is the most important part of being a Jew called in Hebrew the Mitzvah. There are 613 mitzvah in the Torah and Jews keep these
commandments as part of the covenant that God made.
brings every thing of daily religious and non-religious life under the control of God by giving every action a purpose and
meaning even down to the smallest details.
Prayer and Special Prayer
Jews are those people who are constantly aware of Gods presence and are always ready to praise him. Judism provides three
orders of daily prayer the morning, and evening. Besides this, special prayers are given to eating, holy days,
reading the Torah, different months of the year and so on. Nearly all the prayers are formal and have been used for centuries.
of daily Prayer
Shema is the most important prayer of all and is recited in every act of worship. The Jewish prayer book called the Siddur
also says that two blessings must be said before the Shema is read and 19 afterwards. These are known as the Amidah and are
said standing. Each prayer finishes with the Aleinu meaning upon us is our duty one part speaks ofGod and the second to Gods promised messiah.
Tallit this is the robe which the worshippers wraps himself in prayer and is often called the prayer shawl this four cornered
garment has finges called Tzizit attached to each corner in keeping with the instructions found in Numbers 15. 37-40 The Tallit
is worn by men at morning prayer only and is draped across the back and shoulders. In Re form this is also worn by the women.
Tefillin these are cube shaped boxes containing four passages from the scriptures which are attached to the head and arm and
worn during morning prayer. These are not worn on Shabbot or festival days.
Yarmulkah this is the skull cap.This is worn by Jewish men as it is believed
that a bare head is disrespectful to God. Most cover their heads at all times. Reform Jews do not wear any head covering.
The Daily Prayers
The daily prayers
follow a basic pattern with some variations on Shabbos, Yomim Tovim (holidays) and other special days.
Shacharis - The
- The morning blessings
- Verses of Praise. We recite selected chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) and the song of the splitting of the Red
Sea (Shemos (Exodus) ). On Shabbos and Yom Tov
additional chapters of Tehillim are recited.
Krias Shema and
it's Blessings - We read Shema, preceded and followed by it's blessings. A lengthier version of the blessings is said on Shabbos
and Yom Tov.
- The Eighteen Blessings. Also called Amidah. Shemoneh Esrei is said standing and is recited quietly. On Shabbos and Yom Tov
different versions are recited.
Tachanun - Supplication.
This is recited immediately after Shemoneh Esrei. The primary part of Tachanun is Nefilas Apayim, 'falling on the face', where
we lower our heads. A lengthier version is recited on Mondays and Thursdays. Tachanun is not recited on Shabbos, Yom Tov,
and most other days of rejoicing.
Hallel - 'Praise'.
Hallel is a special selection from Tehillim which is said on Rosh Chodesh, most Yomim Tovim, and other special days.
- The Reading of the Torah. The Torah scroll is taken from
the Aron Kodesh, the Holy Ark, and carried to the Bimah. Individual congregants are called up for aliyos. The Torah is read
on Mondays, Thursdays, Shabbos, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of a new month), Chanuka, and other special days.
Ashrei - Uva
L'Tzion - Ashrei, a prayer taken from Tehillim, is recited, followed by Tehillim 20 and the prayer Uva L'Tzion. Tehillim 20
is not recited on days when Tachanun is not recited. Uva L'Tzion is not recited on Shabbos and Yom Tov during Shacharis but
Mussaf - An additional
Amidah is said on Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh.
Shir Shel Yom
- The Daily Song. A special chapter of Tehillim is recited on each day of the week.
Aleinu - The
prayer of Aleinu is recited.
Mincha - The
Ashrei - Ashrei
Uva L'Tzion -
On Shabbos and Yom Tov, Uva L'Tzion is recited after Ashrei.
- On Shabbos and on fast days the Torah is read.
- The Amidah is recited.
Tachanun - Tachanun
Aleinu - The
prayer of Aleinu is recited.
Ne'ilah - The
Closing of the Gates
On Yom Kippur
an additional Amidah is said.
Ma'ariv - The
Krias Shema and
it's Blessings - The Shema is recited, preceded and followed by it's blessings.
- The Amidah is recited.
Aleinu - The
Aleinu prayer is recited.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF JEWISH
The Thirteen Foundations
of the Ramba'm
The First Foundation
is to believe in the existence of the Creator, blessed be He. This means that there exists a Being that is complete in all
ways and He is the cause of all else that exists. He is what sustains their existence and the existence of all that sustains
them. It is inconceivable that He would not exist, for if He would not exist then all else would cease to exist as well, nothing
would remain. And if we would imagine that everything other than He would cease to exist, this would not cause His, HaShem's,
blessed be He, existence to cease or be diminished. Independence
and mastery is to Him alone, HaShem, blessed be His Name, for He needs nothing else and is sufficient unto himself. He does
not need the existence of anything else. All that exists apart from Him, the angels, the universe and all that is within it,
all these things are dependent on Him for their existence.
This first foundation
is taught to us in the statement, "I am HaShem your God..." (Shemos [Exodus] 20:2, Devarim [Deuteronomy] 5:6).
The Second Foundation
is the unity of HaShem, Blessed be His Name. In other words, to believe that this being, which is the cause of all, is one.
This does not mean one as in one of a pair nor one like a species [which encompasses many individuals] nor one as in one object
that is made up of many elements nor as a single simple object which is infinitely divisible. Rather, He, HaShem Blessed be
His Name, is a unity unlike any other possible unity.
This second foundation
is referred to when [the Torah] says, "Hear Israel!
HaShem is our God, HaShem is one". (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4)
The Third Foundation
is that He is not physical. This means to believe that the One whom we have mentioned is not a body and His powers are not
physical. The concepts of physical bodies such as movement, rest, or existence in a particular place cannot be applied to
Him. Such things cannot be part of His nature nor can they happen to Him. Therefore the Sages of blessed memory stated that
the concepts of combination and separation do not apply to Him and they said, "Above there is no sitting nor standing, no
separation nor combination." The prophet says, "To whom can you compare Me? To what am I equal? Says the Holy One." (Yeshaya
[Isaiah] 40:25) If He would be a physical body He would be comparable to physical bodies.
In all places where the
Holy Scriptures speak of Him in physical terms, as walking, standing, sitting, speaking and anything similar, it is always
metaphorical, as our Sages of blessed memory said, "The Torah speaks in the language of men". Our sages have discussed this
issue at length.
This third foundation
is referred to when [the Torah] says, "For you did not see any form" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] ), in other words, you did not perceive him as being an entity with a form because, as we mentioned,
He is not physical and His power is not physical.
The Fourth Foundation
is that He is first. This means to believe that the One was the absolute first and everything else in existence is not first
relative to Him. There are many proofs to this in the Holy Scriptures.
This fourth foundation
is referred to in the verse, "That is the abode of God the first" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 33:27).
The Fifth Foundation
is that it is proper to serve Him, blessed be He, to ascribe to Him greatness, to make known His greatness, and to fulfill
His commandments. We may not do this to any lesser being, whether it be one of the angels, the stars, the celestial spheres,
the elements, or anything formed from them. For all these things have predetermined natures and have no authority or control
over their actions. Rather, such authority and control is God's. Similarly, it is not proper to serve them as intermediaries
in order that they should bring us closer to God. Rather, to God Himself we must direct out thoughts, and abandon anything
This fifth foundation
is based in the prohibition against idolatry about which much of the Torah deals.
The Sixth Foundation
is prophecy. That is, that a person must know that there exists amongst mankind individuals who have very lofty qualities
and great perfection; whose souls are prepared until their minds receive perfect intellect. After this, their human intellect
can then become attached to the Active Intellect [i.e. the 'mind', so to speak, of God] and have bestowed upon them an exalted
state. These are the prophets and this is prophecy.
A full explanation of
this foundation would be very lengthy and it is not our intent to bring proofs for every foundation or to explain how we know
them, for that is the sum of all knowledge. Rather, we are simply mentioning them in an informal manner.
There are numerous verses
in the Torah which attest to the prophecy of the prophets.
The Seventh Foundation
is the prophecy of Moshe (Moses) our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This means to believe that he is the father of all the
prophets, both those that preceded him and those who arose after him; all of them were below his level. He was the chosen
one from all of Mankind, for he attained a greater knowledge of the Blessed One, more than any other man ever attained or
ever will attain. For he, may he rest in peace, rose up from the level of man to the level of the angels and gained the exalted
status of an angel. There did not remain any screen that he did not tear and penetrate; nothing physical held him back. He
was devoid of any flaw, big or small. His powers of imagination, the senses, and the perceptions were nullified; the power
of desire was separated from him leaving him with pure intellect. It is for this reason that it is said on him that he could
speak to HaShem, blessed be He, without the intermediary of angels.
First, every other prophet
received the word of HaShem through an intermediary, Moshe did not have an intermediary, as it says, "Mouth to mouth I speak
to him." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 12:8)
Second, all other prophets
only receive their prophecy either when they are sleeping, as we find in numerous places "in a dream at night" (B'Reishis
[Genesis] 20:3) and "in a vision at night" (Iyov [Job] 33:15) and many other examples. Or by day when a trance has fallen
over them which removes all their senses and leaves their mind open as in a dream. Such a state [of prophecy] is called a
vision or seeing and is referred to as "Divine visions" (Yechezkel [Ezekiel] 8:3). Moshe received his prophecy by day as he
stood before the kruvim (cherubim), as is testified to by HaShem, blessed be He, "and I will commune with you there" (Shemos
[Exodus] 25:22). And as HaShem, blessed be He, states, "If prophets are among you then I, HaShem, make myself known to them
through a vision, in a dream I speak to him. It is not so with my servant Moshe, he is trusted in all my house. I speak to
him mouth to mouth, in a vision without puzzlement. He gazes at the image of God." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 12:6-8)
Third, when a prophet
receives prophecy, even though it was only a vision and by means of an angel, he would nevertheless be weakened by it and
his body would shudder. He would be stricken with a very great fear almost to the point that his spirit would leave his body,
as Daniel said when [the angel] Gavriel (Gabriel) spoke to him, "No strength remained in me; my robustness changed to pallor,
and I could retain no strength... and I was in a deep sleep upon my face, and my face was to the ground". And as he says later,
"during the vision my joints shuddered and I could retain no strength". (Daniel 10:8-9, 16). But Moshe, may he rest in peace,
was not so, rather, the word came to him and he did not experience trembling and shivering in any way, as it says, "And HaShem
spoke to Moshe face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Shemos [Exodus] 33:11). In other words, just as a man does not
experience trembling from the speech of his fellow, Moshe did not tremble from the word even though it was face to face. This
was due to his total attachment to the intellect, as we said earlier.
Fourth, all the [other]
prophets were unable to receive prophecy when they willed it but only when HaShem, blessed be He, wished it. The prophet could
wait days or years and prophecy would not come. He could beseech HaShem, blessed be He, to make known to him a matter through
prophecy and then he could wait for days or months for the prophecy, sometimes it would never come at all. There were groups
which would prepare themselves and purify their thoughts, as Elisha did, as it is written, "Now bring me a musician", and
prophecy came upon him. But it was not certain that prophecy would come at the time a person prepared himself. Moshe, may
he rest in peace, [could prophesize] at any time he wished. As he said, "Wait and I will hear what HaShem has commanded you"
(BaMidbar [Numbers] 9:8) and as it says, "Speak to Aharon your brother, he shall not come at all times in the holy place"
on which our Sages of blessed memory said, "Aharon could not enter, but this did not apply to Moshe".
The Eighth Foundation
is that the Torah is from Heaven. This means that we must believe that this entire Torah, which was given to us from Moshe
Our Teacher, may he rest in peace, is entirely from the mouth of the Almighty. In other words, that it all was conveyed to
him from God, blessed Be He, in the manner which is called, for lack of a better term, "dibur" - "speech". It is not known how it was conveyed to him, except to Moshe, may he rest in peace, to whom it was given,
and he was like a scribe writing from dictation, and he wrote all the incidents, the stories, and the commandments. Therefore
[Moshe] is called "mechokek" - "scribe" (BaMidbar [Numbers] ).
There is no difference
between [verses such as] "And the children of Cham were Kush and Mitzrayim" (B'Reishis [Genesis] 10:6), "And the name of his
wife was Meheitaveil" (ibid. 36:39), and "And Simnah was a concubine" (ibid. 36:12) and [verses such as] "I am HaShem your
God" (Shemos [Exodus] 20:2) and "Hear O Israel" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4), for all of the Torah is from the mouth of the
Almighty and it is all the Teaching of God (Toras HaShem), perfect, pure, holy, and true.
One who says that verses
and stories like these [in the first group] were written by Moshe out of his own mind, behold! He is considered by our Sages
and Prophets as a heretic and a perverter of the Torah more than all other heretics, for he believes that the Torah has a
"heart" and a "shell" [i.e. an meaningful part and a meaningless part] and that these historical accounts and stories have
no benefit and are from Moshe our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This is the meaning of [the category of heretic who believes
that] "The Torah is not from Heaven" [which is listed in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) as one who has no share in the World
to Come]. Our Sages, may their memory be a blessing, explain that this is [even] someone who says that the entire Torah is
from the Almighty except for a particular verse which was written by Moses alone. And on this [person, the Torah writes],
"For he has scorned the word of God... [his soul shall be absolutely cut off, his sin is upon him]" (BaMidbar [Numbers] ). May God, blessed be He, forgive the statements of the heretics.
In truth, however, every
word of the Torah has within it wisdom and wonders for one who can understand them, and the full depth of their wisdom can
never be attained. "Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea" (Iyov [Job] 11:9). A man has option but
to follow in the footsteps of King David, the anointed of the god of Yakov (Jacob), who prayed, "Open my eyes, that I may
behold wondrous things in your Torah" (Tehillim [Psalms] 119:18).
All this is also true
for the explanation of the Torah, which was also received from the mouth of the Almighty [the Oral Torah]. The manner in which
we today make the Sukkah, Lulav, Shofar, Tzitzis, Tefillin, and other items is precisely the manner that God, blessed be He,
instructed Moshe, who then instructed us and Moshe was reliable in relating [God's word].
The verse which teaches
this foundation is "And Moshe said, 'Through this you shall know that God has sent me to do all these things, for they are
not from my heart." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 16:28)
The Ninth Foundation
is the transcription, meaning that this Torah, and no other, was transcribed from the Creator and we may not add to it or
remove from it, not in the Written Torah or in the Oral Torah, as it says, "...you shall not add to it, nor diminish from
it" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 13:1). We have already fully clarified this foundation in the introduction to this work [the Commentary
on the Mishnah].
The Tenth Foundation
is that God, blessed be He, knows the actions of mankind and does not turn His eyes from them. Not like the opinion of those
who say, "...[The Lord does not see us;] the Lord has forsaken the land" (Yechezkel [Ezekiel] ). But rather like it says, "Great in counsel, and mighty in work; for your eyes are open upon all
the ways of the sons of men; to give to every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (Yirmiyah
(Jeremiah) 32:19), "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth..." (B'Reishis (Genesis) 6:5), and "And
the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great..." (ibid. 18:20). These verses teach us this tenth foundation.
The Eleventh Foundation
is that God, blessed be He, gives reward to one who obeys the commandments of the Torah and punishes one who violates its
prohibitions. The greatest reward is the World to Come, and the greatest punishment is kareis (spiritual excision, "cutting
off"). We have already said enough on this topic [earlier in the Commentary]. The verse which teaches this foundation is [when
Moshe says to God], "And now, if you will forgive their sin; and if not, please remove me [from your book which you have written]"
to which God responds, "...Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot from my book" (Shemos (Exodus) 32:32-33). This indicates
that He knows the servant and the sinner, to give reward to this one and punishment to the other.
The Twelfth Foundation
is the time of the Moshiach (literally, the anointed). This means to believe and be certain that he will come, and not to
think that he is late in coming, "if it seems slow, wait for it; [because it will surely come, it will not come late]" (Chabakuk
2:3). You should not set a time for him, and you should not make calculations in Scripture to determine the time of his coming.
The Sages say, "Let despair come upon those who calculate endtimes." [This foundation further includes] to believe that he
(Moshiach) will possess advantages, superiority, and honor to a greater degree than all the kings that have ever existed,
as was prophesied regarding him by all the prophets, from Moshe, peace be upon him, till Malachi, peace be upon him. One who
doubts this or who minimizes his greatness denies the Torah that testifies explicitly to [the coming of Moshiach] in the account
of Balaam (BaMidbar [Numbers] 24) and in the portion of Netzavim (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 30:3-5). Included in this principle
is that there is no king to the Jewish people except from the House of David and the seed of Solomon alone. Anyone who disagrees
with this family denies God and His prophets.
The Thirteenth Foundation
is the resurrection of the dead.
When a man believes all
of these foundations and his belief in them is clear, then he enters into the community of Israel, and it is commanded to
love him, to have mercy upon him, and to behave towards him with all the manners of love and brotherhood which have been commanded
upon a man towards his fellow by God, blessed be He. And even if he sins greatly because of his desires and the strength of
his baser nature, he is punished according to his sins but he still has a share in the World to Come and he is considered
a sinning Jew. If a man does not accept one of these foundations, then he has left the community and denied the fundamental.
He is called a min and apikorus (two technical terms for a heretic). He is one who "cuts the plantings".
HaShem Echad! - HaShem
The Unity of God
I am certain, with complete
certainty, that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is One and there is no unity like His in any way. He alone is our God He
was, He is, and He will be.
From the Siddur.
The Second Foundation
[of the Thirteen Foundations] is the unity of HaShem, blessed be His Name. In other words, [the Torah teaches us] to believe
that this Being, which is the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair nor one like a species [which
encompasses many individuals], nor one as in one object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that
is infinitely divisible. Rather, HaShem, blessed be His Name, is a unity unlike any other possible unity.
This second foundation
is referred to when [the Torah] says, "Hear Israel!
HaShem is our God, HaShem is one". (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4)
From the Thirteen Foundations
by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon.
The belief in the unity
of God is one of the most basic elements of Jewish belief. The basic ideas of this belief are very simple. Judaism teaches
that the Creator is absolutely unique and indivisible. Belief in another god in addition to HaShem is considered idolatry.
Furthermore, HaShem has no parts or sections. He is absolutely One and cannot be divided further. Belief in the unity of HaShem
is a mitzvah that can be fulfilled at any time just by thinking.
There are many additional
important principles that we derive from this basic statement of Jewish belief that "HaShem Echad" - "HaShem is One." Among
these are the following:
HaShem is unique in His
perfection. No other being can compare to His perfect kindness, love, truth, and justice.
HaShem is the only one
who controls the universe. Even the "laws of nature" are only the constant expression of His direct Will. All that occurs
is the result of His Will, even when it appears to be bad. This teaches us that all that occurs is actually for the good,
although we may not be capable of understanding how.
Those who believe in
multiple gods, and also those who deny His existence entirely, frequently point to the apparent contradictions of the world.
We see many conflicts in the world, both in the natural world - as in the struggles between different species - and in human
civilization. These apparent conflicts between good and evil, light and darkness, human society and natural forces, are seen
by these people as contradicting the idea that one God could be the Cause of all of creation. The Torah teaches us that HaShem
does control all of Creation and even events that seem to be bad are for a good reason. Someday all these questions will be
answered and everyone in the world will recognize that HaShem is the One True Ruler over the entire universe.
Despite the apparent
simplicity of this concept of the Unity of God, this concept actually raises many difficult questions about our understanding
of HaShem. These questions are discussed at great length by many of the great Jewish philosophers and thinkers. Ultimately,
however, the difficulty is that we cannot actually comprehend the idea of absolute unity. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746),
one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of all time, writes:
It is necessary to know
that Gods existence is absolutely simple, without combinations or additions of any kind. All perfections are found in Him
in a perfectly simple manner. In truth, this is a concept that is very far from our ability to grasp and imagine, there is
almost no way to express it clearly and explain it in words, because our minds can only grasp those things which are bound
by the laws of nature created by HaShem.
Prophets and Prophecy
What is Prophecy?
It is a basic concept
in Judaism that HaShem can communicate with certain human beings and has done so on numerous occasions in the past. This communication
is called prophecy. This concept is so fundamental that it is one of the thirteen principles of Judaism compiled by the Ramba'm
A prophet receives his
prophecy when he is sleeping or in a trance. The prophecy is conveyed in a symbolic form but the explanation is implanted
into the mind of the prophet simultaneously.
The Special Status of
Moshe Rabeinu (Moses
our Teacher) has a unique status among all the prophets. Indeed, his stature is so important that the Ramba'm included it
as one the thirteen principles of Judaism by itself. He is referred to as "the chief of all prophets". The higher status of
Moshe's prophecy is due to the mass revelation which occurred at Mount Sinai, an event unparalleled
in history, which firmly established the authority of Moshe Rabeinu and his prophecies.
As we shall soon see,
the prophecy of Moshe Rabeinu is the basis upon which the validity of all other prophecy rests. Any prophet who contradicts
the prophecy of Moshe is inherently false.
Moshe was an exception
to many of the rules regarding prophecy. Unlike all other prophets, Moshe received prophecy while awake and in full control
of his faculties. The prophecies of Moses were explicit, not couched in symbolism. And Moses was capable of experiencing prophecy
whenever he chose to.
Who can be a Prophet?
In order for a person
to receive prophecy he must be must be great in righteousness and wisdom and completely self-disciplined. Such a person, if
he prepares himself by immersing himself totally in Torah study and mitzvos, can bring his mind to a higher spiritual state
in which he becomes capable of receiving prophecy.
A prophet has no control
over whether and when he will receive prophecy. He can only ready himself by meditating and focusing his mind in a joyous
state. (Prophecy can only come when a person is happy.) There is no guarantee that a person who has prepared himself will
ever receive prophecy.
Prophecy is not restricted
to men. There have been many holy women who have attained the level of prophecy, many to an even higher degree than most men.
According to at least one source the number of women who reached the level of prophecy is equal to the number of men. Some
of the more famous prophetesses are: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, and Esther. There are many others.
The Obligation to Obey
We are obligated to obey
a prophet as it says in the Torah, Devarim (Deuteronomy) 18:15, "In your midst, God will set up for you a prophet like me
[Moshe] from among your brethren, and it is to him you must listen."
How do we Identify a
When HaShem sends a prophet,
He gives the prophet a sign to show that he is a true prophet. However, not every person who shows such a sign is automatically
accepted. The prophet must be known to be a great, wise, and righteous person. If he is such a person, then we are commanded
to accept and obey him if he comes with a sign.
The sign that a prophet
must give to prove he is genuine need not be a miracle. He must predict a future event, if his prophecy is fulfilled with
perfect accuracy then we believe him, if, however, even the smallest detail is inaccurate then he is a false prophet. We must
test a prophet in this manner several times but we are not permitted to overly test him.
It is always possible
that even a person who successfully passes the required tests is not a true prophet. Still we are commanded to obey him. This
is similar to the law that we must accept the testimony of two witnesses. Even though there is always the possibility that
they are lying, nevertheless, we are required to believe them if they meet all of the requirements.
We can only test a prophet
in prophecies which are good, the failure of a bad prophecy to be fulfilled does not mean that the prophet is false. This
is because HaShem is merciful and accepts repentance. It is possible that the people have repented and HaShem has removed
the punishment which the prophet had predicted.
If an established prophet
testifies that another person is a legitimate prophet we do not have to test the second.
The Torah lays out the
basic method for testing a prophet quite clearly in Devarim 18:21-22, "You may ask yourselves, "How shall we recognize that
a declaration was not spoken by HaShem?". If the prophet predicts something in HaShem's name, and the prediction does not
materialize or come true, then the message was not spoken by HaShem. That prophet spoke deceitfully, and you must not fear
Even if a prophet passes
all of these tests if he attempts to contradict the Torah in any way he is automatically shown to be false. This requirement
can disqualify any prophet at any time. A prophet may not add or detract from the Torah in any way, this applies to both the
Written Torah and the Oral Torah. Therefore, any prophet who claims that a certain mitzvah is no longer required or that a
new mitzvah has been added to the Torah shows himself to be a false prophet and is judged accordingly. This is true even if
he performs miracles.
However, an established
prophet may declare a temporary suspension of a Torah law and we are required to obey him. The only exception to this rule
is idolatry which can never be permitted under any circumstances.
A prophet who is shown
to be false is liable for the death penalty as it says in Devarim 18:20, "But the prophet who shall willfully speak a word
in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or one who speaks in the name of the gods of others - that prophet shall
The Authority of the
The task of the prophet
is to admonish the people from sin and guide them in serving HaShem. The prophet warns of coming punishments which will occur
if the people do not repent and guides them in a general sense in their lives. The prophet is often a source of information
which would be unobtainable otherwise.
Despite the great stature
of the prophets, no matter of Jewish law can be decided by the means of prophecy or any other form of Divine inspiration.
When a question of Jewish law is concerned a prophet is no better than any other sage.
Prophets in the Torah
Although there were many
prophets in the history of the Jewish people the Torah only preserves those prophecies which have a message for all generations.
Prophecy is a difficult
state to obtain because, in addition to the demands it makes on the individual, it also requires a very high state of holiness
in the general environment. When the Jewish people lived in the land of Israel and the Aron HaKodesh (Holy Ark) was kept in
the Beis HaMikdash (The Holy Temple), this state of holiness existed in the land of Israel. Since the time of the destruction
of the first Beis HaMikdash, prophecy and other forms of Divine Inspiration have become progressively more difficult to obtain.
Today, for all purposes, true prophecy does not exist. It will return to the Jewish people in the time of Moshiach.
THE JEWISH CONCEPT OF
I am certain, with complete
certainty, that the Moshiach will come. And even though it takes a long time, even so I anticipate his coming every day.
What Is The Moshiach?
The word moshiach means
anointed. It is commonly translated as messiah. The Moshiach will be a very righteous man from the family of King David with
a total commitment to the Torah. He will be anointed as king of the Jewish people. He will reestablish the dynasty of King
David, rebuild the HolyTemple
in Jerusalem, and gather together all the Jews from throughout
the world to the land of Israel
directing all of them to properly observe all of HaShem's laws. He will reestablish the laws of a Jewish Kingdom, including
the sacrificial service and other practices. Finally, he will perfect the world, leading all humanity to serve HaShem in unity.
The entire world will realize that HaShem is the only God and they will all worship HaShem together. The world will be completely
The Torah describes the
time of Moshiach:
HaShem your God will
bring back your remnants and have mercy on you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which HaShem your God has
scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of the heavens, from there HaShem your God will gather you and from there
He will take you. And HaShem your God will bring you to the land your fathers inhabited and you shall inhabit it, and He will
be good to you and you will increase even more than your fathers. HaShem your God will circumcise your heart and the heart
of your offspring to love HaShem your God with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live. HaShem your God will
place these curses upon your enemies and upon your haters who pursued you. And you will return and listen to the voice of
HaShem and you will do all His commandments which I have commanded you today. HaShem will make you abundant in all the work
of your hands, in the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your animals, and the fruit of your ground, for the good; for HaShem
will again rejoice in you for good as He rejoiced in your forefathers. (Devarim 30)
How Do We Identify The
When a person comes forth
and claims to be the Moshiach, how can we know if he is the real thing? Unfortunately, Jewish history has had several false
claimants to the title of Moshiach. Some of these false messiahs caused great turmoil and suffering. Christianity was founded
by the followers of one such false Moshiach. So we see that it is very important to have clear rules to identify the real
There are two stages
in the identification of the Moshiach. The first stage is when someone first comes and claims to be Moshiach. He must fulfill
the following conditions:
He must be a father-to-son
descendant of King David. Therefore, a Kohein, Levi, or a convert (and his children) cannot be Moshiach.
He must be completely
immersed in the study of Torah, just like his ancestor David.
He must follow the entire
Torah, both the Written and the Oral.
He must lead all the
Jews back to the Torah, so that they follow all its laws.
If a man comes who fulfills
all of these conditions, then we assume that he is the Moshiach. This is the first stage of the identification of Moshiach.
The second stage is completed
when the presumed Moshiach succeeds in rebuilding the HolyTemple in Jerusalem
and gathering all the Jewish people in the land of Israel. At that point we know that he is certainly Moshiach.
These are the minimum
requirements. Until a person succeeds in fulfilling all the requirements of the first stage, we are not allowed to accept
him as Moshiach.
It is also important
to know that the Moshiach does not have to perform miracles to prove that he is the Moshiach. If he fulfills the requirements
listed above then he is the Moshiach, even if he never performed a single miracle. Nevertheless, the Moshiach will be a great
prophet. His level of prophecy will be higher than any other prophet except Moses.
What Moshiach Is Not
There are many false
ideas about Moshiach in the world. Many of these ideas have been spread by Christianity. It is therefore important to clarify
some of these points:
Moshiach will be a normal
human being born from human parents. He will not be a god, or a son of god.
Moshiach will be mortal.
He will not live forever. When he dies he will be succeeded by his son, like any normal king.
Moshiach will not atone
for our sins. Every person must atone for his own sins; no one else can do it for you.
Moshiach will not change
the laws of the Torah in any way. If he attempts to do so then we know that he is a false messiah.
All of these issues point
to a fundamental belief of Judaism. We must recognize that the Moshiach is only a person who is a messenger from HaShem. He
is not our actual redeemer, for redemption only comes from HaShem. The Moshiach will be like Moses who took us out of Egypt. It was really HaShem who took us out of Egypt, not Moses. That is one reason why we never even mention
Moses in the entire Haggadah which we read at the Pesach Seder. Moses only served as a prophet, conveying the news of redemption
to the Jewish people and to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The Moshiach will serve the same function. It is important that we
always focus on HaShem as our savior, and not on any human being. It is especially important that we never pray to any human
being instead of HaShem.
The Messianic Era
When the Moshiach completes
his task all mankind will recognize that HaSHem is the one true God, and all human beings will come to serve HaShem with all
their hearts. People will abandon warfare and serve HaShem in complete peace.
The prophet Isaiah tells
And it shall come to
pass in the last days, that the mountain of the HaShem's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall
be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to
the mountain of HaShem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths;
for from Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem. And he [Moshiach] shall judge among the nations,
and shall decide for many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation
shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2)
Jerusalem will be established as
the spiritual capital of the world. The Jewish people will be the teachers and priests for the entire world, fulfilling our
destiny to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6) and a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6).
Jealousy and warfare
will cease. All nations and peoples will live in harmony. The prophet Isaiah expresses this in a famous allegory:
The wolf shall live with
the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little
child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat
straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the
viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the
Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11)
However, the laws of
nature will not be changed. People will still need to grow food and make clothing and fix broken machinery. However, the world
will be blessed with plenty and no person will suffer from poverty.
How Do We Bring Moshiach?
HaShem has promised us
that Moshiach will come at some time. We do not know when this time will be. We are also not allowed to try to predict the
time when Moshiach will come. However, we should do whatever we can to bring Moshiach sooner. How can we do this?
The Torah says:
It will be that when
all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have presented to you, then you will reflect upon it among
all the nations where HaShem your God has scattered you. And you will return to HaShem your God and you will obey His voice
according to everything I have commanded you today, you and your children with all your heart and with all your soul. And
HaShem your God will bring back your remnants and have mercy on you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which
HaShem your God has scattered you. (Devarim 30)
From here we see that
Moshiach will be brought by the return of the Jewish people to serving HaShem and following all the laws of the Torah. Particular
emphasis should be placed on those laws which caused us to go into exile. These are:
Unjustified hatred of
our fellow Jews. We should all work to feel love our fellow Jews, and also for all human beings.
Murder. We should work
on ourselves to respect our fellow man and see in him the image of God which exists in every person. Even publicly shaming
another person is likened to murder.
Idolatry. We should recognize
that only HaShem is the cause of good and bad. No person or thing can hurt you or help you unless it is HaShem's wish. Nothing
else has any real power in the world. We should also focus on developing our relationship with HaShem and to realize that
He cares about you personally and hears your prayers.
Sexual Immorality. We
should train ourselves to avoid circumstances which might tempt us to engage in acts of immorality.
Torah study. We must
recognize that the Torah is HaShem's direct revelation to us. As such, it is fundamentally different from all other forms
of knowledge. All the other sciences are the product of human knowledge and thought and can only express partial truth. New
knowledge is constantly being found, and old knowledge is proven incorrect. However, the Torah is from HaShem. HaShem is perfect
and knows all. Therefore the Torah is also perfect. From the Torah we learn what our purpose is in this world and how to achieve
that purpose. Our attitude towards the Torah must express this recognition. We should not treat the Torah like just another
form of study.
May we merit the speedy
coming of Moshiach in our days.