Belief in the eventual coming of a future messiah is a fundamental part of Judaism, and is one of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith. The Torah describes the advent of the Messiah in the portion of Balak, couched in poetic prophetic prose: "I see him, but not now. I perceive him, but he is not near. There shall step forth a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel... From Jacob shall issue out and destroy the remnant of the city", which Jewish Biblical scholars expound refers to the Messiah's victory over Israel's enemies.
The Talmud is replete with references and anecdotes about the Messiah and the Messianic era, and also provides exegesis of scriptural verses which illustrate the events that will occur at that time. For example, resurrection of the dead, which is exegetically supported by a verse in Exodus 15: "Az Yashir Moshe..." - "Then [Moses] will sing...", from which is derived that "then" (in the Messianic Era) Moses will arise and once again sing as he did at the time of the Exodus.
The Messianic Age is described as follows by Maimonides:
"And at that time there will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or rivalry. For the good will be plentiful, and all delicacies available as dust.Maimonides describes the identity of the Messiah in the following terms:
The entire occupation of the world will be only to know God... the people Israel will be of great wisdom; they will perceive the esoteric truths and comprehend their Creator's wisdom as is the capacity of man. As it is written (Isaiah 11:9): "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea." "
"And if a king shall arise from among the House of David, studying Torah and occupied with commandments like his father David, according to the written and oral Torah, and he will impel all of Israel to follow it and to strengthen breaches in its observance, and will fight Hashem's [God's] wars, this one is to be treated as if he were the anointed one.
If he succeeded and built the Holy Temple in its proper place and gathered the dispersed ones of Israel together, this is indeed the anointed one for certain, and he will mend the entire world to worship the Lord together, as it is stated: "For then I shall turn for the nations a clear tongue, so that they will all proclaim the Name of the Lord, and to worship Him with a united resolve (Zephaniah 3:9).
Judaism 101 states that:
Belief in the eventual coming of the Moshiach...is part of the minimum requirements of Jewish belief. In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, recited three times daily, we pray for all of the elements of the coming of the Moshiach: gathering of the exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end of wickedness, sin, and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service.The Messiah will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The Messiah is often referred to as "mashiach ben David" (mashiach, son of David). He will be well-versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5). He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15). But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being.
Although some scholars believed that God has set aside a specific date for the coming of the Messiah, most authority suggests that the conduct of mankind will determine the time of the Messiah's coming. In general, it is believed that the Messiah will come in a time when he is most needed (because the world is so sinful), or in a time when he is most deserved (because the world is so good). For example, each of the following has been suggested as the time when the Messiah will come:
* if Israel repented a single day;
* if Israel observed a single Shabbat properly;
* if Israel observed two Shabbats in a row properly;
* in a generation that is totally innocent or totally guilty;
* in a generation that loses hope;
* in a generation where children are totally disrespectful towards their parents and elders;
What Will the Messiah Do?
Before the time of the Messiah, there shall be war and suffering (Ezekiel 38:16)
The Messiah will bring about the political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people by bringing us back to Israel and restoring Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). He will establish a government in Israel that will be the centre of all world government, both for Jews and gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1). He will rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18). He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15).
Olam Ha-Ba: The Messianic Age
The world after the messiah comes is often referred to in Jewish literature as Olam Ha-Ba (oh-LAHM hah-BAH), the World to Come. This term can cause some confusion, because it is also used to refer to a spiritual afterlife. In English, we commonly use the term "messianic age" to refer specifically to the time of the messiah.
Olam Ha-Ba will be characterized by the peaceful co-existence of all people (Isaiah 2:4). Hatred, intolerance and war will cease to exist. Some authorities suggest that the laws of nature will change, so that predatory beasts will no longer seek prey and agriculture will bring forth supernatural abundance (Isaiah 11:6-11:9). Others, however, say that these statements are merely an allegory for peace and prosperity.
All of the Jewish people will return from their exile among the nations to their home in Israel (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). The law of the Jubilee will be reinstated.
In the Olam Ha-Ba, the whole world will recognize the Jewish G-d as the only true G-d, and the Jewish religion as the only true religion (Isaiah 2:3; 11:10; Micah 4:2-3; Zechariah 14:9). There will be no murder, robbery, competition or jealousy. There will be no sin (Zephaniah 3:13). Sacrifices will continue to be brought in the Temple, but these will be limited to thanksgiving offerings, because there will be no further need for expiatory offerings.
Some gentiles have tried to put an ugly spin on this theology, claiming that Jews plan to force people to convert to our religion, perhaps based on their own religion's history of doing exactly the same thing. That is not at all how Jews understand the messianic age. We believe that in that future time, everyone will simply know what the truth is, in the same way that we know that 2+2=4, and there will no longer be any reason to argue about it. It is much like a situation I witnessed at work once: two computer programmers were arguing loudly and at length about whether it was possible for a user to input data at a certain point in a program. Finally someone pressed a key and they all saw that nothing happened. Now they knew the truth, end of argument. When mashiach comes, theological truths will be equally obvious to mankind, and there will be no reason to argue about it.
What About Jesus?
Jews do not believe that Jesus was the mashiach. Assuming that he existed, and assuming that the Christian scriptures are accurate in describing him (both matters that are debatable), he simply did not fulfill the mission of the mashiach as it is described in the biblical passages cited above. Jesus did not do any of the things that the scriptures said the messiah would do.
On the contrary, another Jew born about a century later came far closer to fulfilling the messianic ideal than Jesus did. His name was Shimeon ben Kosiba, known as Bar Kokhba (son of a star), and he was a charismatic, brilliant, but brutal warlord. Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest scholars in Jewish history, believed that Bar Kokhba was the mashiach. Bar Kokhba fought a war against the Roman Empire, catching the Tenth Legion by surprise and retaking Jerusalem. He resumed sacrifices at the site of the Temple and made plans to rebuild the Temple. He established a provisional government and began to issue coins in its name. This is what the Jewish people were looking for in a mashiach; Jesus clearly does not fit into this mold. Ultimately, however, the Roman Empire crushed his revolt and killed Bar Kokhba. After his death, all acknowledged that he was not the mashiach.
Throughout Jewish history, there have been many people who have claimed to be the mashiach, or whose followers have claimed that they were the mashiach: Shimeon Bar Kokhba, Shabbatai Tzvi, Jesus, and many others too numerous to name. Leo Rosten reports some very entertaining accounts under the entry for meshiekh in The New Joys of Yiddish. But all of these people died without fulfilling the mission of the mashiach; therefore, none of them were the mashiach. The mashiach and the Olam Ha-Ba lie in the future, not in the past.
In short, To the Jew, the Messiah has a most important mission, namely to bring the world back to G-d, and make it a place of peace, justice and harmony. When Jesus failed to accomplish this, the early Christians had to radically alter the very concept of the Messiah. This, in turn, transformed Christianity from another Jewish Messianic sect into a religion that is quite alien to many basic Jewish teachings.
Given that the messiah makes the world a place of peace, justice,and harmony,for Jesus to have said "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword.[Matthew 10:34]" is for him to deny that he was the messiah. The messiah brings peace, not war:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:4One of the major problem for Christianity is the continued existence Judaism. How can this faith exist if Jesus had truly been the Messiah? Debates between the Early Christians, who at first saw themselves as a movement within Judaism and not as a separate religion, and other Jews initially revolved around the question whether Jesus was the Messiah, which later encompassed the issue of his divinity. For most Jews the death of Jesus would have been sufficient proof that he was not the Messiah.
Jews revolted against the Romans in 66 CE, which culminated with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. They revolted again under the leadership of the professed messiah Simon Bar Kokhba in 132 CE, which culminated in the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, which Hadrian renamed into Aelia Capitolina in an attempt to wipe out memory of Jews there. At the time, Christianity was still considered a sect of Judaism, but the messianic claims alienated many Christians (including Jewish converts) and sharply deepened the schism.
Anti-Judaic attitudes developed from the early years of Christianity and persisted over the ensuing centuries driven by numerous factors including theological differences, competition between Church and Synagogue, the Christian drive for converts decreed by the Great Commission, misunderstanding of Jewish beliefs and practices, and a perceived Jewish hostility toward Christians. These attitudes persisted in Christian preaching, art and popular teaching of contempt for Jews over the centuries. In many Christian countries, it led to civil and political discrimination against Jews, legal disabilities, and in some instances to physical attacks on Jews which occasionally ended in emigration, expulsion, and even death.
All factors which would indicate that the Messiah has not arrived on earth.
To quote the Man with the Mudrake, all this "provides a pool of interpretive wealth from which tales, myths and midrash can be built."