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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Will Moshiach decide who is a Jew?

Daf Yomi Kiddushin 69


When Moshiach comes, what will the world be like?  Will the sea split?  Will wolves and sheep live together?  Will we be living in a miraculous never-before-seen world?

According to Maimonides, the world will continue as is.  All the biblical prophecies we find regarding supernatural events are to be understood allegorically.  And so when Isaiah prophesied that wolves and sheep will live together, he was alluding to the fact that Israel will be at peace with its neighbours.  

Indeed, Maimonides continues to explain that Moshiach “will not come to declare the pure, impure; or to declare the impure, pure. He will not dispute the lineage of those presumed to be of proper pedigree, nor will he validate the pedigree of those whose lineage is presumed blemished.”

So will there be no miracles to look forward to at all when Moshiach comes?  Will nothing change whatsoever?

Mishnah: Ten lineages went up to Israel from Babylonia: Cohanim (priests), Levites, Israelites, Chalalim (ex-Cohanim due to inappropriate marriages) . . .
Gemara: Rabbi Yossi says: Great is the power of chazakah for the verse states, “And of the priestly children of Hovia, the children of Hakotz, the children of Barzilai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzilai the Gileadite and became known by their name; they searched for their papers to prove their priestly lineage but could not find them; and thus, they were rejected from the priesthood.  And Tirshasa (Nehemiah) told them that they could not eat of the holy of holies (sacrifices) until a cohen would arise to the Urim v’Tumim.
Rashi explains: The Urim v’Tumim, the special Divinator worn by the Kohen Gadol, did not exist during the Second Temple period.  And so, it is like saying, “We’ll know (who the real cohanim are) when Moshiach comes!”

Maimonides asserts that Moshiach will not come and start choosing whose lineage is good and whose is tainted.  And yet Rabbi Yossi teaches that when Moshiach comes we will know who the real cohanim are and who are not!  How are we to understand Maimonides’ words in light of the Gemara?

Prior to the twenty first century, explains Rabbi Motty Berger, the Biblical prophesies regarding the messianic era appeared to be supernatural.  That didn’t gel with Maimonides’ view.  But in the last few decades, we have begun to realize that the prophets’ descriptions weren’t miraculous after all – they were just technological progress at work! 

When the prophets declared that we would return to Israel “on eagles’ wings,” we now know that means aeroplanes!  And when they declared that the entire world would be filled with Divine knowledge and the immediate awareness of Moshiach’s arrival, we now know that’s entirely possible via the internet!

And the same is true of the priestly lineage.  Moshiach won’t come and start disqualifying people from their previous cohanic status.  He won’t need to.  Nowadays, we have DNA testing that can tell us exactly who is a true child of Aharon and who isn’t!  That’s what Rashi means when he writes, “we’ll know when Moshiach comes.”  Not because Moshiach is in the business of tainting lineage, but because we already have the technology to know who the real cohanim are! 


When Moshe came to Pharaoh to warn him of the impending plague of hail, he cautioned the Egyptians to bring their animals indoors in order to avoid being struck by the falling ice.  Believe it or not, even after six previous plagues, there were skeptical Egyptians who ignored the signs, and ignored Moshe’s warning!  We live in miraculous times, when all the signs of the Bible are being fulfilled before our very eyes – from the return of our nation to the Land of Israel to the incredible technological advances we are witnessing.  May you merit opening your eyes and recognizing the messianic era that is fast upon us!