For many, Christmas is a time of good tidings. But I’m afraid there’s bad news for Christians and some Jews too, in that the Torah itself says little about the concept of a messiah, an “anointed one” sent by God to usher in a time of peace and widespread worship of one God.

It was only following later rabbinic literature that Jewish schools of thought, from the medieval period onward, affirmed the idea of a personal messiah with royal Davidic yichus (origins).

This messiah would herald a national Jewish redemption, including the gathering and return of dispersed Jews to their ancient homeland and the building of the third Temple, prior to the more universal aspects.

Progressive Judaism, from its inception in the 19th century, rejected this idea of a personal messiah and its Jewish, national aspirations.

It advocated instead that God and humanity were in partnership to slowly better the world, the culmination of which would be the prophetic vision of, for example, Micah 4:3-4 whereby “…they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war. But all shall sit under the grape vine or the fig tree with no one
to disturb them.”

The great chasm between Judaism and Christianity is about the messiahship of Jesus, although it is a simple matter for Judaism, answered by the facts on the ground. The real messiah will bring about the national and universal changes envisaged, whereas a “false” messiah – Jewish or otherwise – is disproved merely by failure.

By this criteria, Jesus cannot be considered a messiah by any Jewish
measure.

As the Torah only hints at the concept of the messiah, perhaps the details of who, when and how of the messiah are best left to the fevered imaginations of Jews across the world!

υ Danny Rich is seniorrabbi of Liberal Judaism