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What is Moshiach ben Yosef?

by Rabbi Immanuel Schochet


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Jewish tradition speaks of two redeemers, each one called Moshiach. Both are involved in ushering in the Messianic era. They are Moshiach ben David and Moshiach ben Yosef.1

The term Moshiach unqualified always refers to Moshiach ben David (Moshiach the descendant of David) of the tribe of Judah. He is the actual (final) redeemer who shall rule in the Messianic age.

Moshiach ben Yosef (Moshiach the descendant of Joseph) of the tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph), is also referred to as Moshiach ben Ephrayim, Moshiach the descendant of Ephraim. He will come first, before the final redeemer, and later will serve as his viceroy.

The essential task of Moshiach ben Yossef is to act as precursor to Moshiach ben David
The essential task of Moshiach ben Yosef is to act as precursor to Moshiach ben David: he will prepare the world for the coming of the final redeemer. Different sources attribute to him different functions, some even charging him with tasks traditionally associated with Moshiach ben David (such as the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash, and so forth).

In view of the divergent Midrashim (commentaries) and interpretations on this subject it is practically impossible to present a more definitive synopsis [here]. Thus it is wisest to cite and follow R. Chasdai Crescas who states that "no certain knowledge can be derived from the interpretations of the prophecies about Moshiach ben Yosef, nor from the statements about him by some of the Geonim;"2 there is no point, therefore, in elaborating on the subject.


Republished with permission from For more information on this read the complete article from this author about Moshiach ben Yossef.


  • 1. For mention of the two Moshiachs see for example Talmud tractate Sukah 52a.
  • 2. Or Hashem, Ma’amar III, klal 8: end of ch. 1.


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Israel » Messiah

The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.
Firstborn son of Rachel and Jacob. Because he was Jacob's favorite son, his brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery He ended up in Egypt where he became viceroy of the land, and eventually brought his entire family to Egypt. Died in 1451 BCE.
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
(sg. Gaon = mastermind) Talmudic masters and heads of academies who played a prominent and decisive role in the transmission and teaching of Torah and Jewish law from approximately 589 CE to 1038 CE.