Saturday, March 31, 2012

#138 - MENACHEM: Moshiach's Real Name?

Shortly, we will be celebrating Pesach/Passover. And then, there will be a period of six weeks before another holiday, Shavuot/Pentacost. "Now wait a minute", some will ask, "don't we normally refer to the weeks between Pesach and Shavuot as the Sefirah period counting SEVEN weeks? So, why mention specifically that there are six weeks between the end of Pesach until Shavuot?

The truth is that I have something specific in mind. You see, even regular observant Jews are aware that on each Shabbat between Peasch and Shavuot, following Mincha/afternoon prayer service, it is customary to learn one of the six chapters of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers. And at least for Ashkenazic Jews, this cycle continues throughout the summer until Rosh Hashanah.

In any case, each week, the chapter that is learned on any particular Shabbat is preceded with a short statement from a Mishna from the beginning of Tractate Sanhedrin Chapter 10 (Note: In the Babylonian Talmud, this is the 11th and final chapter of this tractate), and is followed by the concluding Mishna of Tractate Makkot.
Today, my focus will be on the preceding Mishnaic statement: "All of Israel have a portion of the world to come, as it states "Your nation is all righteous, they will forever will inherit the earth, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, through which I will be glorified" (Isaiah 60:22).

To note, in the Talmud, most chapters are named after the first word, two or three words of the chapter which are the beginning words of the chapter's first Mishna. In this particular case, while the beginning words are Kol Yisrael "All Jews...", which incidentally (or not so incidentally) are the final words of the Chumash/Penteteuch, this chapter is known as Perek Cheilek, where the word Cheilek (portion) is the fifth word of this chapter, And of course, the question begs to be asked - why? Would it be so terrible if this chapter would have been named Kol Yisrael "All Jews"? Perhaps this would have been the perfect opportunity to emphasize unity among ALL Jews, since after all, these are the beginning words of this chapter? So, why give it a totally different name, which refers to Olam HaBa, the reward of the world to come? Yes, reward is something that we all look forward to, but why not emphasize the name of the Jewish people here?

Before just answering this question, I think an little overview of this chapter would be in proper order. It is true that this is one of the most famous chapters in the Talmud if not the most famous one. And it is famous for one reason - this chapter (in the Gemara) speaks much about Moshiach, including his name, and potential dates of his coming, which are especially today very intriguing information. For those who study the Talmud regularly, this chapter is a long break from the usual detailed halachic discussions that permeate the Talmud. TIhe connection between the World to Come and Moshiach is not that far fetched from each other, for the World to Come - particularly the reward of it for those who behaved as nice Jewish boys, is the reward at the end of one's life, and the Messianic era will be ushered at the "End of Days", which we now know is near the end of the 6,000 slated years of this world's existance - and presently, the world has already existed 28.86/30th of its time.

So on a simple level, the discussion of this chapter, at least at the beginning of it, deals with the concept of a portion of Olam HaBa. Now note that I did not write a portion IN Olam HaBa, but rather OF Olam Haba, for generally we refer to this place as a place of the Eternal Reward, so it makes most sense to write "a portion OF Olam HaBa".

With this said, there are those who may argue that ALL Jews, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of, have a portion in the world to come. In fact, some may even argue that ALL Jews are better than ALL non-Jews, which by the way is not quite true. Not only is this not true, but Judaism is the ONLY religion that admits that non-practitioners of that religion can be worthy of reward in Heaven; while ironically, followers of other religions claim that we Jews will "burn in Hell" for not accepting their religion.

And even if it is true that practically all Jews have a portion in the World to Come, why not go for the bigger slice of pie rather than be content with a smaller piece? You see, this depends on our performance in this world, which will determine how much reward we will receive FOR ALL ETERNITY! In fact, some say that ALL JEWS already have a portion in the world to come when born. However, the variable here is whether one will choose to enlarge his portion, or decrease it. In other words, all the reward that Hashem manufactured is already in existence. And so, whatever reward portion that the wicked lose out, the righteous will have more of instead, Indeed,one can unfortunately be so evil, that he will loose his entire eternal reword, as we see listed shortly later mentioned in the Mishna about various Biblical figures who committed spiritual suicide.

Now, this chapter in the Mishna only mentions about Olam HaBa, but it is the Gemara on this chapter that goes into great length about Moshiach. But, I am not ready yet to answer the question above about the name of this chapter.

So of course, everyone wants to know what the Talmud has to say about when Moshiach is coming. Well first, at least to the Jewish men, I say that it would be a good idea for them to learn the Talmud that speaks about it instead of reading the daily newspaper (which is basically a total waste of precious time that could have been spent instead learning Torah of which one earns eternal reward for EACH AND EVERY word of Torah learning, each having a greater reward potential than ALL of the other Mitzvot combined!) or ask people when Moshiach is coming when they themselves don't want to do anything to deserve the Redemption. In fact, if some Jews knew how unprepared they are for the Redemption, they wouldn't be eager for Moshiach to come so quickly, since once he comes, it will be too late to do Teshuva/repentance. Now make no mistake - one of the 13 principles of Jewish faith - at outlined by the Rambam/Maimonides - is to not only believe in Moshiach's coming, but also to want him to come. Now with this comes a question, if it will indeed be too late for some of us, why should we want him to come now? Shouldn't we rather want some time to get ourselves spiritually prepared at least to some degree before this momentous moment arrives?

For the moment, I would rather discuss the name of Moshiach. To be quite frank with this, after studying this part of the Talmud, one may be left with more questions than answers - not only regarding the expected target date of Moshiach's coming, but regarding Moshiach's name. You see, the big question is - when the Talmud is discussing his name, is this his real name given to him at birth, or is it a figurative name? We see many times in the Talmudic and Midrashic writings about more than one name referring to the same person, and the question is which one of these is the person's REAL name. The real name in this case is of course the name given to him at birth, while the other name or names are descriptions of him based on a fact or action related to the person in question.

While I am not going to go through the entire Talmudic discussion on this, I am going to zero in on one of Moshiach's slated names (not necessarily his name given to him at birth) - Menachem. This name literally means "comforter", which is a reference to the Jews being comforted at the End of Days when we will leave our final exile. In fact, the name of the month when we observe the fast of Tisha B'Av marking the destruction of two Temples occurring on this same date is called Av (literally means "father"), and is sometimes called Menachem Av. And as our Rabbis tell us, on the day of the destruction of the Temple, Moshiach was born. Now, this statement, though there may be an argument that this was literally true which I will not discuss here, can be agreed on virtually across the board that this is a figurative statement. Meaning, the potential of Moshiach's coming, being called that he was born, began on the day of the destruction of the Temple, which is to tell us that anytime we wish to repent, Moshiach will arrive, as mentioned in a story in this Talmudic chapter in response to the question as to when Moshiach will come "Today - if you only hearken to His (Hashem's) voice".

Now, getting into Gematriot mode, it is true that the name Menachem, as mentioned in this chapter, is the same Gematria as another word referring to Moshiach - Tzemach (sprout), as we begin the 15th blessing of the weekday Shemoneh Esrei - Et Tzemach David "The sprout of David..." in which we ask Hashem to bring Moshiach who is a descendant of King David. I will get back to the Gematria of these names a little later on in this post, because I will also be answering a question later on.

Getting back to the concept of "figurative statement", it makes sense to say that this name of Moshaich - Menachem, is a figurative name, and not necessarily his name given to him at birth, for remember, Moshiach will be a real person, born of flesh and blood as a baby as all of us, except for Adam and Eve, are born.

And so, you may have guessed it - I don't necessarily believe that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, will be the Messiah. In fact, I believe that he won't be the Messiah - and not because he has already passed away; for in fact, this Talmudic chapter suggests the possibility that Moshiach can be someone who has already died - "If among the living, it is Rebbe (Rabbi Judah the Prince, compiler of the Mishnayot); if among the dead, it is Daniel". However, it is very important to understand the politics being played here. You see, the Messiah being a dead person, not paying attention to what the Talmud says, is viewed almost by everyone, including observant Jews who study the Talmud, strictly as a Christian concept. However, the big sin of believing in Jesus in Judaism, is not necessarily about believing in him as the Messiah, but as a god being part of the Trinity. Of course based on Jesus' life mocking and blatantly going against the Torah (which included public violation of the Sabbath and eating ham), he would not make a very good candidate being the Messiah.

In any case, since a dead person being the Messiah is viewed as a Christian concept, regardless of what the Talmud writes, it is not politically correct to tell the Jewish world that the Messiah will be someone who already passed away. Now, while many Lubavitchers, as much as they rave about their late leader, do not believe, or at least will not openly state, that they believe him to be the Messiah; there are some of them, known as Moshiachists, who make it clear for all to hear that they believe that the seventh and last Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach. However, it is these same people who claim that he never died - but rather that it appeared as if he died, as if he had no control of himself following what "appeared" to be a stroke when his two strokes were proven to be not medically any different than anyone else having a stroke, he "appeared" to not be able to speak, he "appeared" to be in a coma, etc. and insist that he is still living. Now, it is true that the Talmud in Tractate Berachot states that the righteous are called living even after they physically die, but this is of course referring to their spiritual living, which is the real and eternal living. However, if the Talmud even states that Messiah can be someone who already died, then why does this faction among Lubavitch claim the Lubavitcher Rebbe to still be alive in order to declare him the Messiah?

Now, of course they are not going to tell you that they have to be politically correct. However, what they will tell you that the leader of the generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who has been "hidden" from us for almost 18 years, is the Messiah. Now, this is based on what is claimed that the Lubavitcher Rebbe mentioned at one point amongst his hundreds of weekly sermons that the leader of the generation is the Messiah. Now, this leads to various interpretations. Some suggest that in his humbleness, he was referring to his late father-in-law, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson, claiming that he was saying that his father-in-law was still "living". Others without hesitation state that in fact, he was referring to himself as being the Messiah, since he was, at least as far as these followers of his are concerned, the leader of the generation. And so, the question is first of all, was there any tapering about what the Lubavicher Rebbe actually said, and if he did in fact say that the leader of the generation is the Messiah, then whom was he referring to, or perhaps he didn't have a specific person in mind?

As it happens in most Hasidic groups, the followers believe that it is THEIR Rebbe who is the greatest righteous person of the generation. Now, regardless of who actually fits the title as the Tzadik of the generation at any given time, can you truly call him the "leader of the generation" when many if not most don't accept him as such, let alone if they have opposing views of the Rebbe in question, and there were many sincere, devout righteous Jews and Torah scholars who were not in agreement with some of the things that he used to say? True, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was one of the most influential people of this past generation, and many Jews thanks to the Lubavitch movement became observant Jews if not Lubavitch embracers, but it cannot be denied that there are many other "Teshuva" (returning to Judaism) movements, including another Chasidic movement called Breslov, and then you have Aish HaTorah, Ohr Sameach, Rabbi Meir Kahane, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, etc. And this is not like in Moses' time when even when there were rebellions against him, the Jewish people as a whole accepted Moses as their leader who taught them the Torah straight as he heard it from Hashem Himself, when there were other great Torah scholars and righteous people living then as well, including Moses' brother Aaron, Joshua, Caleb, etc., but it was clear to all that Moses was the leader of the generation as he was accepted as such for 40 years.

Now, putting aside what the New York based Lubavitcher Rebbe actually said, or whether he is "alive" or not, etc., outside of this group of Lubavitchers who call him King Messiah, it has been clear among world Orthodox Jewry in the last several years that Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri of blessed memory, the leading, senior Kabbalistic rabbi and resident of Jerusalem the holiest city in the world, who passed away at the age of over a 100 years old, met with Moshiach (who lives in Israel, and according to at least one source, lives in Jerusalem) eight and a half years ago on 9 Cheshvan, 5764 (2003). This statement from his followers alone would be enough to dispel any doubts of the Lubavitcher Rebbe not being the Messiah. However, it is well documented, as shown on video, of Rabbi Kaduri's encounter with the Rebbe in 5750 (1990) when the Rebbe told him that he would live to see Moshiach. Now, perhaps some may have interpreted this at the time to mean that Rabbi Kaduri would live to see Moshiach's coming. However, since Rabbi Kaduri passed away over six years ago, we know that this interpretation is clearly not true. And so, unless one wants to doubt that the Rebbe's blessing came true, it only makes sense to say that when Rabbi Kaduri's followers not only mentioned of his encounter with Moshiach, but mentioned the exact date of this occurring, and they could have only known this if Rabbi Kaduri told them that he met with Moshiach, that it has to be someone who is presently living among us, unless the believers of "King Messiah" Rabbi Schneerson want to call the facts about what Rabbi Kaduri's followers stated as "Baba Ma'asiyos", or that the Moshiach that Rabbi Kaduri met was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who is still "alive", but this could not be true because the Rebbe gave him a blessing for Rabbi Kaduri to meet Moshiach - obviously a different person - in the future. Another fact on the side is that on the date that Rabbi Kaduri's followers mentioned that he met with Moshiach, the largest solar flare ever recorded up to date took place (Google "November 4, 2003", the corresponding date of the Hebrew date of the encounter). Now, it is highly unlikely that Rabbi Kaduri's followers knew of this scientific fact taking place on this date, but as we know, whatever we do in this world, has its effect in the upper worlds; and so, the two greatest righteous people living in this world at the time meeting face to face (Moshiach has to be a most righteous person to be worthy of being Moshiach) no doubt had its effect in the spiritual worlds.

And speaking of Moshiach's name, between what Rabbi Kaduri hinted while still alive in this physical world, and the handwriting of his that was revealed a year after his passing, Moshiach's own name (as given to him at birth) is Yehoshua (and any Christian missionary reading this who wants to use this as "proof" that this is "Yeshua" is only digging his/her grave in Hell only more for all eternity for daring to attempt to lure Jews to believe in the Christian god) who has an extra letter Vav in his name (for a photograph of Rabbi Kaduri's handwriting of this, click on this from the official Rabbi Kaduri link of his followers). And so, while the name Menachem describes Moshiach as a comforter for that is what he will be for the Jewish nation after our long exile (physical AND spiritual exile) of nearly 2,000 years, it looks like that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson will only be a candidate to receive the Moshiach Award for best performance of Moshiach preparation...

Yes, there have been many righteous people who did much to prepare for Moshiach's coming, but that is it - their job was to prepare for Moshiach's coming - not to be Moshiach; and then when the majestic moment arrives, the REAL King Messiah will arrive, and will do whatever he needs to do himself to set everything in place - the Beit HaMikdash/Temple, a permanent Sanhedrin, and of course, away with the Knesset, the unSupreme anti-Judaism courts and the mofia police force in Israel, replaced with true Jewish leadership that Rabbi Meir Kahane, may G-d avenge his blood, was only able to dream about, when he was banned from the Knesset and court system, which included an "Orthodox" rabbi who took part in this shanda, after Rabbi Kahane won twelve seats in the Knesset.

Now, while all this information about who Moshiach will be and what his name given to him at birth is, partly to dispel false information and misinterpretations, what is most important to note is to understand Moshiach's role to have a better appreciation of Moshiach and to yearn for his coming. As a Menachem/comforter, Moshiach will right the wrongs, especially that has been wrought to so many righteous Jews by a secular anti-Judaism government that has been officially controlling the Holy Land for virtually 64 years, including bribing rabbis to keep quiet about Jews being evacuated right and left, while making it so much easier for our Arab enemies to attack us, including sending them "humanitarian" supplies; but many good Jews in Israel, including Holocaust survivors, live on poverty level. And while certainly, the early Jewish pioneers in the modern history of Israel called Zionists made Israel be quite a functional country from its previous malaria infested state without modern plumbing or electricity, preparing Jews to have physically things in place in time for Moshiach to come, it can hardly be called "the beginning of the Redemption" in the spiritual sense when Jews who were observant of Judaism for thousands of years from Europe to Yemen came to Israel only to throw away anything and everything sacred to Torah thanks to British and Socialist settings copied from some of the biggest anti-Semitic countries to squash whatever the Torah stands for.

And here is the rest of the beans - the name Menachem, part of the important discussion about Moshiach in Perek Cheilek of Tractate Sanhedrin, is the same Gematria as the word Cheilek, which in itself when spelled backwards, is the Hebrew number 138! Oh yes, and this is my 138th Post, writing this around the time of Passover, the holiday celebrating our first Redemption. "For His people is Hashem's portion (Cheilek), Jacob is the lot of His inheritence" (Deutronomy 33:9). For in fact, the word Cheilek itself refers to the Jewish people, and hence, while the beginning words of the Talmudic chapter begins with "All of Israel", what would distinguish us from all other nations just because we are called "Israel"? For that matter, if we Jews were not to be observant of Judaism, then why care about what the Bible has to say about our land's boundaries? We might as well call it Palestine for that matter, because aside from G-d's word in the Bible, why should we be any better than anyone else if we don't believe that this our land give to us by Hashem? And so, if we truly feel like we are Hashem's Cheilek, as His believers and followers, then and only then can we feel that we are indeed a special nation, blessed to be Hashem's Portion. And hence, despite our past shortcomings, due to our good deeds and our truly righteous leaders who were the real ones who began the Redemption process, Hashem will comfort us at the end with Moshiach as a Menachem/comforter.

May we merit to live to witness the majestic moment of Moshiach's arrival very shortly.

9 Nissan, 5772