Hasidism teaches that while not all are able to attain the highest levels of elevated spirituality, the masses can attach themselves to the Tzadik, or truly righteous one, (in Hebrew: התקשרות לצדיקים) whereby even those of lesser achievement will reap the same spiritual and material benefits. By being in the Tzadik’s presence one could achieve dveikut through that of the Tzadik. The Tzadik also serves as the intercessor between those attached to him and God, and acts as the channel through which Divine bounty is passed. To the early Rabbinic opponents of Hasidism, its distinctive doctrine of the Tzadik appeared to place an intermediary before Judaism’s direct connection with God. They saw the Hasidic enthusiasm of telling semi-prophetic or miraculous stories of its leaders as excessive. In Hasidic thought, based on earlier Kabbalistic ideas of collective souls, the Tzaddik is a general soul in which the followers are included. The Tzaddik is described as an “Intermidiary who connects” with God, rather than the heretical notion of an “Intermidiary who separates”. To the followers, the Tzaddik is not an object of prayer, as he attains his level only by being completely bittul (nullified) to God. The Hasidic followers have the custom of handing pidyon requests for blessing to the Tzaddik, or visiting the Ohel graves of earlier leaders.
from the article “Hasidic philosophy”
I can hardly tell you how the above-quoted paragraph seems to describe how I understand the Messiah.
OK, I know that Wikipedia has less than a stellar reputation as a direct resource, but given that Chasidic and Kabbalistic philosophy can be enormously difficult to comprehend (at least to me), I selected what I thought was the most accessible information source. But why am I posting a quote about bonding with a Chasidic tzadik at all? What possible relevance can it have to a Christian, even one who is trying to view his faith through a traditional Jewish lens?
Last week, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, I attended the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) 2012 Shavuot conference at the Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin. Among the various teachers and speakers at this event was FFOZ author and staff member Aaron Eby. He said something about the Messiah during one of his presentations that I just had to write down. This probably isn’t word-for-word, but hopefully, it’s close.
Messiah has a general soul and he cannot separate his soul from the soul of Israel.
I’m not sure if the other stuff I have written down on this little piece of paper I’m looking at was said by Aaron or just my interpretation and expansion on what he said, but here it is.
When a Gentile takes hold of the tzitzit of a Jew, he is taking hold of Messiah. He is taking hold of the tzitzit of a Jew and being led to the Temple Mount. Find God in the Jewish people.
I’m obviously referencing Zechariah 8:23 in my notes, but let’s take a look at the verse in it’s context.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” –Zechariah 8:20-23 (ESV)
These events occur in the Messianic age, so thus far, ten men of the nations haven’t taken a hold of the tzitzit of a Jew in the manner described by the prophet. However, we know that this will happen and we know we Christians should get used to the idea that it should happen, and that it is all part of God’s plan for the Jews and for us.
A few weeks ago, I wrote on another meditation something that caused quite a stir:
This is another reason why we Christians, and indeed, the entire world, owes the Jews a debt that can never be repaid. It is their King who will finally come and bring peace for everyone, not just the nation of Israel, but the nations of the earth.
The “push back” I received about those words was that we owe God the Father and Jesus Christ such a debt, not the Jewish people. The idea is that Christians should not glorify a people group but instead, glorify God. As far as that statement goes, I agree wholeheartedly. Our worship and devotion belongs only to the God of Israel. Jesus Christ came and even said that God sent him to the lost sheep of Israel. And we know from the very often quoted John 3:16 and many other scriptures that the scope of the Messianic covenant extends far beyond Israel and indeed, to the entire world.
When Aaron made that statement, I immediately thought of the different ways I tried to explain why we Christians do owe a debt to the Jews. In the best way I knew how, I tried to show that the Messiah as an individual, cannot be separated from his people the Jews. In essense, Messiah is Israel and is their firstborn son. Now I have another way of thinking about Messiah as having a general soul that is inseparably joined to the soul of all his people. But maybe, if we can take a different look at Zechariah 8, the door swings both ways, so to speak. We in church, when we “take hold” of Christ, are also taking hold of Israel and the Jews. But we can also “take hold,” as the prophet said, of a Jew, and by doing so, be joined to Israel and her Messiah.
I want to be very careful here and explain that I’m not talking about substituting Judaism in the place of the Messiah. So many Gentiles in the Messianic Jewish movement have fallen into this trap and abandoned Jesus altogether, choosing instead to convert to a traditional Judaism. This is not what I’m suggesting at all. What I’m saying is that we cannot separate the Messiah from Judaism. Perhaps I’m also saying that we cannot separate Judaism from Messiah. I’m not particularly scholarly in these areas, so I don’t have the means to evaluate the mystical implications of all of this, but if nothing else, I see the Messiah and his general soul as a way for us to continually realize that we cannot say we love Jesus Christ and throw the Jews, Judaism, and national Israel under a bus at the same time.
If we accept Christ as Messiah and Lord, we accept all of him, just as he is and always will be. Totally joined to Israel and to every Jew who has ever existed.
So be careful what you say and how you treat the next Jewish person you meet. You never know if someday it may be his tzitzit you will be clinging to as you cling to the soul of the Messiah.
Since the Divine activating force responsible for the existence of created things must continuously be present within them, they are completely nullified in their source. This means, as the Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter, that in reality they do not “exist”.
Why, then, do we nevertheless perceive created beings as enjoying a tangible “existence”? — Only because we are unable to see or comprehend the Divine utterance that is contained within each created thing and that calls it into being.
The Alter Rebbe illustrated this by considering the sun’s rays. When they are not within their source, the sun, but diffused throughout the expanse of the universe, they are perceived as having independent existence. However, when they are contained within the sun-globe they clearly have no such “existence” at all.