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Who is Mashiach?

By Tzvi Fishman
6/26/2007, 12:00 AM

The word “Mashiach,” translated as Messiah in English, literally means “the anointed one.” Who is Mashiach? What is Mashiach?
Jews in Antwerpen, and Boro Park, Lakewood, and Monsey! Open your eyes! Mashiach is here already.

The Rambam lists the belief in the coming of Mashiach as one of the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith. What actually does the belief in the coming of the Mashiach involve? Since there is much confusion surrounding this matter, and because the period of the Three Weeks is approaching, when our holy Temple was destroyed and our nation was driven into exile, we will be exploring this important subject in some of our upcoming blogs.

In his commentary to the book, “Torat Eretz Yisrael,” which includes the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook on the subject of Mashiach, Rabbi David Samson explains that during the generations of galut, Mashiach became a misunderstood concept. Partly due to the infiltration of Christian concepts into our collective subconscious, Mashiach was envisioned by many people as a religious superhero, who would arrive on the scene in a flash of miracles and wonders, and whisk all of the exiled Jews off to Israel.

A distorted concept of Mashiach arose throughout the generations of galut

This romantic image entered the realm of mystical fantasy during the long years of our misery in exile away from our Land. Helpless to improve our galut existence, and to actualize our dreams of returning to Zion, this comic book vision of Mashiach seemed to be the only way we could be redeemed from the harsh realities of the ghetto. When centuries passed in waiting and disappointment, a philosophy of passivity and impotence arose. We were to pray and wait, and Mashiach would do all the work when he came, without our having to do a thing. The Redemption was viewed as something that would occur all at once, like with the wave of a magic wand, and not as a naturally unfolding process that would grow to completion with time.

When the Zionists began to show initiative and take matters into their own hands to bring the Jews back to Israel, the champions of this passive, we-can’t-do-anything school of thought, rose up in protest. “Gevalt!” they roared. We must wait until Mashiach arrives, they insisted, and he will bring us to Israel.

In his famous “Letter of Forced Conversion,” the Rambam writes:

“Those who seduce themselves and say they will stay in their places until the king Mashiach comes to the lands of the West, and then they will depart and go forth to Jerusalem – I don’t know how the decree of destruction will be stayed from them. Rather, they are transgressors, and they cause others to sin…. For there is no set time for the coming of the Mashiach on which to depend, saying that he is close or far. The obligation of the commandments is not dependent on the coming of the Mashiach. Rather, we are to busy ourselves with the Torah and precepts, and to strive to fulfill everything we can…, However if a man will stay in a place where he sees that the Torah is waning, and where the Jewish people will be lost with the passage of time, and where he cannot stand by his faith, and he say, ‘I will stay here until Mashiach comes and survive where I am,’ this is nothing but an evil heart and a great loss, and a sickness of reasoning and spirit. This is my opinion, and Hashem knows the truth.”

Let’s face it. Which Jewish community in the Diaspora does not face the potential danger that the Rambam describes in his letter, that with the passage of time, both Judaism and Jewish life will be threatened? Just as the once flourishing Jewish communities of Spain, Germany, Eastern Europe, and Russia were all wiped out, can any intelligent person believe that history will not repeat itself?

Today, throughout America, many of the once prominent Jewish neighborhoods are slums. Buildings that once housed synagogues have been converted to churches. Assimilation is America is around sixty percent. In Europe, it is even higher. While a few isolated conclaves of Torah exist, what is their future? Our history tells us the answer, time and again.

Lower East Side, NY, in the good old days. Today, you can't even find a sour pickle.

In contrast to this, the greatest concentration of Torah and Torah scholars in the world is in the Land of Israel. In our time, we have witnessed the miraculous rebirth of the nation and the Land, in fulfillment of the words of our Prophets. With our own eyes, we have witnessed the ingathering of our exiles from all over the world. We have witnessed booming technological, industrial, and agricultural growth. Jewish sovereignty has been reestablished in the Holy Land. We have Jerusalem back in our hands, and it is once again the most beautiful city on earth. Rabbi Kook taught that all of these things are aspects of Mashiach and Israel’s gradually unfolding salvation. These are things that are already happening now.

So why wait any longer? Jews in Antwerpen, and Boro Park, Lakewood, and Monsey! Open your eyes! Mashiach is here already. Don’t miss out! Join in with the rebuilding! Jump aboard the Mashiach train now!