"If a king should arise from the House of David who is versed in Torah and engages in Commandments, ... and he enjoins all of Israel to follow in its ways and encourages them to repair its breaches, and he fights the Wars of G-d, then he may be presumed to be the Messiah. If he succeeds in his efforts and defeats the enemies around and builds the Sanctuary in its proper place and gathers the dispersed of Israel, he is definitely the Messiah." Kings_and_Wars.11.4?

What does that mean from the Halachical standpoint? What Moshiach-specific Halochos apply to both of them? How the Moshiach is Halachicly different from just another Davidic king or from his own status before he started the wars?

  • "before he started the wars?" I don't see anything about him starting wars. Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


The Rambam gives us signs by which to identify a proper messianic candidate. If that person performs the enumerated functions (versed in Torah, engages in commandments, enjoins Israel to follow the Torah, fights on our behalf), then it is appropriate to follow their lead, as they are בחזקת משיח (presupposed as the messiah).

The final determination as to whether that individual is in fact משיח is whether they finish the job (i.e. defeats our enemies, builds the Temple and gathers in the exiles).

All of the laws (obligations, privileges, etc.) that devolve upon a king, as outlined through the sefer, would not devolve upon such a person unless they were in fact also actually a king (ideally designated so by a court and prophet). Before such time an individual that is בחזקת משיח but that is not also confirmed as a king would have the same rights and privileges as any other member of the Jewish nation. Importantly it is appointment as a king that has an effect on "halakhic status" (his privileges/duties and the relationship of others to him).

Being בחזקת משיח is more of a barometer by which we may collectively measure a man but does not inherently have halakhic import it is only the additional aspect of actual kingship that does. Furthermore, it would seem that there is some subjectivity in determining whether one is properly identified as being בחזקת משיח (i.e. assessing whether they fit the bill), and accordingly R. Shimon b. Yohai denied the candidacy of Bar Kokhba and R. Aqivah affirmed it. It is only once the individual succeeds or fails that the hazaqah (presupposition) can either be refuted or confirmed.

In terms of applicable law, the משיח (messiah) is no different than any other king. Though it is possible that a future court (may it speedily return) may adjust certain aspects of the functioning of the monarchy. This however is as of yet to be determined.

  • I suspect you got it wrong, Rambam starts with "If a KING should rise from the house of David", meaning he's already [somehow] a king. And somebody wrote me that the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote himself "משמע כבר מלך".
    – Al Berko
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 9:29
  • It can still be משמע that way according to this reading. As noted, there is an element of subjectivity here. If one intends that to the party that respects an individual as being בחזקת משיח they are a "king" (e.g. R. Aqiva to B. Kokhba) but to everyone else that person is not (B. Yohai to B. Kohba). Otherwise you would have to say that B. Yohai was מורד במלכות for which he would have been חייב מיתה and no one (to my knowledge) suggests that. Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 11:02
  • @AlBerko Your understanding is correct and that is what the Rebbe teaches. The essence of the idea is that any descendants from Beit David who do not have some specific disqualifier, have a presumption of valid claim to the Monarchy of their ancestor, King David. This is in keeping with the blessing after the haftorah, “על כסאו לא-ישב זר ולא ינחלו עוד אחרים את-כבודו כו׳.״ This is not the case with people who are not from Beit David. Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 14:47
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    @YaacovDeane a valid claim to the monarchy based on Davidic ancestry is not the same thing as actually being a king. There are presumably many of Davidic descent walking among us, they are not all simultaneously kings today. Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 15:49

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