IS THIS BOOK FOR YOUR GROUP?
Is your group interested in exploring the ancient messianic visions that developed over the three-thousand-year Jewish tradition of passion and patience? By understanding Judaismís relationship with the Messiah, your group will have deeper insight into the words of the prophets, the narratives of the Bible and the experience of Jewish people across generations. Truly unmatched in its range, scholarship and insight—and unique in its accessibility and engaging style—The Messiah and the Jews will capture your attention as you seek wisdom, wonder and—above all—hope.
6 x 9, 192 pp, Quality Paperback, 978-1-58023-690-4
A comprehensive, inspiring and fascinating discovery of what Jews believe about the Messiahóand why you might believe in the Messiah, too.
“The conviction that the Messiah is coming is a promise of meaning. It is a source of consolation. It is a wellspring of creativity. It is a reconciliation between what is and what should be. And it is perhaps our most powerful statement of faith—in God, in humanity and in ourselves.”
—from Chapter 1, “The Messiah Is Coming!”
The coming of the Messiah—the promise of redemption—is among Judaism’s gifts to the world. But it is a gift about which the world knows so little. It has been overshadowed by Christian belief and teaching, and as a result its Jewish significance has been all but lost. To further complicate matters, Jewish messianic teaching is enthralling, compelling, challenging, exhilarating—yet, up until now, woefully inaccessible. This book will change that.
Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman brings together, and to life, this three-thousand-year-old tradition as never before. Rather than simply reviewing the vast body of Jewish messianic literature, she explores an astonishing range of primary and secondary sources, explaining in an informative yet inspirational way these teachings’ significance for Jews of the past—and infuses them with new meaning for the modern reader, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
“Points the way to a postmodern revival of messianic belief that is smart, daring, hopeful, balanced and brimming with humanity.... Deserves to be widely read and discussed by serious Jews of all ages and affiliations.”
—Rabbi Nehemia Polen, PhD, professor of Jewish thought, Hebrew College
“A comprehensive, highly readable treatment of a subject of perennial interest to Jews and Christians. Both edifies and inspires.”
—Rabbi Edward A. Goldman, Israel and Ida G. Bettan Professor Emeritus of Midrash and Homiletics, HUCĖJIR
“Teems with life-affirming vitality and hope.... Liberal and secular Jews have long been hesitant to talk about the concept of Messiah in Judaism, but Rabbi Glickman teaches us how, and that alone is redemptive.”
—Rabbi Zoë Klein, senior rabbi, Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles, California; author, Drawing in the Dust and The Scroll of Anatiya
“Indispensable.... [This] well-researched work balanced by modern sensibilities makes for an engaging study of the Messiah for people of all faiths and no faith.”
—Rabbi David Lyon, Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, Texas; author, God of Me: Imagining God throughout Your Lifetime
“Drawing on Rabbi Glickman’s well-ordered knowledge of the subject Ö quickly moves beyond the historical or theological and into the spiritual. Shows how every Jew has a stake in the Messiahís coming.”
—Rabbi David Rosen, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Houston, Texas
“The world cries out not for mere messianic fantasies but for hard labor by us all to birth some fundamental changes. Rabbi Glickman’s book can help Jews know how to join fruitfully in that birthing.”
—Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center; co-author, Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus & Wilderness across Millennia
“Reminds us of the rich Jewish history of belief in the Messiah and the messianic. Through a compelling narrative we are encouraged to remember things will get better than this. Educates and inspires in a time when we sorely need both.”
—Rabbi Edwin Goldberg, DHL, incoming senior rabbi, Temple Sholom, Chicago, Illinois; author, Saying No and Letting Go: Jewish Wisdom on Making Room for What Matters Most
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- Before you read this book, what did the terms Messiah and redemption mean to you? How have your perceptions changed?
- The book’s introduction is a very personal account of waiting for the Messiah. Was there a particular time in your life when you experienced a similar longing for redemption—a sense that “things have to get better than this”?
- Had Jews not upheld a belief in the Messiah, what do you think would have happened to Judaism?
- Chapter one explores the idea that we can hasten the coming of the Messiah by “hearken[ing] to Godís voice,” or postpone redemption by refusing to learn humility and discipline. What is your reaction to these teachings?
- Chapter two discusses the role that the Land of Israel plays in Jewish messianic belief. Why do you think the Land of Israel was so central in this belief before 1948? With the establishment of the State of Israel, how has the role of Israel changed?
- Jewish apocalyptic literature is filled with bloody and violent images of messianic wars and warriors. How does encountering this type of literature make you feel? Why do you think some of our ancestors embraced this literature? Why do you think some of our ancestors shunned it?
- Chapter four shares the conviction that our world will be vastly different after the Messiah comes. Some of the teachingsóthat women will bear six hundred thousand children, that people will stand one hundred cubits high, that the dead will be physically resurrected—are especially challenging. With our rational, scientific worldviews, how can we find meaning and significance in such traditions? Must we take these traditions literally? Do you think our ancestors did?
- Chapter five explains that familiar Jewish elements such as Elijah, the shofar, and Rosh Hashanah have messianic implications. How does learning about their messianic aspects affect and enhance your understanding of these figures?
- Chapter six poses the possibility that “the Messiah is us.” What do you feel is the role of humanity in bringing the Messiah? What is your personal role in hastening redemption?
The concept of the Messiah is three thousand years old. Why write this book now?
For the same reason the concept of the Messiah has survived so long! We are definitely not the first generation to look around us and feel that things have to get better than this. In every age, humanity has witnessed evil and suffering and want—much of it of our own making—and has despaired of the world we live in. Belief in the Messiah—belief that things will get better than this—gave hope and inspiration to our ancestors. We need that hope and inspiration today.
But the Messiah is not a concept most people are familiar with. What does it mean exactly?
For three thousand years, people have answered that question in different ways. The Hebrew Bible views the Messiah as a human being singled out by God for a special purpose; in fact, three individual kings—one not even Israelite!—are called messiah in the Bible. Itís only in post-biblical times that the Messiah takes on superhuman characteristics and comes to be associated with the fate of the entire universe. Mystics sought a more personal messianic experience and linked redemption to the perfection of the soul. Nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Jews saw humanity as capable of bringing about the Messianic Age through righteous and enlightened action. So there are many ways to believe.
What image of the Messiah do you think is most meaningful?
I think the most meaningful aspect of the idea of the Messiah is that it requires belief in something you cannot prove. Thatís really the definition of faith, if you think about it. Itís easy to have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow when it has risen every day for billions of years. But to believe that the suffering and imperfection and disappointments of this world will give way to something awesome and glorious and magnificent—now thatís faith. Thatís what it means to believe in the Messiah. Iím not saying itís easy to develop that faith—but it is fantastic.
How do you develop that faith?
It can be tough! I find so much consolation and inspiration in the texts of Jewish messianism—and one of the reasons I wrote The Messiah and the Jews was to make these previously inaccessible texts widely available and easily understood. To look back at three thousand years of history and literature and to see how deeply and horribly our ancestors suffered, and how passionately they shared the anguish and the bewilderment of their situation, and yet how equally passionately they maintained their faith in a better time, faith in God and the Messiah—it is truly compelling. I also believe that most of us, deep down inside, have a bit of messianic faith even if we donít realize it. To see the terrible state of our world and yet to move forward, to try to alleviate the pain around us, to have children, to keep going—that to me is a statement of fundamental belief that things will get better than this.
Not all of messianic tradition is about peace and happiness, though, is it? I was surprised to learn about the violence in some Jewish messianic texts.
I know, it can be surprising. The term apocalypse—which refers to an account of the End of Days, often with violent imagery—is usually associated with Christianity, but Jews were actually the first to write apocalypses. Their visions of wars and battles and bloodshed can be very disturbing for us today; and whatís interesting is that well over a thousand years ago, the scholarly and rabbinic elite actually felt that same discomfort and strongly opposed many apocalypses. Apocalypses appealed more to what we would call the masses. It was like reading Fifty Shades of Grey versus reading the Talmud. Of course you should read the Talmud, but most people are going to pick up Fifty Shades of Grey, you know?
Are there any women to speak of in Jewish messianic literature?
Yes! Although Jewish messianic texts are mostly a man’s world—there are very few women, and they take background, sometimes unflattering roles—there is one absolutely amazing woman that everyone should know about. Her name is Hephzibah, and she appears in an apocalypse called Sefer Zerubbabel. Not only does she fight in the messianic battles and guard the gate to Jerusalem, but she is the human being most responsible for bringing the Messiah. Her character is fascinating, and itís even more fascinating to explore why the writer of Sefer Zerubbabel gave a woman such a prominent role—no other writer even came close.
The final chapter of The Messiah and the Jews argues that we can experience the Messiah each week by celebrating Shabbat. How does Shabbat relate to the Messiah?
Shabbat is, of course, intended as a day of rest and peace—a cessation not just of work but of all suffering and hardship. With the coming of the Messiah, God promises an eternal Shabbat—redemption from all pain and hatred and illness and bloodshed and death itself. Even the rituals of Shabbat reflect this relationship; the elaborate Shabbat meal, for example, parallels the Feast of the Righteous. When we let ourselves truly experience and enjoy Shabbat, we savor a foretaste of the days of the Messiah, of the time of our redemption.