Thursday, March 19, 2009

Praying for Mashiach ben Yosef

Our Siddurim have a note on the Beracha of "Tishkon Betoch Yerushalayim Ircha", reminding us to have Mashiach ben Yosef in mind, that he should not be killed by armelus during the war of Gog and Magog. It is a little hard to comprehend, especially being that it has already been prophecized to occur. Yet, we still pray to prevent it, like any prophecy of bad events.

Apparently, our prayers, yes - yours and mine can change the entire course of history. Forget the fact that we're talking about events already prophecized by prophets of Hashem - prophetic revelations written and wholly part of our TaNaCH's 24 Sefarim.

The Gemara in Makkot 11b discusses the case of a person who is on trial in Bet Din for killing someone by mistake. The case has 3 possible outcomes - guilty (death penalty), guilty of mistaken murder (punishment is exile) or innocent. The exiled man, whom we are discussing, would become free upon the death of the Kohen Gadol. An interesting case is discussed - what if the Kohen Gadol died during the trial and a new Kohen Gadol was appointed before the trial ended? In that case, the exiled man must await the death of the newly appointed Kohen Gadol before becoming free.

Previously, on page 11a, the Gemara asked why the man's freedom hinged on the death of the Kohen Gadol - what did he do? And the Gemara answers, he should have asked for mercy on his generation. So in our case, where the newly appointed Kohen Gadol's death will free the exiled man - the question is even stronger: what did he do to deserve that? He wasn't even appointed until recently, possibly even moments before the trial's end? And isn't it reasonable that with dealing with the prior Kohen Gadol's death and his own appointment as a replacement, he is quite busy? Why then does the Gemara say that he should have prayed for the exiled man to be deemed innocent in Bet Din?!

Apparently, a Kohen Gadol is an emissary of all the Jewish Nation. His job to enter the Kodesh HaKodashim on Yom Kippur is unique to him in his capacity as sole representative of Am Yisrael. It seems that his responsibilty lies completely to the nation he represents. He does not exist on his own account - rather only for the people. His prayers, thoughts and actions must all be for the people. That is his job and any deficiency, however fine that may be, is judged sternly.

So, a Kohen Gadol must remember to pray for a man on trial - a man that could possibly be judged as a murderer and killed by Bet Din. Such a man needs to be on the Kohen Gadol's mind, even at a time where the previous Kohen Gadol has just died. Had he prayed, the man on trial would have been innocent. There is no other way - otherwise the exiled man's freedom would not hinge on the Kohen Gadol's death.

What about us? What will we say? Do we pray for Mashiach ben Yosef? Do we care that he will risk his life to save us? Can we even imagine what that means? What that final battle will entail?

We see clearly, that although the script is written in the Neviim, the play has not yet finished. The outcome can be entirely different - it's up to us and our prayers. The Kohen Gadol was held responsible for not praying for the man on trial for possible murder. We're not the Kohen Gadol, but our prayers can move mountains and definitely will alter history. There's still some time for us to realize that and pray like it counts. If we truly realized the power of prayer, we would never stop praying - as the Gemara says "...[we] wish that a person would pray all day long"


  1. According to sephardic (edot mizrach) tradition, we place this kavana on the prayer "Tishkon et Yerushalaim Irecha".

  2. You are correct. I thought it was actually on both. But I will correct the post now. Thanks!