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Max Roytenberg: Waiting For Messiah

by Max Roytenbeg

King David was considered the epitome of a leader for the Hebrews, for his success in creating the successful nation state he expanded and ruled, devoted to the one true God. He was considered by the people of Israel as a worthy successor to the Patriarchs. His son, Solomon, was even more successful, creating a mini-empire that was the largest, unequalled for a thousand years, until the rule of Simon of the Hasmoneans. Simon’s descendants squabbled, leading to destruction of the state by the Romans, and dispersal for two thousand years.

 

Ever since, the Hebrew nation and the world has awaited a messenger from the deity who would not only redeem Israel but would create a paradise on earth for all the world's peoples. As prophesied in the Hebrew bible, descended from David, “the root of Jesse”, the Messiah was to usher in the “End of Days”, a miraculous time when there would be peace on earth, and the lion would lie down with lamb. For Jews, who presented the world with this concept, it is evident that time has not yet arrived. Even though Jews have wished and prayed for it fervently, particularly when times for them were particularly bad, their Messiah did not arrive.

 

Christians believe the Messiah has already come, in the person of Jesus, re-interpreted as an expression of God, Himself, who died and rose from the dead. They await a second coming to usher in His kingdom on earth. Islam is content with Mohammed, and perceives that total world hegemony for Islam is the awaited event, precipitated by individual and collective Jihad if necessary. These faiths have almost three billion adherents.

 

In my youth I considered putting myself forward as a candidate. I had the illusion I could be that person. In the event, I decided my case was weak in spite of what I adjudged were my many superior qualities. My frenzy reached a peak of self-adulation and faith when I was in grade five. In the end I decided not to press my case. The chilling effect of Winnipeg, marriage and fatherhood burned it out of me when I was twenty-one. I then turned, with grim determination, to the achievement of lesser, but still seemingly-unattainable goals. There have been several other failed pretenders to this role, so Jews are leery of self-proclaimed candidates. History has proved it is a dangerous role to play. Both society and myself are fortunate that I surrendered my brief.

 

Some Jews, as the Hebrews are now called, harking back to the tribe of Judah, the most powerful tribe among the survivors, have waited two millennia for the Messiah to lead them back to their Promised Land. Some Jews decided, in the late 1800’s, to take matters into their own hands. They created the Zionist movement to achieve this as a wholly secular endeavour. They were too late to rescue six million from annihilation in World War II, but they were successful and in time, to save other millions from resurgent genocidal movements that threaten even Western democracies in our own days. 

 

The leaders of the Zionist movement in question never claimed a religious mantle. If anything, they offered their actions as a rejection of the messianic idea. This has not prevented many from ascribing the ultimate result we see today as a proof of divine intervention.

 

Don’t we often wish for some sort of divine intervention to occur when we get into trouble? Haven’t we seen or read about horrific events in human history and asked ourselves how a compassionate deity could fail to act to avert the horror? How many leaders have invoked the support from the divine in persuading their followers that they had that stamp of approval for their actions? Haven’t they claimed that approval even if they didn’t insist they were the deity incarnate by claiming the messianic mantle?

 

So what about this dream? Should we be relying on the arrival of a divinely driven individual to solve our problems on this planet? Is this an enlightened vision of a better time to come or a pipedream that discourages the necessary bootstrap action of ordinary human beings pursuing worthwhile goals the world needs to arrive at better times? Do most of the planet’s inhabitants still believe that we must depend on an outside agency to usher in a regime of heaven on earth? I am sure many still do.

 

Even if we ascribe many of the events of which we approve to action by the unseen hand of the Deity after the fact, is this what we are saying? Can we not unite to achieve positive results we believe the world needs rather than wait for the implausible intervention of unknown forces. Is it a coincidence that societies ruled by theocracies, those that tend to emphasize submission to the will of the divine, tend to be less progressive with regard to many elements that improve living standards, compared with the situation in more secular societies? 

 

Can we not be divinely-inspired to accomplish great things without waiting for the arrival of an external agency? As long as our philosophies allow us to question any current realities which stand in the way of improving the lives of humans, can we not work at improving what we see around us that needs changing? Does working toward a better world prevent us from dreaming of an ideal world? Why should the aspiration to achieve the perfect by means of an external agency drive out a continuing effort to achieve the merely better through the work of human hands? Is this not the Deity working His mysteries?

 

Can we afford to merely wait for the Messiah to solve all our problems?

 
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