by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Rabbi Josh at Parshablog posted this recent thought…
….I don't know what to make of (other site). In comments there and elsewhere, they are very much in favor of this belief in (not mainstream Moshiach position). …they describe how they are geirim (from a background of high level involvement in their previous religions)... Is this just switching from one false messianism and idolatry to another?
The reason I point it out is that so many of the discussions on the English Geulah blogs are framed by people with outside influences, be they "Noahides" (non-Jewish believers in the Torah laws of Noah and non-Jews), baalei teshuva (Jews without a religious background who learned and took on observant Jewish practice and belief or Jews of observant practice who left it and then returned), gerim (converts), or Xians.
One could read that to mean R. Josh is implicitly saying only those people care about Moshiach and the Geulah or that Moshiach and the Geulah is an outside influence on traditional Judaism.
This is not a ridiculous thought.
Half of the Jewish world spent the last 1,500 years in Xian nations, and it wasn’t an easy time. The Jewish communities were at the same time demonized by their Xian neighbors and targeted for conversion. They were harassed, restricted, forcibly preached to, faced instances of forced conversion, expulsion, slaughter and genocide – all in the name of the Xian religion.
The Jewish holy books in those communities were censored (when not being outright burnt), removing any references Xian censors decided were inappropriate, defamed their religion, or discussed the Messiah in ways they considered inappropriate. (These censored portions have ONLY been returned to new publications of seforim [Gemora, Mishna Torah, etc] in the last 20 years!)
So for the rabbis of ancient Europe to teach their congregations that Jews have nothing to do with a messiah was a defensive measure. Under constant persecution, building religious defensive structures against the positions of the persecuting religion was a survival mechanism. (I am not saying they built untruthful positions, rather they avoided a place of differences – different messiah concepts – by just avoiding the concept.)
This didn’t work completely. Moshiach and Geulah concepts are integrated into Judaism, such that when someone arrived claiming to be Moshiach, much of the Jewish world bought it. The Jewish world suffered two major instances of false messiahs, those of Shabtai Tzvi and Frank.
In response to those incidents, concepts of Moshiach and Geulah were further de-emphasized. This was part of the major concern and opposition to the growth of the chassidic movement. Further complicating Judaism’s outlook was the rise of the reformation movement, to which traditional Judaism fought back with “any change (any reform) is a breach of Torah”.
Now we come to current times. Moshiach was basically a persona non grata until the Lubavitcher Rebbe re-emphasized the topic. Censored materials have been republished, allowing all to study the ancient traditional positions on the topic of Geulah. And, as R. Josh notes, perhaps as no time in Jewish history there’s an influx of those not born as religious Jews but becoming so by choice (whether via conversion or learning about their heritage). Those Jews bringing with them interest in all aspects of Judaism, often digging into obscure areas the mainstream doesn’t generally concern itself with, as well as bringing their spiritual baggage along.
Is it a bad thing? I guess that depends on where you sit. There were good reasons these things were de-emphasized, and traditional Judaism is loathe (for some of the reasons mentioned above) to accept change – and that includes in areas of emphasis. Yet, the world is changing at an ever increasing pace and the traditional Jewish world is beset with influences that it’s not fully prepared to handle.
This is where those Jews by choice come in. Yes, they may arrive with baggage and outside interests. But they also dig in to Torah to find and align themselves with the traditional Jewish position on their areas of interest.
Geulah is a hot topic of our time. It may be because world events seem to be aligning closely with Nach (the biblical prophets) as well as with zman-geulah statements of the Gemora and Midrashim. (Or it may be we’re so flooded with information in this Internet generation that we can’t help but pick out patterns from so much chaff.)
So it’s no surprise that those with such interests focus on it. But is this a problem, or is it those Jews who had the interest and then grounded themselves in the proper Torah positions of such things are the ones prepared to discuss it?
Though following the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s bringing the topic back to the fore, there’s no lack of mainstream Torah scholars who delve into such topics either.
The Geulah, it’s for all of us!