Waiting for Mashiach
Uri Marcus wrote:
Is there a year in particular that we should be expecting "Mashiach" or the "Messianic Age", whatever that is? I've heard that this should be around the year 6000 [from Creation], but if that's true then we have another 240 years or so to go. What's all the fuss about Mashiach, if we have another two centuries before he shows up on the scene?
The Mashiach is a king descended from David who will eventually restore Davidic rule. Among other things, he will gather the Jewish people, teach them all to follow the ways of Torah, and build the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple).
As far as the actual day of Mashiach's arrival, it's been a shrouded secret since time immemorial. Jacob knew prophetically, but when he sought to reveal it to his 12 sons, he was mysteriously unable. Daniel knew, and encoded it into the Book of Daniel for only the wisest.
Someone once asked Rabbi Velvul Soleveitchick - the 'Brisker Rav'- the following:
"In the daily prayers we say, 'I believe with total conviction in the coming of Mashiach; and though he delay, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.' That means Mashiach can arrive any day. But according to the Midrash, three days beforehand Elijah the Prophet will announce the Mashiach's arrival! How, then, can we possibly anticipate the Mashiach every single day? Isn't it a prerequisite that Eliyahu HaNavi will come three days in advance of the Mashiach??
"When Mashiach comes," the Brisker Rav said, "He will answer that question.
As far as the year 6000 is concerned, it is simply an upper limit -- i.e., by the year 6000 the Mashiach will already be here. But that's not to say that it can't happen sooner.
In these matters, says the Rambam, no one knows exactly what will happen until it happens. The Rambam cautions against being preoccupied with Midrashim about Mashiach, since ultimately such things add nothing to one's love and awe of Hashem.
- Rambam Hilchot Melachim 11:1,4 12:2