Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rabbi YY Jacobson: Against the Rambam and Ramban, Jesus could have theoretically come back to be mashiach

This was brought to my attention by Moriah, in a comment on this post.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe based his discussions of mashiach on the Rambam. To cite the Publisher's Forward to The Laws of Moshiach:
Since the time of the Rambam (1135-1204), it has been impossible to discuss the subject of Moshiach and the Era of the Redemption without direct reference to the last two chapters of his monumental halachic code, the Mishneh Torah. For example, it is these two chapters that form the basis of the whole of the next publication of Sichos In English - I Await His Coming Every Day: Studies by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (shlita) on the Rambam's Conception of Moshiach and the Ultimate Redemption.
In the Rambam's Mishneh Torah, in these chapters in hilchos Melachim, the Rambam writes:
ח  [ד] וְאִם יַעֲמֹד מֶלֶךְ מִבֵּית דָּוִיד הוֹגֶה בַּתּוֹרָה וְעוֹסֵק בַּמִּצְווֹת כְּדָוִיד אָבִיו, כְּפִי תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב וְשֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה, וְיָכֹף כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵילֵךְ בָּהּ וּלְחַזַּק בִּדְקָהּ, וְיִלָּחֵם מִלְחָמוֹת ה'--הֲרֵי זֶה בְּחֶזְקַת שְׁהוּא מָשִׁיחַ:  אִם עָשָׂה וְהִצְלִיחַ, וְנִצַּח כָּל הָאֻמּוֹת שֶׁסְּבִיבָיו, וּבָנָה מִקְדָּשׁ בִּמְקוֹמוֹ, וְקִבַּץ נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--הֲרֵי זֶה מָשִׁיחַ בַּוַּדַּאי.

ט  וְאִם לֹא הִצְלִיחַ עַד כֹּה, אוֹ נֶהְרַג--בַּיָּדוּעַ שְׁאֵינוּ זֶה שֶׁהִבְטִיחָה עָלָיו תּוֹרָה, וַהֲרֵי הוּא כְּכָל מַלְכֵי בֵּית דָּוִיד הַשְּׁלֵמִים הַכְּשֵׁרִים שֶׁמֵּתוּ. וְלֹא הִעְמִידוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵלָא לְנַסּוֹת בּוֹ רַבִּים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "וּמִן-הַמַּשְׂכִּילִים יִכָּשְׁלוּ, לִצְרוֹף בָּהֶן וּלְבָרֵר וְלַלְבֵּן--עַד-עֵת קֵץ:  כִּי-עוֹד, לַמּוֹעֵד" (ראה דנייאל יא,לה).
and it continues. To translate:
If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvos as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d; - we may, with assurance, consider him Moshiach. If he succeeds in the above, builds the [Beis Ha]Mikdash on its site, and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Moshiach.
If he did not succeed to this degree or he was killed, he surely is not [the redeemer] promised by the Torah. [Rather,] he should be considered as all the other proper and legitimate kings of the Davidic dynasty who died. G-d only caused him to arise in order to test the multitude. As it is written [Daniel 11:35], "Some of the wise men will stumble, to purge, to refine, and to clarify, until the appointed time, for it is yet to come."
Thus, according to the Rambam, once a messianic candidate is killed, he can no longer be the redeemer. It is bayadua, known. This is a sore point for meshichist Lubavitchers, who kvetch it by making the distinction between neherag, "killed", and meis, "died". However, even with this kvetch, certainly Jesus, who was killed, and did not fulfill his messianic mission, would not be a candidate for mashiach.

Now listen to is what Rabbi YY Jacobson (a Chabad Rabbi) has to say. In the video below, he gives some good reasons why Jews reject Christianity. But then, at the 37 minute mark, he says something troubling and against the Rambam:

"I once saw an author, he wrote, the reason that Jews reject Christianity is because the Christians believe in a second coming. They believe that Yeshu, the father of Christianity is going to come back, from the dead. He was resurrected, he's going to be resurrected, he's going to come back, as a second coming. He already came as the messiah and he's going to come back. And because of that, Jews can't believe in Christianity, because this idea is antithetical to their faith.

Again, this is a very shallow perspective. It doesn't deal with the basis of the issue, understanding what was the basis of Jewish faith. It's not because we don't believe that Yeshu made miracles, or we don't believe that he could come back. That's not the issue.

In fact, take a look at source #5, I'll show you an interesting thing. The Talmud says inSanhedrin צח amud beis:

{Source #5 from the linked PDF:

Amar Rav, Rav, one of the greatest Talmudic Sages said, Iy min chaya hu, If the messiah will come from somebody who's alive, kegon Rabbenu Hakadosh, it will be somebody of the caliber of Rabbenu HaKadosh, our holy master Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the author of the Mishna. Iy min meisaya hu, If the mashiach is going to come from somebody who died, kegon Daniel ish Chamudos, it's going to be somebody like the prophet Daniel.

So Rav himself says that mashiach come come either from somebody who's alive or who passed away. So to say that we, the only reason that we rejected Christianity is 'cause the belief that mashiach is going to come from somebody who died already, from Yeshu, and that's the reason we reject Christianity, so what are we suspecting Rav, God-forbid, in harboring ideas of Christianity? That's ridiculous, that's absurd. According to Rav, mashiach could be come somebody who's alive, somebody who's alive God may designate as the redeemer of the Jewish people of the world, or maybe somebody passed away. Could be like Daniel, like he says, or somebody else who passed away. 

The basis why the Jewish people rejected Christianity thus has nothing to do with this. It has to do with the fact that the message of Christianity came to undermine the Torah. It undermined the Torah, the prophecy of Moshe Rabbenu. Its message was a message that contradicts the truth of Torah, and this, for the Jewish people, meant that it was false. It was completely dishonest. Have a good night."

Now, it is true that the Rambam talks about the execution of Jesus in a beis din. And it is true that Jesus' message was antithetical to traditional Jewish belief and practice.

But to say that according to normative Jewish belief, we have no problem in a mashiach who is killed coming back to be mashiach?! It is explicitly against the Rambam, and thus the Lubavitcher Rebbe who took the Rambam as normative!

In terms of his shallow interpretation of the gemara in Sanhedrin, he fails to note that Rashi on that gemara gives two interpretations, one of which has the mashiach patterned after a living or dead figure, rather than being the living or dead figure themselves. And that according to that interpretation, one need not "suspect Rav, God-forbid, of harboring ideas of Christianity" at all. And that according to the second explanation of Rashi, it is specifically Daniel, and not, as Rabbi Jacobson extended it, anybody who died. Nor does he speak to the issue of just how normative this is.

Rabbi Jacobson, for example, does not cite the Ramban, Nachmanides:
The next proof is brought from Nachmanides' personal record of a debate he held with a Christian apostate. He quotes himself as arguing that as long as Jesus had not fulfilled the prophesies associated with the redemption it is impossible for him to accept Jesus as Moshiach. The author asserts that the defining factor for Nachmanides is death. At which point, if the man in question has not become Moshiach in its fullest sense, he certainly will never become Moshiach in the future. 
So, when Rabbi Jacobson says that:
I once saw an author, he wrote, the reason that Jews reject Christianity is because the Christians believe in a second coming. 
The "author" he is rejecting is the Rambam and the Ramban!

The Rambam and Ramban, by the way, were not unaware of the gemara in Sanhedrin either. They understood it at least as well as Rabbi Jacobson.

I understand Rabbi YY Jacobson's motivation in saying this. After all, if mashiach can come back from the dead, then so can the Rebbe. But ultimately, this presentation is a corruption and misrepresentation of classic Jewish thought on the subject.


Rabbi Sedley said...

In the comments section of the shiur I see that someone already asked exactly your question from Rashi. Rabbi YY responds with a long piece in Hebrew (not sure why he didn't answer in English, since everything else is in English). He also doesn't give his source, so it is hard to know who is speaking. In this source he quotes Rashi and ends with tzarich iyun gadol. But then he quotes many other sources (I'm not sure how accurately) and concludes that there:
הרי בכל זאת לכאורה מובן, שיש מקום עכ"פ בחלק השקו"ט שבתורה גם לפירוש הדברים כפשוטו שמשיח יכול לבוא מן המתים. ואם כך, אאפ"ל שזוהי הסיבה שאנחנו מחולקים עם הנוצרים. ובפרט שהאברבנאל סבל מאד מאד מהנוצרים ומהוויכוחים אתם כידוע ומפורסם, והוא עצמו כתב אפשריות זו. ויש עוד להאריך.
In other words, he ignores Rashi and finds other 'proofs' that Mashiach can come from the dead. Slightly (very) misleading IMHO. I have left a message asking for the source (a quick google search brought up nothing). I suppose it depends if it is from someone who is considered able to argue on Rambam, Ramban, Rashi and many others.

Shiloh said...

Why do Jews rightly reject xianity, because it was not what the historical Yeshua taught. That's why. It has nothing to do with him. We just don't get it.

zach said...

It sounds like Jacobson is not the only one with the kvetch - both of Rashi's explanations seem to ignore the literal translation and likely arose our of an ulterior motive to specifically argue against Christian claims for the J dude.

in the vanguard said...

"This is a sore point for meshichist Lubavitchers, who kvetch it ..." You find all over the Talmud these "kvetches" my friend, and they determine halacha too, so stop playing the word kvetch negatively. מיתה without גוויעה also does not mean death, as Rashi "kvetches" out.

But you do not stop there. Inevitably you drag in this foreign name - yoshkele - all the time - to make your worthless comparison stick. "

"However, even with this kvetch, certainly Jesus, who was killed, and did not fulfill his messianic mission, would not be a candidate for mashiach." Josh - what does yoshke have to do with , pray tell. Leave the christians OUT OF THIS, WILL YOU!! It's between US JEWS ONLY. Painting it christian only shows that you read their crap, so you can better make these vile comparisons!

Anonymous said...

If Moshiach can come from the dead, why do Lubavitchers stop with the Rebbe? Why not go earlier in history and pick Dovid HaMelech? Or Shlomo HaMelech? Or one of the Tanaim or Amoraim?

Even if the Lubavitcher Rebbe was worthy of being the moshiach surely in the generation of Dovid HaMelech he would not have compared?

The issues isn't so much that it is prohibited to believe that the moshiach can come from the dead. There are no explicit prohibitions in the Torah that forbid stupidity.

The issue is that their belief is not credible even according to their own logic (i.e. if they are picking from the dead, let us pick Dovid HaMelech).

mordechai wing said...

the simple explanation to anonymous is that every generation has their'David Ha melech' or Mashiach if you will and the Rebbe is this generation's candidate.

every Mashiach will be resurrected with their respective communities/generation

this is explained in the sicha of 5751

the vast majority of criticism
on lubavitch is just simple sinat chinam-pure and simple

Rabbi Jacobson was just making the simple case that Yoshke was rejected not because he was killed
but because he did not even qualify
whatsoever in the first place

In other words even if Yoshke was still alive 2000 years later he would still be irrelevant to
anything Messianic due to not satisfying any criteria for the
presumed Mashiach.

The fact the Ramban chose to debate
the subject with the Christian
authorities of his time with this Sevara does not reveal his Halachic opinion.

Many times when dealing with Non-Jewish ruling authorities
the Sages opted for the best diplomatic mode of conduct for that situation
(pikuach nefesh situation) and that
conduct is very different to a Yeshiva atmosphere see
Megillah 12b Tamid 32a Berishit Rabbah 78:14 and others

we are anxiously awaiting for the day our departed loved ones and all
the righteous of Am yisrael be ressurected as we pray thrice daily

Wishing a Happy New year to all


in the vanguard said...

Very well said, Mordechai Wing. They probably, if they listened, couldn't concentrate because the Lubavitch facade is what irks them. But as long as we do not get deleted from these comments, which I expect will eventually happen, because there is only so much truth they are willing to expose, I commend you and encourage you to respond to these free-haters of Moshiach. I am now writing up something these people spur me to write - as if keeping up with Torah issues relating to Moshiach was not enough of a chore. Now we have this klipah to contend with.

Joe in Australia said...

I think I have something of a reconciliation, so to speak, between Rambam and the Gemara in Sanhedrin. Rambam specifically says that a person who dies while fighting the wars of Hashem is no longer a candidate for being melech hamoshiach, implicitly ruling out someone who was resurrected. Why does he say this? I suppose it's because it is a sign of Divine disfavour - if Hashem wanted him to be moshiach he would have succeeded. But this disqualification can only apply to a Jewish leader who is "fighting the wars of Hashem"! If he isn't doing this then why would his death be seen as a sign of Divine disfavour?

So of all the Jewish leaders in Tanakh, who is (a) a tzaddik; (b) a Jewish leader; (c) not actually someone who fought the wars of Hashem? Why, Daniel Ish Hhamudot, who was a courtier to the kings of Babylon/Persia and died there. Such a person has never failed in his quest to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash and therefore, were he to be resurrected, would still be a viable candidate for mashiach. On the other hand, someone like Bar Kokhba is explicitly ruled out - he made his attempt and was rebuffed.

I humbly suggest that this is what Rambam meant - any actual candidate for moshiach who dies has been made ineligible, but he has nothing to say about a non-candidate. And the Gemara in Sanhedrin really does mean that Daniel might be a candidate for moshiach if he were resurrected, and so (during his lifetime) could Rebbi, specifically because neither of them "fought the wars of Hashem" in the sense Rambam means - actual military fighting.

With respect to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe ZTz"L, he didn't "fight the wars of Hashem" in the sense Rambam means, so he never actually began his candidacy. On the other hand, as a beloved and respected Jewish leader like Daniel Ish Hhamudot and Rebbi he might well become a candidate if he were to be resurrected before the Bet Hamikdash is rebuilt. I appreciate that this answer will satisfy neither meshichists nor non-meshichists, but I think it's the right one.

joshwaxman said...

Joe in Australia:
In terms of your reconciliation, I agree. I was planning on suggesting something along those lines. And then there is no conflict between Rashi and Rambam either. That means (as I would read it, at least), that Jesus would be explicitly ruled out, contrary to Rabbi Jacobson's suggestion.

"If Moshiach can come from the dead, why do Lubavitchers stop with the Rebbe? Why not go earlier in history and pick Dovid HaMelech?"
Indeed, that is (partly) how I would read the gemara in Sanhedrin. If mashiach is from the living, it is Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. If mashiach is from the dead, then it is no longer Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, but rather Daniel.

mordechai wing:
"Rabbi Jacobson was just making the simple case that Yoshke was rejected not because he was killed
but because he did not even qualify
whatsoever in the first place"

Indeed, and I got (and in my post agreed with) that point.

However, in his presentation at the end, in his great desire to establish the Rebbe as plausible mashiach from the dead, he overstated matters, and went against the Rambam and simplified the gemara in Sanhedrin against (even) Rashi.

in the vanguard:
"However, even with this kvetch, certainly Jesus, who was killed, and did not fulfill his messianic mission, would not be a candidate for mashiach." Josh - what does yoshke have to do with , pray tell. Leave the christians OUT OF THIS, WILL YOU!!
What does Yoshke have to do with it?! Maybe that Rabbi Jacobson was talking explicitly about Yoshke, and I am pointing out that he overstepped. If he had stuck with Rebbe as mashiach, it would have not been as problematic, since meshichist Lubavitchers already kvetch the Rambam that neherag means killed rather than died a natural death (alongside other kvetches such as that building the mikdash bimkomo means building 770 in the Rebbe's place). But here, he said that Yushke could theoretically come back, and that is an overstatement. And that was what I was pointing out.

Again, you appear to be a Christian. Sure, you first reinvent Jesus as you wish, but in the end, are you saying that you follow the historical Jesus? If so, you prove my point in the other thread, that you are a Christian (even if you disagree).

Indeed, as I write elsewhere, there is extreme reluctance on Rashi's part in interpreting this gemara in Sanhedrin. Even in the explanation that mashiach is from the literal dead, such that he restricts it to only a single person. Still, I think that Rashi is pretty close to peshat. Something like what Joe said above. Mashiach from the dead will not be a Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. He is envisioned as a reincarnated Biblical character who has not yet begun his messianic mission. Just like Eliyahu HaNavi, the Biblical prophet who will be the herald of mashiach. Daniel. David. Chizkiyahu.

kol tuv,

Eugene said...

I think you have misunderstood Rabbi YY Jacobson, Josh.

In the same vein, we learn that the spirit of Moshe Rabbeinu is going to be in Moshiach (cannot quote you the source, I've learned it from many places, either TorahAnytime or LearnTorah or other places), knowing that Moshe Rabbeinu was dead for a long time. I think this is probably what Rav meant.

joshwaxman said...


Can you clarify in what way I misunderstood Rabbi Jacobson?

Are you suggesting, for example, that he wasn't saying (in theory, if not for the other substantive reasons he gave) that Jesus could come back from the dead to be mashiach?

Could you explain what it is you see in Rabbi Jacobson's words that lead you to interpret it as your second paragraph, rather than in light of prevalent messianist Lubavitch beliefs?


Anonymous said...

Josh: the comments on the last two posts give a fascinating insight into what it must have been like for R. Moshe Hagiz and the Chacham Tzvi in Amsterdam.
Please excuse my unusual anonymity, but I don't have your courage.

Anonymous said...

Rav Waxman - then according to what I see above (in that you agree with the interpretation from Joe of Australia), then you are saying in principle that there is nothing wrong with the belief that moshiach can come from the dead (i.e. the literal sense of the Gemara in Sanhedrin). Is that correct? If so, then it is not stupidity as the first anonymous wrote above.

joshwaxman said...


i agree with his first two and a half paragraphs. i differ with Joe in Australia, though, in terms of a messianic candidate, who has already begun his mission, in the sense that his many followers declared him mashiach, and was widely believed to be mashiach, and then died. in other words, i would not extend it to the lubavitcher rebbe, zatzal.

recall, also, that I am an individual, who could possibly (with a stretch) be termed a late, late, late Acharon. and this interpretation is not a central tenet of my faith, since I don't put stock in a particular messianic candidate.

and i don't kvetch sources, like the Rambam, Rashi on Sanhedrin, Rashi on Daniel, the way that some do. or promote them as mainstream Jewish belief throughout all generations until now. there is perhaps an element of "stupidity" in the reading of sources the way they do (because they want to come to a specific conclusion) and the declaration of these newly adopted beliefs, as mainstream, despite the long history of rabbinic consensus against it. and the final position (when combining all the different beliefs, as discussed in the other post) does strike as somewhat "stupid".

kol tuv,

Joe in Australia said...

Josh, I hope you don't think I'm saying that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe ZTz"L specifically should be considered a viable candidate. I simply meant that under my analysis of Rambam he is probably not excluded - he wasn't a king in any literal sense; he didn't fight wars in any literal sense; &c, &c. I think Rambam requires these elements for someone to be considered as "merely" one of the Davidic kings who didn't succeed. Rebbi, for instance, had much more political power than the late Lubavitcher Rebbe - but the Gemara still says that he was capable of becoming moshiach. I bet there were people pushing for Rebbi to declare himself as moshiach, too.

Incidentally, the late Rebbe explicitly rejected the idea that Rebbeim are intermediaries between Chassidim and Hashem. His view was that the relationship between a Chossid and his Rebbe makes a sort of three-fold relationship (like lines between the points of a triangle) out of the relationships between the Chossid and Hashem and the Rebbe and Hashem, and that this three-fold relationship allows the Rebbe to assist the Chossid in his relation with Hashem, in the way that parallel strands of a rope strengthen each other. You can find this expressed much better in his essay Bosi Legani, in the very same paragraphs where the notorious phrase "atzmus angetan in a guf" is used.

in the vanguard said...

Shiloh is a christian missionary masquerading as a Jew. Thought you should know. Shiloh - go slither back into into your hole.

Shiloh said...

The behavior of the so called religious 'Jews' commenting really shows the characteristics of the Erev Rav.

Josh, have you ever studied the Dead Sea Scrolls? How about Prof Robert Eisenman brilliant scholarship? Are you aware of what some of the biggest rabbi's, including former cheif rabbi's here in Israel transmit orally?

A xian is one who follows the Pauline teachings found in the NT (all versions of xianity). The historical Jew's teachings where strickly based on the Torah and Tanach. Nothing more. Slander all you want, which is against your teachings which you don't follow yourselves. Such hypocrites

Shiloh said...

Here you go Josh, take a few minutes and read what Prof Eisenman has to say from a review of his book which is anti-xian. He uses terms that are familiar to even the biggest moron for simplicity sake.

All I am doing is trying to correct the lies about a movement that was against the roman occupiers of which the Pharisee's invited in. And we all wonder who the true evev rav are. It's so simple once you can get past the smoke screen.

So until you slanderer's catch up to speed of actual unredacted history, noted by both sides, then I will respond to civil 'Jews'.


Read it carefully, stop the slander which is against what you all pretend to actually believe and follow. Reminds me of a Talmudic story of an animal sticking it's hooves out, get my drift?

ari kahn said...

The Rebbi actually wrote about this topic, and is of the opinion that Resurrection will follow the messianic age.
I am citing a footnote from my book "Emanations" Page 91 footnote 2

It should be noted that Rabbi Menachem M. Shneerson, in his commentary on this passage, concludes that the messianic age – the coming of the Messiah - will predate the epoch of the resurrection. See Chokrei Hazmanim by Alter Hilovitz, Mosad HaRav Kook, volume 2 pages 19-35, for the Rebbi’s treatise on this passage.

Ari Kahn


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