Moshiach / Messiah

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



The Hebrew word Moshiach or Messiah is translated into ancient Greek as Khriein.

In English transliteration that becomes Christos or Christ. In Latin the same word is translated into in+unguere or, in English transliteration, anoint. In all three languages these words mean smeared.

Our Christian brethren are sometimes shocked to hear that translation. Yet, we read in the Torah (1 Samuel X) “And Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said: the Lord has anointed you over his inheritance as chief (or king).”

Samuel was a major prophet in Israel and it was Saul whose head received the oil as he was inaugurated the first king of Israel. David, king of Judah, was also “anointed”, as were all the kings of Judah and Israel.

The reason for smearing oil on the head of the king at his inauguration can readily be understood if we consider that ancient people did not use oil to drive cars. Oil seemed a mysterious substance to people who knew no chemistry.

Anyone who has walked on any beach in Israel knows that there is so much oil in the ground that it attaches to the feet or sandals of anyone walking there. Oil is found all over the area and in the heat of the summer it sometimes cause the vegetation to burn. This may be called “spontaneous combustion”, but to the ancients it was mysterious and supernatural. Hence the story of the burning bush.

In time, the word Moshiach came to mean more than just “smeared”. It took on a mythical quality and became identified with a yet to be born king who would rescue Israel from the oppression of Roman rule. Messianic hopes are of course most prevalent among those who feel they cannot help themselves and therefore seek supernatural intervention.

Today, years after the Holocaust, the concept of a Moshiach still exists among us. The Torah true or orthodox Jews hold that the Moshiach will arrive as a man and will inaugurate an era of peace and kindness among us as has never been seen before. There are some Jews who believe that the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994) is the Moshiach and will return soon. In New York City and in other cities there are some outdoor signs showing the picture of Rabbi Schneerson and proclaiming that the Moshiach is about to arrive.

In the past, several Jews have been regarded as the Moshiach, only to be defeated. Bar Kochba, who led the last Jewish revolt against the Romans in 132 C.E., was regarded as the Moshiach by some. In 1665-1666 Sabbatai Zvi claimed to be Moshiach. He ended in a Turkish prison and converted to Islam.

There are those who see the coming of the Moshiach in the rise of modern Israel. This euphoria was particularly pronounced after Israel won the 1967 war and liberated all of the Holy Land. Such beliefs may be satisfying but are hardly realistic.

Reality teaches us that each of us must strive to attain a Messianic age by contributing our share to such an eventual state of affairs during our lifetime. The problem for so many people is, then, how to do that.

In fact, for us Jews that is easy. We, the American Jewish community, have few serious problems. That is not to deny the poor among us. However, in general we are well off. We have a considerable communal income. We are better educated than any other ethnic group in America. We are well organized and we have a great friend in the White House.

Only recently, President Bush instructed our representative to the U.N. Security Council to veto a resolution seeking to once more condemn Israel. This time it was for defending itself against Arab murder coming from Gaza. The President, within the past two weeks, signed an extension of the Israel-U.S.A. trade agreement allowing Israeli products into the country without paying a tariff. This month, the U.S. agreed to sell Israel numerous “smart bombs” in response to Iranian nuclear threats.

This positive attitude towards our brethren in Israel has now continued for almost four years and would lead any other ethnic group to the conclusion that our vote should go where the survival of Israel is supported.

Unfortunately, the American Jewish community is largely repeating the stance taken by the U.S. Jews during the days of Franklin Roosevelt. That bigot made every excuse not to let German Jews migrate to this country. Yet, almost all American Jews in those days voted for this hater, without regard to the fate of the German Jews who died in the Nazi camps even before 1939 because no one wanted us.

Now we see the same thing again. Evidently, Kerry and his friends are no supporters of Israel. On the contrary. Democrats generally support Arafat. Therefore, a Kerry presidency would lead to several real dangers for Israel and us.

Kerry would not veto any anti-Jewish resolution in the Security Council. That would allow the U.N. to send an international force against Israel and hand the 5.5 million Jews there over to the mercy of the Arabs.

Kerry would not give Israel any military aid, nor financial support. Kerry objects to Israel’s defensive wall and praises Arafat as a statesman. In short, Kerry is anti-Israel.

Now consider this. Surely, many American Jews would vehemently object to any policy weakening our commitment to the survival of Israel. Such an objection will then lead to the accusation that we are more interest in Israel than the U.S. In short, the fate of Israel will become our own, as shown in all of Jewish history.

So think about it. Do you want to elect an enemy of the Jewish people to the presidency of the U.S., or do you want to do just once small thing to keep Israel alive and vote for the best friend we Jews have ever had in the White House?

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Man's Ascent to Reason (2003) & the forthcoming Football & American Identity.

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