Question: How do we know that there is an olam haba – a world to come?
Answer: The Rambam (Hilchot Melachim, chap. 11-12) gives us a glimpse of that future time. He writes: “The anointed King Messiah will arise in the future and restore the Davidic dynasty to the days of yore, to the glory of its original reign. He will rebuild the Holy Temple and gather in the exiles of the Jewish people. He will restore all the laws as they originally were – the sacrificial offerings, the seven-year shemitta cycles, and the Jubilee, just as all the commands found in the Torah.
“And whoever does not believe or wait in anticipation for his coming, not only is he [considered] in denial of the other prophets; he is in denial of the Torah and our teacher Moses.
“And the thought should not come to you that the Melech HaMoshiach will have to perform signs and miracles or bring forth new innovations to this world or even resurrect the dead or other similar things. The matter is not so, for we find that Rabbi Akiba, who was one of the very wisest and greatest sages of our Mishnah, carried forth the garments of Ben Koziva HaMelech [Bar Kochba], about whom all the sages of his generation said he is the king, the Messiah, until he was executed due to his sins.
“Since he was executed, it became apparent to them that he was not [the Messiah]. Yet, the sages [at the outset] never sought from him signs or miracles.”
Commenting on the Rambam’s statement that Rabbi Akiba carried forth the garments of Bar Kochba, the Kesef Mishnah notes that he has no idea where this statement appears (in the Talmud or Midrash).
Concerning Bar Kochba being executed, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 93b) relates the following: “Bar Koziva reigned two and a half years and then proclaimed to the sages, ‘I am Messiah.’ They answered, ‘Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges.’”
They were referring to Isaiah 11:3: “v’haricho b’yir’at Hashem, v’lo l’mar’eh einav yishpot v’lo l’mishma oznov yochiach – He will be imbued with a spirit of fear for Hashem, and will not need to judge by what his eyes see nor decide by what his ears hear.” The Maharsha explains that since the Messiah will be unable to judge using his sight or hearing, it is obvious that he will use his sense of smell. A person’s scent will indicate to him whether that person is innocent or guilty.
The Sages tested Bar Kochba and when they saw he was unable to judge with his sense of smell, he was killed. The Ra’avad says the Sages executed him while the Radbaz says the gentiles (obviously the authorities in Rome) executed him.
If the Melech HaMoshiach need not perform signs and miracles, as the Rambam states, why did the Sages ask Bar Kochba to judge via scent? The answer is that judging in this manner is not a normal sign; it is a fundamental trait that is unique to Melech HaMoshiach in his capacity as chief justice.
The Rambam writes further about the Messiah: “Now if a king will arise from the House of David who is steeped in Torah and is occupied in mitzvot like his father David, both according to the Written Law and the Oral Law, and he will pressure all of Israel to follow its ways and repair its breach, as well as wage Hashem’s battle, then there is a clear presumption that he is the anointed king, the Messiah.
“If he meets with success and builds the Holy Temple in its rightful place as well as gathers in Israel’s exiles, then with all surety he is the anointed one.
“He will then set in motion the entire world serving Hashem as one, as [Zephaniah 3:9] states: ‘Ki oz ehe’poch el amim sofoh berurah likro kulam b’shem Hashem u’lovdo shchem echad – For then I will change the nations to speak a pure language, so that they all will proclaim the Name of Hashem, to worship [serve] Him with a united resolve.’”
(To be continued)