Today we’ll talk a little more about the Messiah, and next week, BH, I will write on what Mishne Tora says about the “Messianic times”.
We explained earlier that the Messiah or Mashiah will be a monarch, a ruler of Israel, a descendant of the dynasty of David, with a position close to that of King David and Bar Kokhba.
His mission: to bring all the Jews back to Israel and rebuild the third and final Bet haMiqdash.
Maimonides also insists again and again that the Messiah will not come to change the laws of the Tora. On the contrary, he will come to teach, implement them and defend them.
This is what Maimonides says when he talks about the ways to identify who is NOT the Messiah (Hilkhot Melakhim 11: 3):..
“Our Torah, its precepts and laws, will never be changed. Nothing will be added to its precepts and none will be void or removed. If anyone suggests [on behalf of God] to add or to remove a commandment, or to interpret it out of what our tradition explains [גילה פנים בתורה והוציא הדברים שלמצוות מפשוטן], we know that he is an impostor or a heretic “.
In other words, if a candidate to be the Mashiah proposes to change even one single law of the Tora, we know that this is a false Messiah. Here Maimonides refers to the two great biblical religions, who accepted the Hebrew Bible, but tried to change, add or remove from its precepts, and more specifically Maimonides refers here to Yeshu (Jesus), because he was a self-proclaimed Messiah of the Jewish people.
Not everyone knows that there are several rabbinical sources that mention explicitly “Yeshu” and how he tried to change the Tora. The Talmud mentions him for example in Masekhet Sanhedrin. Of course, the comments of the rabbis, many of them were contemporaries of Yeshu, were not received with much enthusiasm by the Church. And numberless times the Talmud was burned publicly, with this pretext. In some exceptional cases the Church allowed to reprint the Talmud, but the paragraphs talking about Yeshu had to be omitted.
With the book of Maimonides something similar happened. Particularly with a paragraph in Chapter 11 of Hilkhot Melachim where Maimonides speaks of the Messiah, and mentions Yeshu. This paragraph was also censured for centuries, but survived in many manuscript editions of the Mishne Tora produced in Arab countries. And only 15 or 20 years ago this paragraph was again reprinted in the new editions of the Mishne Tora.
What does Maimonides say about Yeshu? I quote:
Hilchot Melachim 11: 4a.
“Also Yeshua of Nazaret imagined that he was the Messiah, and he was executed by the order of the court. This had been prophesied by Daniel, who said.” And the children of those indecent among your own people, will rebel in fulfillment of their [own] vision, but they will fail “(Daniel 11:14). And, is there any bigger failure than this? All prophets said that the Messiah will redeem the people of Israel and will save them [from their enemies], and that the Messiah will bring them back to their homeland, and strengthen the observance of the Torah… and this [man, Yeshu] caused [the opposite]: the death of the Jews by the sword, the exile of the Jews and their dispersion [around the world]; Yeshu tried to replace the Tora, and he deceived most of the world into serving a god who is not HaShem “.
Maimonides explains very clearly why Yeshu represents the opposite of what the Messiah will be for the people of Israel. He attempted to change the Tora, and we were exiled, persecuted and killed, ironically “in the name of Yeshu”… Is this “our” Messiah?.
The true Messiah will lead, and defend the people of Israel from its enemies. With the help of HaShem, he will fight to protect us and he will bring us all back to the land of Israel, where we will live in peace with our neighbors, free to serve HaShem in the Bet haMiqdash, study His Tora and observe HaShem’s eternal commandments.