Monday, April 03, 2006

The Rambam Part IV (Answer to the Implication Question)

At the end of my last post, I wrote that after having demonstrated the fallacy of Gil Theory in interpreting the Rambam, and having presented an alternate, far more plausible interpretation, there is still a question against the rebbe's candidacy.
The question was best expressed in an email that I received:
Granted that the Rambam is not presenting a Condition of Failure in this Halacha. But, the fact that the Rambam can speak of someone "that did not succeed to this extent" already implies that there must be an expiration date on someone's candidacy, because, if this were not the case, how could we ever know about anyone "that he did not succeed to this extent"? Perhaps he will come back from the dead to finish the job!

The answer to this question is simple. The Rambam is speaking of someone, who, in historical retrospect, "did not succeed to this extent." Let us take Chizkiyahu Hamelech as an example. Chizkiyahu is clearly not Moshiach, even if it were possible for Chizkiyahu to return from the dead, because the galus that we need redemption from today is a different Galus, the efforts to bring about the geulah are different efforts, and, in short, history has moved on from the Bnei Yisrael/ Ashur conflict, to new conflicts. In a similar vein, Bar Kochba, who died in the war that he was fighting against the Romans, and whose army was devastated in that same war, will clearly not come back to be Moshiach, because his war was lost. Similarly, Shabtai Tzvi, who converted to Islam, is clearly not Moshiach.
In any of the three above cases (as well as numerous others) a person could say that the candidate was moshiach, the candidacy failed, and the Geulah will not come about through Moshiach any more. To this, the Rambam Paskens that "If a person did not succeed to this extent, he is not the one about whom the Torah promised." The real Moshiach will finish the job!
So, Moshiach candidacies do have expirations, but the expiration does not have to be something as concrete as death. History tells us that a person's Messianic movement failed, and, at that point, we can look back at that candidate, and realize that "this is not the one about whom the Torah promised."
An even stronger condition for an expiration of a Messianic movement can be found in the Rebbe's comments on in Likutei Sichot, Volume 35 pg. 206, footnote 6. (The text can be viewed at You have to navigate to the Likutei Sichot, Vol. 35, and then put in the page number) The rebbe writes there, explaining why, according to the Psak of the Rambam, we cannot find Dovid Hamelech to be Moshiach, by saying "It would seem to be impossible to say that Dovid himself will be Moshiach, who will be "their prince, forever", because the beginning of the effect of Melech Hamoshiach must take place before the redemption, as is explained in the rambam, and certainly before the time of techiyat hameitim."
(Astoundingly, there are some who have quoted this point of the rebbe as a proof against his candidacy)
This would exclude all leaders of past generations, who, while their teachings continue to have an impact on the Jewish nation, cannot be said to have carried out "the effect of Melech hamoshiach." So, if there were someone who were to say, for example, that the Ba'al Shem Tov is Moshiach, one could say that the Psak of the Rambam excludes him, and, about such a person, the Rambam might teach us that we should not make the error of thinking that the Baal Shem Tov was Moshiach, and that his efforts failed, and we will no longer merit the coming of Moshiach, but rather, "This is not the one about whom the Torah promised."

If, on the other hand, the Geulah comes soon, through the work of the Rebbe, it will be true that "the effect of Melech hamoshiach began in the time before the Geulah" because the Rebbe's work will have been the work that brought about the Geulah.

Just re-emphasize the main points.
1) The Rambam's Psak is not about who can or cannot be Moshiach, it is about not thinking that a failed Moshiach was Moshiach, and that the geulah has been lost.
2) The implication that there must be some condition that makes someone a failed Moshiach does not neccessarily imply that this condition must be death. Rather, it could be what I have called "historical retrospect". Since we have no evidence that death is considered a Condition of Failure, there is no reason to think that it is.