R’ Avi Zakutinsky
אַתָּ֣ה תְדַבֵּ֔ר אֵ֖ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲצַוֶּ֑ךָּ וְאַֽהֲרֹ֤ן אָחִ֨יךָ֙ יְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְשִׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵֽאַרְצֽוֹ
“You shall speak all that I command you, and Aaron, your brother, shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel out of his land.”
Moshiach in Halacha
In this week’s parsha we are told of Moshe Rabbeinu beginning the redemption of Klal Yisroel from Egypt. Moshe Rabbeinu was the first redeemer of the Jewish People [the verse Breishis 49:10 calls Moshiach “Shilos” which is the same numerical value of the word “Moshe”] and we anxiously await the arrival of Moshiach (may he come speedily) to complete the job of Moshe and redeem us from Galus. In this article we will discuss some of the laws related to Moshiach and hopefully merely learning some of the laws related to Moshiach will hasten his arrival, Amen.
Belief in Moshiach–
- The Rambam (Melachim 11:1) writes: “Anyone who does not believe in him or does not await his coming, denies not only the statements of the other prophets, but those of the Torah and Moses, our teacher. The Torah testified to his coming, as Deuteronomy 30:3-5 states: ‘God will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you. He will again gather you from among the nations… Even if your Diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, God will gather you up from there… and bring you to the land….’These explicit words of the Torah include all the statements made by all the prophets.”
- It is therefore clear from the words of the Rambam that one must believe in the arrival of Moshiach and that one that doesn’t believe in Moshiach is a kofer. He similarly rules in the laws of Teshuva (3:6) that one who denies the coming of Moshiach has no share in the World To Come. As we say every day in the Ani Maamins (12): “I believe in complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.”
- It is also clearly evident that it is not enough to believe in Moshiach, rather, one must anxiously await his arrival and that one that doesn’t await his arrival is also a kofer.
- The Rambam (Parah Adumah 3:4) writes: “Nine red heifers (para adumah) were offered from the time that they were commanded to fulfill this mitzvah until the time when the Temple was destroyed a second time. The first was brought by Moshe our teacher. The second was brought by Ezra. Seven others were offered until the destruction of the Second Temple. And the tenth will be brought by the king Mashiach; may he speedily be revealed. Amen, so may it be G-d’s will.” The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (Hisvadios 5746 page 535) notes that the ending of this Rambam seems a bit peculiar, since the Rambam is a halacha sefer. Why then does he end this halacha with the statement “May he speedily be revealed. Amen, so may it be G-d’s will”? The Rebbe zt”l explains that the Rambam is teaching us a halacha that one must await the arrival of Moshiach and therefore at the mere mention of his name one must add a prayer that he come speedily in our days.
- It should be added that merely awaiting the coming of Moshiach hastens his arrival. (Medrash Yalkut Shimoni Eicha 5 and Chida Midbar Kideimos Kevui)
Moshiach Will not know that he is Moshiach-
- There is an interesting teaching of the Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos 6:96). The Chasam Sofer explains that Moshiach will not know that he is Moshiach until Hashem reveals Himself to him and informs him that he will redeem the Jewish people. He likens this to the revelation of Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe was eighty years old and still did not know that he would redeem the Jewish people. Even more so, he refused to believe it when Hashem informed him of his fate. So too Moshiach will not know that he is Moshiach until the revelation from Hashem.
Building The Beis Hamikdash-
- There is a classic difference of opinions between our rabbis regarding the construction of the Third Beit Hamikdash. According to some the Beis Hamikdash will be built by man, more specifically Moshiach, while others believe it will be built by Hashem Himself.
- The Rambam (Melachim 11:1) writes: “In the future, the Messianic king will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel.” Rambam clearly states that the Beis Hamikdash will be built by man—more specifically, by Moshiach. Indeed, its construction will be one of the signs of Moshiach’s advent. Rambam’s view appears to be based on the Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 1:11 and Pesachim 9:1; Vayikra Rabbah 9:6; and Bamidbar Rabbah 13:2.
- Rashi (Rosh Hashana 30a), by contrast, explains that the Beis Hamikdash has already been constructed by G-d and exists in the heavenly realms, waiting for the time when it will descend to the earth. For the Third Beis Hamikdash will be “the Sanctuary of G-d, established by Your hands.” When the setting within the world is appropriate, this heavenly structure will descend and become an actual reality within our material world. Rashi’s view has its source in the Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 11; Zohar 1:28a; and other texts.
- There is a possibility to explain that there is no disagreement between Rashi and the Rambam and that they are explaining two different Messainic situations. The Gemara in Sanhedrin(98a) writes the following: “Rav Yehoshua Ben Levi noted a contradiction. On the one hand it is written ‘in it’s time’ (be’ita), which implies that the redemption will occur in its preordained time. But on the other hand it is written ‘I will hasten it’ (achishena) which implies that God will bring the redemption before its preordained time. Rav Yehoshua Ben Levi resolved the contradiction as follows- If the Jews are deserving, I will hasten it. If they are not deserving, the redemption will occur in its time.” In the present context as well, it can be explained that the if the redemption occurs before its preordained time, the Beis Hamikdash will be built miraculously by Hashem. If, however, the redemption comes in its preordained time, the Beis Hamikdash will be built by Moshiach with the help of the Jewish people. (Maharam Shick Y.D. 253. Refer to Tiferes Yisroel Middos, Aruch Lener Sukkah 41a for alternative methods as to avoid an argument between Rashi and the Rambam.)
- May we witness the actual resolution of this issue in the immediate future, with the coming of the Redemption and the rebuilding—or the descent—of the Beis Hamikdash. “And then, the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to G-d, as in the days of old and as in bygone years.”
וּמשֶׁה֙ בֶּן־שְׁמֹנִ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַ֣הֲרֹ֔ן בֶּן־שָׁל֥שׁ וּשְׁמֹנִ֖ים שָׁנָ֑ה בְּדַבְּרָ֖ם אֶל־פַּרְעֹֽה
“And Moshe was eighty years old, and Aaron was eighty three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.” (Vaera 7:7)
The Bracha Upon Seeing Royalty
1) The Gemara (Brachos 58a) tells us that one should make an effort to see kings “and not only Jewish kings, but even gentile kings, because if he will merit, he will be able to distinguish between Jewish and non-Jewish kings”. Rashi explains that this refers to those who will see the coming ofMoshiach. They will appreciate how much greater the honor given to theMelechHa’Moshiach is than the honor given by the various nations to their leaders in this world. The Gemara adds that additionally there is an obligation to recite a special bracha when seeing a king. As was codified by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 224:8), when one sees a Jewish king, he should say “Baruch…she’cholok mikvodo li’yireiav” and if he sees a non-Jewish king he should recite the blessing “Baruch…she’noson mikvodo l’basar v’dam”.
2) Rav Chaim Palag’i zt”l (cited by the Sefer Shearim Metzuyanim B’Halacha vol. 1. 60:6) rules that one is required to recite the bracha upon seeing a king even if he is known to be an evil tyrant. He explains that this blessing is not meant as a symbol of honor or respect towards the king. Rather, the rationale for this blessing is in order to appreciate how much honor is shown to kings now, so that we will be able to appreciate how much more honor will be given to the Melech Ha’moshiach.
3) The term “king” employed by the gemara is somewhat vague. In fact, nowhere in the gemara or in its major commentaries are we told what kind of authority one must have in order to warrant a bracha. The Radvaz (cited by Magen Avraham and Mishna Berurah) explains that the bracha need not be said over a king exclusively, but rather, any official or leader who is able to execute and exercise capital punishment is deemed to have requisite power to warrant a bracha. This ruling of the Radvaz is particularly essential when evaluating whether a blessing should be said over the President of the United States, as is discussed at length by the modern day Poskim. There are primarily two views on this subject:
4) Bracha Is Recited– Rav Wosner zt”l (Shevet Halevi 1:35) reasons that the ruling of the Radvaz is only necessary regarding a governor or officer who are not the most honored and revered in their land (as they don’t hold the highest position). A person like this needs the ability to execute criminals to have the power to require a blessing. The President or king, however, who are shown the most honor require a blessing regardless of their abilities and duties.[This author was told from reliable sources that Rav Zelig Epstein Zt”l indeed recited a bracha upon meeting President Clinton.]
5) Bracha Without The Name of Hashem– Since the President is unable to execute prisoners at will, he should not warrant a blessing. This is the opinion of Rav Moshe Stern zt”l. In his Sefer Beer Moshe 2:9, he advises that one recite the blessing while omitting the name of Hashem.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef zt”l cites a number of authorities who rule that one does not recite a beracha when he sees a king wearing normal clothing, and without the accompaniment of an entourage. These authorities reason that the blessing is recited on the “honor” granted the king. If the king is not currently displaying that honor there is no need for a beracha. Rabbi Yosef himself is unsure whether or not these authorities should be relied upon and therefore rules to recite the beracha without uttering the name of God. Therefore, since presidents do not wear “the garb of kings” one does not recite the name of Hashem.
Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:139) explains that since the criteria for this blessing is that they must be shown the honor reserved for royalty, one would not make a bracha on a president because, although he holds the highest position in the land, he only holds it for four years. He may be impeached at any time, and his approval is not necessary for all laws to be passed. For this very reason, Rav Shternbuch rules that a bracha should be recited upon seeing the monarch in modern day England.
Rav Asher Weiss shlit”a maintains that the bracha is not recited today on any monarch. Most leaders do not have the power necessary to warrant a bracha. Even those tyrants that have the power to kill at will do not warrant a bracha, in his view, since they do not judge properly with tzedek. Only a king that judges fairly and still has power would require a bracha.
6) The poskim rule that one does not make a bracha upon seeing a king or president on the television; see Shut B’tzel Hachochmo 2:19, Beer Moshe 2:9, Yechava Daas 2:28.
7) Rabbi Moshe Stern zt”l and his brother Rav Bezalel Stern zt”l (Be’er Moshe 2:9:4 and B’tzel Hachochmo 2:19) both explain that one need not actually see the king himself in order to make the beracha. It is sufficient to see the entourage parading the monarch through the streets.
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