Messianism – This Got Weird Didn’t It?

I was just on My Jewish Learning and I looked up the term Messiah and read about 7 articles – until I almost literally fell asleep at my desk…and I found some gems.

Messiah as Skilled Judge

“Bar Koziva ruled for two and a half years, and then said to the rabbis, “I am the Messiah.” They answered, “It is written that the Messiah can judge by smell (based on Isaiah 11:3); let us see whether he [Bar Koziva] can do so.” When they saw that he could not judge by smell, they killed him.” –Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 93b

I had to share this one – this one had me burst out with some giggles. Word to the wise, get the sinuses checked before making this claim.

Academic Head

“All the righteous have been heads of academies on earth, and have become disciples of the heavenly academy, and the Messiah visits all these academies and puts his seal on the Torah that comes from the mouths of the teachers.” –Zohar Bereishit 1, 4b

Uh hah! I had to put this one on here – it kind of lined up with my view on Messiah.

The Messiah’s Arrival Depends Upon the People Israel

R. Alexandri said, R. Joshua contrasted two verses: It is written, “And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13), and another verse says, “[behold, your king comes to you…] humble and riding on an ass” (Zechariah 9:7). If Israel merits it, [he will come] “with the clouds of heaven”; if not, [he will be] “humble and riding on an ass.” –Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a

I like this view – it depends on the people’s actions how the Messiah will come.

Messianic Age

“As for the specifics of the messianic age, as with most theological issues, rabbinic literature has no uniform theory or theology. Generally speaking, the messianic era will be proceeded by Jewish suffering, the “birth pangs” of the Messiah. Afterwards, the exiled Jewish community will return to Israel, the Davidic monarchy will be restored, and all of humanity will recognize the true God. Whether there will be supernatural occurrences is a matter of debate.”

Summary of some beliefs that are held concerning the Messiah.

Rebbe as Messiah – or no Messiah at all?

“Messianism is still a prominent theme in modern Judaism, though many contemporary Jews have rejected belief in an individual Messiah…messianic fervor has fermented amongst the Habad Lubavitch Hasidim, some of whom claim that their late leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is in fact the Messiah. These Hasidim believe that the “Rebbe,” as Schneerson is known, will be resurrected (or that he isn’t truly “dead”) and will return to fulfill the messianic work he began during his lifetime.”

Rabbi as messiah…hmmm? just found that interesting is all.

Messiah – that ago old quest – in Christian and Jewish circles – takes many a face – doesn’t it? Goes from no way there is one, to a type of age/era, to signs, to actions, and to positons. Just goes to show how wide this subject really is and how varied this topic can become.

Thought I’d share this since in the Christian faith we are messianics – based on the messiah idea. This was a single aspect of Jewish theology – which makes me wonder – how do we keep the Messiah idea we use in balance (acts as our main theology) with how we use the teachings we have?

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3 thoughts on “Messianism – This Got Weird Didn’t It?

  1. **The Messiah’s Arrival Depends Upon the People Israel**

    I actually have difficulties with this view. There are certain fundamentalist Christians, and possibly even conservative Christians, who give the impression of trying to influence certain world events in order to rush the second coming of Jesus. The first difficulty I have with that is that these people are trying to rush an event that is going to end badly for most of the population on this planet, who will be sent to eternal torment. The second problem I have with it is that it can cause someone to ignore the suffering that we should be alleviating now, such as poverty, homelessness, slavery, and so forth.

    It’s almost a selfish viewpoint, because what matters most fo them is what they get out of it — the second coming, and thus escape from this reality, and deliverence to eternal bliss.

    **Generally speaking, the messianic era will be proceeded by Jewish suffering, the “birth pangs” of the Messiah.**

    I can actually understand this. This might sound contradictory to my protest above, but let’s take learning dance. I’ve heard the saying in dance that if it doesn’t hurt, you aren’t doing it right. Speaking as someone who once took ballet and jazz, I can totally agree. In your efforts to achieve something graceful, you have to go through a lot of pain — in building the muscles or flexibility — and a lot of ungracious steps in order to learn the right way.

    If we take that on a bigger scale, in order to “purify” ourselves, or to become better people, it can be painful to let go of the bad stuff. Maybe we think we’ll lose ourselves if we lose the bad stuff, or we can’t survive without the bad stuff, or we can’t see the good stuff replacing the bad stuff. But you almost have to be fully ready to reject the bad stuff without lingering yearning, before you can fully receive the good stuff. And what would be better than a Messiah ushering in a golden age?

    I don’t find this contradictory to my first protest because in the first instance, people are going out of their way to manipulate others for their own gain, and don’t care about any suffering. In the second case, the suffering is something almost instigated by yourself, as you go through a growth period.

  2. Lubavichers, the ones who hold to a dead Rebbe being messiah are really quite a fringe group in Judaism, even though they think otherwise. I always laugh when I read their stuff about the Rebbe because you know, that story was already done before by other people…..who go by the name of Christians.

    Some Lubavichers just can’t seem to accept that their guy is gone and life must go on. They thought he was the greatest teacher ever and they don’t know quite what to do without him around. So, they claim he’s going to come back and run the show for them again. That way they don’t have to deal with the reality of he’s gone and they have to move on.

    The cult of the Rebbe, my god, those people are nuts. I used to live by a bunch of them and unfortunately my work with Rabbi requires me to be confronted with misbehaving Lubavichers right and left. I’m not impressed.

    All the stuff with Messiah makes for interesting speculation, but the reality is, most of us pay no attention to it, ‘when messiah comes’ is just like saying ‘when my ship comes in’, who believes it? Who even cares? The Orthodox tend to put more emphasis on messiah, but they’re by far the minority in Judaism today. Some of them like to hook up with the fundies in Christianity which just shows me that they’re all nuts. We’re supposed to be working to make the world better, not sitting around plotting for the destruction of the world so that our sick prophetic theologies can be played out. When I hear these conversations I’m reminded of Amos 6:18-20

    Woe to those who desire the Day of Adonai. Why do you seek this day of Adonai? It is darkness and not light – as when a man flees before the lion and a bear encounters him; and he comes home and leans his hand on the wall and a snake bites him. Behold, the day of Adonai is darkness and not light, blackness without glimmer.

    I guess some people think they’ll escape and that’s why this day is something they want to see come about? Such compassion for others! But, anyway, Amos seems to be saying, even these folks are going to be in for one big surprise. If you actually believe any of this stuff…..which I freely admit I don’t.

    Don’t call yourself a messianic though, Jason. That has a very specific connotation in the Jewish community, i.e. people out to proselytize Jews by pretending to be Jewish themselves. We all understand that Christians believe Jesus was messiah so you don’t have to specify. Using the term messianic will just get you quite a hostile reception in the Jewish world!

  3. “It’s almost a selfish viewpoint, because what matters most fo them is what they get out of it — the second coming, and thus escape from this reality, and deliverence to eternal bliss.” (OSS)

    I think I see the view in a different light – although your points also make sense when looking at this – tt’s all about perspective. Cause in this view the Messiah comes 2 ways – in glory and in humility – dependant upon what the people are doing at the time. I think it reflects onto the communitythe idea they need to ‘stay awake’ and ‘be vigilant about their faith’ – in that they should proactively seek out ideas for compassion to the poor, oppressed, widow, orphan, and the stranger.

    “Speaking as someone who once took ballet and jazz” (OSS)

    You can dance…wow…I would of never thunk that for some reason…we learn something new everyday.

    “But you almost have to be fully ready to reject the bad stuff without lingering yearning, before you can fully receive the good stuff. And what would be better than a Messiah ushering in a golden age?” (OSS)

    I like the perspective – it gives hope instead of gloom. We have enough gloom on this planet as is I think – a messiah ushering in a golden age would be a change of pace we could all ‘dance to’.

    “The cult of the Rebbe, my god, those people are nuts. I used to live by a bunch of them and unfortunately my work with Rabbi requires me to be confronted with misbehaving Lubavichers right and left. I’m not impressed” (Yael)

    I wasn’t to sure what to think of them – but the story reminded me of a new Christianity a lot. I really like Berger’s critique of them and his out-right denial of their claims – in light of the idea he was kind of entering some slow going territory.

    “We’re supposed to be working to make the world better, not sitting around plotting for the destruction of the world so that our sick prophetic theologies can be played out” (Yael)

    Agreed. I really never focus on the theologies of the end – I have almost stated I will not use Revelations to speak from because of this persepctive derived from that single book. I have also find a focus on the end of times takes away from a focus on the present – and we live in a reality of the present and the problems in this world now. I have to keep my focus here and now because it makes the best sense.

    I agree with you about the Amos passage – people that want that day so bad – might also sit in as recipeints for their disdain towards others (which is against the idea love your neighbor). I figure if God cares about a time – He cares in the present tense (for us anyways) – since that is where we live and try our best.

    “Don’t call yourself a messianic though, Jason. That has a very specific connotation in the Jewish community” (Yael)

    Would you believe ‘Christianic’? LOL 😉

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