Concept of Messiah arriving on white donkey. The prophet Zechariah describes Moshiach as "a pauper, riding on a donkey." (courtesy: Shutterstock)
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In a recent lecture, the Head of the Shiloh Institute, Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, busted a common misconception among the Jewish people and how they view the Messiah.
Restoring the Kingdom of Israel
He based his explanation on the teachings of Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Rambam (Maimonides). The Rambam is among the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages and is considered the top authority on interpreting the Bible.
Maimonides and his writings in the Mishneh Torah in chapter 11 on the laws of kings and wars. In the book, the rabbi explains that the “King Messiah” – a descendant of King David, will arise and restore the kingdom of Israel, gather all the Jewish people throughout the world, and “all aspects of the Torah shall once more be operative as they were in the past.”
The rabbi also explains that the sacrifices on the Temple Mount will be restored, as will the sabbatical year.
Rabbi David Bar Hayim (courtesy: screenshot)
Not so obvious
Despite seeming to be obvious, Rabbi Bar-Chaim goes on to explain that the reason the Rambam opened the chapter this way is that later on in the same chapter (gimmel), Rambam writes: “do not imagine for one moment says that the messiah will have to perform miracles that are beyond the normal day-to-day running of the world.”
The rabbi adds that those who think the Messiah will revive the dead are “foolish.”
He adds that just as 850 years ago, most Jews believed that the Messiah was a miracle worker, so that is the majority belief today.
“People also tend to believe that part of this messianic period is a complete upheaval in terms of how the world works. In other words, reality itself undergoes a major transformation. Day-to-day existence is no longer what it was the day before. The entire conception of the messianic period, of the days of the Messiah, and that understanding of the individual, the personality referred to as the King Messiah – this is an aberration. This is simply untrue. In fact, it is an immature and fairy tale and a very childish understanding of what are very serious and fundamental concepts in Torah Judaism.”
The rabbi used the example of Bar-Kokhba, who 1st-century Tanna Rabbi Akiva and many other sages believed was the Messiah. But once Bar-Kokhba was killed, they realized that he was not the messiah. At no stage did Rabbi Akiva attempt to qualify Bar-Kokhba as a messiah with any performance of miracles.
And although Rabbi Akiva was wrong in his assessment of Bar Kokhba being the messiah, his method of qualifying him as a messianic candidate went unchallenged by the other sages.
The rabbi explains that the only difference between the era of the Messiah and the other periods in history is that during the Messianic era, the Jewish people will be sovereign in the land of Israel.