January 9, 2009

Where Is the Mashiach Today?

by Benjamin Dauer

For about a year during my late teens I met weekly with the rabbi at my parents’ synagogue in a Boston suburb.

We would discuss Jewish thought and study Torah together.

During a conversation about Jewish eschatology she suggested that the concept of the mashiach or messiah, as presented in the Tanach and later Jewish writing, should be understood not as a narrative about a time beyond time, but as a story that takes place time and time again in the history of humanity.

She suggested that the idea of the mashiach refers to those individuals whose rightous actions catalyze change despite the suffering that surrounds them.

In that sense mashiach serves as a social archetype for the Gandhis and Kings of the world.

In a shiur (lesson) now published under the title Renewal is Judaism NOW, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi takes the literal translation of mashiach (anointed one) and expands on it to suggest that mashiach might refer to that quality, accessible to all of us, of lubricating moments of friction like the oil that keeps a machine from wearing itself down.

As the death toll in Gaza rises to nearly 800 with countless more injured, as qassam rockets continue to strike Israel , as Hamas and the Israeli government stubbornly refuse to ‘beat their swords into ploughshares’ and antisemitic attacks and attitudes are on the rise globally, where is the mashiach? Where is he in Jerusalem? Where is she in Gaza? Where is he in the Knesset and among Hamas’ elite?

The predominant voice of the world is an ethnocentric outcry.

Instead of ‘loving and pursuing peace’ many of the most vocal decriers of the current violence are content to dehumanize one faction or another, to see the bloodshed in the Holy Land as the simple narrative that it isn’t.

The most savage of human tendencies aren’t limited by ethnicity, religion or nationality.

All peoples have the potential in them to commit horrible atrocities.

We also all share the capacity for good.

Where is the mashiach today?

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