Q. How will we recognise the Messiah?
A. Many false messiahs have arisen over the centuries. In a sense what disqualified them is precisely that they pushed themselves forward and announced they were the promised redeemer. It doesn’t work like this, however. Only history will prove whether a messianic claim has validity.
In a major passage in his Hil’chot M’lachim (“Laws of Government”), the Rambam says that the Messiah will be a certain type of person and will be recognised by his deeds.
What kind of person? Not a coarse, illiterate peasant but a pious, wise, learned, moral human being descended from the dynasty of David. He will not need to proclaim himself nor to perform miracles or magic: his deeds will speak for themselves.
He will usher in an age of fulfilment of the great messianic prophecies of the Bible. Israel will be secure and sovereign in its land; they will learn the Torah and live by the commandments; the Temple will be rebuilt, and out of Zion will go forth the Torah and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3). The nations of the world will look up to Israel, and peace will reign.
We can all help to bring the Messiah by being God’s witnesses and making ourselves and our world ready for Mashi’ach. The rest we can leave to God.