This week’s Torah portion, Chukat, begins with the laws of the red heifer, by which a person was cleansed of ritual defilement.
Maimonides, in his summary of these laws, includes an interesting historical note on this practice: “There have been a total of nine red heifers from the time this mitzva (commandment) was given until the destruction of the Second Holy Temple.
“The first was rendered by Moses, the second by Ezra the Scribe, and seven more between the time of Ezra and the destruction. The tenth red heifer will be rendered by King Moshiach, may he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will.”
These last words seem out of place. Why did Maimonides include a prayer for the revelation of Moshiach in the middle of a legal work? Maimonides measured every word he used. Indeed, many practical implications are learned from his choice of language. Why, then, did Maimonides include this supplication in his discussion of these laws?
Had Maimonides’ intent be to teach the importance of praying for Moshiach, he would have included this prayer with the laws of Moshiach, and not in a section in which Moshiach is mentioned only in passing.
Rather, the inclusion of these words – inserted after only a passing reference to Moshiach – underscores that the subject of Redemption must evoke a deep and profound longing in every Jew, culminating in the heartfelt plea: “May he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will!”
On the belief in Moshiach, Maimonides writes: “He who does not believe in him, or does not await his coming…denies…the Torah and Moses our teacher.”
It is not enough to have faith in Moshiach’s eventual arrival; a Jew is obligated to actively anticipate his coming, all day, every day. The faith of a person who believes Moshiach will come but does not actually expect him to arrive is lacking.
Just as the belief in Moshiach is constant, so too, is the obligation to joyfully anticipate his arrival a perpetual commandment. A Jew must always feel as if Moshiach will arrive at any moment, for indeed, such is the case.
This unquenchable longing for Moshiach stems from our realisation that a Jew cannot complete his personal mission until the Final Redemption, when the entire world will reach its perfection. Every minute till then, we find ourselves in a state of spiritual deficiency.
The lesson, therefore, to be learned from Maimonides’ choice of words is that when a Jew anticipates Moshiach in the proper way, the very mention of the subject must elicit such strong emotion and longing that he will spontaneously cry out, “May he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will.”