The Talmud extensively details the advent of the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98a, et al.) and describes a period of freedom and peace, which will be the time of ultimate goodness for the Jews and for all mankind. Tractate Sanhedrin, contains a long discussion of the events leading to the coming of the Messiah, for example:
R. Johanan said: When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him [the Messiah], as it is written, “And the afflicted people thou wilt save.”[II Samuel 22:28] R. Johanan said: When thou seest a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him, as it is written, when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him; which is followed by, And the Redeemer shall come to Zion. R. Johanan also said: The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. ‘in a generation that is altogether righteous,’ — as it is written, Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever. ‘Or altogether wicked,’ — as it is written, And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor;31 and it is [elsewhere] written, For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it.
Throughout Jewish history Jews have compared these passages (and others) to contemporary events in search of signs of the Messiah’s imminent arrival, continuing into present times.
The Talmud tells many stories about the Messiah, some of which represent famous Talmudic rabbis as receiving personal visitations from Elijah the Prophet and the Messiah. For example:
R. Joshua b. Levi met Elijah standing by the entrance of R. Simeon b. Yohai’s tomb. He asked him: ‘Have I a portion in the world to come?’ He replied, ‘if this Master desires it.’ R. Joshua b. Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third.’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ — ‘Go and ask him himself,’ was his reply. ‘Where is he sitting?’ — ‘At the entrance.’ And by what sign may I recognise him?’ — ‘He is sitting among the poor lepers: all of them untie [them] all at once, and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately, [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, [it being time for my appearance as the Messiah] I must not be delayed [through having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘peace upon thee, Master and Teacher.’ ‘peace upon thee, O son of Levi,’ he replied. ‘When wilt thou come Master?’ asked he, ‘Today’, was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, the latter enquired, ‘What did he say to thee?’ — ‘peace Upon thee, O son of Levi,’ he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] observed, ‘He thereby assured thee and thy father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke falsely to me,’ he rejoined, ‘stating that he would come to-day, but has not.’ He [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to thee, To-day, if ye will listen to his voice.’
Many of the scriptural requirements concerning the Messiah, what he will do, and what will be done during his reign are located in the Book of Isaiah, although requirements are mentioned by other prophets as well. Views on whether Hebrew Bible passages are Messianic may vary from and among scholars of ancient Israel looking at their meaning in original context and from and among rabbinical scholars.
- Isaiah 1:26: “And I will restore your judges as at first and your counsellors as in the beginning; afterwards you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City.” Some Jews interpret this to mean that the Sanhedrin will be re-established.”(Isaiah 1:26)
- Once he is King, leaders of other nations will look to him for guidance. (Isaiah 2:4)
- The whole world will worship the One God of Israel (Isaiah 2:11-17)
- He will be descended from King David (Isaiah 11:1) via Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:8-10, 2 Chronicles 7:18)
- The “spirit of the Lord” will be upon him, and he will have a “fear of God” (Isaiah 11:2)
- Evil and tyranny will not be able to stand before his leadership (Isaiah 11:4)
- Knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9)
- He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations (Isaiah 11:10)
- All Israelites will be returned to their homeland (Isaiah 11:12)
- Death will be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:8)
- There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8)
- All of the dead will rise again (Isaiah 26:19)
- The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness (Isaiah 51:11)
- He will be a messenger of peace (Isaiah 52:7)
- Nations will recognize the wrongs they did to Israel (Isaiah 52:13-53:5)
- The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)
- The ruined cities of Israel will be restored (Ezekiel 16:55)
- Weapons of war will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9)
- The people of Israel will have direct access to the Torah through their minds and Torah study will become the study of the wisdom of the heart (Jeremiah 31:33)
- He will give you all the worthy desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4)
- He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful (Isaiah 51:3, Amos 9:13-15, Ezekiel 36:29-30, Isaiah 11:6-9)
Hasidic Jews tend to have a particularly strong and passionate belief in the immediacy of the Messiah’s coming, and in the ability of their actions to hasten his arrival. Because of the piousness, wisdom, and leadership abilities of the Hasidic Masters, members of Hasidic communities are sometimes inclined to regard their dynastic rebbes who are descended from the Davidic line as potential candidates for Messiah. Many Jews, (see the Bartenura’s explantion on Megillat Rut, and the Halakhic responsa of The Ch’sam Sofer on Choshen Mishpat [vol. 6], Chapter 98 where this view is explicit) especially Hasidim, adhere to the belief that there is a person born each generation with the potential to become Messiah, if the Jewish people warrant his coming; this candidate is known as the Tzadik Ha-Dor, meaning Tzaddik (a Hebrew term literally meaning “righteous one” but used to refer to holy men who can, for example, perform miracles or act as an intermediary between man and God) of the Generation. However, fewer are likely to name a candidate.
Notably, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson declared often that the Messiah is very close, urging all to pray for the coming of the Messiah, study Torah souces about him, and do everything possible to hasten his coming through increased acts of kindness, and so on. In fact, many Chabad Hasidim still regard him as the Messiah (See Chabad messianism.)