Encyclopedia Chabad
By Rabbi Chaim Miller

Geula (Redemption)
a) The definition of Redemption in Jewish law
b) The requirement to yearn for this era
c) A distinction between the requirements of belief and yearning
d) Observance of the mitzvos and the world order in the future time
e) The criterion of Divine service
f) The necessity of a human redeemer
g) Most suitable term for this leader in Jewish law
h) The specific goal of this leader
i) Conclusion

(Continued from issue 350.)

f) The necessity of a human redeemer

There is a requirement to believe that in this final generation that brings the Redemption in actuality, there will be a unique Jewish leader who will be responsible for returning the world to a state where all the mitzvos can be observed properly. The task of this leader is thus a continuation of the work of King David, who made possible the complete observance of Torah and mitzvos in his time. (Thus, this leader’s task differs from that of Moshe - although Moshe was also a redeemer - since Moshe’s leadership was not characterized by a battle against the worldly obstacles to the observance of mitzvos.)

Maimonides writes at the opening of his laws pertaining to Moshiach: "In the future, King Moshiach will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty." This strong connection between Moshiach and King David is stressed again at length near the end of the same law. "There is also a reference [to Moshiach] in the passage concerning Bilam, who prophesies about the two anointed [kings]: the first anointed [king], David, who saved Israel from her oppressors, and the final anointed [king] who will arise from among his descendants and save Israel [at the End of Days].

The following [quoted] phrases are from that passage (Num 24:17-18): "I see it, but not now," refers to David; "I perceive it, but not in the near future," refers to King Moshiach.

"A star shall go forth from Yaakov," refers to David; "and a staff shall arise in Israel," refers to King Moshiach.

"He shall crush all of Moab’s princes," refers to David (as it is written [Sam. II 8:2], "He smote Moab and measured them with a line"). "He shall break down all of Seth’s descendants," refers to King Moshiach (about whom it is written [Zech. 9:10], "He will rule from sea to sea").

"Edom will be demolished," refers to David (as it is written, "Edom became the servants of David"); "His enemy, Seir, will be destroyed," refers to Moshiach (as it is written [Ovadia 1:21], "Saviors will ascend Mount Zion [to judge the mountain of Esau....]").

Note that Maimonides does not compare Moshiach to any other Jewish leader, to any of the other anointed kings, nor to Moshe (described by the Midrash as the first redeemer). From this we can conclude that Moshiach’s task, according to halacha, is identical to that of King David. (Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 18, p. 272. See below, note 9.)

g) Most suitable term for this leader in Jewish law

In Rabbinic texts this leader is referred to by various names, such as: Goel Acharon (the final redeemer), Goel Tzedek (the righteous redeemer), Moshiach Tzidkeinu (our righteous Moshiach), Dovid Malka Moshiach (the Messianic, Davidic King), or simply Moshiach (the Messiah). However, in Jewish law the most accurate term is Melech HaMoshiach (the Messianic King), as the proper observance of all the mitzvos is only possible when the Jewish monarchy is intact. Therefore, this name is most indicative of his goal (to return the world to a state where it is possible to keep the mitzvos properly).

However, the term "king" in our instance is not meant in the literal sense (namely, that he has the halachic status of a king, appointed by the Sanhedrin and a prophet). This is because the main work of Moshiach is carried out in exile, before the return of the Jewish monarchy. Thus, the term "king" in this instance refers to the goal of Moshiach - making possible the perfect observance of all the mitzvos, which depends on the monarchy being intact.

(See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 18, p. 272ff)

h) The specific goal of this leader

In order to transform the state of exile (where it is impossible to observe all the commandments) to one of Redemption there are two types of activity required:

1) The elimination of all matters that inhibit or oppose the observance of the mitzvos that still exist, either among the Jewish people or as a result of oppression from non-Jews.

2) Positive actions that bring to the world righteousness, goodness, and holiness, so that the world can reach an elevated, redemptive state.

The task of Moshiach focuses (primarily) on (1). The vast majority of his work is carried out in exile before the Holy Temple is built, and the Redemption is effectively a proof that he was successful in that work. Activity (2) depends on the Jewish people and on G-d.

Maimonides stresses that the task of Moshiach is identical to that of King David (see above, note 6).

The connection is obvious, for King David spent his life fighting for the construction of the Holy Temple, so that all the mitzvos could be observed, and this is also the task of Moshiach.

However, if one considers the fact that King David did not actually complete the building of the Temple (it was completed by his son, King Solomon), then it becomes apparent that Moshiach’s primary work is not the building of the Temple per se, but rather, combating the obstacles the world presents that oppose a state of total mitzva observance.

After all, when these obstacles have been eradicated, the actual building of the Temple could not be considered a tremendous feat, for the primary work is surely the obliteration of those obstacles that oppose the observance of mitzvos in general.

Thus, Maimonides compares Moshiach to King David in particular (and not Solomon or any other leader, even Moshe) for it was King David who spent his days fighting the obstacles that opposed the possibility of all 613 mitzvos being observed.

A further point is that Maimonides omits here any reference to the immense body of Torah teachings that Moshiach is destined to reveal, which is described by our Sages. (See VaYikra Rabba 13:3; Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah 429.) This, however, represents Moshiach’s positive role (corresponding to [b] in the main text) of bringing goodness and holiness into the world. By omitting such sources and stressing instead Moshiach’s connection to King David, Maimonides clarifies that the halachic role of Moshiach is largely one of negating - namely, the removal of obstacles that oppose mitzva observance.

From this analysis, an extremely fundamental point emerges: The primary work of Moshiach according to Jewish law (the removal of obstacles in Divine service) occurs prior to the Redemption. The final building of the Temple and the Redemption itself is proof that the person who was presumed to be Moshiach (due to his work in removing obstacles that oppose Divine service) actually succeeded in his job.

Consequently, we can understand that the entire concept of the coming of Moshiach is largely something that occurs during exile, when over time a Jewish leader emerges who is revolutionary in his ability to remove the obstacles that oppose mitzva observance. The Redemption is thus something that follows as a result of Moshiach’s success.

[Obviously, this poses a problem. Until the Redemption finally arrives, one cannot be totally certain that a leader who demonstrates Messianic qualities will actually succeed in his goal. See entry: Moshiach]

Moshiach will still continue to be active after the Redemption, teaching Torah, etc., but this is not the primary purpose for which he comes. (See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 35, p. 208ff.)

The positive actions that transform the state of exile into one of Redemption are alluded to in the Hebrew words for "exile" and "redemption" themselves.

This concept is explained at length in the Rebbe’s sicha of Shabbos Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim 5751.

i) Conclusion

Based on the above, there is no room for the belief that the coming of Moshiach per se is an end in itself. Melech HaMoshiach is required as the intermediary to prepare the world so that it will be possible to observe Torah and mitzvos properly (in the true and complete Redemption).

Since the purpose of Moshiach’s coming is to make possible an era of perfect mitzva observance, this teaches us that the coming of Moshiach is not a goal in itself. Moshiach is a means to an end, for it is he who makes possible the Redemption, for which the Jewish people yearn.

(Thus, even if a person proclaims, "We want Moshiach Now," without mentioning the Redemption at all, he surely does not intend that he wants Moshiach and not Redemption. Since Moshiach and Redemption are dependent on one another, merely by mentioning the desire for Moshiach includes the desire for Redemption.)

However, this halachic conclusion - that we have derived from the words of Maimonides - appears to contradict the conception of Moshiach as described in chassidic sources. Rather than being a mere intermediary to bring Redemption, chassidic texts describe Moshiach as being intrinsically higher than Redemption. Thus, when Moshiach is sufficiently revealed within the world, Redemption will automatically follow. (See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 27, p. 256 and sources cited in notes 36 & 37.) This appears to contradict the halachic conclusion that Moshiach is less important than Redemption because he is merely the means by which we bring about Redemption, which is the truly desired effect.

Nevertheless, even if there is an apparent contradiction, the practical conclusion would be in favor of the halacha, as we do not rule in favor of a mystical explanation when it appears to contradict the view of halacha.

But, in fact, there is no real contradiction. chassidic texts agree that the goal is to facilitate an era in which it is possible to observe all the mitzvos (i.e., Redemption). However, in stating that Moshiach is higher than Redemption (and the Redemption is no more than the revelation of Moshiach in the world), the intention is to explain how it is possible that one man could bring about such a major change in the entire world, disturbing a status quo of thousands of years. To this point, chassidus answers that because Moshiach is intrinsically greater than all worldly affairs; merely by revealing his essence in the world, the Redemption will come.

In the final analysis, however, the primary focus should be according to the ruling of halacha - that one is required to yearn for a period where it will be possible to observe all the mitzvos.

In a number of the Rebbe’s talks, certain practices are advised which have a special power to bring Redemption, based on the chassidic assertion that Moshiach is higher than Redemption. Following these practices is certainly no contradiction to halacha. There are five directives, taken from Likkutei Sichos, ibid., p. 257 and Seifer HaSichos, Vol. 1, pp. 132-3. 1) Learning Torah purely for G-d’s sake, without any secondary motives. 2) Emphasizing Redemption immediately upon awakening. 3) Adding in the observance of one mitzva through arousing fresh energy from the essence of the soul. 4) Giving another Jew his physical needs. 5) Proclaiming "Yechi HaMelech (Long live the King") to Moshiach, in order to reveal his essence.

See entries: Galus, Moshiach, Rebbe

(This entry was adapted from Kuntres Chassidus k’Hilchoso, published by Yeshiva Tomchei T’mimim, Leeds, in 5761)


The vast majority of Moshiach’s work is carried out in exile before the Holy Temple is built, and the Redemption is effectively a proof that he was successful in that work.



The entire concept of the coming of Moshiach is largely something that occurs during exile...