Photo Credit: Courtesy Rabbi Lebovic
Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic

I will see him, but not now, I will look at him, but not at a proximity, a star will shoot from Yaakov and a scepter will arise from Yisrael, and he will smash the corners of Moav and eradicate all the children of Sheth.” – Bamidbar 24:17



The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 11:1) writes that the repetitive, double terminology of this verse is referring to two messiahs – the first one being King David and the second one, the final Mashiach.

We have to understand why King David is referred to as this first Mashiach. After all, if it is only by virtue of his having been anointed (mashiach=anointed), there were other anointed kings before him. And it would seemingly make more sense to say that Moshe Rabbeinu, usually referred to in the Talmud as the “first redeemer,” would qualify as the first Mashiach of this verse.

These questions can be answered by analyzing what the principal function of Mashiach is according to Rambam. His wording indicates that it is not an ability to perform miracles or bring about changes within the course of nature, nor is it the possession of prophetic ability of the highest caliber.

Rather, it is the fact that he will “coerce” all Jews to uphold all the laws of the Torah in their entirety and thus raise the banner of Torah and the glory of God throughout the world.

He will bring mankind to a state of ever-deepening spiritual direction through the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the ingathering of all the exiles to the Holy Land of Israel.

King David was the first to establish the firm foundation of Israel as a unified theocratic Holy Land, imposing God’s Will over all of its inhabitants and setting the path for the eventual establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. That explains Rambam’s view that David is the first Mashiach alluded to in this verse.

This will also explain the difference between the procedure necessary to establish the credentials of a prophet and the procedure necessary for Mashiach to verify his unique credentials.

A prophet’s credentials are established on the basis of his prophetic ability, for that is part of his main function: he has to predict several future events, and they have to come about with precision.

Mashiach’s credentials are established through his ability to strengthen Torah observance throughout the Jewish world – this being, of course, his main function.

He also has to demonstrate that he is impacting the non-Jewish world, for the Seven Noahide Laws are also Torah-mandated, and that he is thus proceeding toward making the whole earth a dwelling place for God’s revealed Glory.

Accordingly, the mitzvah to believe in the coming of Mashiach, as per Rambam, assumes an additional dimension: we not only have to believe in a general way that Mashiach will eventually come, but also, more specifically, that he will bring the whole world – Jews and gentiles alike – to recognize and accept the rule of Divine Law.

Since there are those who will no doubt oppose this process, there is the need for Mashiach, as king and ruler, to overcome all such opposition by, in Rambam’s words, “waging God’s battles” in the manner of King David.

This also answers another question: Why did the Rambam arrange the Laws of Kings at the close of Yad Hachazaka – with the laws of Mashiach at the very end – when it seems they should have been arranged before the Laws of building the Beis HaMikdash?

The reason is that the only one who can fully implement all the laws of the Torah as delineated in all 14 books of Yad Hachazaka is a benevolent but all-powerful Jewish king of the stature of David – in other words, the greatest and most powerful king of all, Mashiach Tzidkeinu.

He will dedicate his God-granted powers to eradicating all forms of evil from this world in order establish God’s Kingdom on earth. He will topple and eradicate all forces opposed to the Master Plan God has chosen to implement, regardless of any of the political winds blowing throughout the world.

His great gifts of wisdom and prophecy are thus secondary to this main function, as explained above. He will bring tikkun (rectification) to the world’s inhabitants who will then acknowledge the falsehoods of the beliefs thrust upon them by their ancestors, recognizing that these beliefs are in the category of “falsehoods repeated long enough to become accepted as truth.”

The overwhelming majority of the world’s inhabitants – honest, good people – will then readily join the ranks of believers in the true Mashiach as he makes his appearance, b’karov.


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Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic is spiritual leader of Cong. Ahavath Zion of Maplewood, New Jersey. He can be reached at [email protected].