The Messy Birth of the Messiah

August 8, 2011 | By

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Tisha B’Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, the anniversary of the destruction of both ancient Temples, as well as several other catastrophes in Jewish history.

According to the Jewish sages (Midrash Eicha Rabba 1:51), it’s also going to be the birthday of the Messiah.

This may sound surprising, but it fits in well with the Jewish tradition’s messy approach to messianism. The Jewish Messiah is not imagined as a person of sterling lineage. Just the opposite, in fact.

Jewish tradition believes the Messiah will be a descendant of King David, and his ancestors were not always produced out of holy unions. One of David’s ancestors was the product of Lot’s drunken, incestuous coupling with his daughter (Genesis 19). Another was the progeny of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar—who dressed up like a prostitute to arrange their rendezvous (Genesis 38).

This vision of the Messiah may be unexpected, but it can still be inspiring. Salvation will not emerge from some sort of magical flawlessness. The search for redemption is rooted in the real world. The beginning may be gritty, but the dream of a perfected world is still possible.

For more information about the holiday of Tisha B’Av, click here.

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