Question from a correspondent of mine:
"Would you say that all of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith are necessary for whatever you're practicing to be Judaism? I bet #12 (the Coming of the Messiah) and more so #13 (Resuscitation of the Dead) are probably pretty tough for a lot of people..."
The prophets predicted that certain exceedingly unlikely events would occur at some point in Jewish history (predicting likely events doesn't require a prophet), prophecies that remained unfulfilled for millennia. Imagine being a Jew living just a couple of centuries ago and trying to convince a non-believer of your faith.
"We're going to return to our land from all of our exiles all over the world and the land that has been desolate all these centuries will sprout and become lush, fertile, productive! We will fly to Israel on the wings of eagles!"
One would be laughed at! "There's no way for an ingathering of exiles of such proportion to occur! Give me break! That land is so desolate, nothing's going to take root there. And to fly there? You're crazy!"
"Yeah, and the nations of the world will unite to oppose us!"
"Nations of the world unite? There is so much war in the world, no country can get along with its neighbor and you think nations will become united? How could this possibly happen?"
"Yeah and the prophet says that an army of these united nations will besiege Jerusalem."
"Why would anyone want to even go there? It's desolate! You think Jerusalem is going to somehow become important to the world?"
"Yeah, and it says that this army will be destroyed with a fire that will burn them up in their tracks, melting them where they stand!"
"What kind of science fiction is that? There are no weapons that can melt entire armies! You Jews are nuts! And my proof is that things have been this way for thousands of years. How can you possibly believe these constants will change? How utterly irrational!"
Yet just a couple of centuries later -- we are living messianic prophecy! The land of Israel has been greatly rebuilt, the Jewish people has returned en masse (Israel is projected to soon contain the MAJORITY of world Jewry over all worldwide communities combined). Israel produces some of the finest produce in the world, exported to many foreign markets, including prize-winning wines. We have airplanes today flying record numbers of people to Israel many times daily. There is today a United Nations that continually enacts resolutions against Israel (more than any other nation combined), and there is constant foreign pressure on Israel to give up its rights to its capital, Jerusalem, which the world community doesn't even recognize as the capital of Israel. (Two of my children were born in Israel and have American birth certificates that show their birthplace as Jerusalem, but without any country, because Jerusalem is still not officially recognized, even by the United States, as an Israeli city, let alone its capital.) Indeed, the only thing the nations seem united about is hatred for Israel. And now that weapons of mass destruction are a reality, it has become easy to imagine the horrid scenarios described by the prophets.
Now, given that all these "impossible to believe" elements of Messianic prophecy have already come true before our eyes, is it such a leap of faith to trust the prophets on the rest?
I believe, given this evidence, that it is irrational to consider all this a "coincidence" or "lucky guess." I'm certain the prophets were "on to something" and I'm hedging my bets with them. To do otherwise, to this mind, is simply unbelievable.
(read more from Rafi Mollot at http://rafimollot.wordpress.com)