Who is the Messiah?

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The 1885 Pittsburgh Platform [stating the principles of Reform Judaism] rejected the traditional Jewish hope for an heir of King David to arise when the world was ready to acknowledge that heir as the one anointed (the original meaning of mashiach, anglicized into "Messiah"). In the Avot, the first [blessing] of the Amidah [a central prayer in Jewish liturgy], Reformers changed the prayerbook's hope for a go-el, a redeemer, to geulah, redemption…

--Commentary on the Pittsburgh Platform, www.ccarnet.org

The Messiah Could Be Anyone

The thing I love most about being Jewish is waiting for the Messiah! That is what I love the most…waiting, waiting, like so much of life…we Jews are waiting for the Messiah…I love that the book is still open on the question of the identity of Moshiach [messiah]…Eleanor Roosevelt, George Balanchine, Martin Luther King, Nadine Gordimer, Fred Rogers, Richard Pryor, Cruz Irizarry, the woman who takes care of my kids when I'm working, the UPS man who's so nice about carrying in the boxes and setting them down wherever you need, the sexy guys from the cable company…it's like a big Halloween party, life is a costume party in which anyone may come forward from behind the masks and reveal themselves as Moshiach.

--Deb Margolin, performance artist, "Oh Wholly Night" and Other Jewish Solecisms, 1996

Waiting for Us, Among Those Who Need Healing

Instead of bringing about the onset of redemption, messiah will herald its completion. The actual work of redeeming the world is turned to us in history, and is done by all of us, day by day. Messiah has been waiting in the wings, as it were, since the very beginning of history, ready to come forth when the time is right. According to one legend, he sits among the lepers at the gates of Rome--today we would be likely to find him in an AIDS hospice--tending to their wounds. Only when redemption is about to be completed will messiah be allowed to arrive. Rather than messiah redeeming us, we redeem messiah.

--Rabbi Arthur Green, Seek My Face, Speak My Name

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Jeffrey Spitzer is Chair of the Department of Talmud and Rabbinics at Gann Academy, The New Jewish High School, Waltham, Mass., and a member of the Institute's Tichon Fellows Program.