The Problem with Moshiach ben Yoseph
Introduction. Who is the Messiah son of Joseph?
Who is the Messiah son of David?
The Christian Association of MBJ and the Problem for Jews.
The MBJ Problem for Christians.
The Brit-Am Problem for all the others.
The concept of Moshiach ben Yoseph (Messiah son of Joseph) is not a new one.
We have written about it elsewhere.
Messiah son of Joseph
Messiah son of Joseph in Jewish Sources
Messiah Son of Joseph and Manasseh
Moshiach ben Yoseph: The Two Messiahs
In short, Messiah in Hebrew simply means Anointed.
An anointed future savior descended from King David is mentioned several times in the Bible (e.g. Genesis 49:12 Isaiah chs. 9,11, Hosea 3:4-5, Ezekiel 37:24, Daniel 7). In addition the Messianic Era associated with the Messiah son of David is described at length and in detail (e.g. Isaiah 2:4, 11, 24:23 Zechariah 8, Joel 3:1, Jeremiah 31, Micah 4, Zephaniah 3, Daniel 12, etc).
There also exists a tradition that in the End Times there will arise a Messiah (or anointed leader) known as the Messiah son of Joseph, or son of Ephraim. This is perhaps hinted at in the Bible. It is referred to in the ancient Aramaic Translation of Yehonatan, briefly in the Talmud, and elsewhere.
One version of MBJ says he will be killed in the war against Gog and Magog (Sukkah 52a).
The older sources usually describe the MBJ as leading the Ten Tribes. The later Commentary of the Malbim (1809-1979) discussed this in detail.
The idea of a Messiah son of Joseph alongside a Messiah son of David was in the sources but seems to have been generally ignored for some time. The Vilna Gaon (1720-1797) and others here and there began to refer to MBJ. Rabbis such as Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) developed our understanding of the MBJ. In their minds the MBJ became not only a real person who may some day appear and prepare the way for the Messiah son of David, i.e. a Kind of Elijah BUT ALSO an historical process. The MBJ came to represent building up the State of Israel in the sense of providing a physical framework, basis, infrastructure, etc, that could later be infused with spirituality and hasten forward the Messianic Process.
The Rabbis who spoke in this fashion mainly belonged to the National Religious faction but other more Ultra-Orthodox references along the same, or similar, lines also exist.
Later a book known as Kol HaTor and based on the sayings of the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797) was published. It was first made public as an Appendix to the book HaTekufah HaGedolah [The Great Era] by Rabbi Menachem Kasher (1969). Kol HaTor purports to have been written by a student of the VilanGaon. It quotes the Vilna Gaon or simply makes statements that sound like things the Vilna Gaon may have said. Concerning this work different opinions exist. Some say it is a forgery, others that it is genuine. Another opinion says it is a genuine work written by a student of the Vilna Gaon but it may have been tampered with. The original document has never been released. At all events it does seem to have been written by someone familiar with the works of the Vilna Gaon and it seems consistent with his trend of thought.
Kol HaTor speeks of the MBJ as playing a leading role in bringing the Jews back to the Land of Israel and building up the land. This was also the view of the Vilna Gaon and of Rabbi Kook.
Following the publication of Kol HaTor different Rabbis began to pay even more attention to the subject.Yours Truly, i.e. Yair Davidiy, in the book Ephraim (1995) and in its revised version Ephraim, the Gentile Children of Israel (2001) quoted at length from different sources concerning the MBJ including the Malbim Commentary and Kol HaTor. The term Kol HaTor in Hebrew means Voice of the Turtledove (Song of Solomon 2:12) said to presage the coming of the Messianic Era. Yair showed how all the different sources and opinions point in the same direction. In effect they help prove that the Lost Ten Tribes are to be found amongst Western Peoples.
We do not know whether or not there will be a real Messiah son of Joseph. We are only bound to believe in a future Messiah son of David.
Maimonides (1135-1204) has been understood to say that The Messiah son of David will:
Restore the throne of David
Rebuild the Temple
Gather the exiles
Restore the Torah
He will be a descendent of David
He does not have to perform signs or wonders
He will be a student of Torah
He will force Israel to study Torah
He will fight the wars of the Lord
Elijah will come before Messiah
The battle of Gog and Magog will precede the day of Messiah
Messiah will purify the priesthood and Levites
Messiah will identify and accept those who are truly of Israel
Messiah will identify the tribes of Israel
In the time of Messiah reign there will be no hunger or wars
In the time of Messiah reign the chief occupation on the earth will be the study of the Lord.
The Messiah of Judaism
Not everyone agrees with all of the above points concerning the Messiah son of David. For instance, there is a strong opinion that the Temple will be rebuilt before the Messiah and even Maimonides himself (elsewhere) does not necessarily contradict this. Maimonides may not have agreed entirely with how he is being represented above. Some of the other points are also open to discussion. Nevertheless the above list shows where the trend of thought lies and is consistent with Biblical Passages.
Messiah son of Joseph is so named because he descended from Joseph son of Israel. The Christian Messiah in their sources also had a father named Joseph. Christian thinkers for a long time, even before the publication of Kol HaTor and the explanations of Yair Davidiy, explored the subject from their own point of view. They identified MBJ with the Christian Messiah. Some of them thought MBJ to be identical with their Own Version on his first trip who would be accepted as MBD on his anticipated second arrival. I once saw in the window of a shop a book written by a French Catholic Priest along these lines. Nowadays there are probably hundreds of articles on the Internet dedicated to this subject.
Naturally for an Orthodox Jew all this verges on blasphemy. At all events no believing Jew would wish to be connected to a movement with such insinuated associations.
Most of our own followers are non-Jews and Christians but Yair Davidiy is an Orthodox Jews and Jews are to be found amongst our supporters.
Brit-Am/Hebrew nations does not preach a specifically Jewish message but it is consistent with Jewish Belief and intends to remain so.
Many Christians do not know about the MBJ and when they first hear of it then they too think it unacceptable. Some feel it is a parody of their own beliefs.
The link of the MBJ to the Ten Tribes in our time seems obvious to anybody who has read Brit-Am articles on the subject or our work, Ephraim. Otherwise it is not so clear.
We do NOT however really need MBJ. I personally think that such a person may well appear but if he does not are position is not affected. It is enough that aspects of his predicted mission are already being fulfilled by members of the Ten Tribes without him. Belief in a Messiah son of David is all that is obligatory.
Meanwhile, we had a meeting. We met up, spoke.
Three Main Principles have been Accepted:
1. Ten Tribes in the Western World.
2. Increasing of Biblical Consciousness, in Principle.
3. Brotherhood with Judah.
This is a beginning.