Sunday, 26 May 2013

Question! About the Messiah . . .

A conversation with a friend led me to wonder whether for some Jews a theocracy would be considered a positive thing . . in the same way that (from my very superficial understanding) fundamentalist Christians want people to become Christians + Jews to return to Israel to encourage the coming of the messiah) ; i.e. Do some Jews perceive a Jewish theocracy as a prerequisite for a messianic age? How seriously do Orthodox Jews take the coming of the Messiah, anyway? Is there a difference between the Haredi conception of the Messiah vs. a Modern Orthdox one? And, what do the groups believe has to happen for the Messiah to come?

11 comments:

  1. > whether for some Jews a theocracy would be considered a positive thing

    Absolutely. After all, we pray for a return of King David’s dynasty. And my impression is that the Chareidim is Israel would like nothing better than a state run strictly according to halacha. They constantly malign the State of Israel for its secular foundation.

    > Do some Jews perceive a Jewish theocracy as a prerequisite for a messianic age?

    The other way around: The Messiah is necessary for there to be a Jewish state, which is why many Orthodox groups opposed the formation of the State of Israel (and one or two still oppose it), and the state that would be established is assumed to be a theocratic monarchy.

    > How seriously do Orthodox Jews take the coming of the Messiah, anyway?

    As a group or as individuals? As a group, it’s become an article of faith thanks to the acceptance of the Rambam’s 13 Principles. As individuals, it varies.

    > And, what do the groups believe has to happen for the Messiah to come?

    Either we all have to be really good – and merit the coming of the Messiah – or really bad, so that God will send the Messiah in order to prevent losing us completely.

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  2. Although, as G*3 says, the Messianic age is seen as the culmination of Jewish destiny and is thus a grand theological belief, many people I know speak about "Moshiach" when beset by personal problems, i.e. they pray fervently for the Messiah to come tomorrow so that their sick relative will get better or they won't have to deal with their mounting debt. Theologically, the Messiah may be the result of a grand plan, but personally, many people use even the idea as an escape from their problems. In theory, this isn't terrible, but it would be a problem if one took on massive debt with the assumption that the Messiah is coming any day.

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  3. There are several different (and at times, contradictory) views within the Orthodox community.

    View #1:

    The Messiah will come eventually, at some time that G-d chooses. No theocracy/true Jewish state is possibly until that point.

    The modern State of Israel has no theological significance. At the most extreme end, it is seen as a violation of the "Three Oaths" and therefore a cause of Bad Things.

    View #2 (Lubavitch:

    The Messiah will arrive, and we should expect the arrival speedily in our days. Instead of waiting passively, we should actively pray for the arrival, observe commandments and get others to do so, since the cosmic repair of the world will hasten the arrival. No theocracy prior to Messiah, but anything that encourages more observance is seen as good because it hastens the arrival of the Messiah.

    [A controversial offshoot argues that the Messiah arrived already, in the form of Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Some of these folks don't admit that the Rebbe died in 1994 - instead, they somehow think that he's in suspended animation and will return and reveal himself again at some point to confirm that he is in fact the Messiah and do all the things that a Messiah is supposed to do. See http://beismoshiach.org/Ginsberg/ginsberg281.htm At the extremes, there are even those who declare that certain commandments are no longer binding because we are now in the Messianic Era. If this "maybe he'll come back a second time" idea sounds a bit close to the Second Coming of another religion - well, I consider it a bit of a lab experiment showing how Christianity likely developed after the death of Jesus.]

    View #3:

    The founding of the modern State of Israel, and subsequently its victory in 1967, are signs that the Messianic Era is in progress. It is an ongoing process, which is not yet complete because the Messiah has not yet arrived.

    At the extreme end, the settling of the entire land of Israel (including the territories) is seen as a necessary part of the process.

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    Replies
    1. there are even those who declare that certain commandments are no longer binding because we are now in the Messianic Era.

      JRK, if you can point me to a source for that I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

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    2. She's a fringe figure even in the Chabad crowd, but I found this article about the woman who eats in celebration on Tisha B'Av, because she believes that the Rebbe is alive and is Moshiach:

      http://crownheights.info/general/13351/massive-chilul-hashem-or-kidush-hashem/

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    3. Thanks! - Will check it out...

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  4. Thank you for the responses! (I apologize for my delayed response . . no sleep thanks to my 2 year old is obliterating my brain cells). I have to say that there seem to be a lot of diametrically opposed beliefs underlying the idea of a Messiah!!
    G*3: re: The Messiah is necessary for there to be a Jewish state
    Is there a loophole then for Orthodox ppl who don't oppose the State justify their support in this context?
    OR . . .
    JRK - Do those Orthodox hold view 3? i.e. does this mean that most of the Modern Orthodox ppl I know believe we are in the Messianic age?




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  5. Here's a decent summary of the Religious Zionist movement written in plain English: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/israel/Jewish_Thought/Modern/Religious_Zionism.shtml?p=1

    Religious Zionists do not believe that we are currently in the full-fledged Messianic Age now (if we were, there would be world peace), but they do see the re-establishment of a Jewish state in Israel and the victory in 1967 as signs that the Messianic Age is dawning. To give one example: the immigration to Israel of Jews from countries around the world is referred to as "kibbutz galluyot", or "ingathering of the exiles", which was a phrase traditionally used to refer to something that would happen in the Messianic era.

    Re loopholes for Orthodox who believe that the Messiah must be present before the Jewish state:

    Chabad sort of falls into this category. They aren't religious Zionists (no Israeli flags in Chabad shuls, no celebration of Yom Ha'atzmaut), but they do provide practical support on the basis that Jewish lives are at stake.

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  6. Thanks JRK!! You are a wealth of knowledge!

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  7. My sense is that most religious folks have a sort of utopian "everything will be perfect" (and "everyone will see that we're right") idea of the messianic era, but if they really thought about what it would mean to live under a monarchy, with the Sanhedrin meting out punishments (lashes, etc.) against religious transgressors, the Temple rebuilt with animal sacrifices required, the full laws of "ritual purity" reinstated (such that if you so much as sit in the chair where a woman in her menstruation sat, you become impure and require ritual immersion), they'd thank the Good Lord we're just "davening" for that era and aren't actually in it!

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