Our Evolving Universe
THE WORLD IS CHANGING FAST. Science and technology are evolving at mind boggling speed. In the world of ideas, the age of reason is giving way to new age spirituality, and the outlook of science is shifting from hard-nosed materialism to higher notions of reality that include the existence of G‑d and the significance of man.
In the past, earth as a global village was an eccentrics dream. Now it's an undisputed fact, as video, telecommunications and the Internet intimately connect people and communities across the world.
Three decades ago, the delicate balance between two hostile superpowers had a generation concerned about the prospect of nuclear Armageddon. Now, fears of a of a world war between superpowers have been diminished along with the collapse of the most extreme aspects of Communism, nuclear disarmament in many parts of the world, and the channeling of military budgets into peacetime uses. Democratic policies have begun to take hold in many dictatorships and monarchies, while economic sanctions in a global marketplace can keep the peace better than military hardball.
Of course, progress is not seen everywhere. Although human rights are flourishing in a great number of countries, some aspects of societies are failing. People are increasingly alienated from their neighbors, their families, and even themselves. Events can seem out of control, even senseless, with random acts of violence and terrorism permeating society to an unprecedented degree.
The world has never changed so significantly with such speed, but where is it headed? And how do we fit in? Or do we?
Most cultures have a view to the future, a concept of the destiny of humanity and the world. What's fascinating is the ancient Jewish vision is unfolding right now.
For the Jew who studies the teachings of the written and oral Torah, which together comprise the tradition from Sinai, the vision of the far future has always been Moshiach and Geulah. This is the Messianic Redemption of the Jewish people and the nations of the world in an everlasting era of material and spiritual well being, through a singular redeemer.
Now that the predictions of this future vision have started to come into focus, many are having trouble reconciling this faith with reality. The modern, rational and "realistic" mind starts to question: Are we to take this utopian projection seriously? Even if true, are we to believe that it’s happening now?
But what if it really is happening now? For some this is a pretty big "if." Nonetheless even a skeptic would admit some possibility that optimism is the realistic outlook for today and tomorrow. After all, good and evil are two sides of one moral coin. If one man could start a world war to the detriment of mankind, might one man also be able to redeem mankind through championing world peace?
New outlooks have arisen before in human history and they typically meet with resistance, especially at first. Before we consider the contours of things to come, let's remember the evolution of attitudes regarding the shape of the world we are standing on now.
For centuries people were certain that the world was flat. What else could a sane person believe? When you look at the ground around you ... behold! It is flat. Even the view from the top of a mountain confirmed a flat earth in all directions. Why should anyone think otherwise?
Suddenly a new understanding about our planet arose. One person proposed that the earth is round like a ball. The reactions were predictably emotional: "Insane! Stupid! Foolish!"
Gradually, however, people began to examine this new idea using their intellect instead of their emotions or ingrained personal beliefs. As the evidence steadily increased, the new idea became accepted as knowledge by most. There were still some people who remained with their certainty that the earth is flat. No amount of evidence could persuade them to let go of their mistaken belief.
There are other examples of dogmatic resistance to new facts or ideas: Based on Newtonian Physics, 18th century scientists unanimously discounted the possibility of meteorites falling from the sky. But what happened when the French countryside got pummeled by hundreds of large meteorites? Scientists around the world rejected the evidence for months and even years. Of course now we know it is true.
Similarly, for months following the Wright Brothers' successful airplane flights witnessed by hundreds of locals, there were no media reports at all and Scientific American magazine ran editorials ridiculing the idea of heavier-than-air flying machines. Even more recently, there are still people who deny that man has ever landed on the moon.
There is a popular saying, "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know." In general, a thirst for knowledge with a dose of humility is enough to prepare a person for new information and different views on life.
Who among us can claim complete knowledge about such fundamental issues as the nature of G‑d and man's purpose on this planet? Who might propose with certainty where the ultimate destiny of individuals and society may lie, who will take us there, and what to do while we wait?
Yet all this and more are addressed in the universal teachings of Judaism regarding Moshiach and Redemption, and will be discussed below and in subsequent articles.
Ancient Jewish prophets and sages have foreseen our current era. Their predictions, as recorded in the Jewish Bible and the rabbinic writings of the Tradition from Sinai, have been unfolding over the most recent times. Now that the stage is set, based on these sources, it is realistic to expect that Moshiach will soon enter the global arena.
The Alter Rebbe, the first leader of the Chabad Lubavitch Chassidic dynasty, once explained to a group of his students, "The Moshiach you're waiting for will never come; And the Moshiach that's coming, you don't want."
Once we know what we are looking for we can be in tune with Moshiach's call , even before the Redemption is fully realized.
Moshiach comes for the atheist, and for the believer. He comes for the agnostic, the religious, and for all religions. Within the religions, he will address the fervent and the lax alike. All will experience the redemption in their level and in their way. It will be a common redemption but with different shades of meaning for each person.
What does it means for an atheist to be redeemed by G‑d? Atheism has a kernel of religious truth. Very often the atheist's problem is that a Biblical G‑d seems to have human dimensions and frailties, like anger, jealousy, and regret. Such qualities seem quite inconsistent with a transcendent, omnipotent and omniscient entity for which the whole universe is smaller than a tiny speck. A person with such beliefs is ready for the infinite aspect of G‑d, and rejects any trivialization of Divinity.
As one sage responded to an atheist, "The G‑d that you don't believe in, I don't believe in either."
Yet this sage did believe, both in G‑d and in the promised redeemer. In fact the two are inextricably linked. Moses Maimonides 1 codified 13 Principles of Faith that form the core and essence of Jewish belief. Without any of these, there is no Judaism. These principles include G‑d's existence, infinity, non-corporeality, awareness, and concern for our actions. They include the permanence of G‑d's will as expressed in the Torah, and the justice of his rewards and punishments. And it includes believing Moshiach will come and that the dead will rise.
The following is a brief outline of what Judaism teaches regarding Moshiach and redemption: As the Messianic Redemption unfolds, the tradition from Sinai predicts peace, prosperity, health, and harmony within the individual, society, and the environment.
The Jews will all be gathered to Israel, and their Holy Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. The Torah will be observed in full. The dead of previous generations are to live again, souls in bodies, eternally.
G‑dliness will be revealed within this physical world and all humanity will pursue and attain the knowledge of their creator with great joy and delight.
Moshiach will not come to disrupt man's life or to create world upheaval. Everything that is good about life will remain and become enhanced as the era of the Redemption progresses. On the other hand the negativity, fear, hatred, pettiness, greed, violence and so on that is also part of our daily context will diminish and in fact disappear.
The coming of Moshiach is something to look forward to for everyone, except of course those people who are so committed to negativity that when it disappears there will be nothing left of their lives to reap in a world of good.
How realistic is this whole scenario? Who says that this will all come to pass? What credibility do these sources have? Hasn't science dispelled all these myths? And if these events do happen, why is the agent a man, rather than G‑d alone? And why point the finger today and identify Moshiach? Is it not enough that the world improves? The following sections of this website will attempt to do justice to these and other questions.
1. Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of all time, was a generational leader and court physician to Sultans in the 13th Century. He is best known today for his authoritative magnum opus, Mishnah Torah that was the first codification of Jewish Law.