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Messiah, Facts, & Hope: A Jew’s conversation with Shia Muslims.

Posted on Jun 12, 2015 by in Interfaith | 1 comment

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The following article was written by Rabbi Zalman Kastel after he attended an interfaith event about the Promised Saviour which was held shortly after the birthday of Imam Mahdi (a) at the Nabi Akram Islamic Centre in Sydney. It was originally posted on his blog Social Issues and Torah:

There is a difference between the presentation of ‘facts’ and the truth. 

Standing behind the Messiah’s cream and green birthday cake at a Shia Muslim Mosque in Sydney, University student, Ali Safdari, questioned the prospects for a redeemer being able to pull humanity out of the ‘unjust mess’ it is in. He cited several facts to support this bleak assessment, all of them true. He put a challenge to a range of speakers from different faith perspectives to explain the “promised redeemer” in this context. 

One speaker, Shaykh Hamid Waqa, a Shia Muslim Sheikh with an American accent, a Christian father and Jewish mother who studied in Iran, explored the range of perspectives within Shia Islam toward the Madhi-Messiah. Some were content to do nothing more than pray for the redeemer. Others on the very fringe believed they could force the hand of God by increasing injustice in the world thereby hastening the Madhi’s arrival. A third group believed that increasing justice will hasten his coming. He also talked about the importance of being ready for the Mahdi and the risk of people simply not being prepared to follow the redeemer when he appeared. 

The range of views about the Messiah or Moshiach in Judaism is interesting to consider alongside those of Shia Muslims. I was raised within the Chabad movement which has put a huge emphasis on hastening the coming of the Messiah and preparing for it, actively and urgently (1). Despite our tradition teaching that the Messiah might come in a generation that is completely guilty, I have never heard anyone suggest this was a good way to hurry things along. On the other hand, many Jews are certainly more comfortable with a passive stance toward the Messiah. 
  
At my brother’s wedding on the Sunday prior to the interfaith panel, I chatted with my father’s cousin. He made the argument that the Torah’s complete silence on the Moshiach and  afterlife, both of which are not mentioned at all in the Torah itself, is tied to Judaism’s focus on justice in this world and our life on earth. We are not content to allow injustice to fester because we hope for a better world in the afterlife or when the redeemer comes. It is our task to make things right, here and now.  

The Talmud relates: When Rav Zeira happened upon scholars who were engaged [in calculating the date of Moshiach's arrival], he told them, “I beg you! Do not postpone it … for it has been taught, ‘Three things come when the mind is occupied otherwise: Moshiach …(2)”  Being too focused on Moshiach, according to this teaching is not appropriate.

For me the Messiah is not just about the future but about living with hope right now that the world as it is at present is not final. That a world in which the strong does not harm the weak, represented by the image of the “lion lying with the lamb” (3) is possible. I suggested that although there is some value in young people “maintaining the rage” and being dissatisfied with the world as it is, it is important to see the half of the cup that is full. The relative freedom we enjoy to express whatever views we hold and follow our religious beliefs and the realization, at least in part, of Martin Luther King Jnr’s of dream with the US having a black president that was unimaginable only a half century ago. 

Hope can be difficult. One of the great insights from the East is not to be too attached to one’s hopes and as a result one is seldom very disappointed. Yet, Judaism demands hope. The Spies Moses sent to report on the Promised Land to the freed slaves in the desert sinned with one dispiriting word, the word “but” (4). Although they brought back lots of accurate information, they also included one hope destroying word. “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant” (5). They also sequenced their “facts” in such a way that the positive part was first and out of the way so that the ‘bottom line’ appeared to be the hopelessness of the situation (6). 

I concluded my talk at the Mosque with the following reflection: “The emphasis on the Moshiach motivated a lot of activism. I can confidently say that if not for the Jewish belief in the Moshiach, I would not be standing here today. I would not have gone out of my comfort zone in New York with my family to move to Australia. I certainly would not have founded an organization called Together For Humanity that brings together Muslims, Christians and Jews to teach young people about respect for differences. It is only because we were raised to hasten the coming of the Messiah. It is because I had learned to refuse to accept a flawed world that I was driven to meet all of you. For this I am very grateful”.  

Notes:
(1) The Talmud (Shabbat 31a), states that one of the four questions a soul is asked when facing the Heavenly Court is: “Did you yearn for the Salvation?” The Talmud states: When they bring a person for judgment, they will ask: “Did you deal faithfully in business? Did you set aside fixed times for Torah? Did you try to have children? Did you anticipate the redemption?”
(2) Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a
(3) Isaiah 11:6
(4) Rabbi Yitzchak Arama, in Akedat Yitzchak, cited in Lebovitz, N., New Studies in Bamidbar, Abarbanel goes further in his analysis of the Hebrew word, “Efes” אפס that can be translated as “but”, but can also be translated as “nothing” and indicating lack or cancelation such as “is there no more, a man?” in Samuel II 9:3, or “there is no more money” in Genesis 47:15. The spies are therefore saying that everything good they said about the land “is as it if as never been, it is all nothing and emptiness because the nation is strong” 
(5) Numbers 13: 27-28
(6) Abarbanel, he points out that the sequence was the opposite of their terms of reference given to them by Moses, in which the first two questions were about the people of the land and only then did he ask two questions about the produce of the land (numbers 13:18-20), but in the answer these are reversed for effect.  

1 Comment

  1. I seek refuge in Allah al Malik the King from Shaytan the Cursed Outcast, In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Ya Imam Mahdi AS Shareek al Quran AS,
    “Indeed the faithful, the JEWS,
    the CHRISTIANS, and the SABAEANS
    —those of them who have faith in Allah
    and the Last Day
    and act righteously—
    they shall have their reward near their Lord,
    and they will have no fear,
    nor will they grieve.”
    Surah Baqarah verse 62
    I seek refuge in Allah al Malik the King from Shaytan the Cursed Outcast, In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Ya Imam Mahdi AS Shareek al Quran AS,
    “Among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. There are indeed signs in that for those who know.”
    Surah Al Rum verse 22
    InshaAllah Allah al Khaliq the Creator has created IMAM MAHDI, PEACE BE UPON HIM, Allah al Subhan, SubhanAllah and Allah al Haq, the Truth, will send Imam Mahd, peace be upon him, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, peace be upon him and his pure progeny, and Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib AS, Ameerul Mu’mineen AS, the Commander of the Faithful AS and Bibi Fatima Zahra AS, Sayyedateh Nisa al Alimeen AS, the Leader of the Women of the Worlds AS to help the Alhamdullillah JEWS the CHRISTIANS, the SABAEANS, the SHIA and ALLAH KNOWS BEST the SUNNI MUSLIMS. Ya Ali
    La illaha Ill Allah, Muhammadan Rasool Allah, Aliyun Wali Allah. Ya Fatima
    There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Ali is the Wali of Allah.
    Bibi Fatima Zahra AS Seyyedateh Nisa al Alimeen, Imam Hasan ibn Ali al Mujtaba AS, Imam Hossein ibn Ali AS Seyyedeh Shohada AS Shaheed be Karbala AS Abi Abdillah AS Thar Allah AS Ash Shaheed AS Al Ghareeb AS
    ALHAMDULLILLAH WE ALL BELIEVE IN ONE GOD!!!
    The famous Egyptian philosopher and Professor of Islamic of al-Azhar University, Allama Mohammad Mostafa Beck Najeeb in his equally famous book say the following about Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (as):
    “What can be said about this Imam? It is very difficult to fully explain his attributes and qualities. It is enough to realize that Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) had named him the gateway of knowledge and wisdom. He was the most learned person, the bravest man and the most eloquent speaker and orator. His piety, his love of God, his sincerity and fortitude in following religion were of such high order that none could aspire to reach him. He was the greatest politician because he hated diplomacy and loved truth and justice; his was the policy as taught by God. On account of his sagacity and through knowledge of human mind he always arrived at correct conclusion and never changed his opinions. His was the best judgement, and had he no fear of God he would have been the greatest diplomat amongst the Arabs. He is loved by all, and everyone has a place for him in his heart. He was a man of such surpassing and pre-eminent attributes and such transcending and peerless qualities that many learned men got perplexed about him and imagined him to be an incarnation of God. Several men amongst Jews and Christians love him and such philosophers who came to know of his teachings bow down before his incomparable vast knowledge. Roman kings would have his pictures in their palaces and great warriors would engrave his name on their swords.”
    Alhamdullillah All Praise is to Allah al Kabeer, the Great. InshaAllah, God-willing, Allah al Malik the King will send Imam Mahdi AS soon. Alhamdullillah when Allah Subhannahu wa Ta’alla sends Imam Mahdi AS, Allah al Mudhill, the Humiliator, will send him with Hadhrat Isa ibn Mariam AS (Prophet JESUS son of Mary peace be upon him), Hadhrat Khidr AS (the Green Prophet AS), Hadhrat Ilyas AS (‘Peace be to Ilyās! (Surah Saffat verse 130)), Hadhrat Idris AS (And mention in the Book Idrīs. Indeed he was a truthful one, a prophet, and We raised him to a station exalted. (Surah Maryam verse 56-57)) and the Yamani, InshaAllah Allah al Muntaqim, the Avenger, will send him to the Middle East and gather the Shia around him and they will fight these Ya Bani al Mudhill, ISIS Bani Ummaya animals in human skin dogs donkeys, and InshaAllah Allah al Jammi will send the 313 Muslims to gather around Imam Mahdi AS. Alhamdullillah please pray that Allah al Nasser, al Nasser Awlia, Aunal Mu’mineen, Wali al Mu’mineen, al Wali, Al Mu’min, Al Muhaymin, al Haman, al Manan, al Asim, al Qasim, al Muqaddim, al Muakhir, al Saree’, al Saree’ al Ridha, will help them and fix all their problems right this instant and protect them and the Shia in Iraq, Syria, their men are being killed and their women taken as sex slaves, and forced to Marry these dogs, pigs, donkeys, animals in human clothing, and in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Malaysian prisoners, Indonesia, Burma (Alhamdullillah, Allah ash Shaheed is the Witness, the Burmese Rohingiya Muslims are on boats stuck at sea with no country taking them in, they are starving and thirsty and dying).
    InshaAllah Allah Subhannahu wa Ta’alla will send Imam Mahdi AS soon with Hadhrat Isa ibn Mariam and his friends and the 313 Muslims, and InshaAllah Allah al Malik will help the Shia, Muslims, good Jews, Christians, Sabians, and the Miskeen Yateem Aseer SHK. ALI AL NIMR, BR. RAIF BADAWI and the Miskeen in our community BR. IBRAHIM NOOREDINI, BR. ALI BROTHER KHALID, BR. RICHARD, BR. CARLOS, SR. TAYLOR, SHIA OF ALI AND HER FAMILY, BR. Al MUIZ AL AWLIA WA MUDHILL AL A’DA, BR. ALHAMDULLILLAH (YA ALI), SR. IRENE, SRS. VANESSA & CLARISSA & FAM, SR. KELSEY, BR. JOE, BR. BILLY and the widow and the traveler and distressed lady. InshaAllah Allah al Mudhill will bless the Shaheed of Hossein ibn Ali AS Sayyedeh Shohada AS Shaheed be Karbala AS Thar Allah AS Ash Shaheed AS Al Ghareeb AS and our Shia martyrs.
    Ya Allah Ya Hadhrat Mohammad ibn Abdullah SAWS, Ya Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib AS, Ameerul Mu’mineen AS, Ya Bibi Fatima Zahra AS Seyyedateh Nisa al Alimeen AS Ya Hasan Ya Hossein Ya Imam Ali ibn Hussain AS Ya Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al Baqir AS Ya Imam Jafar ibn Muhammad al Sadigh AS Abu Abdullah AS Abu Musa AS Ya Imam Musa ibn Jafar al Kadhim AS Abu Ali AS Abu Ibrahim AS Abu Ismael AS Abul Hasan AS Abul Hasan al Madi AS al Sayyid AS al Wafi AS al Amin AS Al Sabir AS Al Zahir AS Al Dhul Nafse Zakkiya AS Al Qaid al Askar AS Baabol Hawaij AS Ya Imam Ali ibn Musa al Ridha AS Ya Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al Taqi AS Imam Jawad AS Ya Imam Ali ibn Muhammad Al Hadi AS Imam Ali al Naqi AS Al Alim AS Ya Imam Hasan ibn Ali al Askari AS Imam Zaki AS Imam Hojjat ibn Hasan Al Mahdi AS al Khaleefatullah AS Khalil ar Rahman AS Wali al Asr AS Imam al Ins wal Jaan AS Hujjatullah AS al Saheb AS Saahebbeh Asr Wa Zaman AS Sahebbeh Zaman AS al Ghaem AS al Ghaem Moammal AS Al Ghaem Al Mumtazar AS al Muntaqim AS Al Maa al Maeen AS al Ghaib AS Bibi Zainab Kobra AS Bibi Zainab bint Ali AS Bibi Zainab Shareekatul Hussain AS Bibi Zainab Kabbetu Rezaya AS Bibi Zainab Al Alematu Gharyru Mualamma AS Bibi Zainab al Fahimatul Gheyru Mufahama AS Bibi Zainab al Alima AS Bibi Zainab al Aqeelatu Bani Hashim AS Bibi Zainab al Aqeela AS Bibi Zainab Siddiqa AS Bibi Zainab Kamilah AS Bibi Zainab Fadhilah AS Bibi Zainab Sughra AS Bibi Zainab Ummul Masaib AS Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Jafar ibn Abu Talib AS ibn Abdul Muttalib AS ibn Ismail AS ibn Ibrahim AS ibn Nuh AS ibn Adam AS Hadhrat Abol Fadhl Abbas AS Ghammareh Bani Hashim AS Hadhrat Abbas ibn Ali AS Bibi Fatima Zahra AS Sayyedati Nisa Al Alimeen AS Bibi Khadijatul Kobra AS Bibi Khadijatul Gharrah AS Bibi Khadija bint Khuwaylid AS Bibi Mariam Bint Imran AS Bibi Asiya bibt Muzahim AS Hadhrat Ali Akbar ibn Hussain AS ibn Ali AS ibn Abi Talib AS ibn Abdul Muttalib AS ibn Hadhrat Ismail AS ibn Hadhrat Ibrahim AS ibn Hadhrat Nuh AS ibn Hadhrat Adam AS Hadhrat Ali Asghar AS ibn Imam Hussain AS ibn Imam Ali AS ibn Hadhrat Abu Talib AS ibn Hadhrat Abdul Muttalib AS ibn Hadhrat Ismail AS ibn Hadhrat Ibrahim AS ibn Hadhrat Nuh AS ibn Hadhrat Adam AS Hadhrat Aun AS ibn Abdullah AS ibn Jafar AS ibn Hadhrat Abu Talib AS ibn Hadhrat Abdul Muttalib AS Hadhrat Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Jafar AS Hadhrat Qasem ibn Hasan ibn Ali AS Hadhrat Wahab ibn Abdullah al Kalbi AS Hadhrat Salman ibn Mazarih ibn Qayn Al Ammari al Bijilli AS Hadhrat Zohaie ibn Qayn AS Hadhrat Hor ibn Yazid al Riyahi AS Shaheedaneh Karbala AS
    I seek refuge in Allah al Malik the King from Shaytan the Cursed Outcast, In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Ya Imam Mahdi AS Shareek al Quran AS,
    O my Allah condemn and damn the first tyrant who unjustly and wrongfully usurped that which rightly belonged to Mohammad and the children of Mohammad, and bring curse upon those who, after him, followed in his footsteps.
    O my Allah condemn and damn those conspirators who vexed and harassed Husayn, showed eagerness, agreed mutually, and joined hands to kill him. O my Allah bring curse upon all of them.
    ~~~~~
    I seek refuge in Allah al Malik the King from Shaytan the Cursed Outcast, In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Ya Imam Mahdi AS Shareek al Quran AS,
    Peace be on you, O Abu Abdullah, and on those souls who came to your camp to put themselves at your disposal.
    So far I am alive and the days and nights follow each other I invoke Allah to send blessings on you for ever and ever.
    May Allah not make my this pledge of close association, physical as well as spiritual, with you the last fulfillment.
    Peace be on Husayn, and on Ali son of Husayn, and on the children of Husayn, and on the friends of Husayn.
    Aoodhoo Billahi Sameeo Aleem mina Shaytaneh La’eeno Rajeem, Bismillaheh Rahmaneh Raheem,
    Ya Allah Ya Mohammad Ya Ali Ya Fatima Ya Hasan Ya Hossein Ya Saahebeh Zaman Adrikni wa La Tohlikni
    Ya Imam Mahdi AS

    I seek refuge in Allah al Malik the King from Shaytan the Cursed Outcast, In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Ya Imam Mahdi AS Shareek al Quran AS,
    “Indeed the faithful, the JEWS,
    the CHRISTIANS, and the SABAEANS
    —those of them who have faith in Allah
    and the Last Day
    and act righteously—
    they shall have their reward near their Lord,
    and they will have no fear,
    nor will they grieve.”
    Surah Baqarah verse 62

    Allahu Akbar Ya Imam Mahdi AS!!! Imam Mahdi AS for PEACE for JEWS CHRISTIANS SABAEANS MUSLIMS
    Alhamdullillaheh Rabbel Alimeen INSHAALLAH Allah al Malik the King will send Imam Mahdi, peace be upon him soon the BEST PEACE to Israel and Palestine and all of the Middle East and all of the worlds Alhamdullillaheh Rabbel Alimeen!

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