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Jewish Messiah

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The concept of the messiah in Judaism is discussed in the Jewish eschatology entry. In Hebrew the messiah is often referred to as Melekh HaMoshiach, literally "Annointed King".

This entry specifically discusses the view of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides, or the Rambam. Many of his views on the messiah are discussed in his "Mishneh Torah", his 14 volume compendium of Jewish law. These laws are discussed in Hilkhot Melakhim Umilchamoteihem, chapter 11.

Excerpts from the Mishneh Torah

1) The Annointed King ("HaMelekh HaMoshiach") is destined to stand up and restore the Davidic Kingdom to its antiquity, to the first sovereignty. He will build the Holy Temple and gather the strayed ones of Israel together. All laws will return in his days as they were before: Sacrificial offerings are offered and the Sabbatical years and Jubilees are kept, according to all its precepts that are mentioned in the Torah.

Whoever does not believe in him, or whoever does not wait for his coming, not only does he defy the other prophets, but also the Torah and our Rabbi Moses. For the Torah testifies about him, thus: "And the Lord Your God will return your returned ones and will show you mercy and will return and gather you... If your strayed one shall be at the edge of Heaven... And He shall bring you" etc. (Deuteronomy 30:3-5). (These verses clearly refer to our long second exile and the redemption from it, for reasons explained by various commentators which are beyond the scope of my humble translation).

These words that are explicitly stated in the Torah, encompass and include all the words spoken by all the prophets. In the section of Torah referring to Bala'am, too, it is stated, and there he prophesied about the two annointed ones: The first annointed one is David, who saved Israel from all their oppressors; and the last annointed one will stand up from among his descendants and saves Israel in the end. This is what he says (Numbers 24:17-18): "I see him but not now" - this is David; "I behold him but not near" - this is the Annointed King. "A star has shot forth from Jacob" - this is David; "And a brand will rise up from Israel" - this is the Annointed King. "And he will smash the edges of Moab" - This is David, as it states: "...And he struck Moab and measured them by rope" (II Samuel 8:2); "And he will uproot all Children of Seth" - this is the Anointed King, of whom it is stated: "And his reign shall be from sea to sea" (Zechariah 9:10). "And Edom shall be possessed" - this is David, thus: "And Edom became David's as slaves etc." (II Samuel 8:6); "And Se'ir shall be possessed by its enemy" - this is the Anointed King, thus: "And saviors shall go up Mount Zion to judge Mount Esau, and the Kingdom shall be the Lord's" (Obadiah 1:21).

 
2) And by the Towns of Refuge it states: "And if the Lord your God will widen up your territory... you shall add on for you another three towns" etc. (Deuteronomy 19:8-9). Now this thing never happened; and the Holy One does not command in vain. But as for the words of the prophets, this matter needs no proof, as all their books are full with this issue.

 
3) Do not imagine that the Annointed King must perform miracles and signs and create new things in thde world or resurrect the dead and so on. The matter is not so: For Rabbi Akiba was a great scholar of the sages of the Mishnah, and he was the assistant-warrior of the king Ben Coziba, and claimed that he was the annointed king. He and all the Sages of his generation deemed him the annointed king, until he was killed by sins; [only] since he was killed, they knew that he was not. The Sages asked him neither a miracle nor a sign.

Now the essence of the matter is thus: This Torah, its laws and its rules stand forever and ever, they can neither be added to neither subtracted from. And whoever adds or subtracts, or if one is megaleh panim (explains allegoretically) in the Torah and takes the mitzvot (halakhic laws) out of their plain meaning, he is certainly an evil and a heretic one. (Added according to reliable old editions and mss).

 
4) And if a king shall stand up from among the House of David, studying Torah and indulging in mitzvot (commandments) like his father David, according to the written and oral Torah, and he will coerce all Israel to follow it and to strengthen its weak points, and will fight Hashem's wars, this one is bechezkat mashiach (he is to be treated as if he were the annointed one). If he succeeded [and won all nations surrounding him. Old prints and mss] and built a Holy Temple in its proper place and gathered the strayed ones of Israel together, this is indeed the annointed one for certain, and he will mend the entire world to worship the Lord together, as it is stated: "For then I shall turn for the nations a clear tongue, to call all in the Name of the Lord and to worship Him with one shoulder" (Zephaniah 3:9).

[Added from mss.:]
But if he did not succeed until now, or if he was killed, it becomes known that he is not this one of whom the Torah had promised us, and he is indeed like all kosher (proper) and wholesome kings of the House of David who died. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, only set him up to try the public by him, thus: "And from the seekers of wisdom there shall stumble, to purify among them and to clarify and to brighten until the time of the ending, for there is yet to the set time" (Daniel 11:35).

As for Jeshua' of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Annointed One and was killed by the court, Daniel had already prophecied about him, thus: "And the children of your people's paritzim (rebels) shall raise themselves to set up prophecy and will stumble" (Ibid. 14). Can there be a bigger stumbling block than this? All the Prophets said that the Annointed One saves Israel and rescues them, gathers their strayed ones and strengthens their mitzvot whereas this one caused the loss of Israel by sword, and to scatter their remnant and humiliate them, and to change the Torah and to cause most of the world to erroneously worship a god besides HaShem.

But the human mind has no power to reach the thoughts of the Creator, for His thoughts and ways are unlike ours. All these matters of Yeshua' of Nazareth and of the Ishmaelite who stood up after him are only intended to pave the way for the Annointed King, and to mend the entire world to worship Hashem together, thus: "For then I shall turn a clear tongue to the nations to call all in the Name of the Lord and to worship him with one shoulder."

How is this? The entire world had become filled with the issues of the Annointed One and of the Torah and the Laws, and these issues had spread out unto faraway islands and among many nations uncircumcised in the heart, and they discuss these issues and the Torah's laws. These say: These Laws were true but are already defunct in these days, and do not rule for the following generations; whereas the other ones say: There are secret layers in them and they are not to be treated literally, and the Messiah had come and revealed their secret meanings. But when the Annointed King will truly rise and succeed and will be raised and uplifted, they all immediately turn about and know that their fathers inherited falsehood, and their prophets and ancestors led them astray."

See also: List of messiahs, Jewish eschatology, messiah



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