By Tova Wax
Throughout history, the Jewish people have struggled, been persecuted and slaughtered, but have always found a way to persevere, survive, and flourish. There are no shortages of opinions as to why the Jewish plight has generally been to face some sort of hardship, many of those opinions explaining the suffering to be a punishment, cleansing, or purification for the Jewish people’s lack of adherence to God’s law. Each time the Jews have gone through a period of suffering, there have been renewed outcries for God’s help and His redemption from all the pain.
Messianism, a belief that a messiah is coming to save the world, is a common thread shared by many religions. Looking forward to a messiah generally involves a belief in living a God-fearing life, including observance and adherence to His tenets and laws, continued repentance to Him, and improvement in one’s life.
Looking forward to a messiah is something generally celebrated by religious groups, who seek any possible heralding of the imminent messianic redemption era, namely, world events. Within Judaism, there’s a general idea that the Messiah can come in one of two ways, the easy or hard way. The “easy coming” will happen when Jews all over the world unite and adhere to God’s Torah; they essentially will be at such a high standard of purity that no further repentance will be needed. God will send the Messiah to redeem the Jews and the world, followed by a proverbial “peace on earth.” The “hard coming” will happen if Jews are at such a low level in which there is no unity, and no adherence to the Torah. The rest of the world, too, will be one of overall greed, selfishness, and lack of morality — it just can’t get any worse. God will have no choice but to take serious action to save the Jews and the world from themselves. It seems, with the current state of the world, that we are in the pre-messianic era via the “hard way,” suffering great birth pangs as described in the Gemara (Talmud) Sanhedrin 98, where our world seems seems to be deteriorating in so many ways — flourishing materialism, disillusionment with the government, riots, mobs, and even violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought even more havoc onto the world with ever-rising death tolls, economic crises, and so much more. Is it any wonder that some believe that the Messiah is arriving any second now? Many renowned Rabbis certainly agree that the pandemic and its terrible personal and global effects are key factors in regards to the coming redemption, and are urging Jews to repent and obey God and the Torah now more than ever. As hard as things are now, they can still be turned around. There can be an end to all suffering in the world. If the Jewish people repent and turn back toward godliness, perhaps the Messiah will come faster, ending all current suffering, preventing new suffering, and bringing true unity to Jews and all people of the world. Perhaps if everyone realizes that it is only God who can save us all from further pain of any manner, we can take the actions necessary to actualize this redemption!