Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
Rambam, in his Commentary to Mishnah Sanhedrin (Ch. 10) gives us his list of thirteen Ikarim, principles of faith, better know to many as the “Ani Ma’amin.” The most well known today is the twelfth – “I believe with complete faith in the coming of Mashiach, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.” We believe that HaShem did not forsake the world after the six days of Creation. This point of faith appears in the Torah when it records the prophesy of Bilam who speaks of David HaMelech as well as his descendents, “Darach kochav mi’Ya’akov ve’kam shevet mi’Yisrael” (Bamidbar 24:17). According to Ramban, Mashiach is called a “star” because he will flash across the heaven, visible to the whole world, to gather in Jews from their dispersion.
Rambam, towards end of Mishneh Torah, also dedicates two chapters to the topic of Mashiach. He writes that Mashiach will be highly intelligent, a great prophet, and respected by all. He will be an unknown person until the time he is revealed, and that his appearance will begin in Eretz Yisrael.
Thus, according to Rav Soloveitchik, we are all obligated to hope for the coming of Mashiach every day, and do whatever we can to hasten his arrival. We must pray to HaShem, who has control. This is formally done in the weekday Shemoneh Esrei where we include the special beracha of “Et Tzemach David,” through which we plead with HaShem to hasten the coming of Mashiach. In the previous beracha we also mention reestablishing the Davidic heir, “Ve’chisei David Meheira Letocha Tachin”, but in the latter beracha we are taught that the ultimate salvation of the Jewish people is only through the Davidic Mashiach.
Originally, in days of Chazal, these two berachot were combined into one because the theme of completely rebuilding Yerushalayim required the building of the Beit HaMikdash and reestablishing the independent sovereign government of Malchut Bet David. However, the accepted minhag today is that these two themes are separated into two separate berachot. Hence, even though the city of Yerushalayim is today rebuilt and flourishing, we still recite “Nachem” and mourn for the city on Tisha B’av because, with the Bet HaMikdash and Malchut Bet David still missing, Yerushalayim cannot be considered fully rebuilt.