Saturday, October 1, 2011


Belz Center in Jerusalem 
Hasidic believers hope that Moshiach will visit the synagogue 
during His jubilant entry to the Temple in the Old City.
Image wikimedia

"You don’t have to be Jewish to eat bagels and lox, and neither need you be Jewish for Moshiach to touch your life. Moshiach will not just redeem the Jewish people from exile—he will redeem mankind from meaninglessness, and teach the purpose of life to the universe."

"Moshiach is the phrase “Messiah” comes from—it’s a Hebrew word meaning “the anointed one.” Moshiach is the number-one belief in Judaism, next to Torah and G-d Himself. It is Belief #12 of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith."
(Quoted from What is Moschiach)

Promised in the Torah
Indeed, a central theme of the Torah is that God of Israel will give His people a worthy King, anointed one.  People had asked for a king like other nations have and got Saul and then the house of David and the house of Omri and others.

1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
1 Samuel 8:1-9 NIV

Alas, the kings anointed by people, from prophet Samuel on, turned out to be disappointments with very few exceptions (Hezekiah, Josiah).

So the Jewish people are today still waiting for this promised anointed king. To make it clear that Jesus of Nazareth was not the promised Messiah many religious Jews use the Hebrew form of the word, Moshiach, for the coming King. (See the pages What is Moschiach for more details.)

Who decides?
Messianic candidates are not that rare in the history of the Jewish people as especially during difficult times - and there are plenty of them in the history of the Jews - expectations run high. Hoshianna - Oh God, save your people!
In the Hellenistic-Roman period the High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem together with the Elders had the authority to decide on the candidate claiming to be Moshiach . Accordingly High Priests Hanna and Caiaphas rejected the claim that Jesus of Nazareth were the King - after finally getting from Him the confession outrageously referring to the vision in Book of Daniel 9:13-14 as if the prophecy was talking about Him.

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin   
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.  59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
   Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
 62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
   The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
   64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
   “He is worthy of death,” they answered.
 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”
Matthew 26:57-67 NIV

Rabbinic decisions
After the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 the authority moved to the rabbinic councils. They had authority to endorse or reject Messianic candidates.

The highly respected rabbi Akiva accepted Bar Kochba and the people of the Revolt (132-136) had great faith and hope that this would be the King of Salvation given by LORD to the people of Israel. What happened, instead, was very much what High Priest Caiaphas had feared at the time of the other candidate:

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.
Caiaphas John 11:50
The Plot to Kill Jesus
 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.    “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
John 11:45-53 NIV

The pattern of rabbinic decision about Messianic candidates continues to this day.

There have been many false hopes - one of the great ones that caused much excitement among the Jews living in the Diaspora in Europe was the kabbalist rabbi Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676). While raising much hope also among the Jews living in the Middle East and in Palestine, some rabbis supported him while other influential rabbis of the time rejected his claims and threatened those who believed in him with excommunication.

Today there are some Chabad rabbis who have not outright rejected the popular call that perhaps Menahem Schneerson was the one. You can still see in the streets of Israel - and Brooklyn - his pictures with big letters welcoming the Moshiach. 

Past and Future
I think that the Messianic hope based on the Torah, people sitting in the dark and waiting for the Moshiach, has been of utmost importance to the Jewish people and their preservation through the history.

The wait turns eyes towards future. Something much better, a more just time, a righteous Ruler and Judge, a time of peace is coming!

Christians share this futuristic look although they include some very dark episodes that are expected to happen, Apocalyptic things in the true sense of inter-testamentary time literature, bad and evil before the victory of the good.

Both great monotheistic religions look at the past as important but wait for a better future, watch the signs of time, the Jews evaluating new Moshiach candidates and the Christians waiting for the Second Coming of Christ.

In this sense Islam seems to me to represent the fundamental idea that the best of times has already been in the past. The meaningful history of humanity begins with the Messenger proclaiming the divine truth and that was the greatest of times.

The look of the Muslim is in a way to the past rather than to the future as the Golden Age. This seems to be true at least to some influential groups, like the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia seeking the purity and simplicity of the early days of Islam.

True, there are Islamic expectations for the future, as well - God will let the entire world learn to know the true religion and the numbers of Muslims will grow becoming the largest and most important religion on Earth. Also, Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity the expectation of resurrection, that the coming life after death will offer much better conditions to believers in Paradise.

Jews learn from the past and idealize their ancient Kingdom, keep their faith in the present despite of all and hope for a great future for their nation and God.

Christians learn from the past and repeat past mistakes, keep their faith in the present, many loosing it in these days, and hope for a great future, after many tribulations, to the Son of God, the true King of Israel.

The youngest of the three great monotheistic religions of the Book, Muslims learn from the past and idealize the Golden Age of the Messenger, keep their faith in the present and hope for great future for the true religion.


A most important concept and so influential in the history of humanity!