Not Ready for Moshiach

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Witnessing the Jews’ idolatrous worship of the Gold Calf, Moses rightfully destroyed the Tablets that possessed God’s miraculous writing. As Divine objects, Moses knew the Jews would treat the Tablets even worse than they had treated the inanimate Calf. The intended lessons revealed in the Tablets would be discarded in favor of relating to these Divine items in a superstitious manner. 

There is little difference between those ancient Jews who sinned by deifying that gold statue, and today’s Jews who sin by attributing powers to a red string and other nonsense. In both cases, Jews have abandoned the lessons of the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and Prophets; great people whom God recorded for their exemplary philosophies and practices. These perfected individuals never viewed physical items as powerful, or greater than God. Such heresy was alien to their sense of reality. When in need, they prayed to God: no intermediaries, no amulets. This is sensible, since an intermediary or amulet possesses no abilities at all, whereas God controls everything, as He created everything. Perfected individuals throughout time distinguish truth from fallacy; between God and inanimate creations.  And God clearly prohibits mankind from succumbing to his weak insecurities seeking quick fixes in the form of superstitious practice: 

“You must not eat on blood.  You must not act on the basis of omens.  And you must not act on the basis of auspicious times (Lev 19:26).”

Here, God instructs us to refrain from acting in a manner that is unsupported by reality. Eating with blood was imagined to create a camaraderie with the demons (Maimonides). Seeking signs or amulets was believed to protect, as was acting on certain dates. But all such practices are unrelated to the natural course of cause and effect. As the world's events are due to natural properties and the above acts are not, there is no control we exert with such practices. If we wish success, we work. If we desire a home, we build it. If we are sick, we take remedial action and correct our diets. But if we were to address any of these needs by wearing red strings, bowing to gold statues or acting at 12:00 and not 12:01, we would remain in need. No effect would occur. As these acts are useless, God prohibits them (Ibn Ezra).

To the intelligent person, this is so obvious. One wonders why there exists a need to speak of this topic at all. But the need has never been greater… 

Last week, the Jewish Press newspaper again misrepresented Torah, giving license to Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum to promote false ideas. Not only is the Jewish Press irresponsible in failing to research the Torah before promoting red bendels, but the publishers and the author sin greatly. Maimonides teaches, those who mislead the masses, sin grievously (Laws of Teshuva 4:1):

“Twenty-four matters prevent repentance. Four of them are most severe sins and one who commits one of these four, God will not allow that person to repent due to the greatness of the sin. These four are:  1) Causing the masses to sin…”

Maimonides is clear: misleading the masses (here, encouraging Jews to violate superstition) will meet with God’s removal of that person’s repentance. What can be worse? Over the years, the Jewish Press has promoted stories on human deification, Rebbes who work miracles, Chassidish silver rings, etc. If a publication wishes to represent itself as Jewish, certainly, as orthodox, it must be familiar with the Chumash, the Five Books. The Jewish Press and Rabbi Tannenbaum do not follow the hierarchy of Torah authority: God’s words trumps all others.  So the sources Rabbi Tannenbaum cites supporting red bendels as powerful, are of no avail, since God prohibits it. Rabbi Tannenbaum writes:

“Some have likened the red strings of Kever Rachel to superstitious practices resembling idol worship as described in Tosefta Shabbos 7:1, where certain practices, including tying a red string around one’s finger, are prohibited because of “darchei emori.” 

It is alarming that the Rabbi  dismisses the Tosefta’s clear prohibition, saying “Some have likened the red strings of Kever Rachel to superstitious practices.” A further distortion is that the Rabbi does not cite the Torah source above prohibiting superstition, or Torah, Neveim and Kasuvim where superstition is never practiced by a single Prophet. He continues to cite Rabbis who say the following:

 “…it is an established segulah to ward off pains and the evil eye, for fertility, easy birth, and more.”

“…it is an old custom to tie the red string around the neck or wrist, as a protection against many dangers, especially for pregnant women. First one should wind the string around the monument at Kever Rachel, thus transforming it to a segulah, proven effective time after time.”

“It is well known that our mothers and grandmothers did so from the earliest times, and that it is a tradition passed down from generation to generation.”

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum rejects God’s command, while the incomprehensible and baseless claims of some Chassidishe Rabbis are promoted instead. This is not Torah, but human worship. The attachment to man has blinded Rabbi Tannenbaum, the Jewish Press, and many generations. Organizations like and promoters like also promote the violation of superstition, selling prayers at the Wall, as if God cannot hear man from any location. 

Jewish leaders and those possessing a voice have a huge responsibility to accurately study Torah before presenting a notion as “Jewish.” Sadly, in this case, Torah study is ignored and what is popular has become accepted. 

Had God granted Moshiach to us today, it appears that Jews would relate to him like they relate to Rebbes and red bendels: they would view him in a superstitious light, the antithesis of God’s intention in brining a messiah. God wishes us to focus on Him, not powerless men or amulets. 

Until a generation’s leaders will study Torah, learn what is true and what is false, and only then speak…Moshiach might be of no benefit. Nonetheless, whether we are ready or not, we anticipate the coming of Moshiach and accept that God can usher in this era at any moment. 

On a positive note, it is gratifying that a few Rabbis are outspoken against Torah violations. These include Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rabbi Reuven Mann, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Rabbi Bernie Fox and Rabbi Saul Zucker. May other Rabbis, the Jewish media and Jewish organizations follow their lead, for when they speak, they represent God's Torah, not man’s imagination.