Monday, July 19, 2010

A follow-up to yesterday's Moshiach post

Great. Just great. Two days before Tisha B'av, and the Haredim are rioting, this time because their local post office provides waiting patrons with news updates on large plasma television screens. TVs, even when they are showing nothing but news updates, are an abomination, see, and 25 goons [2 of them at left; note the sefer] thought rioting was the very best way to make that clear. According to YNET, they hit post office employees, called them names like "Nazi", painted graffiti on the walls and so on. I'm sure lots of extra holiness was brought into the world via the violent destruction of those TV screens. Aren't you?

Now, here's why this post is titled a follow-up to yesterday's Moshiach post (and I hope those who honestly bleieve I never backtrack, change my mind or qualify are paying attention). The very basic Jewish idea of Moshiach, the core belief found in most, if not all the interpretations, predictions and writings on the subject is that when Moshiach arrives (whatever that means) things are going to be good. We don't know what laws or practices will be brought back, or discontinued. We don't know if life will change dramatically with a new supernatural order introduced, or if things will carry on pretty much as they did before. We don't even know if the Temple service will be restored. (Authorities argue about all these points; and anyway their predictions have no influence over how reality , over time, unfolds.) In fact, we don't know anything about what Moshiach is or is not, or even if its an authentic Jewish idea going back to Sinai, or the invention of disappointed, impatient and tired-of-being-persecuted Jews during the Persian or Greek periods.[*] All we do know is that whenever a Jewish thinker made a prediction, or shared a deduction about Moshiach he always, always, always predicted or deduced that things post-Moshiach would be Good.

So let's go with that.

In my post yesterday, I made my own prediction. I said that right after Moshiach's arrival heads will roll as the Moshiach and his followers cracked down on Jews who were expecting a different kind of Moshiach. I imagined that no matter what kind of Moshiach arrived, he'd advocate a style of Judaism other Jews would find intolerable and infighting would be the inevitable result.  I still think there is something to that, but I recognize its not the only possible outcome. Maybe Moshiach doesn't come on a donkey. Maybe Moshiach is a word to describe the goodness that results as mankind gets its act together. I don't know if we're there yet, but our Southern States are certainly closer to Moshiach then they were when Jim Crow was the rule of their land. We may have miles to go, but Russia is closer than it was 30 years ago, isn't it? As mankind improves, and puts away its ancient prejudices and pettiness, aren't we getting closer to the Good, and might that be what's meant by Moshiach? People getting along, and treating one another with justice? Moshiach may not appear in the Prophets, but this idea that Zion is only redeemed with justice, and that we're all going to suffer until the widow and the orphan are treated properly is everywhere in those books. Everywhere.

[*]I am aware the Talmud and virtually every Jewish thinker of note from the Mishna on forward thought Moshiach was an old, old Jewish idea. However, what can't be denied is that no mention of him  appears until Daniel (though hints are discovered in other books) and that nothing overt is said about him, or what he will do anywhere in the  Hebrew bible. If you're of a skeptical bent, this is strange and troubling, and perhaps strongly suggestive of something at least quasi heretical. Enough of that for now.

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