Belief In and Properly Awaiting the Redemption
Rabbi Eliyhau Haim Aboud
In this final segment of the Mashiah Revealed series, we will address what is likely the most critical aspect of this subject, namely, the belief in the coming of Mashiah and the anticipation of his speedy arrival.
Our sages teach that each and every one of us, as members of the Jewish nation, is obligated to acknowledge and internalize this fundamental belief regarding the future of the world, and its transformation during the Messianic Era.
The Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith
One of the thirteen principles of Jewish faith (as enumerated by the Rambam), which constitute the fundamentals of Torah Judaism, is the belief in the coming of Mashiah, as mentioned in the Torah and described at length by the prophets. Some commentariesi classify the belief in the coming of Mashiah and the final redemption under the Biblical command to believe in Hashem. The Rambam writesii that one who does not accept all thirteen principles (including the belief in Mashiah), whether as a result of conscious rejection or due simply to the lack of proper study and thought, has the status of an apikores (heretic), who is not considered a part of the Jewish Nation and will have no share in the world to come! Although of course such an individual is halachically Jewish, he is not an active part of the Jewish Nation and is excluded from the benefits applying to the nation as a whole.
Awaiting Mashiah’s Arrival
While many of us are familiar with the fact that believing in Mashiah’s arrival constitutes one of the thirteen principles of faith, few of us are aware of the full extent of this belief. When the Rambam lists the arrival of Mashiah as one of the thirteen principles of faith, he presents this tenet as a dual principle: we must believe that Mashiah will come, and we must anticipate his arrival. The Rambam even concludes his comments by saying, “One who does not believe in Mashiah or does not wish for his immediate arrival is rejecting the teachings of the Torah and Moshe Rabbenu.”iii In fact, the Talmud teachesiv that awaiting and anticipating Mashiah’s arrival are so vital that one of the first questions posed by the Heavenly Tribunal to each departed soul is, “Did you anticipate the final redemption?”
The Rambam further explains that awaiting Mashiah’s arrival also entails wishing for his immediate coming at every moment without any preconditions, specific times or circumstances, as we say in the fifteenth blessing of the Amida prayer, “Ki liyeshu’atcha kivinu kol hayom – for we await for your redemption the entire day.” Our sages tell us that awaiting the ge’ula (redemption) can actually bring the final redemption even closer, and, conversely, apathy towards our national redemption further delays its arrival. One Midrashic passage goes so far as to say that if there would be one generation which would earnestly wish for the redemption, Hashem would immediately redeem us! The Hida z.s.l. (Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azoulay, 1724-1806), writes that this precept, too, can be inferred from a blessing in the Amida prayer, where we recite, “Et semah David avdecha mehera tassmiah…ki liyeshu’atcha kivinu kol hayom – Quickly make the flower of Your servant David sprout forth… because we await Your redemption the entire day.” This means that even if we are as yet unworthy of redemption, nevertheless, the very fact that “we await Your redemption the entire day,” that we eagerly anticipate its arrival, should render us deserving of Mashiah already now.v
Reasons for the Redemption
There are numerous reasons why each and every Jew should eagerly want Mashiah to come. For one thing, Mashiah will bring a permanent end to our suffering in exile under foreign rule. Secondly, Mashiah will reinstate the kingship of the royal house of David and elevate it to an unprecedented stature of power and grandeur. The kings will lead us, the Jewish Nation, in the fully independent land of Israel. The prophets describe the extent of Mashiah’s power and authority, depicting him as exerting his rule over the entire world.
However, as important as these reasons are, we must bear in mind the trenchant comments of the Rambam in describing the central reason for eagerly anticipating redemptionvi:
“The prophets and our hachamim did not wish for the redemption so that the Jewish nation will rule over the entire world, or subjugate the gentile nations, or so that we will be extolled and admired by the entire world, or to be able to eat and drink and make merry, but rather to finally be free to study the Torah and its wisdom without any subjugations and disruptions, so that we will merit the eternal life in the next world.”
The Ultimate Purpose
The Ramhal, z.s.l. (Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzato, 1707-1746), in his classic work Messilat Yesharimvii, adds yet another critically important reason for praying and longing for Mashiah. Amidst his discussion of anticipating the redemption, the Ramhal writes that although the final redemption will free our nation from exile and put an end to all our suffering, our primary intent when praying for Mashiah’s arrival should be for the sake of Hashem’s glory. The Almighty’s honor is with us in exile, as it were, in that He is not clearly recognized as the sole ruler over the world by the gentile nations. At the End of Days, with the redemption of the Jewish people, Hashem’s kingship will be clearly seen and recognized by all the world’s inhabitants. The Ramhal writes that this must be the primary reason for anticipating the Messianic Era, beyond simply the realization of our national freedom.
The Ramhal’s comments are characteristically profound and require extensive analysis and discussion. For our purposes, however, it suffices to cite the final passage in Pirke Avot which can perhaps shed light on the Ramhal’s comments: “Everything Hashem created in this world, He created solely for His honor.” Hashem created the world so that His name would be honored and extolled, and so we – His Chosen Nation, who are committed to serving Him and realizing the purpose of the world’s creation – should be primarily concerned with His honor when praying for the final redemption.
This precept also constitutes the central theme of the Kaddish prayer which we recite many times throughout the prayer service. Kaddish begins with the words, “Yitgadal veyitkadash sheme rabbah – May the Great Name (of Hashem) be made great and sanctified,” and continues along this theme until it reaches its crescendo, when the entire congregation declares in unison, “Yehe shemeh raba mevarach le’alam ulalmei almaya –May the great name (of Hashem) be blessed forever and for all eternity.” This powerful tefilla expresses our nation’s heartfelt desire that Hashem’s name be recognized once again by the entire world through the coming of Mashiah in the End of Days.
How Our Sages Await Mashiah
The wedding invitation for the grandchildren of the great Hassidic Masters the Chozeh of Lublin z.s.l. and the Baal Hatanya, z.s.l. (the founder of Chabad), read as follows: “The wedding ceremony will be taking place in Eress Yisrael, in the holy city of Jerusalem. However, if by some chance Mashiah has not arrived by then, it will take place in the city of Lublin in Poland.”
The Haffes Haim, z.s.l. (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, 1839-1933), was legendary for his earnest and sincere longing for Mashiah’s arrival. Members of his household related that he had prepared a special suit and packed a suitcase so he would be ready to immediately join Mashiah in Eress Yisrael upon his arrival. From time to time he would don the suit and actually sit and wait for Mashiah to come!
When the magnificent, solid gold Aron Hakodesh (holy ark) was being prepared for the famed Ponovitch Yeshiva in Israel, the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, z.s.l., prepared two chairs on either side of the ark, as places for Mashiah and Eliyahu Hanavi to sit upon their arrival. The chairs have remained there until today in the main study hall of the yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
Someone was once driving the renowned posek Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, z.s.l., when he unexpectedly gave forth a deep sigh of anguish. When asked what had happened, Rabbi Feinstein explained that those were the final moments of the month of Nissan, which, the Talmud teaches, is the month slated for Mashiah’s arrival. The rabbi lamented the fact that yet another Nissan had passed without us being privileged to greet Mashiah.viii
Hashem Awaits the Redemption
The Midrash teachesix that Hashem Himself anxiously awaits the time for the final redemption, even more than a father awaits the return of his lost son or a woman awaits the return of her missing husband. Each and every night, the Talmud says, Hashem painfully laments the situation of His children in exile, and cries, “Woe unto the children on account of whose sins I had to destroy My house, burn My sanctuary, and exile them among the nations.”
Rabbi Haim Palagi, z.s.l. (1788-1869), after citing this Midrashic passage, added the following remarkable commentsx:
“Believe me when I speak, that whenever I read this passage my eyes fill with tears, as I think of how Hashem our king and master of the world is waiting so anxiously to redeem His children and bring upon them all the good of the world, and yet we still just go about our daily life preoccupied with our mundane affairs and don’t even think about bringing the redemption closer.”
It is our sincere hope that this series has helped clear some of the confusion with regard to this topic, and has generated greater awareness of its importance to the Jewish nation. This is especially important in our present times, the generation before Mashiah. May we all be zocheh to live and see the realization of our nation’s wishes for the coming of Mashiah speedily and in our days.