The following sources were culled from the Knishta Hada newsletter, Number 52.
- Moshiach is going to reveal himself gradually, not in one shot.
In Tractate Sanhedrin 97 of the Gemara, it says that: ‘Moshiach will come riding on a donkey’. In his commentary on this Gemara, Rashi explains that this means that Moshiach will be revealed ‘bit by bit’, or slowly, slowly.
Chazal describe how Moshiach will first be revealed to only a few individuals, and only afterwards to more and more people, until ultimately everyone knows who he is.
People mistakenly think that Moshiach is going to reveal himself in a sudden burst of glory, but Chazal are teaching us that the Moshiach will be revealed slowly, in a number of stages. The process of the coming of Moshiach will take a number of years and involve a great deal of birurim, or spiritual clarifications and refinements of the Jewish people, similar to what occurred in the first redemption from Egypt.
- Moshiach is going to come both from chutz l’aretz, and also from Israel.
There’s also a discussion in the Gemara about whether Moshiach is a native of chutz l’aretz, or a native of Eretz Yisrael. In the Chabad newsletter ‘Sichot HaShavua’ number 1206, Rav Menachem Brod brings a number of sources for each view.
The sources who suggest that Moshiach will come from outside of Israel include:
- The Prophet Hoshea
- The Targum Yonatan
- And the Midrash (Shmot-Raba 1/31)
These sources suggest that before the redemption, Moshiach will be in the countries of exile.
Then, there’s the sources that state that Moshiach will davka come from within Eretz Yisrael, including:
- The Zohar (1:119/1 and 2:7/2) “Moshiach will reveal himself in the Galilee”
- The Rambam in his Letter to Yemen (Chapter 4), where he says about the Moshiach: “He will stand in Eretz Yisrael, and there he will begin to be revealed.”
This is how Rav Brod resolves these conflicting views. He writes: “We can say that these sources are talking about the different stages of revealing the Moshiach. In the beginning, he will be located in chutz l’aretz, and he’ll already start to operate there, and then afterwards he’ll come to Eretz Yisrael.
We find this view in the Abarbanel who writes (Nishuot Mashicha 1:3): “The Moshiach will first be in chutz l’aretz, and then from there he’ll come to Eretz Yisrael (and that’s where he’ll start to reveal himself.)”
- When the Moshiach comes, he’s going to be accompanied by the police and have to sit in jail.
The Ramban (explaining the quote from Zecharia 9:9, which says that Moshiach will be poor and riding on a donkey) writes the following:
“This means that he’ll be accompanied by prosecutors and policemen, who’ll attack him with abuse and invective.”
So more than a thousand years’ ago, the Ramban explained that when the Moshiach comes the whole of the Jewish people aren’t going to immediately honor him and accept him – quite the opposite.
The Moshiach is going to arrive under armed guard, and be persecuted and disgraced. And if that’s not enough, he’s then going to sit in jail, too.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98:1) says that Moshiach is going to sit: “At the entrance of Rome”. The Ramchal explains (in Kinat Hashem Tsivakot Part 2): “This means he’ll sit in prison” – as is mentioned many times in the midrashim.
- When Moshiach first arrives, he’s going to be the subject of enormous machloket (controversy).
In the Megillat Setorim, or Hidden Scroll of Rebbe Nachman, Rebbe Nachman tells us that: “At the beginning, there is going to be a huge machloket (controversy) surrounding the Moshiach.”
- The coming of Moshiach is going to involve huge tests of faith (emuna).
Rebbe Nachman also writes in Sichot HaRan (35):
“[The Prophet] Daniel and people like him warned in advance that before Moshiach comes, there will be a lot of birur, and purification and refinement. And if so, the fact that they have been warned in advance that this will be the test before the coming of Moshiach, that there will be purification and refinement through tests of emuna, therefore it would be appropriate that everyone would wise up and have mercy on themselves, to remain strong in emuna. And then there wouldn’t be any test in the purification and refinement [process] at all, as they would know about it in advance.
“But in truth, even though they’ve been informed in advance, it will still be a very big test and many people will stumble in it. I’m warning you in advance, in order that those few kosher ones will strengthen themselves in emuna. For sure, they will still have great struggles in their faith, but it will be a help and strengthening for them that they will see that this has already been spoken of in advance.”
- Even when the Moshiach is sitting in prison, his opponents are going to continue to humiliate and shame him – and the Moshiach is still going to forgive them and save them.
The Midrash (in Pesikta Rabbati Parsha 34) says: “Even at the time that the Moshiach is sitting in prison because of our sins, there will still be so-called ‘religious people’ who will continue to mock and make fun of him. And what will be the response of him who suffers for their sake?”
The Midrash answers: “[The Moshiach] is called ‘a Tzaddik and savior.’ Why? ‘Tzaddik’ refers to the fact that the Moshiach will ‘matzdik’ justify the judgement, meaning that he’ll turn the judgment of those in Am Yisrael who laugh at him that he’s sitting in prison to righteousness.”
The Midrash continues: “And why is he called ‘saviour’? Because when he justifies the judgment upon them, and says to them ‘you are all my children’, he saves them with the mercy of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.”