Waiting for Moshiach

Yoni A. Dahlen
December 24, 2012
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In a cramped stone building in Tzfat, an elderly woman is preheating her oven as the first rays of morning sun sneak in through the shutters.

“It’s a bit early for baking,” I say.

“Moshiach is coming,” she replies.  “When he arrives, he will be hungry.  Warm bread is good for the nefesh.” I smile and sit down on the tattered sofa next to her, being sure to leave the rocking chair free.  “Are you comfortable there?” she asks.  “Why don’t you sit in the chair?  It’s much nicer and you can sleep a little.”

“I’m fine,” I reply.  “When Moshiach comes, he will be exhausted and will need to have a nice nap.”

In a cramped stone building in Cologne, a tired man with a bushy white beard is preheating his oven as the first rays of morning sun sneak in through the shutters.

“We didn’t get much sleep last night,” I say.

“True, but it’s time to get some baking done,” he replies.

“We don’t have much money,” I say, yawning as I stretch out across the aging rug on the hardwood floor.  “Should we really be spending our last coins?”

“Moshiach is coming,” says the man.  “When he arrives he will be hungry, as we all are.  He will want to get to work right away, but of course he will need some soup and bread before he begins.”

“Moshiach?” I ask.

“Certainly,” my friend replies.  “He will come wearing the uniform of the proletariat.  He will come with a hammer in one hand and a sickle in the other.  He will turn the upside down world right side up, and then we will all be free.  Now why don’t you help, by making some coffee?”

I get up to fill the kettle with water.  After all, Moshiach is coming, and when he gets here he will need something hot to warm him up.

In a cramped brick building in lower Manhattan, seven young students are preheating an oven as the first rays of morning sun sneak in through the dirty windows.

“How many arrested last night?” I ask.  A young woman straightens up to look at me.  She has bags under her eyes from countless hours hovering over the office’s desktop PC, but her face is beautiful and her eyes are shining.

“Last I heard, twelve maybe thirteen.  They will be fine – out by the end of the day I would guess.”

“Okay,” I reply.  “What’s our next step?  Should we head back to Zuccotti?”

“Yeah, pretty soon.”  She brushes away the strands of hair falling over her eyes and smiles.  “We got to get this done first.  Moshiach is coming, and when she gets here she will be hungry.”

“When will she get here?” I ask, as I sort through the flyers on the coffee table.

“Anytime now,” she responds.  “When she arrives, we will all give her a hug, offer her one of the muffins David’s putting together, and then bring her to the park so she can talk to everyone.”

“How do we know she’ll come?” I ask.  “After all, some of the subways are still down, and I heard flights are limited at all three airports.”

The young woman laughs.  It feels slightly condescending, but I don’t mind.

“She doesn’t take the subway, and she certainly doesn’t fly into JFK.  She will be here soon.  Don’t worry.”

I trust her and get back to work.  After all, Moshiach is coming, and if the flyers aren’t sorted out when she arrives, I will look like a slacker.  Nobody wants to look like a slacker… especially in front of her.

In a spacious stone building in South Jerusalem, a handsome young rabbi preheats the oven as morning prayers begin upstairs in the synagogue.  He carefully rolls out two racks of frozen cinnamon rolls from the kitchen and turns on the kumkum for coffee and tea.

“Will that be enough for everybody?” I ask.

“More than enough,” he replies.  “There are usually just enough to make a minyan, but some of them eat more than one.”

I sit at the table for awhile, my arms crossed tightly.  Then I get up and open my tefillin bag.  I adjust the box to a comfortable position on my left bicep, making sure that the verses are pointing towards my heart.  I wrap the black leather tightly, place the other tefilla on my head, and say the blessing as I intricately weave the smooth leather through my fingers.  I begin the morning prayers, but come to a stop as I stumble through the first verses.

“You know,” I say, “would you mind putting a couple more on the first rack?”

“Why?” he replies. “Are you expecting somebody?”

I hesitate, and think for a moment.  The rabbi stares at me with a strange expression on his face. I look away from his gaze, embarrassed.

“No, nobody…” I answer.  The rabbi gives me a quick smile, turns back to the sink, and apathetically rinses some dirty coffee mugs.  I turn the page in my siddur and cover my eyes.

Shma, Yisrael…”

My hand trembles and I tighten my fingers to catch the tears before they can roll down my cheek.

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Yoni A. Dahlen is a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City. He attended Brandeis University where he received a Masters of Arts in Jewish Philosophy. Pursuing a career in academia, his topics of interest include Jewish mysticism, political theology, and the religiosity of Labor Zionism. He currently lives in Jerusalem.

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