Sunday, January 14, 2007

Time to Ditch the Messiah

At the end of the daily tephilla in school, we would always sing the twelfth Ani Mamin: "I believe with a perfect faith in the coming of the messiah, and even though he delays, I will nevertheless wait every day for him to come".

It's a beautiful statement and I loved the tune, but educationally, I thought we were teaching a bad message and I made my displeasure about the policy known.

According to Maimonides, Judaism has thirteen principles of faith. Only one of them is about the coming of the messiah. I can understand that in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the faith of future salvation for the Jewish people was very appealing, and possibly even crucial, for the re-building of our people. However, I believe that in focusing on the mashiach, we have re-ignited messianism. Our history teaches us that messianism, whether it was from the biryonim at the time of the destruction of the second temple, Bar Kochba 70 years later or Shabbatai Zvi in the middle-ages, has been disastrous for Judaism.

I remember very well my teachers telling me that we have to do mitzvot to help bring mashiach. Nonsense! That is not why we must keep the mitzvoth. We keep the mitzvot because so we are commanded. It has nothing to do with mashiach.

While Israel's Chief Rabbinate was cautious in ascribing the establishment of the State of Israel in messianic terms (it was not the redemption or even the beginning of the redemption, but only the early shoots of redemption), the event itself gave many Jews, the impression that the complete redemption was imminent.

Many secular Jews have even been affected by this phenomenon, with those believing that a peaceful utopia is imminent.

Unfortunately, mashiach will not come tomorrow, neither will there be peace tomorrow and needless to say, we will not experience the rebbe's second coming tomorrow*.

This sad fact is causing much disillusionment in religious Zionist circles, many secular Jews are despairing of Israel and Chabad are on the verge of creating a new religion.

Yes one day the mashiach, will come, but that should not be the focus of our lives. Our focus should be on giving our children the tools to live each day as a Jew and of creating a better future for the Jewish people that is based on the fruit of our labors rather than reliance on messianic intervention.

*In response to one of the posts below, I would like to add the following statement: I pray and hope that mashiach will come tomorrow and I really want him to, but I have much doubt that he actually will. Certainly, we should not be teaching that he will.


  1. Thank you for your anonymous comment. Perhaps you can elaborate and we can have a civilized debate.

  2. I don't agree with you about the singing. It is a good way to be mashresh emunah in children.

  3. While I respectfully disagree with some of the statements made by Moshe, I want to react to the anonymous writer. Firstly, Calling names is not a legitimate avenue of disagreement. Secondly, hiding behind anonymity demonstrates cowardice rather than standing up for the ideas and principles that you believe in.. Thirdly, not only is Moshe a great Ma'amin and not an Apikores, but I suspect that far greater scholars than the anonymous writer have disagreed regarding Mashiach and not being called an Apikores. In fact, the use of the term Apikores today is highly questionable. Finally, I would strongly recommend that one be far more circumspect prier to employing such an insulting slur. Yonah Fuld