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I am asking this as someone who has never heard of Moshiach Ben Joseph. I would appreciate detailed answers, or maybe links to places that explain it.

I have been interested in Judaism for a long time and have tried to study things here and there about it but never did I read anything about Moshiach Ben Joseph.

I am hoping I could get an answer here from those who practice Judaism or are well-versed in the Laws and traditions of Judaism.

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Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4454. ¶ Welcome to the site, nickecarlo; I hope you stick around and enjoy it. Just wondering: if you've "never heard of Moshiach Ben Joseph" then how can you ask this question? –  msh210 Jan 16 '12 at 17:02
    
Sorry, I should clarify. I just read the post you referred to above today when I joined this site. So I became curious as to who Moshiach Ben Joseph is. I have been interested in Judaism for a long time and have tried to study things here and there about it but never did I read anything about Moshiach Ben Joseph. Thought people here could help me out with that :-) –  Nicolás Carlo Jan 16 '12 at 17:23
    
@nickecarlo Please edit your post to include this information about the motivation for your question. –  Isaac Moses Jan 16 '12 at 17:30
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I was born and raised Jewish, and besides a few random stories, I also have no clue who he is supposed to be. Only that he is supposed to "die first" –  avi Jan 16 '12 at 18:13
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I am looking this up on the rest of the internet as well but I prefer to ask here because the internet is fraught with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and I would much rather get the answer from the Jewish community rather than some hate-filled moron trying to mislead people. Anyway, I will post the answer here if I get it from a trust-worthy source. Meanwhile, I would really appreciate an answer from a Jewish person here. –  Nicolás Carlo Jan 16 '12 at 20:57
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3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Just to note, Rambam (Mishna Torah; Hil. Melachim 12:2) writes that one should not over-contemplate the events that are to come about with the redemption, for the prophecies are intentionally vague and no one will know for certain their meaning until they come to be realized. Even the Rabbis of the Talmud only said about the redemption and the Messiah what they could glean and derive from the verses of the Prophets, but did not have any sort of absolute knowledge or tradition as to what would happen.

That said, the Talmud (Succah 52a and 52b) does mention a figure known as "Mashiach ben Yosef", and does interpret a couple of verses in Zecharia in light of his existence. (In doing so, it is made clear that he will die in the apocalypse.) Who is this figure? It is not exactly clear.

R' Saadya Gaon (Emunot V'deot 8:6) seems to believe that his existence is only necessary if the Jews are not ready for the Messiah and need to do t'shuva to merit the redemption. [It is a common idea that the Messiah will come either if the Jews are meritorious, or if they are not, at a predetermined "deadline". R' Saadya is referring to if the Messiah must come at the "deadline", and the Jews need preparation to be redeemed.] In this case, the Mashiach ben Yosef will lead the Jews back to God's good graces allowing them to be worthy of redemption, and later he will die in battle (of Gog and Magog), allowing for the succession of the "real" Messiah, Mashiach ben David.

Abarbanel and Malbim, in their commentaries to the Prophets, treat the existence of Mashiach ben Yosef as a "kabbala" (tradition) known to Chazal from the prophets themselves. (See Abarbanel to Ezekiel 32 and Malbim to Ezekiel 37:19.) In their opinion, he will be (as indicated by his name) from the tribe of Yosef, or at least from one of the ten "lost tribes", who were exiled by Sancheriv. He will be instrumental in uniting the ten tribes with the rest of the Jews in exile, as well as uniting the Jews in exile themselves, and leading them in the final war leading to the Redemption, thereupon dying in battle.

According to some sources, Mashiach ben Yosef will be resurrected immediately after the war in the "Techiat Hameitim" (Resurrection of the Dead). Others maintain that he will remain dead so as not to detract from the monarchy of the Mashiach ben David.

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Thank you for your answer. This is exactly what I was looking for. Because of your references (Talmud), I can now do a self-study too. Thanks again for taking the time to write this detailed answer. –  Nicolás Carlo Jan 16 '12 at 22:07
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@nickecarlo, Glad I could help. –  jake Jan 16 '12 at 22:11
    
Related to the first paragraph: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9093/5 –  Seth J Oct 21 '13 at 15:55
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While I was attending Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies [Chicago], the rabbis taught whole lessons/classes on messiah ben Joseph - the latter-day Ephraimite prophet; and I have written several papers on him. Here are a few of my findings that I am just remembering off of the top of my head:

  1. messiah ben Joseph is the fore-runner to, and suffering servant of Messiah ben David.

  2. He has many symbolic names, e.g. Breaker [Daniel's prophecy], Taheb [Ingatherer - for Israel will be gathered for the last time] Rem [wild bullock with the black and shiny horns; the symbol for Ephraim is the wild bullock, the symbol for Judah is the lion], Asiph [restorer], etc. but his name will be Joseph, after his father - a descendant of Joseph of Egypt through his first born, Ephraim

  3. “Messiah ben Joseph must prove his identity not by miracles, but by his historical success.” Klausner; whereas MEssiah ben David will be known by his miracles.

  4. according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, beacuse he knows nothing pertaining to things divine or religious or the correct way to worship G-d, that when a lad, while on his knees in prayer to ask G-d what to do, the heavens will open and G-d the Father and the Son of Man will appear to him; and that, like Moses, he will be afforded the privilege of asking any question he wants.

  5. he will deliver a new Torah, given to him after "the many lectures" [Ginzberg] by the hand of Manassah on the 1st of Tishre. Joseph will translate the new Torah by Urim and Thummin. It will be delivered to the people on the 1st of Nisan.

  6. he will lay the cornerstone of the temple on the 9th of Av, thereby negating the Black Fast.

  7. he is the 2nd Moses, and will have two counselors, twelve advisers, plus the seventies.

  8. he will restore prophecy, priesthood, temples and deliver a new tora.

  9. both Moses and Elijah would appear to him "in the self same hour" on the 15th of Nisan to restore the keys of gathering Israel, including the return of the lost ten tribes, and the keys for Elijah's sealing powers to straighten out our genealogies.[Ginzberg]

  10. he would send an envoy to Jerusalem in 5600 [1840] to call the Jews back home.

  11. he would suffer much at the hands of Armilus.

  12. he would become a general in the army.

  13. he would live about 40 years, be martyred while doing battle with the enemies of Messiah ben David; but Joseph's death will have no atoning effect what-so-ever.

  14. when Messiah ben David appears, the first person he will resurrect is ben Joseph, and together the Saviors [plural] will stand on mount Zion and mount of Olives to fight and destroy Edom. This is Armageddon; then comes the Great Sabbath of the Lord.

Hope this helps, "Miriam"

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for this answer, which I've edited for formatting (but not otherwise). Can you add any more about the sources you used (you mention a couple author names)? –  Monica Cellio Oct 20 '13 at 21:19
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Chabad has a nice write-up, but they caution:

"In view of the divergent Midrashim and interpretations on this subject it is practically impossible to present a more definitive synopsis that would go far beyond the above. Thus it is wisest to cite and follow R. Chasdai Crescas who states that "no certain knowledge can be derived from the interpretations of the prophecies about Mashiach ben Yossef, nor from the statements about him by some of the Geonim;" there is no point, therefore, in elaborating on the subject."

Despite that, they summarize that, if his arrival is necessary, his role will be to prepare Israel and the world for, and help facilitate, the final redemption.

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