REFLECTIONS ON THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH

“I believe with absolute faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even if he tarries, he will come.”


     One of the core principles and most salient characteristics in Judaism is the belief in the coming of the Messiah. But when we deconstruct the concept into its component parts, paradoxes arise. It appears to be nothing but an empty signifier, something like a vessel for the assorted and idiosyncratic needs of one Jewish community or another.

     There's “Messiah Now,” which advocates actively hastening his arrival, and there’s “one mustn’t hasten the end,” which advocates passivity, humbleness, and biding one’s time. There is a Messiah who embodies yearning for past glory, and a Messiah who evokes hope for the future. There’s a Messiah who signifies the end of history, and a Messiah who signifies its beginning. There is a Messiah who will come to redeem the individual from his agony, and a Messiah who will free the nation from its shackles. There is a Messiah who has been sent in the grace of God to redeem the world, and a Messiah who will redeem divinity itself. There’s a Messiah of light, and a Messiah of darkness. A Messiah who is present-continuous, a Messiah who is outside of time itself. A Messiah who is future-present, always to come, and a Messiah who is past-present, always-already. And there is a Messiah who will come one day after his arrival. There is a Messiah who will suddenly leap through a tiny, secret gate without prior consultation with the Timing Authority. There’s a true Messiah, and a false one. A youthful, innocent Messiah, who died for us on the cross, and one who, in Hebrew numerology, is equal to a serpent. And he is the origin of knowledge, and all of his acts are acts of cunning. There is a king Messiah, and a Messiah who is a pauper, riding on a donkey. There is a Messiah who will make whole the fragments, and one who is the fragments themselves, and it’s up to us to make them whole.

     And yet, how much strength do I draw from repeating every day: “I believe with absolute faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even if he tarries, he will come.” It is possible that the essence of the sentence is the "I believe with absolute faith" and not the coming of Messiah itself. And yet I would be unsatisfied were I to suppose the Messiah no more than an empty means for the production of faith.

     In theological-political terms, I would say that the Messiah is the gap between the physical and the metaphysical. He is the gap between Man and God, and, at the same time, the bridge connecting them. He is man's most hidden drive, the drive to raise himself within himself. Unlike Jesus, who is seen today as God’s incarnation in man, the Messiah is the image of man’s divine aspirations. The Messiah is not “what distinguishes man from animal,” but rather “what distinguishes man from himself.” Another possibility is that man places himself between animal and God, and the Messiah is the one who bends the vertical line into an equilateral triangle of which he is the center. God Nature Man, Spirit Time Matter, Tree of Life Tree of Knowledge Garden of Eden: the triangle restores their primal unity, or, at least, their striving for unity.

     We can find in Kafka’s writing a mysterious saying, which can help us understand this core principle: “Man cannot live without belief in something that is indestructible, even as the indestructible, and the belief in it, are forever hidden from him.” So one could say that the Messiah is that indestructible something within us.

     Now let’s consider the Jewish Messiah discourse in Israel/Palestine. Orthodox-national Judaism has placed all of its aspirations into the redemption of the land. Its actions to hasten the end and to bring about the coming of the Messiah are focused on the land, thereby elevating the physical to the level of the spiritual, allowing no room in which man's spirit can reside and robbing the land of its natural meaning. Those who are viewed as spiritual and faithful are bound to crash against the wall of matter and the distrust that has erected it. It is a wall that separates the farmer from his land, man from the feeling of freedom that animates him. They have carved a wall in their hearts: on its right side, infinite arrogance, and on its left, uprooted olive trees and humiliated men. And there is no opening through which the Messiah can come, even if he so desires. And therefore, the place they have created is named Death.

     Maybe those Israelis who have rejected the Messiah and celebrate their obliviousness in
    Trance/Nature bashes with arrogance and enormous sadness,
who have returned from their wanderings abroad adorned with symbols of love but their hearts shut
    and locked,
who won’t embrace the stranger who lives among them, indifferent to his suffering, despising him,
who with too much unrequited self-love can no longer bear themselves,
who have divided themselves between left and right in order to have “a meaningful conversation,”
and in whom the void of unfulfilled desires grows in desperation while prowling the city alleyways,
    dragging themselves in the streets at dawn looking for an angry fix from Yemen or a high-tech lab,
who continue to sustain and cultivate the legacy that their parents molded, the settler, who is a
    perverse projection of their bleeding self, a Moloch-Golem who has vanquished his maker and
    who is claiming his ransom in blood of human and devastated land,
    Maybe, it is precisely they, in their endless pursuit of unattainable pleasures, who are creating a new dimension of absence.

    Possibly it is they, with the fierce faith they have cast in a Moloch-Golem, who could be the ones to open the door for a true Messiah to enter and fill that needy space of absence, born of their repeated, desperate failure. Maybe this dimension will be open enough to hold desire and love for both matter and spirit, the two facets of the dream that brought their parents here: the redemption of man.

For we are all sons and daughters of Adam, and one of the Messiah’s names is Son of Adam
And our motherland, mother of all humans, whoever is human, will be as content as we.
As it is written: the mother of the sons is content.
And the door of our communal home
Will open wide
To life