Who is the Jewish Messiah?

Jewish tradition has no clear-cut response and Jews came to formulate many images of the messiah as you can see here. Throughout Jewish history, many figures have risen and claimed to be the expected messiah or were seen as such by their communities but main-stream Jews still await the arrival of the Messiah.

The idea that a human being–the Messiah–will help usher in the redemption of the Jewish people has roots in the Bible. However, Jewish sources have not, as a general rule, focused attention on the specific personal qualities of the Messiah. Images of the Messiah as humble or as a child are juxtaposed with images of a victorious and wise ruler–perhaps contrasting Israel’s current, unredeemed state and the prophetic vision of the future. In recent times, some Jews have “democratized” the concept of the Messiah, seeing the process of, or the preparation for, redemption in the actions of regular people.

In the twelfth century, the great scholar, physician, and community leader Maimonides defined a string of conditions that have since become standard:

If a king from the House of David studies Torah, busies himself with the commandments like David did, observes the laws of the written and the oral law, convinces Israel to walk in the way of the Torah and to repair its breaches, and fights the battles of the Lord, it may be assumed that he is the Messiah. If he succeeds at these things, rebuilds the Temple on its site, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, he is beyond all doubt the Messiah…But if he does not succeed fully, or is slain, it is obvious that he is not the Messiah promised in the Torah. (Maimonides, Laws of Kings 11:3-4 (version)


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