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November 25, 1983 - Image 80

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-11-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

82 Friday, November 25, 1883

make the
mess less.

A Jewish View of the Coming of the Messiah

By BERNARD RASKAS

Seven Arts Features

Most contemporary Jews
view the messiah idea as a
Christian concept. Yet, its

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from

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origin is Jewish and it is
worth its place in Jewish
tradition.
The word messiah is an
anglicization of the Latin
messias. This, in turn is an
adaptation of the Aramaic.
meshikha, which is a trans-
lation of the fuller Hebrew
term hamelekh hame-
shiakh, the annointed king.
This refers to a descendant
of David who was endowed
with special powers to bring
the Jews from exile and to
rule over Israel.
The term was particu-
larly strong during the
Roman period when the
Jews believed that a de-
scendant of David would be
raised up by God to break
the yoke of the heathen, re-
store the kingdom of Israel
and gather all Jews back to
the homeland.
However, in truth, very
little of this is to be found
in the Bible itself. Ac-
cording to the Hebrew
Bible the kings of Israel,
like David, were chosen
by God. As a sign of con-
secration to the Lord, oil
was poured on top of the
head of the kind when he
was crowned and the
world meshiakh means
literally, "to annoint." So
meshiakh means "the
annointed one."
In the Book of Isaiah we
find a little bit of shifting of
thought from the emphasis
on the Davidic dynasty
which would last forever to
the fact that the Divine
King would also be distin-
guished by his passion for
justice. Here we see the ad-
dition of an ethical and uni-
versal characteristic.
Very little further is said
about a messiah king in the
Hebrew Bible. All refer-
ences ascribed to the mes-
siah in the Torah (Hebrew
Scripture) are simply mis-
interpretations from the
Jewish point of view.
The messiah idea, fully
developed as someone who
will save all mankind and
come at the climax of his-
tory and establish the
Kingdom of God, is a rab-
binic concept. In the Tal-
mud we find that the pur-
pose of the messiah is to re-
store the people of Israel to
the Land, to bring in the
blessings of the prophets, to
introduce a period of
spiritual and physical bliss.
He was to be a prophet, war-
rior, judge, king and teacher
of Torah. He was to be a sort
of spiritual superman.
There were a variety of
beliefs about him. He was
born in Bethlehem or in
Jerusalem on the day of
the Temple's destruction.
He is hiding in Rome or in
heaven waiting for the
time of redemption. He
will come riding on a
donkey or triumphantly
flying on the clouds.
At the beginning of the
First Century, a new Jewish
sect began using the name
Christians. It centered
about a Davidic messiah
who came once and will
come again. The word
Christian comes from the
word christos and is the
Greek translation for the

word messiah. The word
christos means literally
"the annointed one." Later
this concept became the
center of a new and power-
ful worldwide religion
known as Christianity.
While the belief in the mes-
siah is at its core, its ethical
ideas are basically Jewish.
In the Middle Ages there
were many messianic
movements among Jews.
There were many false mes-
siahs, that is Jews who
claimed to be the messiah.
Interestingly enough, these
movements occurred when
Jews were under extreme
pressure of persecution. At
those times, quite natur-
ally, Jews needed a source of
comfort and inspiration.
But these movements al-
ways ended in tragedy. In
fact, the rabbis said,
"Cursed be those who try to
figure out the end of time."
In modern times classic
Reform Judaism rejected
the messiah idea and re-
moved this term from the
prayer book. Extreme Or-
thodox Jews, on the other
hand, insisted that no great
event in Jewish life could be
achieved without the mes-
siah. This is why they op-
posed the formation of the
state of Israel. Some ex-
treme Orthodox Jews still
will not acknowledge the
state even when they live in
Israel.

Most Jews appear to be
in between. They speak
of y'mot hameshiakh, a
messianic age. This
means a time of world
peace, justice and good
will. It is something that
we all hope for, yearn for
and towards which we
work. It is a direction and
a destination rather than
a goal.
The main body of contem-
porary Jews would undoub-
tedly agree with the rabbi
who wrote about 18 cen-
turies ago: "If you had a sa-
pling in your hand and were
told that the Messiah had
come, first plant the sapl-
ing, then go out and greet
him."
Every age creates its own
legends and stories about
the messiah of course, re-
flecting its own needs and
aspirations. There is a mod-
ern midrash about the mes-
siah and it happens to be
true:
There is a young Jewish
woman w o has an excellent
Jewish education and is in-
terested in the feminist
movement. She lives in New
York and summers in
Jerusalem.
In
New
York in
downtown Manhattan
the members of the
Lubavitch group gather
and as men come out of

The ninth of Av is a tragic
day because of the destruc-
tion of the Temples in Jerus-
laem and because the Chil-
dren of Israel complained
against God on that day
when Moses' spies brought
back reports on the strength
of the Canaanites. It is also
the day the Jews were ex-
pelled from Spain in 1492.

the subway they ask
them to put on tefilin and
ask the women to light
the Sabbath candles. One
day, this young woman
was coming out of the
subway in Manhattan
and a Lubavitcher Hasid
came up to her and
asked, "Are you
Jewish?" She said, "Yes."
He further asked, "Do you
light Shabat candles?" She
replied, "Yes." And then she
added, "In fact, every day I
put on tefilin."

The Lubavitcher was
shocked and said, "Why do
you do that?" She replied,
"There is an old teaching
that when all Jews will put
on tefilin the messiakh, the
messiah, will come." And
the Lubavitcher said, "And
when will that be?" And the
woman replied, "Whenever
she decides."
When will the messiah
come? The answer, from a
Jewish point of view, is,
"Whenever he, she or it de-
cides."

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Best Wishes for a
Happy Hanuka

Leo Knight
Photography

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Hanuka Greetings to All

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Wishing You a

HAPPY HANUKA

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A Happy and Joyous
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