According to this rather amusing blog post, there is apparently a common clause in rental contracts in Jerusalem, called the Messiah clause, in which, when a landlord outside of Israel rents out a property in Jerusalem, should משיח arrive while the renter is living in the property, either the lease is canceled and the renter must move out (to allow the landlord to return to Zion and have a place to live), or the renter must move into a spare room to allow the landlord to move in.

In one such case as told in the blog post, a prospective renter did not want to sign the contract with the clause in it, so his lawyer suggested taking out an insurance policy to pay out enough money to provide the renter the ability to find a new home should משיח come while he was under the lease.

My question is, would such an insurance policy violate the principle of believing in the coming of the Messiah? Would it be acceptable for the purchaser of the policy (because they are not assuming it won't happen, and they are, in fact, literally preparing for his arrival) but not for the seller of the policy (because the seller is essentially betting that משיח won't come, or else he will have to pay out the policy coverage amount and stop collecting the premiums)?

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    @Daniel, it might be argued that the purchaser doesn't really want the Messiah to come because then he will lose his apartment. The other argument (that he is preparing for the Messiah) seems to me to be equally valid, though.
    – Seth J
    Aug 23 '12 at 20:51
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    Now that he has purchased an insurance policy, he is perfectly happy for moshiach to come. It makes sense that if moshiach is coming anyway, he should make sure that he should have a place to live.
    – Daniel
    Aug 23 '12 at 20:54
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    He's not insuring "against" the coming of Moshiach, he's insuring against a financial loss that might be triggered in such an eventuality.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Aug 23 '12 at 22:17
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    @double aa I've seen invitations that said "or in Jerusalem, location TBD."
    – Seth J
    Aug 24 '12 at 12:01
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    @SethJ I agree it's absurd but I don't see the difference between that and your case. Both involve someone hoping that Mashiach does come, but being realistic in not expecting it in the next short time. Would it really be Kefira for me to say "I bet Mashiach won't come next week; It would be awesome if he did, but I doubt he will"? Is that really Kefira? I don't think so.
    – Double AA
    Aug 24 '12 at 17:32

This is an unsourced logical argument that buying or selling such a policy does not imply a lack of faith in the coming of moshiach.

Do we say that the writer of a life-insurance policy is betting that the buyer won't die, so he won't have to pay out? No; rather, the insurance company is making an actuarial/financial calculation by which they believe they make money on the deal by collecting premiums now and paying out later. Granted that life-insurance policies can have exclusions (war, suicide, etc), while I wouldn't expect this to apply to a moshiach policy, but most life-insurance policies pay out so the seller is not just making a statement about expected outcome. So I don't think the seller of a moshiach-insurance policy necessarily has an emunah problem.

What about the buyer? One possibility is raised in the question: he is preparing for the moshiach, making provisions for that happy day. If this is a common lease condition and he would otherwise not be able to rent in Israel at all, isn't he better off renting and having to move than being stuck abroad without even a room to stay in (or money with which to rent one)?

Further, if buying an insurance policy that makes you move is a problem, then wouldn't selling property that you own in Israel be an even bigger problem? In the insurance case you're accepting inconvenience in order to have a place to live; in the homeowner case you're giving up a sure thing, meaning you'd have no place to live when moshiach comes. Yet I'm not aware of halacha that forbids selling property in Israel once you own it. (Who you sell it to doesn't seem germane.)

  • OK, maybe the seller isn't denying that the Messiah will come, but isn't he hoping he doesn't? Or at least not yet? What about the notion that we must eagerly await the Messiah every day?
    – Seth J
    Aug 24 '12 at 0:12
  • @SethJ, fair point. The seller would have to believe that he won't lose money, in the aggregate, if he's going to be in that business, so either this is part of a larger portfolio or he believes economics will be different when moshiach comes. (I'm assuming that we're talking about a Jewish insurance-seller; buying the policy from a gentile wouldn't raise these problems.) Aug 24 '12 at 2:29

I don't believe such a "Moshiach clause" would violate the principle of believing in Moshiach's coming rather it is considered a normal business practice for precautionary measure. I base this on the opinion of R. Eliezer Deutsch (d. 1916, Peat HaSadeh 2:44) with regards to taking out an insurance policy which would provide funds for the policy holder's offspring. He maintains that this does not demonstrate lack of faith in God's providing of man's sustenance as it has become an ordinary business move, inasmuch as the holder ultimately acknowledges God's providence.

A nice survey, including a treatment of R. Deutsch's responsum, can be found in Rabbi Menachem Slae's 'Insurance In The Halachah' (201ff.). Such is also the opinion of R. Ovadiah Yosef (Yechaveh Daat vol. 3 §85; a summary of which can be found here) who also adds that the practice of only providing a day's worth of income was exclusive to the hassidim (punctilious, those going beyond the letter of the law) whereas for the average person it is normal to take action for the next day's income. See also Rabbi Yaacov H. Fish's 'VeHerachta Yamim (334f.) where it can be implied that he too was of the opinion that insurance against certain scenarios would not demonstrate lack of faith; on the contrary, it may be even a segulah for longevity.

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