LTTN med xp logoCountdown To Redemption - Part 1

by Rabbi Chaim Richman

1995 Light to the Nations, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved
Reprinted from The Restoration newsletter, May, 1995 (Iyar/Sivan, 5755)

There is one thing which many of us are in absolute agreement upon...

...the fact that we are living in remarkable times, the beginning of the revelation of the times of the messiah, as G-d prepares the way for the complete restoration of His honor and kingdom amongst all men. This column will present our readers the opportunity to learn more about the traditional Jewish view of the days of the messiah and G-d’s great plan for all humanity when the Redemption arrives.

We will begin this column by discussing some basic principles of Jewish belief regarding the messiah and the Pre-Messianic Era.

First, it should be understood that the coming of the messiah - and the redemption of Israel which follows - is a very basic Jewish belief.

As far as how and when this is to come about, however, there are two possible outcomes. We are taught that G-d will bring about the Redemption in His own time. Essentially, this means that if all of Israel were to return to G-d, the messiah would appear and the final Redemption would be ushered in immediately. Otherwise, the Redemption will not occur until the final time decreed by G-d. This is the true meaning of the verse (Isaiah 60:22), “I, G-d, will accelerate it in its due time.” This means that if Israel is worthy, G-d will hasten the Redemption; if they are not - it will still come, since G-d has promised it uncontingent upon anything else - but only in its due time.

This is the explanation as to why we find two different Biblical descriptions of the advent of the Messianic Era which seem to contradict each other. For example, there are numerous passages which indicate that the messiah will arrive with miracles and glory, like this one: “In the night visions, I beheld the likeness of a human being who came with the clouds of heaven... and he was given... an everlasting dominion which will never pass away” (Daniel 7:13-14). But on the other hand, there are Biblical references which imply the opposite - namely, that the arrival of the messiah will be simple, low-key and unassuming... as in, “Behold, your king comes to you... humble and riding upon a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). These verses viewed together instruct us of the two basic ways in which the Messianic Era could begin, as we mentioned. If Israel is worthy, it will commence to the accompaniment of Heavenly miracles. Otherwise, the time will still arrive, but it will only manifest itself through the seemingly mundane process of historical events. Of course, in either scenario, it is none other than G-d Himself who guides the forces of history in order to bring about the Messianic Era. Although we are taught that the Redemption is a process, and will occur in stages, rather than all at once - we also know that the messiah can come suddenly... without any warning at all. His appearance will leave no room for doubt whatsoever - he will be accepted by everyone. However, all of these details, and other details related to the exact manner in which the messiah arrives, are the subject of many traditions. In the final analysis, no man really can say how these things will come about until they actually happen. This is because many of the events which will precede this era are factors that are known only to G-d. These things were purposefully left ambiguous by the great prophets, so that a person will wait for his arrival with simplicity and faith, and not engage in speculation, or attempt to calculate the date of his coming based on Scriptural analysis... this type of behavior is frowned upon by the great sages, simply because it undermines faith in G-d’s great Divine oath that these things will indeed come to pass in His timing... thus the Talmud states, “Anticipate his daily coming, as it is written, “Though he tarry, wait for him...” - based on the Scripture which states, “For there is still a vision for the appointed time. It speaks concerning the end, and does not lie. Though it tarry, wait for it, for it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3). Despite this, we do indeed maintain specific traditions which predict something of how this era will be...

For example, many of our traditions predict that there will be an extremely advanced technology in the Messianic Era... eventually resulting in the elimination of all disease, as the prophet Isaiah declared: “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame man will leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb will sing” (35:5-6).

Another important tradition states that prior to the coming of the messiah, the Jewish people will begin to return to the Land of Israel and resettle the land. Since Jerusalem is the holiest spot, it is the most important city that must be rebuilt. In fact, there is even a tradition that the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of Jerusalem will together go hand in hand as the two signs of a prelude to the coming of the messiah... according to this tradition, first a small percentage of Jews will return to the Holy Land, and then Jerusalem will come under Jewish control and be rebuilt... then the majority of world Jewry will return to their homeland, as it is written: (Psalms 147) “G-d is rebuilding Jerusalem; He will gather the dispersed of Israel...”