Monday, December 27, 2004

can mashiach come from the dead part 3:

I previously addressed the story of the mooing cow in the yerushalmi, as well a midrash rabba on vayechi in which Yaakov knew that Shimshon could not be mashiach once he saw that Shimshon died. There is another source in the gemara leading up to the mooing cow story, which suggests that mashiach can come from the dead:
yerushalmi brachot 17a:
רבנן אמרי
אהן מלכא משיחא
אין מי חייא הוא דוד שמיה

אין מי דמכייא הוא דוד שמיה.
א"ר תנחומא אנא אמרית טעמא
(תהילים יח) ועושה חסד למשיחו לדוד.
רבי יהושע בן לוי אמר צמח שמו.
ר' יודן בריה דר' אייבו אמר מנחם שמו.
אמר חנינה בריה דר' אבהו ולא פליגי
חושבניה דהדין כחושבניה דהדין הוא צמח הוא מנחם
The Rabbis said:
The messianic king -
if he is from the living David is his name
if he is from the dead David is his name.
Rabbi Tanchuma said: I said the reason:
(Tehillim 18:51)
נא מַגְדִּל, יְשׁוּעוֹת מַלְכּוֹ:
וְעֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד, לִמְשִׁיחוֹ--לְדָוִד וּלְזַרְעוֹ; עַד-עוֹלָם.
51 Great salvation giveth He to His king; {N}
and showeth mercy to His anointed, to David and to his seed, for evermore. {P}
{Thus David is called מְשִׁיחוֹ - his annointed, his mashiach. }
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said Tzemach is his name.
Rabbi Yudan son of Rabbi Aibo said Menachem is his name.
Rabbi Chanina son of Rabbi Abahu said: And they do not argue.
The gematria of this one is the gematria of that one. Tzemach = Menachem.
Thus we see an opinion that mashiach will be named David - either the famous King David, or else someone born in that generation whose name happens to be David. The focus is on someone named David being the mashiach, rather than whether or not mashiach can come from the dead. But this opinion that he can come from the dead is specifying someone named David - I would say only King David.

Thus, we see that, according to one opinion, a dead Biblical personality might be called upon to become mashiach. While this might be taken to mean that death in *general* is not an impediment to being mashiach, all we really see here is that King David might be mashiach.

Does this contradict the midrash that Yaakov knew Shimshon could not be mashiach when he saw that Shimshon, too, died? Perhaps it is a dispute. Or, perhaps the idea being expressed in midrash rabba is (as I suggested before) that if someone seems to be mashiach and then dies while in the process, the death is a major impediment to being mashiach, but not that someone (such as King David) cannot be ressurrected and at that point assume (and begin) the role of mashiach.

Note also that besides the difference of someone who has already begun the role and was killed as opposed to a reincarnated famous Biblical personality, there may as well be a difference between the likelihood of tzaddikim in our generation coming from the dead to be mashiach, and famous Biblical personalities doing the same. This seems to the gist of another Talmudic source I hope to address soon.

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