By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
We are nearing the end of our 13 principle series! This week, we’ll reflect on the 12th principle.
Maimonides writes, “The 12th principle involves the Messianic age. We believe and are certain that the Messiah will come. We do not consider him ‘late,’ and ‘although he tarry, we await him,’ (Habbakuk 2:3). We should not set a time for his coming, not try to calculate when he will come from scriptural passages. Our sages thus teach us, ‘May the spirit of those who try to calculate the time of the end rot.’
“We believe that the Messiah will be greater than any other king or ruler who has ever lived. This has been predicted by every prophet from Moses to Malachi.
“One who doubts or minimizes this, denies the Torah itself. For the Messiah is mentioned both in the account of Balaam (Num. 24:7) and at the end of Deuteronomy (30:3).
“Included in this principle is the belief that a Jewish king can only come from the family of David though his son Solomon. One who rejects this family denies God and His prophets.”
In another section of his Commentary, Maimonides expounds at great length what is meant to transpire in the time of Messiah. (Sanhedrin 10:1). Among other things, he writes the Jews will regain complete independence from the gentile world, and all Jews will return to Israel. The Messiah will be a very great king whose government will be in Zion. He will achieve great fame and his reputation among the nations will be even greater than that of King Solomon. His great righteousness and the wonders he will bring about will cause all peoples to make peace with him and all lands to serve him.
War will no longer exist, as the prophet said, “Nation shall not longer lift up sword against nation (Isaiah 2:4).” It will be a time when the number of wise men will increase and the Jews will return to the study of Torah, as the prophet further states, “All the world will be filled with knowledge (Isaiah 11:9).”
Maimonides writes, “We do not hope and long for the Messianic age in order that we might have much grain and wealth … the main reason why our prophets and saints have desired the Messianic age … is because it will be highlighted by a community of the righteous and dominated by goodness and wisdom. It will be ruled by the Messiah who will be a righteous and honest king, outstanding in wisdom and close to God … The people in that age will obey all the commandments of the Torah without neglect or laziness and nothing will hold them back…”
There is a dispute in the Talmud what will be the nature of the Messianic period; Maimonides, in his Code and Commentary, is of the opinion that nothing supernatural or miraculous, per se, will transpire during the time of Messiah.
Nachmanides, with the Kabbalists all following his footsteps, strongly dispute Maimonides’ opinion and side with the school of thought that the Messianic times will be profoundly different in a spiritual and supernatural way than current times.
They maintain that not only physical war will cease. The spiritual, internal war will also desist with the “slaughtering of the evil inclination” within us.
We will no longer espouse an internal struggle between good and evil, physicality versus spirituality, but will become a completely spiritual people.
As Shabbat is a day of complete rest after six days of toil, the Messianic times will be at the end of the 6,000 years of world history, the seventh millennium being an extended time of Shabbat rest from all evil.
This principle is summed up in short in the Ani Maamin recital: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. No matter how long it takes, I will await his coming day.”
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.