The Messiah Is Coming Today

Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall.”Elijah Touched by an Angel.” 1958. The Jewish Museum,NYC

“Once a rabbi met the prophet Elijah.
The rabbi asked Elijah, “When will the messiah come?”
Elijah said, “Go and ask him yourself when he’s coming.”
The rabbi said, “Where is he?”
Elijah said, “He’s sitting at the city gate, covered in bandages’
(an alternate version of this story has the messiah changing the bandages of the lepers at the city gate).

So the rabbi went and asked the messiah, “When will you come?”
The messiah said, “Today.”
The rabbi came back and relayed this to Elijah: “The messiah is coming today!”
Elijah responded with temperance, saying “the messiah meant today, if you listen to God’s voice.”

The tradition practically begs us to realize, the messiah is here. The world to come is here. The unknown is as close as your breath. What this means is that, as Wendell Berry writes, “What we need is here”; yet we must be careful to not grasp in the presence of that knowing, lest we fall to irretrievably into the world of names.”

*Joshua Boettiger, NAMING THE UNNAMEABLE: Advice on living in two worlds, PARABOLA, Fall 2012, “The Unknown.”

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The Messiah Is Coming Today

2 thoughts on “The Messiah Is Coming Today

  1. I used to very much enjoy stories like these, similar to Sufi, Buddhist and other stories. Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim was a great companion. A ministry of compassion thrives on these stories, and finds many new ones to tell. Now, I suppose, I find them more a distraction from living as a better human being, while so many need to “see the divine” behind every face. Why not simply SEE the face, and appreciate? (I began to admire Mother Theresa less when I really thought about her view of poor people as Jesus in disguise. I don’t want to be seen as Jesus, only the person I am).


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