Who the Messiah really is may be very clear to some yet still a riddle to many. The question has occupied the minds of many religious and non religious scholars. History has seen false Messiahs come and go and we are all still waiting.
Whatever anyone perceives the Messiah as, there is one notion, however, that all seem to agree upon – the concept of a Messiah, or a Messianic Age is a Jewish one. As a matter of fact, the term Messiah is the translation from the Hebrew term mashiach derived from the verb mashach, meaning to smear oil, which was part of the ritual of anointing kings during Biblical times.
Being aware of the controversial nature of this topic, I will try to be very careful in stating my views and respect those of others. It is not my intent to offend anyone. I merely want to share my thoughts on the subject. You, the readers, are more than welcome to share yours and let us hope that we can all conduct a civilized and dignified debate here.
Firstly, you may ask, why did I choose to suddenly write about this particular topic?
The truth is that is it not at all sudden. I have given the subject much thought for many years. The catalyst, however, was a conversation I had on this subject with a Jewish friend, Roger Froikin, whom I, along with others respect greatly. I was surprised to hear that he and I shared the same views on it.
Now, let me get to it. In short, Roger and I believe that the Messiah is not one person. At least in our Hebrew Scriptures, in the message of our prophets, there is no mention of a Messiah as a person. And even when some believe that they have indeed discovered the concept of Messiah as a person, one human being, hidden among the lines of the Tanach, both Roger and I beg to differ.
As speakers of Hebrew, the two of us know that the Hebrew message of the Tanach cannot always be accurately translated into any other language. The prophets spoke and wrote in poetry and employed all the techniques that poets use. The structure of the Hebrew language lends itself perfectly for poetry because of the connections of words to root verb concepts that can easily bring ideas into every verse. One has to look at the prophets’ message metaphorically because the natural structure of Hebrew builds metaphorically. We both, therefore, have reason to believe that the Messiah as described by the prophets, is a people, more precisely, the Jewish people.
Arrogant, conceited, you may think. Maybe, but this is how some of us interpret the message of the prophets.
If a Messianic age is to look anything like it is described in the Tanach, that is, an era of Peace, Tranquility, Feat, Sharing, Growth and Prosperity then there is only one place on earth that holds the potential to fulfill that role, the Messianic role – Israel, the Jewish State.
Part of that description can be found in Micah Chapter 4 and Isaiah Chapter 2. These tell us that sometimes in the distant future, at the end of days, or what some refer to as the Messianic Age, nations shall flock to the mountain of G-d. The original scriptures in Hebrew refer to flocking, “V’naharo Elav Amim.”
In Israel, that foretold future at least in its early stages, so it seems, is now. Recently, I embarked a plane on my way to New York. Many of my fellow passengers were representatives of those “Amim,” nations, that I believe the Tanach refers to. That intrigued me, it tickled my curiosity so I struck up conversations with some of them. For many. this was not their first time in Israel. They had been coming there to learn, to improve and to bring back to their respective homes that which the advanced Jewish nation had taught them. Those that visited it for the first time promised to return. One of them was a gentleman by the name of Steve.”There is still so much more Israel can teach us,” he told me in a thick southern US accent.
Israel and the Jews have given the world many gifts. The gifts we shared have helped many in a variety of fields, regions and disciplines. Through these gifts, we have prevented many unnecessary deaths, saved many lives, eased the pain of many, reduced suffering, increased knowledge and added levels of comfort to many. In many aspects, we, Israel and the Jews, have helped make this world a better place.
And that, according to my understanding, is the role and vocation of a Messiah.
What would you call it?