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The question of why belief in Mashiach should be a fundamental belief (an ikkar/yesod of Judaism of the Rambam's 13) is asked here, and I answered it myself here.

However, when it comes to this particular belief, the Rambam in Hil. Melakhim 11:1 adds that merely believing is not enough:

וכל מי שאינו מאמין בו, או מי שאינו מחכה לביאתו, לא בשאר נביאים בלבד הוא כופר, אלא בתורה ובמשה רבינו

and whoever doesn't believe in him or doesn't await his arrival denies not only the other prophets but the Torah and Moses our leader

and in R. Kapach's translation of the Rambam's 13 principles (in the intro to Cheilek), the Rambam adds that one is required "להתפלל לבואו", to pray for the coming of Mashiach.

Why should one who doesn't actively anticipate the coming of Mashiach be considered a heretic? Isn't it possible for one to completely believe בתורת משה רבינו, the Torah of Moses our leader, but still feel so comfortable in the diaspora/exile that they aren't so anxious for the Mashiach to come?

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5 Answers 5

An excerpt from Fundamentals and Faith (based on teachings of R' Yaakov Weinberg, written by Rabbi Mordechai Blumenfeld):

It would seem, then, that "awaiting him" should be understood as attributing to him so much importance that one is aware of missing something, of lacking something every moment of one's life. It is not enough to know and believe in his coming; one must also feel and understand what it means not to have him in our world. A world without the Messiah is a world of exile, where Jews find themselves dispersed amongst many nations. It is a world where even in the Land of Israel, Jews are subjected to the whims and values of other nations. It is a world in which terrible barriers created by spiritual apathy deter man from coming close to the Almighty, and where the opportunities to approach Him and to experience His presence in His Temple are gone. There is no greater destructiveness for the Jewish soul than to lose the awareness of the bitterness of exile. Once one appreciates that the meaning of life is determined by how close one comes to the Creator, the loss of His presence becomes an acute, intolerable pain, a cancer, which eats away at man's spiritual core, which can only be anesthetized by distracting ourselves through all kinds of self-delusionary pleasures. In doing so, mankind has become callous and his senses have become dull to the ultimate pleasure this relationship would offer.

There is no greater destructiveness for the Jewish soul than to lose the awareness of the bitterness of exile.

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This. "Eagerness" (with decorum, of course!) –  New Alexandria Jun 26 at 14:41

I guess the simplest answer to this question is that anyone who truly understand what the Messianic Era is like, according to the Torah and prophets, could not possibly want to continue living in the diaspora. The only possible explanation for why someone would rather live without Mashiach is that he doesn't actually believe (or understand) what Mashiach is supposed to accomplish. (Of course, this in turn depends on Mashiach's exact job description)

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I like the answer, but it actually raises a big Chiddush (or at least what is a big chiddush in my mind) - it is part of the fundamental to believe in the essentially good and worthwhile nature, for the individual, in the messianic era. –  Yishai Jun 26 at 13:58

perhaps by "eino mechake" the rambam does not mean simply "wait for" but rather that one does not "wait for him because he gave up hope of him ever coming" as the rambam continues

שהרי תורה העידה עליו

which implies he doesn't believe it will happen despite that the torah says so.

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That's indeed how I understood the rambam in peirush hamishnayos but reading around it looks like almost everyone assumes that the yearning is part of the belief, especially Lubavitcher sources. Should I link to one or two in the question? –  Matt Jun 26 at 13:23

Of course how you answer this depends on how you view the purpose of the Ikkarim. Following the view that you attributed to the Chasam Sofer, Rabbi Yoel Kahn (in the series I referenced in the comments there, and summarized here (hat tip)) gives a simple metaphor. It would be like a soldier in a war not caring to win the war he is participating in. He can follow all the orders, but his attachment to and investment in what he is doing will be lacking. Thus he is missing a fundamental aspect of the whole religion that infects his entire observance, not just one Mitzvah or one detail.

If however, you want to give the Ikkarim more of a practical purpose ("political" as you termed it), then it is easily understood that there is a lot of temptation to say "hey, look, be practical, the world isn't ready, its going to take a long time, focus on other things, maybe your grandchildren will see a world that seems ready, we aren't" and needs to be specifically called out to resist it. Thus the answer would be that by failing to wait for it, you are not believing that it can happen now (בכל יום שיבוא), no matter what the state of the world around you is, thus you don't really believe in it.

Praying for it is important because the Mitzvah of prayer is to ask for your needs, and if you don't feel you need it, that life is just fine without it, well then we are back to the original problem.

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I'm interested in seeing the series you've mentioned but the link you have is just to my answer and I don't see your comment there –  Matt Jun 26 at 17:25
    
@matt, Hmm, something is messed up with StackExchange here. Anyway, link, and I don't have the specific text of the series, but this found by Tamir Evan summarizes it well enough. –  Yishai Jun 26 at 18:22

I've heard other answers, but the simplest one I've heard is in a book by R' Matisyahu Solomon -- the Torah describes the Messianic era as "vehetivcha vehirbecha me'avosecha" -- "G-d will then make things better for you than he ever did for your ancestors." So if I believe it will be better, naturally, I look forward to it.

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I don't see how that makes it required, unless you're implying as I wrote in my own answer above –  Matt Jun 27 at 12:55

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