Off the Pulpit: Why a Messiah?

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

What is the purpose of a Messiah? Let us remind ourselves again of an answer written in an era of intolerance and hatred, the middle ages, from a man whose family fled the Almohad persecutions in Spain and settled in Egypt:

“The sages and prophets did not long for the Messiah that Israel might exercise dominion over the world, or rule over the heathens, or be exalted by the nations, or that it might eat and drink and rejoice. Their aspiration was that Israel be free to devote itself to the Law and its wisdom, with no one to oppress or disturb it, and thus be worthy of life in the world to come.

In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither jealousy nor strife. Blessings will be abundant, comforts within the reach of all. The one preoccupation of the whole world will be to know the Lord. Hence Israelites will be very wise, they will know the things that are now concealed and will attain an understanding of their Creator to the utmost capacity of the human mind, as it is written: ‘For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’ (Isaiah 11:9).” 

So wrote our teacher, Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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