Mashiach: Man or Movement?

The movement for Mashiach is what will lead to his coming, and not the other way around. We put too much emphasis on one man. Op-ed.

Tags: Judaism
Yshai Amichai ,

Model of the Temple in Jerusalem
Model of the Temple in Jerusalem

The Rambam (Maimonides), due to his monumental work in organizing and condensing the Halachah (Jewish Law), is recognized as an Halachic authority, especially on the subject of the Mashiach. In his Mishneh Torah, Book of Judges, Laws of Kings and Wars, Chapter 11, the Rambam discusses and clarifies what is to be expected of the Mashiach: “In the future, the Messianic king will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel. Then, in his days, the observance of all the Statutes will return to their previous state. We will offer sacrifices, observe the Sabbatical and Jubilee years according to all their particulars as described by the Torah.” The Rambam further provides a test of proof for the Mashiach, saying he will not be required to “work miracles and wonders, bring about new phenomena in the world, resurrect the dead, or perform other similar deeds.”

According to the Rambam: “If a king will arise from the House of David who diligently contemplates the Torah and observes its commandments as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law, as David, his ancestor, will compel all of Israel to walk in (the way of the Torah) and rectify the breaches in its observance, and fight the wars of God, we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach. If he succeeds in the above, builds the Temple in its place, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach.” The Rambam further clarifies in Chapter 12, “Do not presume that in the Messianic age any facet of the world's nature will change or there will be innovations in the work of creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern. … Our Sages taught: ‘There will be no difference between the current age and the Messianic era except the emancipation from our subjugation to the gentile kingdoms.’”

All the above seems to imply that Israel is only lacking a Davidic king at the moment, one who is knowledgeable of the Torah and observes it.

Theoretically, we could find a righteous descendant of David and anoint him king already. Were he to fight the wars of God and be victorious, ingather the exiles and build the Temple, we could with certainty call him the Mashiach. What is mind boggling is that Israel is already an independent and sovereign state, home to nearly half of the world’s Jews. Israel has been fighting wars and winning them, without the Mashiach, so besides enforcing the Torah and building the Temple, we seem to be fulfilling the prophecies without a Davidic king. Were we to observe the Torah as a nation and build the Temple, we could complete the role of the Mashiach even before he arrives, and this would be a good thing, in my opinion, something for God to take pride in.

Of course this is not entirely true, something attested to by the Rambam (in Chapter 12) when he discussed the return of prophecy, whether in a prophet or in the Mashiach himself. The Mashiach would need to prove that he is more than just a Davidic king, but that he is a king chosen by God, although such proof could also be confirmed after the fact. For example, it is hard to deny that Israel’s restoration was indeed the will of God, because Israel has been an independent state for more than 73 years, and this restoration was clearly foretold long ago. Were this to be against God’s will it could not have come to pass, and God would not have sent prophets to Foretell its coming, including saying that its occurrence would be of His own doing (for example Jeremiah 33:26).

So, theoretically, a Davidic king could claim to have been chosen by God based upon his accomplishments, accomplishments Foretold by the Biblical prophets, or Israel could achieve these feats without him, as a nation, and claim, based upon the fulfillment of prophecy, that this was God’s will and doing.

In a previous article (After Netanyahu, Moshiach), I expressed the view that we must hope for the Mashiach and even work towards and pray for the hastening of his coming. This same expectation should be made of our leaders, that they should work towards hastening the coming of the Mashiach, and even ask themselves daily, “What am I doing to hasten the coming redemption of Israel?” In this context, and based upon what has been said thus far, I will express my conviction that we must work towards the observance of the Torah as a nation and fulfill the prophecies of our redemption, even before the coming of the Mashiach. This a call for a political movement that is not reliant upon the specific actions of a particular man but is a national movement towards God and towards the observance of His Laws. We have a duty as Jews, even without a Davidic king to lead us, to conduct ourselves as a nation in a way that is commensurate with God’s Expectations of us and is the fulfillment of His Word to us. We have been Given very clear Instructions, particularly in the Books of Moses, as to the function and role of our government. As a nation which has longed for and received its independence to redeem ourselves as Jews, we now have a duty to act as responsible adults and carry them out.

We should not be held back by our hopes for redemption, assuming this is a job for someone else. That is not how the Torah Speaks to us. The Torah Commands us to act. It is possible that most people do not understand the Torah enough to act upon it, but everyone can start with Basic Tenets, such as the Ten Commandments, and ask, “Why are these not the Laws of the Land?” Were we to observe and enforce the Ten Commandments as a nation, we would surely be one step closer to our redemption.

The movement for Mashiach involves more than mere hope and prayer, it requires the will to act towards it and the very action itself. It demands a new state of thinking and perception, and the voicing of these thoughts and visions in the public sphere. Perhaps people don’t understand what this means, because they speak a common language which adheres to socially accepted terms: A global culture that is politically correct, which adheres to a specific ideology and powerfully projects its norms upon others in all spheres of life, enforced by social stigma and public action. How can someone in such a society even bring himself to ask for the observance and enforcement of the Ten Commandments? Such a request would not be politically correct, because it goes against the basic tenets of liberal democracies. Instead, people automatically silence themselves: “How dare you think to tell others how to act? How dare you think to tell them not to be idolaters, adulterers, murderers, blasphemers, and Sabbath violators? Would the government execute them for that?”

The movement for Mashiach requires us to unfetter the cords that bind our souls and release ourselves as a nation from a deep worldly slumber among the nations. Israel may have been restored in the flesh, but it remains an empty vessel in spirit. This requires us to speak out in objection and demand a government which is true to God in spirit. It requires us to open our mouths and say that which does not want to be said. The limitations of acceptable speech are perhaps silently enforced, but they are severe. We have been reduced by fear into speaking with a sever stutter as a nation and must learn to overcome this speech impediment along with its associated anxiety. We must learn to speak the truth again in all places, and to say it with a whole and open heart, without fear.

The movement for Mashiach is what will lead to his coming, and not the other way around. We put too much emphasis on one man, as if one man could achieve all these things by himself.

A king cannot lead a nation alone, and he would need a nation to lead first, a nation of people willing to make him their king. History has shown us that not even God attempts to lead people against their will. God chose Abraham because he was a faithful and willing servant to Him.

God raised Israel from nothing, from one faithful man who raised a faithful household. He Trained their children to call upon Him as a nation, to be His people, and yet they repeatedly turned away from Him and revolted. If, for the millennia of Israel’s existence, God has not purported to lead unwilling peoples, how can we expect one man to lead us unless we are willing and ready to be led? That is the aim of the movement for Mashiach, and that is its very necessary and essential purpose, to prepare us as a nation that is ready and willing to be led by God. Not by Mashiach, as the Davidic king will only be a prince and a servant of God, but by God Himself; to faithfully carry out His word and will, as written in His Torah.

*A “Movement for Mashiach” is a concept of serious consideration, comparable to a World Zionist Organization for the restoration of the Spirit of Israel, its body having already been restored. Anyone interested in helping, please contact me, Yshai Amichai: