Mishnah Berurah Tiferet
By: Dov Lipman
How will Mashiah come?
There are seemingly conflicting verses in the Prophets regarding this question. The prophet Daniel teaches that Mashiah will come “with the clouds of Heaven,” meaning in a miraculous manner. Zecharya, however, teaches that Mashiah will come through a natural unfolding of historical and political events. These verses are reconciled by our Sages through their teaching that if all of Israel were to return to Gd, then Mashiah would appear immediately and there would be a miraculous and instant redemption. However, if we do not merit it, the process will be slow and very natural, leading up to the set time which Gd has decreed for the redemption.
Other than these basic points, we do not have clarity regarding the specifics about how Mashiah will come and the precise process of the redemption.
These include the war of Gog uMagog, Eliyahu haNavi’s appearance, and Mashiah ben Yosef, all concepts taught in the context of Mashiah’s arrival. The Rambam actually makes this point outright saying: “And all these things (referring to Mashiah and the details surrounding his arrival), no one knows for certain what will take place until it actually occurs, because these things were left cryptic by the Prophets. The Sages also had no specific tradition regarding these matters except what they could understand from the passages in the Tanach.”
We do have many traditions regarding what will transpire in the Messianic Age, the time leading up to the coming of Mashiah. These are actually indications that we are currently living in the Messianic Age. The fact that these prophecies and traditions have materialized should strengthen our belief in the Mashiah.
The Navi teaches that in the time of Mashiah the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will walk. This does not necessarily refer to magical and sudden miraculous physical changes but can refer to scientific advances where by use of laser surgery, cochlear implants, and prosthetic devices, people can overcome these handicaps. We are similarly taught that disease will be eliminated. While we have not reached the stage where we are free of all disease, there are diseases which can now be managed, especially when discovered early. Some treatments can control the diseases and, at times, cure them completely.
There is a fascinating Zohar related to the Messianic Age. Two thousand years ago, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, the author of the Zohar, commented on the verse in Beresheet relating to the Great Flood:
“In the sixth hundredth year of Noah’s life…, all the fountains of the great deep opened up and the windows of heaven opened” (Beresheet 7:11).
Based on this verse, R’ Shimon Bar Yohai taught that as a preparation for the coming of Mashiah, in the 600th year of the sixth millennium, the “Gates of Wisdom” will open on high and the “fountains of wisdom” will open below. This is a prediction of the industrial, technological, scientific “revolution,” a flood of wisdom and knowledge, the likes of which was never seen in the history of mankind. This calculation of years translates approximately to the year 1840 which was both the onset of the present scientific revolution and of a sudden explosion of
Aside from technology in the scientific realm, we have traditions that new technology in general, will increase in the Messianic Age. This can be the explanation behind the teaching that many forms of manual labor will become obsolete during this special time. Technological advances have certainly eliminated the laborious activities which were once a part of daily life.
This is actually a fulfillment of the teaching that as we head towards the coming of the Mashiah, Gd’s curses to Adam and Chava will be undone.
Thus, man will no longer have to work “with the sweat of your brow”. The curses to women are also being eased. Chava was cursed that “in pain you shall bear children and he shall rule over you.”
Today, due to medical advances, a woman can give birth to a child with little or no pain. The grave medical risks associated with childbirth have been nearly eliminated. Actually, we have a tradition that there will be a population explosion before Mashiah arrives. In addition, we now live in a time
when male domination of women is certainly changing.
We are also taught that during the period leading up to Mashiah’s arrival, the world will be less spiritual and less moral. Jews will despise their values and traditions which had been transmitted from father to son will be lost. The Jewish people will actually split into different groups. Our tradition teaches that governments will be godless, academies will be places of immorality, and parents and the elderly will not be respected. We can say with certainty that all of the above captures the current state of Judaism and the world at large.
The Gemara actually teaches that in the Messianic Age the Jewish people will achieve some measure of political independence. The Rambam records a tradition that our return to Israel and independence will come about through our obtaining permission from the nations of the world. This scenario actually transpired through both the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the United Nations vote in 1947 which led
to the formation of the State of Israel.
So, it is fascinating and inspiring to note that while we do not know when Mashiah will come, it does seem as though we are living in the Messianic Age given all the indications from these traditions and prophecies. Furthermore, the fulfillment of these teachings should inspire us to fully believe in the coming of the Mashiah.
Dov Lipman is a rabbi, author, and an educator based in Bet Shemesh, Israel. In 2013 he was elected to the Israeli Knesset. This article was adapted from The Jewish World of Wonders.