The Three Weeks תשפ

Last Thursday, July 9th, we observed the fast of the 17th of Tamuz, and next Thursday, July 30th, we will observe “Tisha b’Av” the fast on the 9th day of the month of Av. These fasts are associated with the destruction of the two Holy Temples. On the 17th day of Tamuz, the walls of the city of Jerusalem were breached, and on the 9th of Av both Holy Temples were destroyed. During the three weeks between these two fasts, the Sages have instituted laws of mourning to help us feel the loss of the Holy Temples. Because of the special laws pertaining to these three weeks, they are referred to as “The Three Weeks.” 

In his commentary on the Mishna, as a preface to the tenth chapter of Tractate Sanhedrin, Maimonides listed the 13 truths that comprise what every Jew must know and accept before he can be considered a believing Jew. If someone rejects any of these ideas, his belief in Hashem and His Torah is incomplete or erroneous. 

These items were later condensed and put into the daily prayer book. They are known in that form as Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith.

Number 12 reads as follows: 

יב – אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה. בְּבִיאַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיִּתְמַהְמֵהַּ. עִם כָּל זֶה אֲחַכֶּה לּוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם שֶׁיָּבוֹא

I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Mashiach. Even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I will await him with every coming day.

This is based on what Maimonides wrote in his magnum opus the Mishna Torah (Laws of Kings 11:1): 

 (א) המלך המשיח עתיד לעמוד ולהחזיר מלכות דוד ליושנה לממשלה הראשונה ובונה המקדש ומקבץ נדחי ישראל וחוזרין כל המשפטים בימיו כשהיו מקודם מקריבין קרבנות ועושין שמטין ויובלות ככל מצותה האמורה בתורה וכל מי שאינו מאמין בו או מי שאינו מחכה לביאתו לא בשאר נביאים בלבד הוא כופר אלא בתורה ובמשה רבינו

The King Mashiach is destined to rise up and restore the Kingdom of David to its original dominion. He will build the Holy Temple, and gather the Jews in from the diaspora. All the laws will return to the way they were previously; sacrifices will be offered; the sabbatical and Jubilee years will be observed with all their commandments as described in the Torah. Anybody who does not believe in the Mashiach, or is not waiting for his arrival, is not only denying the prophets, he is denying the Torah and Moshe as well…

Maimonides is clear to say that not only must one believe in the Mashiach’s coming, he must also await his arrival. Where does this come from? 

In the Talmud (Shabbat 31a), Rava tells us that when a person is brought before the heavenly court for judgment after completing his life in this world, they will ask him,  ציפית לישועה?“ Did you await the redemption?” We see that a person will be held accountable for not awaiting the Mashiach. 

While we see that there is a basis for waiting for the Mashiach, how do we understanding Maimonides counting it as one of the fundamentals of Judaism?

Indeed, Rabbi Yosef Albo (1380-1444), in his book ספר העיקרים – The Book of Principles – wonders about Maimonides’ fundamental #12, and asks, “Why when one doesn’t believe in the coming of Mashiach is he an apostate, one who is considered a non-believer in the whole Torah? True, it is incorrect and a sin, but what makes it an essential belief without which his belief in Judaism is incomplete?”

We can add to his question. What is missing from Jewish life without the Mashiach that makes his coming so essential? True, we don’t have the Holy Temple service, but except for that, we are fully observant! We keep the Shabbat properly with all its components, we eat kosher food of the highest standard, pray three times a day with a minyan, and learn Torah daily. The list goes on and on. What essential component is missing from Jewish life in 2020?

The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (6:12) says:

כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בָּעוֹלָמוֹ, לֹא בְרָאוֹ אֶלָּא לִכְבוֹדוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, כֹּל הַנִּקְרָא בִשְׁמִי וְלִכְבוֹדִי בְּרָאתִיו יְצַרְתִּיו אַף עֲשִׂיתִיו, וְאוֹמֵר יְדֹוָד יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד

Everything that Hashem created in his world, He created only for His honor. As it says in the verse, (Isaiah 43:7) “Everyone who is called by My Name and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have fashioned even perfected”. Additionally, it says, (Exodus 15:18), “Hashem will reign for ever and ever.”

What is the meaning of this Mishna? Why does Hashem need us to honor Him? 

Honor is not something that one can give to himself. True honor must be given by someone else who has found him worthy of honor. One who honors himself is just plain haughty or conceited. Additionally, honor is only meaningful when the one giving the honor also has the possibility not to honor this person. Because he has the option not to honor, when he does choose to give honor, it is because he has found the person worthy of it. Honor is only real when it has been earned. If one uses the power at hand to force others to honor him, he causes them to lose any respect they may have had for him. Honor cannot be mandated; it must be earned. 

Our Sages expressed it this way. 

כל הרודף אחר הכבוד, כובד בורחת ממנו

One who runs after honor, honor runs away from him. 

The Sages are explaining the process. It is cause and effect. Because he is running after it, and that is disrespectful, by definition, the honor runs away from him. His actions have actually chased it away.  

Having said that, the Mishna’s understanding that Hashem created everything for His honor is that Hashem created the human being with the power to bestow honor by giving him freedom of choice. By choosing to accept Hashem upon himself as King and to honor His wishes instead of choosing himself as king and doing whatever he wants, he accords the greatest honor to Hashem. 

Our Sages teach us that Hashem created the world and everything in it to reveal Himself to Mankind. The capacity in which Hashem reveals Himself to the world is as the מלך (the King) of the universe. He created it and keeps it running every second. 

There are two types of rulers. One is aמלך  a king, and the other is a מושל, a despot. A king is chosen by the people whereas a despot imposes his rule upon the people without giving them a choice. Our Sages teach us that Hashem is decidedly a king, not a despot, because although He could impose His will upon us and force us to do what He wants us to do, He only wants us to serve Him through our own choice to do so. In this way, we are Hashem’s partners in the establishment of His kingdom. In essence, we are Hashem’s kingdom, as His kingdom exists only as long as we choose to live our lives exemplifying His kingdom.

The “constitution” for Hashem’s kingdom in the world is the Torah, the system by which Hashem wants His world to operate. The laws of the mortal king must comply with the rules of the Torah. The king may not have too many wives, too many horses, or amass tremendous wealth for his own coffers. The laws of the subjects in Hashem’s kingdom will be the laws of the Torah. Do not speak negatively about your fellow Jew, do not embarrass him, do not take revenge against him. Treat him with respect and love him like yourself.

There was indeed a time in our history when this was the case, viz, when King David and his son Solomon were the kings of Israel. The Torah was the basis for all law in the land, and the kingdom of King David truly represented the Kingdom of Hashem. It showcased for the entire world to see, the wisdom, the justice, and the mercy in the laws of the Torah, and how perfect life could be for those who kept it. The Jewish nation were respected and feared by all the countries around it, as the nation of the most powerful G-d in the world. 

In today’s world, it is challenging to see G-d. Not only does the world act like there is no G-d running it, they say there is no G-d running it. Everything runs on its own without any need for Hashem at all. 

There is but a small handful of people who say, “I see Hashem everywhere! There is no place where He is not to be seen!” These people are fulfilling Hashem’s purpose for creating the world, to reveal Himself to Mankind. They are choosing to see Hashem and coronate Him as their King, accepting His Torah as their way of life. 

At this point, unfortunately, we must say, Hashem’s project is a failure! He created the world to reveal Himself to people through it, but there are so many more people denying Hashem than there are people seeing Him as King. 

It is unacceptable to think that Hashem could fail at any mission. That the world should continue its path of godlessness and not recognize Hashem to the end of time is an impossible thought. Hashem’s world must accomplish the goal which Hashem set for it, that Mankind see Hashem through the world that He created.  

Maimonides writes.

The King Mashiach is destined to rise up and restore the Kingdom of David to its original dominion. He will build the Holy Temple, and gather the Jews in from the diaspora. All the laws will return to the way they were previously; sacrifices will be offered, the sabbatical and Jubilee years will be observed with all their commandments as described in the Torah. 

This is why there must be a Mashiach, and why his coming is one of the essential principles of Judaism. It relates to the very purpose for the world. In one split second, every human being on the planet is going to see Hashem in every nook and cranny of the world. They are going to suddenly realize how they had been blinded from seeing Hashem by their biases and desires.  Jews and non-Jews are going to accept Hashem as their King and dedicate their lives to fulfilling His wishes. In this way, Mashiach is going to restore the Kingdom of King David to its original glory because the entire world will once again be under the Kingdom of Hashem as implemented through the Kingdom of David.  

Maimonides writes further (Law #5) :

רמב”ם יד החזקה הלכות מלכים פרק יא 

ואם יעמוד מלך מבית דוד הוגה בתורה ועוסק במצות כדוד אביו כפי תורה שבכתב ושבעל פה ויכוף כל ישראל לילך בה ולחזק בדקה וילחם מלחמות ה’ הרי זה בחזקת שהוא משיח אם עשה והצליח ובנה מקדש במקומו וקבץ נדחי ישראל הרי זה משיח בודאי ויתקן את העולם כולו לעבוד את ה’ ביחד שנאמר כי אז אהפוך אל עמים שפה ברורה לקרוא כולם בשם ה’ ולעבדו שכם אחד:

And if a king from the family of David who is knowledgeable in Torah and engaged in mitzvot like his forefather David, fulfilling the Written and Oral Torahs, convinces the Jewish people to follow the ways of Hashem and to be careful with all the laws, and fights for Hashem’s causes , we can assume that this person is Mashiach. If he succeeds in building the Holy Temple in its original place, and gathers in the Jewish people, then, it is proven that he is the Mashiach, and he will correct all mankind to serve Hashem as one. 

During the Three Weeks, we mourn the loss of the Holy Temples and the presence of Hashem that dwelled within them. Without the Holy Temples, it is easy to lose sight of Hashem. But, at the same time, perhaps it would be appropriate to redouble our prayers to bring Mashiach. His coming will be reinstate the Kingdom of David, and restore Hashem’s presence to the world. He will build the Holy Temple, and once again, the whole world will serve Hashem in unity, fulfilling Hashem’s purpose for the world. May our prayers bear fruit so that we merit to see the coming of Mashiach speedily in our times!

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