides's writings, but an analysis of Hasidic writings show that although they agree with Maimonides that there will be a human messiah, Hasidic views of the messiah often posit that he will perform supernatural miracles.

The messiah in Conservative Judaism

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

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.

The messiah in 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 a messianic age, which all Jews are obligated to work towards.

Reform Rabbis Rifat Sonsino and Daniel B. Syme wrote "What Happens After I Die? Jewish Views of Life After Death" (UAHC Press), which offers a wide spectrum of Jewish responses to the question of life after death, from traditional to Reform.

In 1976, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the official body of American Reform rabbis, authored "Reform Judaism: A Centenary Perspective". While not an official statement of principles, it is meant to describe the spiritual state of modern Reform Judaism. In regards to the messianic era, it states:

Previous generations of Reform Jews had unbound confidence in humanity's potential for good. We have lived through terrible tragedy and been compelled to reappropriate our tradition's realism about the human capacity for evil. Yet our people has always refused to despair. The survivors of the Holocaust, being granted life, seized it, nurtured it, and, rising above catastrophe, showed humankind that the human spirit is indomitable. The State of Israel, established and maintained by the Jewish will to live, demonstrates what a united people can accomplish in history. The existence of the Jew is an argument against despair; Jewish survival is warrant for human hope. We remain God's witness that history is not meaningless. We affirm that with God's help people are not powerless to affect their destiny. We dedicate ourselves, as did the generations of Jews who went before us, to work and wait for that day when "They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

Judaism and Christianity

Christianity as we have come to know it emerged from Judaism in the first century of the Common Era. The first Christians were Jews, and likely subscribed to Jewish beliefs and practices common at the time. Among these was a belief that a messiah—a descendant of King David—would restore the monarchy and Jewish independence. Christians identified this person as Jesus of Nazareth.

According to mainstream Jewish beliefs, the failure of Jesus to restore the Kingdom, and his crucifixion by Romans, negated claims that he was the messiah (since most Jews do not accept that Jesus was the messiah, they reject the use of the full (Christian) name. See the Jewish eschatology for further discussion).

Judaism teaches that it is heretical for any man to claim to be a part of God; Jews view Jesus as just one in a long list of Jewish claimants to be the messiah. The article on the concept of the messiah contains a list of many people who claimed to be the messiah, son of God, or both.

See also: List of messiahs, Jewish eschatology, messiah

References

Philosophies of Judaism by Julius Guttmann, trans. by David Silverman, JPS. 1964

Mishneh Torah, Maimonides, Chapter on Hilkhot Melakhim Umilchamoteihem (Laws of Kings and Wars)

Mashiach Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet, published by S.I.E., Brooklyn, NY, 1992

Moses Maimonides's Treatise on Resurrection, Trans. Fred Rosner

Emet Ve-Emunah: Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism, Ed. Robert Gordis, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1988

Reform Judaism: A Centenary Perspective, Central Conference of American Rabbis


  

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