Dreaming of Moshiach

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Conquering the Challenges

Getting people to accept Jewish religious beliefs is part of the challenge we have living in a world which poses so many challenges to these beliefs. It is our duty [+/-] show/hide text
to meet those challenges regardless of the difficulties. It must be stressed that it is our responsibility to make the teachings of Judaism as palatable and acceptable as possible. We cannot simply impose the Torah beliefs on others.

Perhaps the most frequently heard "theological" challenge to the recent impetus to bring Moshiach, one that can be heard simultaneously in the most Orthodox as well as the most secularist camps, concerns the prospect of disillusionment which could result, G-d forbid, in the event that our hopes are dashed and Moshiach does not come today, when we are so waiting for him.

It is the Torah which tells us what to believe and what we should tell others to believe. We do not make the rules ourselves. What has to be established is not whether teaching Moshiach and hoping and believing in his imminent coming is safe, but whether there is indeed a basis in Judaism to speak about Moshiach. Once that is confirmed, the Torah takes responsibility for itself. One can raise a similar challenge concerning the propriety of describing G-d as a Creator who is intimately involved with His creation. One can ask, "Isn't it dangerous to speak of G-d as being good when there was a Holocaust." People might reject G-d unless we tell them that G-d is not in control, or that He is not good.

Similarly, one can ask, "Won't people lose their faith in the Torah if we tell them that everything in Torah is true?

Aren't there contradictions between Torah and science. Let's tell them that the Torah is just a book of guidance but we need not believe everything in it. Or worse yet, if we tell them the Torah is man-made they will not be disillusioned by the apparent contradictions they might discover. It is obvious that for the sake of not turning someone off to Judaism, we have no right to misrepresent Judaism, especially in matters so fundamental as G-d, Torah and Moshiach.

The whole of Judaism can be written out of existence because it may be misunderstood and people might be disillusioned. As the saying goes "Life is hazardous to your health." Judaism requires a leap of faith, as there are always questions people will ask if things don't work out the way they would have wished. Judaism has survived all sorts of disappointments, but we didn't change our belief system because of them. On the contrary, we're here today because we unabashedly preserved our faith even when it appeared irrational.

We are supposed to believe that Moshiach's coming is imminent so writes the Rambam zs'l, and he continues: "and if he tarries [we should continue to] wait for him" don't lose your faith.

Therein lies the challenge of the mitzvah to believe in Moshiach that we must continue to believe in his imminent coming even though he failed to come, when we expected him. The dictate to believe in Moshiach's arrival demands not only that we believe that he will come, or that he will come delayed, his arrival is imminent.

According to the Mabit zs'l (a colleague and disputant of R. Yosef Karo zs'l, one of the greatest Halachic scholars of his day) the belief in Moshiach is supposed to get stronger every time we're disappointed that he didn't come today. For if he didn't come today, there is an even greater chance that he will come tomorrow.

Furthermore, he states, "one who doesn't believe and anticipate his coming imminently, does not really believe that he will come at a later date!"

From a purely psychological perspective, let us analyze the fear: "We should not build up people's hopes, for they will be disillusioned and might even be shattered and depressed." In other words, the reluctance to "push" Moshiach derives from an emotional need some have to "protect" themselves from the prospects of disillusionment by being pessimistic from the very beginning. We did not survive all of the challenges of our past by being pessimistic.

The belief itself is what makes it happen sooner. Thus, to tell people not to build up their hopes can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, G-d forbid. Although Moshiach's imminent coming is a fact of life, faith can actualize it sooner and with greater preparedness on our part.

It is impossible to imagine that profound and unadulterated faith, that is promoted by the Torah itself, will in the end cause a weakening of faith.

It is curious that this challenge comes from the most Orthodox as well as the most secular individuals. Could it not be that the Yetzer Horn has, more or less, declared defeat, because the secularists who are "Tinokot Shenishbu" those, who due to no fault of their own, have had no exposure to Judaism and, therefore, are essentially guiltless, are actually slowly, but surely, being drawn closer to Judaism.

In addition, it is becoming increasingly easier to be an observant Jew. There is no longer a real struggle to be observant. Therefore, the only area left for the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) to attack is our faith, our emunah in Moshiach. This he does well by cloaking his argument in logical and even theological terms. This way he allows for the most secular skepticism and fear to pervade even the most observant of communities and individuals.




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו