WE WANT MASHI’ACH NOW.
Q. Do you agree with the Chabadniks who say, “We want Mashi’ach now”?
A. Most Jews pay lip service to the idea of the Messiah but are not really that interested one way or the other.
A Christian saint is said to have prayed, “God, make me good – but not yet”. I had a congregant who decided to go kosher but not until she had finished all the non-kosher meat in her freezer.
Some Jews say similarly, “God, send the Messiah if you want, but take Your time – I enjoy my life the way it is!”
When the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke of the imminence of Mashi’ach he was concerned with the big global issues.
So many massive events had taken place, the Holocaust, the revival of Israel and Jewish identity, the renaissance of Torah, the defeat of great enemies, the Jewish escape from the Soviet Union, the Divine protection of Israel, which taken together denote that history is moving into a new era. Everyone ought to rise up, he suggested, and call to God to send Mashi’ach.
Whether we want Mashi’ach depends on lifting our sights from the petty and mundane.
BEN SIRA & ECCLESIASTICUS
Q. Is there a difference between Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus?
A. They are separate parts of ancient wisdom literature.
Both names come from ecclesia, an assembly or congregation. Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), traditionally ascribed to King Solomon, is in the Hebrew Bible. Ecclesiasticus, written several decades later by Jesus ben Sira or Sirach, was excluded from the Tanach, though it is quoted in the Talmud.
Chagigah 13a states, “It is written in the Book of Ben Sira (3:21-22), ‘Do not seek things that are too hard for you, do not search out things that are hidden from you. Ponder the things that are permitted to you; you have no need of the things that are secret’”. There is another version of this passage in Midrash B’reshit Rabbah, chapter 8.
Ben Sira wrote in Hebrew; a significant part of his Hebrew original has been found in the Cairo Genizah. The author’s grandson translated the work into Greek. The sages regarded anyone who reads Ben Sira as liable to exclusion from the World to Come (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 28a) and prohibited a person from having the book in their home (Kohelet Rabbah 12:11).
The opposition to Ben Sira’s work was probably “due to its epicurean and Sadducean tendencies” (Soncino Chagigah, p.73). Kohelet was also under attack by the rabbis but was allowed into the Tanach because “its beginning and end are Torah”.
A BLESSING FOR MANNA.
Q. Which b’rachah did the Israelites say over the manna in the desert?
A. According to the Talmud (B’rachot 48b), Moses instituted the saying of “ha-zan” (the first blessing of the grace after meals) at the time when the manna descended from heaven. Thus they had to bensch after eating manna.
They also had to say “motzi”, since it is called bread in Exodus 16:4 and elsewhere.