Ki Sisa: Is Melech HaMoshiach Annointed or Appointed?




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    Ki Sisa: Is Melech HaMoshiach Annointed or Appointed?

    From the desk of Rabbi Nissim Lagziel, Mashpia in Oholei Torah: In this week’s parsha, Ki Sisa, we will read about a very special mitzva. There are mitzvos that we do every day like tzitzis or tefillin; there are mitzvos we do every week like kiddush and Shabbos; there are mitzvos we do every month and every year, like the holidays. There are even mitzvos that we get to do just once in our lives! But did you ever hear of a mitzva that was fulfilled just one time in history? In parshas Ki Sisa (30:23-25) it tells of a mitzva like this! • Full Article


    One morning, Yaakov leaves his apartment on the second floor and, to his surprise, finds his neighbor Moshe smearing cream on the stairs.

    “Moshe, what are you doing?” asks Yaakov.

    “You remember – I fell on the steps and injured my leg?”

    “Yes, of course I remember. And?”

    “So, I went to the doctor.”

    “Nu, and?”

    “He told me to apply cream on the place where I fell …”


    In this week’s parsha, Ki Sisa, we will read about a very special mitzva. There are mitzvos that we do every day like tzitzis or tefillin; there are mitzvos we do every week like kiddush and Shabbos; there are mitzvos we do every month and every year, like the holidays. There are even mitzvos that we get to do just once in our lives! But did you ever hear of a mitzva that was fulfilled just one time in history? In parshas Ki Sisa (30:23-25) it tells of a mitzva like this!

    “And you, take for yourself spices of the finest sort …You shall make this into an oil of holy anointment, a perfumed compound according to the art of a perfumer; it shall be an oil of holy anointment.” Namely, the mitzva to make the anointing oil. The Rambam says (Klei HaMikdash 1:1), “It’s a positive command to make anointing oil to be ready for things that need anointing.”

    The interesting thing is that this mitzva was fulfilled a single time; only Moshe Rabbeinu got to do it! The Gemara (Krissos 5b) says, “many miracles were happened with it [the oil of anointing] from beginning to end: at first, there were only 12 log with which the Mishkan and the vessels, Aharon and his sons, were all anointed through the Seven Days of Consecration, and it was used to anoint the kohanim gedolim and kings, and all of it remains for the future, as it says (Shemos 3:31), ‘This shall be oil of holy anointment to Me for your generations.’ ‘Zeh’ (this) is numerically equivalent (in Hebrew) to 12 (lugin).”

    Many of the Acharonim (see the Aruch L’Ner and Maasei L’Melech al ha’Rambam, and others) struggle with the question why does the Rambam enumerate making the oil as a separate mitzva when, according to Rambam’s rules which he listed at the beginning of his Sefer HaMitzvos, we only count as part of the 613 those mitzvos that are practiced for generations. This mitzva is not in that category for it was done just one time and that oil was and will be forever!

    This talmudic/halachic debate about the mitzva of making the anointing oil brings up an interesting question regarding Moshiach. Will Moshiach need to be anointed with the anointing oil at all, at the time that he is revealed or when he is formally crowned?

    Some might say, “Of course! Otherwise, why call him ‘Moshiach,’ a word which means ‘anointed one’?”

    The title itself would seem to teach us that Moshiach needs to be anointed, but if we look at the sources we will discover that it’s not so simple. The first one to raise this halachic question is Rabbi Yosef Babad, author of Minchas Chinuch. He discusses whether Moshiach needs anointing. On the one hand, the halacha is that a king, son of a king, does not need anointing and all subsequent kings of the house of Dovid do not need anointing (technically) unless there was a dispute about one of them.

    For example, (Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 1:12), “They anointed Solomon because of the claim of Adoniyahu, Yehoash, because of the usurpation of Asalyah, and Yehoachaz, because of [the claim of] his brother, Yehoyakim.” According to this, there is no reason to anoint Moshiach because the original anointing of the kings of Dovid is sufficient for him.

    On the other hand, says the Minchas Chinuch, perhaps, because the davidic kingdom was not in existence for so many generations (ad mosai?), the kingdom of Moshiach is like a new beginning and he needs to be anointed. He does not resolve this question but leaves it to us to discuss and learn.

    Some quote the Milchamos Hashem (siman 24) where it says, “On the day that Eliyahu anoints Moshiach at Hashem’s command, he will be called Moshiach,” and they also cite for that an aggadic source for that in the Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni, remez 500) on the verse (Yeshaya 49:18), “Lift your eyes around and see, all of them have gathered, have come to you; as I live, says the Lord, that you shall wear all of them as jewelry, and you shall tie them as a bride” – “At that time, G-d brings Eliyahu and Moshiach with the jar of oil in their hands and their staffs in their hands, and all of Yisrael will be gathered before them and the Shechina before them,” and then at this historic and foundational event Eliyahu will anoint Moshiach with the ancient anointing oil of Moshe.

    Others quote the Medrash Tehillim on the verse (23:5), “you anointed my head with oil,” which explains that this refers to “Melech HaMoshiach who is anointed with the oil of anointing” as proof.

    Some bring proof from the famous prophecy of Zecharia, a prophecy which we read in the haftora on Shabbos Chanuka and parshas Behaaloscha, about Yehoshua Kohen Gadol and the vision of the golden menorah with seven lamps (4:3), “And [there were] two olive trees near it; one on the right of the bowl, and one on its left.” After he is asked by the angel, “Do you know what these are?” and he says no, the angel explains the vision of the olives with these words, “These are the two anointed ones who stand before the L-rd of all the earth,” which, according to Metzudos Dovid, refers to Moshiach and the Kohen Gadol who will be anointed with this anointing oil, one for royalty and one for high priesthood.


    The Rebbe addresses this topic in a seemingly peripheral brief footnote within a lengthy complex pilpul on the topic of kingship in the Torah. The Rebbe asks a simple question – why don’t we find that Yehoshua, Moshiach’s successor, was anointed if he was a king (as the Rebbe proves from the wording in the Rambam)?

    The Rebbe innovates that there are two types of ‘nesius’ leadership over the Jewish nation, two different categories that can exist within one person. The two types of ‘nesius’ are : Torah leadership and sovereign leadership. The law of anointing a king applies only in connection with the second type – sovereign rule. The spiritual leader of the Jewish people is not anointed; he is ordained (semicha, similar to semicha to rule in various areas of halacha). Therefore, Yehoshua was not anointed but was ordained (with Moshe placing his hands on Yehoshua’s head) even though he was a king! Because in Yehoshua, like Moshe, there existed both types of leadership at the same time. He was a Torah teacher as well as a king but his main function was Torah and spiritual leadership. The legal status of king that Yehoshua possessed was something secondary and additional to his formal and primary role. Therefore, Yehoshua was not anointed but appointed through semicha. He was a king, a real king, but without any anointing.

    In light of that, the Rebbe raises the question as to what will the din be with Moshiach. On the one hand, Moshiach will also incorporate these two types of ‘nesius,’ as he will be both a Rav [Torah teacher] and Melech [sovereign ruler], so which will he need – anointing or appointing, meshicha or semicha?

    The Rebbe notes that the title “Moshiach” can be interpreted in two ways: 1) from the root meaning anointed, or the form of the word meaning, 2) greatness. In other words, according to the simple meaning, the word “Moshiach” or meshicha (anointing) is a sign of greatness and kingship, not necessarily anointing with oil, as we find in the verse about the priestly gifts which G-d gave Aharon and his sons. The verse describes the priestly gifts with the words, “I’ve given them to you l’moshcha,” which means these gifts were given to Aharon to indicate his greatness and royalty.

    The Rebbe leaves the question as tzarich iyun (requires further analysis) but adds a very interesting note, “And perhaps there will be two stages,” i.e. it is very possible to say that there will be two different practices in the two eras. Perhaps, in the first era, Moshiach will not need to be anointed with oil but will only require the bestowal of Torah authority. Then, in a later era, in Yemos HaMoshiach, he will “go up a level” and need anointing. Or, perhaps the other way around, in the first era, Moshiach will be more like a king and need anointing. In the later era, he will need to have semicha because then his Torah role will subsume his sovereign role.

    The main thing is we should merit to see all this already!


    As we know, the anointing oil was made of olive oil along with spices, so we will end with the famous story about oil and spices (as retold so delightfully by Shmuel Kunda in The Talking Coins). In Prague there lived two merchants, one who sold oil and one who sold spices. Their stores were attached with just a wall between them. The spice merchant was jealous of the oil merchant who had many customers.

    He came up with an idea of sneaking into the oil merchant’s store and stealing his money. Late at night, he dug a hole, entered the store next door and stole the coins in the cash box. He returned to his store and closed up the hole and thought nobody would suspect him.

    The next morning, when the oil merchant entered his store, he discovered that his money was missing! He knew that only the spice merchant knew where he hid his money and immediately suspected him. He went next door and began shouting, “Thief! You stole my money!”

    They began to argue and people gathered round them. Nobody knew who to believe. The two men went to the judge who questioned them, but without witnesses he had no way of knowing who was right. In the meantime, the case became the talk of the day with some people thinking the oil merchant was right and some saying the spice merchant was right.

    One day, the judge was walking when he noticed a group of children playing, acting out the case of the two merchants. The judge wondered how they would decide the case and stood there and watched.

    The five-year-old judge, named Yehuda, had each “merchant” make his claim. Then he asked the spice merchant to bring him the coins in his possession. Then he asked for a pot of water. The judge was curious to see what the child-judge would do next.

    The child-judge put the coins into the water and, lo and behold, oil rose to the top. The young judge explained: These coins belong to the oil merchant. If they belonged to the spice merchant, the water would have remained clear and no oil would have floated to the top.

    The judge, greatly impressed by the wise child reconvened the court and everyone flocked there to see who would be declared innocent and guilty. Just as in the children’s playing, the coins in question were placed in water and when oil floated to the top, all could see that the money belonged to the oil merchant and that the spice merchant was the thief. The judge announced that he had learned this from a young child named Yehuda. This Yehuda grew up to be the great Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Yehuda Lowy, ancestor of the Alter Rebbe.

    Good Shabbos!


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    Ki Sisa: Is Melech HaMoshiach Annointed or Appointed?