Tag Archives: Tsvi Sadan

An Invitation to Keruv

Shabbat-Made-Easy-paintingThough there are an estimated 175,000 to 250,000 Messianic Jews in the U.S. and 350,000 worldwide, according to various counts, they are a tiny minority in Israel — just 10,000-20,000 people by some estimates — but growing, according to both its proponents and critics. Messianic Jews believe that Jesus is the Jewish messiah, and that the Bible prophesizes that God’s plan is for him to return to Jerusalem, prevail in an apocalyptic battle with the Antichrist, and rule the world from the Temple Mount. Unlike Jews for Jesus, which focuses on bringing Jews into churches, Messianic Jews seek to make Jews believers in Jesus while still maintaining congregations that identify as Jewish and observe Jewish customs and holidays.

While these Messianic Jews are derisive of Orthodox Jewish fundamentalism (particularly what they call its “legalism”), they pick and choose some of the practices of traditional Judaism, such as weekly Torah readings — although they add New Testament verses to it.

They import to Israel many of the worship practices and the political agenda of the American Christian right. They are tightly knit with an American-born global revival movement that holds that modern-day prophets and apostles receive direct revelations from God, forming an elite army of prayer warriors on a mission to carry out God’s plans to purify Christianity, “restore” Israel, and bring the Messiah back.

-Sarah Posner
“Kosher Jesus: Messianic Jews in the Holy Land”
An article written for
the Atlantic

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that it’s helpful to take a look at that entity we call “Messianic Judaism” from outside the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots contexts. We have a tendency to see our arguments through a very narrow tube that significantly limits our vision, not only of who and what Messianic Judaism is (along with Hebrew Roots and its variants such One Law, One Torah, Sacred Name, and Two-House), but how the rest of the world perceives it and them.

The above-quote from a recent online magazine article was apparently written by a Jewish reporter who, in all likelihood (but I can’t know for sure), is not religious (I say this based on the overall content of the full article). Her description of Messianic Jews in Israel was either so biased as to make the Jews she interviewed seem overly Christian (and certainly not Jewish in a cultural or halakhic sense) or indeed, the Jews she spoke with were very “Christianized.” But if the latter is true, then did this reporter choose a representative sample of the Messianic Jews in the Land or did she bias her research to only select the most “Christian-like” Jews in the Israeli Messianic environment?

In other words, are there any authentically, halachically, and culturally Jewish Messianic Jews in Israel, and can Messianic Judaism be fairly assessed by a Jewish reporter who may have “issues” with whether or not the Jewish participants in Messianic Judaism are actually Jewish?

When I write about Messianic Judaism as a Judaism (as opposed to “a Christianity”), I’m usually criticized, typically from Hebrew Roots proponents, saying that the majority of people involved in what I term as Messianic Judaism are not Jewish. True enough. As I’ve said before, Messianic Judaism as it exists today is a goal or an ideal. It is not a fully realized movement among the other Judaisms of our era.

And that’s probably Christianity’s fault.

Granted, “ownership” of the Jewish Messiah passed from Jewish to Gentile hands nearly 2,000 years ago and it’s only within the past century or less that any Jews at all have even considered the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah and that it’s “Jewish” to honor him. Tsvi Sadan in his article “You Have Not Obeyed Me in Proclaiming Liberty”, written for the Fall 2012 issue of Messiah Journal, says of past and present Messianic Judaism in Israel:

In the past, leadership was largely in the hands of Christian missionaries. Today leadership is predominately held by American Jews, American “wannabe” Jews, and American Christians. Where Jewish Israelis are in leadership, they have received their education – if they have any – from Christian institutions either in North America or Great Britain. In addition, with the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, Russian speakers began to establish new churches and assume leadership positions in existing churches (congregations). Yet though some of the people and organizations have changed, the present-day leadership is essentially operating in the same way as their missionary predecessors did. While Hebrew is now the spoken language in most Israeli churches, modes of operation and models of leadership which grew mostly out of evangelical worldviews still dominate the scene.

christians-love-israelSo perhaps Ms Posner’s report on Messianic Jews in Israel wasn’t particularly inaccurate or biased after all. However, Posner ends her article with a chilling pronouncement:

In the meantime, Messianic Jews are assiduously attempting to, essentially, redeem Israel from its Jewishness. That seems to be the task at hand at the Jerusalem Prayer Tower, another 24-7 prayer meeting place located on the top floor of an office building on the bustling downtown thoroughfare Jaffa Street. At the “Restoring Jerusalem” prayer meeting, an American Christian woman read about Jezebel from the Book of Revelation, and exhorted the half dozen people in the room to pray to “purify” and “cleanse” Jerusalem.

Another woman prayed for the Jews “to change their mind, to feel you, Lord, to convert to you, Lord.” The first woman resumed her prayers, hoping that Jesus will give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a great understanding of who you are.” She seems to earnestly believe this is a plausible scenario. “Help him, Lord,” she implores. “Bring him to Messiah.”

I was especially taken by the statement, “Messianic Jews are assiduously attempting to, essentially, redeem Israel from its Jewishness.” This comment clashes incredibly against what most of the Jewish Messianics I interact with tell me. In the article “Messianic Judaism: Reconsidering the One-Law, Two-House Trajectories” written by Boaz Michael, also for Messiah Journal, in addressing Gentile and Jewish roles, Boaz states:

In rejecting the right and responsibility of the Jewish people to define what it means to be Jewish and to practice Judaism, One-Law theology strikes directly at the core of authentic Judaism. One-Law replaces the Jewish rabbis and sages with self-appointed Gentiles who believe that they are divinely sanctioned to interpret the Torah outside of a Jewish context: whatever conclusions they come to are given greater weight than those of Jewish halachic authorities.

There is a struggle to define Messianic Jewish practice as Jewish and some of the Jews in the Messianic Jewish movement are caught between two forces: Evangelical Christianity and Hebrew Roots. Both groups of non-Jews are vying for the opportunity to define the Jewish worshipers of Christ in some manner that removes significant parts of what it is to be a Jew. In the vast majority of cases, this isn’t done from the malicious desire to harm Jews or Judaism, but intentions aside, the results are obvious. Even many Jews in Messianic Judaism believe that to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, they must reduce or eliminate their Jewish identities. Those Jews who accept the One Law proposal are required to surrender their unique Jewish identity to any Christian demanding an equal share in the Torah.

111-mjThe latest discussion (as I write this) in the “Messianic blogosphere” on this struggle is Derek Leman’s article, CRITIQUE: Tim Hegg’s Article on Acts 15. By the time you read this “morning meditation,” the comments section of Derek’s blog will most likely have heated up to the temperature where lead melts (621.5 degrees F or 327.5 degrees C). There is a great deal of tension in this communications dynamic largely because each group, Evangelical Christianity, Hebrew Roots (One Law, Two House), and Messianic Judaism, have “turf” to defend. But while both Evangelical Christianity and Hebrew Roots see themselves as pro-Judaism and pro-Israel, it has been strenuously asserted by Messianic Jews that their impact is otherwise.

Boaz Michael says:

These movements damage and diminish Jewish identity in several ways. In one way, a very practical and real diminishing of Jewish identity occurs when people who are not Jewish begin to dress and act like they are Jewish (particularly like Orthodox Jews). When Jewish customs and Jewish apparel are taken on outside the context of a Jewish community and authentic Jewish identity, it diminishes real Judaism and real Jewish life. It sends a message to the Jewish people: “All of the things that make you unique and identifiably Jewish are mine too.”

Tzitzit are a prime example. In a traditional Jewish context, tzitzit have real meaning. They send a specific message: “The person wearing these is shomer Shabbos. They keep a high standard of kashrut. They are serious about traditional Judaism.” To see a person with tzitzit, for example, eating a cheeseburger or driving on the Sabbath actually diminishes the Torah and casts Messiah (and Messianics) in a negative light. It is application without understanding. It strips tzitzit of their meaning and significance.

That final statement could be extended to say that such a person “strips Judaism of its meaning and significance.”

Again, the large portion of the blame for this mess is Christianity, not in its intent but in its approach. Sadan stated that many Jews in Israel have come to know the Messiah, not through Jewish people or contexts, but through Evangelical Christians or Jews who have an Evangelical mindset. In the United States, many Jews come to know the Messiah, either through the traditional Church or through Hebrew Roots churches, and particularly One Law groups. My wife and I were introduced to “Messianic Judaism” through a local One Law congregation and for quite some time, we thought this was the only expression of Messianic Judaism. It was our introduction to “Judaism” without having to actually enter into a Jewish community (the vast, vast majority of people present were Gentiles). Jewish customs and practices were very poorly mimicked and an understanding of even the prayers was only elementary.

It wasn’t until my wife joined first our local Reform-Conservative shul and later the Chabad, that we both began to understand actual Judaism. From my wife’s point of view, it was in the form of a real, lived experience, and for me, it was largely by observation.

But I got to observe a lot.

Tsvi Sadan’s article presents an alternate method of introducing the Jewish Messiah to Jewish people in Israel:

Instead of this traditional Mission approach with its “proclamation of alienation,” Messianic Jews should consider the “proclamation of Keruv,” not as a tactical maneuver but as a state of being. Keruv is a Hebrew word that comes from “near” (karov). Essentially therefore, Keruv is a mission to call Jews to draw nearer to God and one another, first and foremost through familiarity with their own religion and tradition. The Jewish people, as taught by Jesus, cannot comprehend his message apart from Moses (John 5:46). Talking about the significance of Jesus apart from the everlasting significance of Israel is that which renders evangelism ineffective. Keruv on the other hand is all about reassuring the Jewish people that Jesus came to reinforce the hope for the Jews as a people under a unique covenant.

elul-shofarIt’s impossible to change the past but we have the power to summon the future. We have the ability to change directions and to correct our mistakes. In order to introduce the Jewish Messiah to Jewish people without damaging Jewish identity, either by removing it or co-opting it from Jews, it must be communicated that Judaism and the Jewish Messiah are mutually confirming and supporting. Instead of Messianic Judaism being seen as trying to “redeem Israel from its Jewishness,” it must behave in a manner that is totally consistent with restoring Jewishness to Israel and the Jewish people. This is not to say that Israel and Jewish people aren’t currently Jewish, but that the Messiah affirms, supports, and restores the rightful place of Israel and the Jewish nation as the head of nations and as a people called out by God to be completely unique from among the nations and peoples of the earth, including Gentile Christians.

This doesn’t diminish the Christian in the slightest. Even non-Messianic Jews assert that Jews are not better than Christians or any other group of Gentiles, just different and unique. I’ve said many times before that we Christians have a responsibility to support Jews, both materially and in their return to the Torah of their Fathers, all for the sake of the Kingdom and the return of the Messiah. As Boaz Michael said in a recent blog post, “The completion or resolution of Israel’s story does not and will not occur until she is redeemed from her exile, planted firmly in the land God has promised to her, and returned to a state of loving obedience to the Torah under the leadership of the Son of David, Yeshua the Messiah.”

We serve One God and we have one Messiah King who will return to rule over all of Creation. As servants and sons, we each have our roles and duties. We can’t afford to let our limitations, biases, and human ambitions restrict who we are and who God created us to be…both the Jew and the Gentile. Christian support of Israel does not mean taking control of the process of defining Israel. It’s allowing the Jewish people and nation the space to define themselves, and supporting them in this effort through whatever means are at our disposal. That is a Christian’s unique role and purpose in life. It’s time we start living it.

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Intersection

Due to the sin of murder the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed.

Shabbos 33a

Maharal points out that man is distinct and loftier than all other creations. Only man is infused with a heavenly spirit from above. Similarly, the Beis HaMikdash is on a separate plateau in function and purpose above all other places on Earth.

Furthermore, man himself functions as a type of Beis HaMikdash, in that he carries the shechinah with him, and he serves as a vehicle from which kedushah emanates and spreads throughout the world.

This is the underlying principle which our Gemara is presenting. The taking of human life, aside from the tragic aspect of the personal loss, also represents a destruction of a human Beis HaMikdash. A person, while he lives, has the ability to accomplish worlds of achievement in the realm of kedushah and in the service of Hashem. With the loss of this life, this person’s contribution to the world in this regard has been ended.

Daf Yomi Digest
Gemara Gem
“The holy human”
Commentary on Shabbos 33a

This is a rather remarkable Jewish commentary from a Christian point of view. We Christians tend to believe that only we possess the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” as a consequence of our faith in Jesus Christ. We tend to believe that no other people group or religious tradition, especially Judaism, has this concept, let alone possesses this reality.

But what if we’re wrong?

Here we see that the Jewish sage writing this believes that “only man is infused with a heavenly spirit from above.” And just as Christians believe that each of us is a Temple housing the Spirit of God, (see 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 1 Peter 2:5) the Rabbinic commentator states, “man himself functions as a type of Beis HaMikdash, in that he carries the shechinah with him, and he serves as a vehicle.”

For those among you who may not know, the Beis HaMikdash can refer to the Temple in Jerusalem (which currently doesn’t exist) or the Heavenly Temple.  In the days of Solomon,  the Temple housed the shechinah or the Divine Presence, which Christian Bibles call “the glory of God” (this is also true of the Tabernacle in the days of Moses). While we can’t make a direct comparison between the shechinah and the Holy Spirit, we see that both Christian and Jewish concepts of how God “indwells” the faithful are all but identical.

Imagine that.

But why do I say such a thing and why should you care?

Shmuel only crossed a river on a bridge together with a gentile. He said that misfortune would not occur to two nations simultaneously.

Shabbos 32a

Shmuel crossed the river only on a ferry boat upon which gentiles were riding with him. He determined that the Destroyer cannot punish Jew and gentile together, so he would be safe and secure that the boat would not capsize.

-Daf Yomi Digest commentary

This is a less than complimentary Jewish commentary about we Gentiles, since it implies God will not visit a tragedy upon the Jew that is going to occur to the non-Jew for the sake of the holiness of the Jewish people. It elevates the Jewish people above the other peoples of the earth in a spiritual way due to the perception of a Jew’s higher awareness of God. Actually, the commentary may well be true of many non-Jewish nations and people who neither fear Hashem nor honor the God of Israel.

But what about Christians? Can’t we be said to have an awareness of God through our devotion to Jesus, the Jewish Messiah? I would say “yes,” but we must remember that said-awareness and devotion originated with the Jewish people, and did not spring forth fully grown among the Gentiles, independent of Israel.

Many Christians reading this may get the wrong idea about what I’m trying to say. Some may even feel threatened, as if I’m subordinating Christianity to Judaism in a manner that makes we non-Jewish believers into “second-class citizens” in the Kingdom of God.

I’m not saying that at all.

But I do want to say that the church has a tendency to reverse causality. We often view Jesus as wholly owned and operated by Gentile Christianity and completely divorced from (if he was ever “married” to) Judaism in any way or form. That’s pretty tough to do since Jesus was born to a Jewish mother, was circumcised on the eighth day, was raised as a Jew, was granted the power of the Spirit as the Jewish Messiah, walked like a Jew, talked like a Jew, only had Jewish disciples, ordered his Jewish disciples to only minister to the “lost sheep of Israel” in only Jewish communities, barely spoke to a Gentile, and after death and resurrection, promised to return to establish Jewish self-rule of Israel and over the nations.

Tsvi Sadan, who authored what I consider a landmark book, The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources, wrote an article recently published in Messiah Journal, issue 111 called “You Have Not Obeyed Me in Proclaiming Liberty.” It’s a unique article in that it takes to task the missionary efforts of the church to convert Jews to Christianity. But Sadan is a “Jewish believer.” More accurately, he’s a “Messianic Jew” living in Israel, and that makes all the difference in the world.

What I have described up to this point means that much of what calls itself Messianic Judaism is in fact an exotic Christian sect. One can argue until blue in the face that the Israeli Supreme Court was wrong when in 1989 it ruled that Messianic Jews are people who belong to “another religion.”

I imagine that there are more than a few Christians reading this who are quite puzzled. After all, isn’t Messianic Judaism just another form of Christianity? What’s wrong with Jews converting to Christianity? Jesus is “Jewish,” isn’t he?

Of course, when most Christians say that “Jesus is Jewish,” it’s like how they view the occasional Jewish Christian in their church…someone who is Jewish in name only and who, in terms of any identity markers, has surrendered cultural, ethnic, experiential, and halalaic Judaism for a completely Gentile Christian identity and lifestyle. This is what I mean by reversing causality. In the early days of the ministries of Peter and Paul, masses of non-Jewish people came to be reconciled with the God of Israel through the Jewish Messiah, embracing religious practices and concepts that were completely Jewish and totally foreign to them. Today, we in the church expect Jews to abandon all of their Judaism and to worship a Lord and Savior who, from our point of view, is totally foreign to Jews.

But Sadan has more to say:

Yet the judges were no fools. Long ago the Jewish people reached a firm decision to reject the kind of good news described above. The refused the gospel which in the name of Jesus called them to convert to another religion. They refused the gospel which in the name of Jesus called them to break their unique covenant with God. They refused the gospel which forced them to identify with the culture of their oppressors. They refused the gospel which called them to compromise Jewish monotheism and reject the Talmud, their tradition, and their cherished customs.

That’s got to be a tough paragraph for most Christians to read and accept, but remember that I’m pulling it out of the context of the entire article. Sadan is criticising what I call “reversing causality.” Why should Jews have to stop being Jewish and join “another religion” (other than Judaism) in order to become disciples of the Jewish Messiah and to worship the God of Israel; a God they have been worshiping since the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses?

You’ll have to pick up a copy of Messiah Journal (and I highly encourage you to do so) and read Sadan’s entire write-up in order to fully comprehend where he’s coming from, but he does have a “happy ending” for how Jews can be authentically approached in order to be brought near to Moshiach and to return to the Torah.

For the sake of we Christian readers, he does quote from New Testament scholar Scot McKnight’s little-known book A New Vision for Israel (1999) in order to substantiate Sadan’s viewpoint from a Christian perspective.

The most important context in which modern interpreters should situate Jesus is that of ancient Jewish nationalism and Jesus’ conviction that Israel had to repent to avoid national disaster. Jesus’ hope was not so much the “Church” as the restoration of the twelve tribes…the fulfillment of the promises of Moses to national Israel, and the hope of God’s kingdom. (pg 10)

Definitely a book I need to read.

I don’t blame you if you think I’ve gone off the deep end or have lost my mind as a Christian. It’s taken me a very long time to see from this particular vantage point and it may take “the church” just as long or longer to reach the same spot. But I believe we’re all getting there. I know several Christian pastors who share my vision about the relationship between Jews and Christians. I believe that God is involved and guiding us along a series of paths on journeys that will finally intersect.

Jews and Christians have interactive purposes in relation to each other whereby, as children of God, we are interdependent. The Jewish role is to return to the Torah and to embrace the holiness of God and we in the church are responsible for standing alongside the Jew and supporting that…not “mission” but “keruv,” bringing Jews near “to God and to one another, first and foremost through familiarity with their own religion and tradition…the Jewish people, as taught be Jesus, cannot comprehend his message apart from Moses (John 5:46)…Keruv is all about reassuring the Jewish people that Jesus came to reinforce the hope for Jews as a people under a unique covenant.”

For hundreds of years, perhaps since the beginning of Creation, a piece of the world has been waiting for your soul to purify and repair it.

And your soul, from the time it was first emanated and conceived, waited above to descend to this world and carry out that mission.

And your footsteps were guided to reach that place.

And you are there now.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Now”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

The Christian “mission” isn’t just to “get saved” and then wait for the “bus to Heaven.” Although vitally important, it isn’t just spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world, to give everyone, everywhere hope that God loves them and will never forsake them, even in the darkest nights of our souls. The Christian mission is also one of “keruv,” of bringing Jews to the Messiah in a way that is Jewish and in a way that would be completely recognizable to the apostles as they began their message to the Jewish people after the events recorded in Acts 2.

Keruv is probably not a task for all Christians. It’s probably not a task for me, at least not in a direct sense. But we can all participate by recognizing our role and the role of Israel and by welcoming and espousing the unique purpose, identity, and lives of Jewish Israel under their King and ours, Yeshua HaMashiach..Jesus the Christ.

For nearly twenty centuries, the people who Jesus drew to him, either directly or through the apostles, the Jewish people and the people of the nations, were first torn apart through much strife, and then continued to drift away from each other, one treating the other as strangers and aliens. While we may not experience it overtly today, the church and the synagogue in relation to each other are so wounded and isolated. Only by each one finding our true and unique purposes and roles in the kingdom of God can we both be healed, can we both be granted the gift of transmuting grief into joy, can we both have our loneliness be turned into joy and fellowship.

Mourning for the Great Mountain

There is an interesting, but somewhat misunderstood, halachah. It has to do with not filling one’s mouth with laughter now while we do not have a Beis HaMikdash. In the words of the Orchos Tzaddikim: “One should only feel joyous in that which brings to enhanced service of God. He should never feel joy from that which causes another pain. For example, one who has wheat should not feel happy if there is a famine and he will make a large profit, since this is bad for others. One should also never take joy in another person’s death, even if he was left a legacy and will profit handsomely from this. Regarding such situations, one who shows proper decency and does not feel joy fulfills the mitzvah of ואהבת ’לרעך כמוך. One should accustom his heart to feel joy at his friend’s success. Most especially one should feel great happiness when he see others doing God’s mitzvos, since this is God’s will.

“Nevertheless, one should not fill his mouth with laughter in this world, as we find in Berachos 31. Since the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, all joy has been mixed with sorrow. We also find in Niddah 23 that Rabbi Yirmiyahu tried to make Rabbi Zeira laugh but did not succeed.

When someone learned that the halachah not to fill one’s mouth with simcha is actually in the Shulchan Aruch, he was shocked and wondered how this could be prohibited.

He decided to ask the Sdei Chemed, zt”l, who was certainly a true scholar and fulfilled in every detail of halachah without compromise. “The halachah not to fill one’s mouth with laughter due to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash is a middas chassidus. But this should not be confused with mockery. One who mocks is in one of the four groups that will not receive the Shechinah, as we find in Sotah 42!”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Rejoicing in the Right Way”
Niddah 23

This isn’t going to resonate well with most Christians because Christianity isn’t focused on the Temple as the point of connection between man and God. We focus on the life and spirit of Jesus Christ for that connection and, for most Christians, the Temple is superfluous. For most Christians, the Temple is a cosmic “so what?”

That’s kind of a shame because we may have to try to relate to it at some point, especially if traditional Jewish thought is correct and the Messiah, that is Jesus Christ, actually rebuilds the Temple.

The mashiach will bring about the political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people by bringing us back to Israel and restoring Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). He will establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government, both for Jews and gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1). He will rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18). He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15).

Judaism 101

However even if you have a tough time with that perspective, our story off the Daf can tell us a few other things, such as not rejoicing under circumstances when we win but someone else loses. We have a tendency to do that as human beings, but when we lose, when we’re hurt, when we’re afraid, we certainly don’t want others to feel happy about it. Most of the time, when we’re under duress, we don’t want people around us to feel happy about anything. We want them to feel upset, compassionate, and then try to help us.

What if a Christian sees a Jew under duress over the destruction of the Temple? I know it happened almost 2,000 years ago and Christians tend to think the Jews should “get over it” but that’s because we don’t understand the significance of the Temple in Judaism. We want Jews to realize that Jesus Christ is their temple and that it’s going to be all right because Jesus loves them. But most Jews aren’t going to relate to oto ha’ish that way, at least not right now (and I consider it a miracle any time a Jewish person does recognize the Jewish Messiah through the Gentile disguise that we have put on Christ).

I found the following footnotes for Chapter 11 of the Rambam’s The Laws and Basic Principles of the Torah at history.hanover.edu:

The whole of the following passage was deleted from most of the editions published since the Venice edition of 1574.

“If he did not succeed to this degree or he was killed, he surely is not [the redeemer] promised by the Torah. [Rather,] he should be considered as all the other proper and legitimate kings of the Davidic dynasty who died. G-d only caused him to arise in order to test the multitude. As it is written [Daniel 11:35], “Some of the wise men will stumble, to purge, to refine, and to clarify, until the appointed time, for it is yet to come.”

“Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Mashiach and was executed by the court was also spoken of in Daniel’s prophecies [Daniel 11:14], “The renegades among your people shall exalt themselves in an attempt to fulfill the vision, but they shall stumble.”

The rest of the text is equally uncomplimentary toward Christianity, but that’s less to do with Jesus as Messiah and more to do with the subsequent “development” of the Christian/Jewish relationship over the past 20 centuries or so. However the beginning of Chapter 11 also says the following:

In future time, the King Mashiach[1] will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will rebuild the [Beis Ha]Mikdash and gather in the dispersed remnant of Israel. Then, in his days, all the statutes will be reinstituted as in former times. We will offer sacrifices and observe the Sabbatical and Jubilee years according to all their particulars set forth in the Torah.

Whoever does not believe in him, or does not await his coming, denies not only [the statements of] the other prophets, but also [those of] the Torah and of Moshe, our teacher, for the Torah attests to his coming, stating: [Devarim 30:3-5]

This is similar to something the Master said 1,200 years earlier:

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” –John 5:45-47 (ESV)

Perhaps we Christians shouldn’t rejoice too much, not because we’re mourning the Temple and lament its loss, but because our human lives and failures made it necessary for Christ to suffer and die. True, he was resurrected again, just as the Temple will be remade by him (my opinion), but that doesn’t absolve us of our crimes, nor does it repair our present broken and suffering world. To those Christians who rejoice over Jewish suffering, you are missing the point, not only of the lesson of the Sages but of God’s own teachings. If the Jewish people mourn the Temple, they will also mourn Messiah.

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. –Zechariah 12:10 (ESV)

While the prophet is most likely speaking directly to Israel, Christ was pierced for us as well, so we should also mourn and not overly rejoice at our Salvation. True, we thank God for our redemption from death and our adoption as sons and daughters of the Most High, but there is still a lot of work to be done and if we are only happy for ourselves, how can we strive to reach out toward others in their suffering?

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. –Romans 9:3-5 (ESV)

As Maimonides said, “Whoever does not believe in him, (the Messiah) or does not await his coming, denies not only [the statements of] the other prophets, but also [those of] the Torah and of Moshe, our teacher, for the Torah attests to his coming.”

Israel awaits his coming but they do not know who he is. We who do know his name must not rejoice that we hold that knowledge and others do not. We must not be bitter that others refuse to accept his name as Messiah. We must live our lives with caring and compassion for everyone, shunning no man whether Jew or Gentile, but welcoming everyone in peace to our Temple and our Great Mountain of God.

But there is another way of understanding it. With the help of verses such as “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – From whence comes my help?” (Psalm 121:1), where the psalmist lifts up his eyes to the “mountains” (as the Hebrew has it), the following explanation is given: “You shall become a plain – this is Messiah Son of David. And why is his name called Great Mountain? Because he is greater than the fathers, as it says, ‘Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high’ (Isaiah 52:13). He shall be higher than Abraham, more exalted than Jacob and higher than Jacob. … more exalted than Moses … and higher than the angels. This is why it says, ‘Who are you, O great mountain?'” (Midrash Tanchuma W, Toledot 14).

-Tsvi Sadan
“Great Mountain” (har hagadol) pg 58
The Concealed Light: Names of the Messiah in Jewish Sources

 

Gift of the Firstborn of Israel

Firstborn (bechor) as one of the names of the Messiah is seen in the heavenly conversation found in Psalm 89:27. There God himself says of the Messiah, “I will make him My firstborn. The highest of the kings of the earth.” The Bible gives to the firstborn a significance that goes far beyond the laws regarding earthly inheritance. Commenting on the verse, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn” (Exodus 13:2), the midrash says, “God said to Moses, ‘Just as I have appointed Jacob firstborn – as it says, “Israel is my firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22), so will I appoint King Messiah firstborn,’ as it is said, ‘I will appoint him firstborn'” (Exodus Rabbah 19:7).

-Tsvi Sadan from his book
The Concealed Light, pg 16
Firstborn (bechor)

A few days ago, on one of my meditations, I said:

The Master said that Salvation is from the Jews,” (John 4:22) but then, so is peace. 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.

However, I had neglected to anticipate that this might be seen as offensive or at least inaccurate from a traditional Christian point of view. By way of explanation, I offered an additional comment:

Israel was always meant to the the beacon that would lead the rest of the world to God. Consider Isaiah 49:6 and Isaiah 51:4. By extension, Jesus said of himself that he was (and is) the light to the world (John 8:12) and he passed that torch (if you’ll pardon the obvious pun) to his disciples, including us, when we said that we are a light to the world (Matthew 5:14).

There’s an unbroken chain in the transmission of God’s Word from God Himself, to His people Israel, and to Israel’s firstborn son of Creation and the firstborn of the dead Jesus Christ. Jesus is called the King of the Jews, which hardly divorces his work of salvation from the Jewish people. We thank, praise, and honor God for our salvation and redemption from sin, however He chose to provide those gifts through the birth of Jesus and the light of His nation Israel, which was always to be our guiding light, since the very beginning.

God is God alone, but Jesus doesn’t exist in isolation. He was born, lived, died, and was resurrected within a specific context so that “The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:2)

(To be fair, I must say that the conversation that was started on my own blog post was continued at Steven’s blogspot, http://washedfeet.wordpress.com/)

To me, the connection between God, Israel as firstborn, and Jesus as firstborn is pretty self-evident, but apparently not everyone shares this view. In an attempt to be fair and check my thinking and perceptions, I decided to explore the names of the Messiah and how they reveal his character and relationship to God and Israel. Part of the result is that I found the above-quoted passage from Sadan’s book. It seems that not only does midrash confirm the near interchangeability between the Messiah and Israel but the Torah does too. If we feel we owe a debt of gratitude to Jesus Christ for being saved by the grace of God through the blood of the Messiah, then by inference, we are offering that gratitude to Israel as well; which is also God’s firstborn.

I know this will probably not sit well with some and it’s not like I’m going out of my way just to be a pest, but I do feel honor-bound to point out the truth of the Bible as best as I can understand it in defense of not only Israel but of God’s intent in choosing Jacob’s children as his own treasured, splendorous people. I do not believe the nature, character, and purpose of Messiah can be separated from Israel as a people or a nation, either in function or in prophesy.

The one who has “borne our griefs” and who has “carried our sorrows” that we Christians see in Isaiah 53:4 is viewed as the “Suffering Messiah,” Jesus Christ. The church can scarcely begin reading this passage before envisioning Jesus on the cross. However, from a Jewish point of view, it is Israel who is suffering, as a people, rather than Messiah:

“If the Holy One, blessed be He, is pleased with a man, He crushes him with painful sufferings. For it is said: And the Lord was pleased with [him, hence] He crushed him by disease (Isa. 53:10). Now, you might think that this is so even if he did not accept them with love. Therefore it is said: “To see if his soul would offer itself in restitution”. Even as the trespass-offering must be brought by consent, so also the sufferings must be endured with consent. And if he did accept them, what is his reward? “He will see his seed, prolong his days”. And more than that, his knowledge [of the Torah] will endure with him. For it is said: “The purpose of the Lord will prosper in his hand”. It has been taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai says: The Holy One, blessed be He, gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only through sufferings.. These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and the World To Come.”

sourced from Talmud – Brachot page 5a

I’m hardly an expert, but is it so hard to imagine that Isaiah may have been referring to both Israel and Messiah? I’ve never been a big fan of always applying a prophesy to a single event or person. I believe it’s possible for Isaiah to have been giving a “multi-layered” message that to his immediate audience may have meant one thing, and to an “extended audience” may mean something else.

Admittedly, this is a dangerous thing to do and I’m stretching the limits of Bible interpretation quite a bit here, but for a good purpose. I’m trying to illustrate that Jesus is not only (in some mystical fashion) the personification of the Divine, but the living personification of Israel as a people. To say that we are “saved by Jesus” in some way is to say that “salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22 ESV)

The link between Jesus and the well-being of Israel wasn’t lost on Paul either, and he went out of his way to communicate that message to the non-Jewish disciples in Rome. Apparently the non-Jewish disciples didn’t have a problem with this understanding:

For they (the Gentile believers) were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. –Romans 15:27 (ESV)

More than a few non-Jews in the Messianic movement have been accused of worshiping Judaism rather than God and sad to say, that’s true in many cases. I suppose in my comments, I could be accused of “the glorification of the flesh of Israel,” (though I’ve never been comfortable with some of the stereotypical Christian phraseology) but that is not my intent. What I am trying to communicate is not the exalting of Israel as a people above God or above the Messiah. The Master himself said that no servant is greater than his master (John 13:16) and certainly Israel serves God and not the other way around. On the other hand, Israel serves God and the living, breathing, walking, talking, expression of the ideal Israel is the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.

The rest of Sadan’s commentary on “firstborn” (bechor) as a name for the Messiah links these ideas together with how we disciples of the Master tend to see his most outstanding act on behalf of the world:

Reference to Messiah in connection with the command to consecrate all the firstborn is highly significant. Moses gives two reasons for the injunction: remembrance of the Exodus by celebrating Passover and remembrance of the death of the Egyptian firstborn. Exodus 13 appears to suggest that Israel’s freedom is achieved through the Passover lamb and the Egyptian firstborn. In addition to the classic clash over the rights of the firstborn, here the decisive divine act reveals that the right of the firstborn belongs not to Pharaoh but to Jacob. In a manner of speech, this massive human death is responsible for Israel’s redemption; in a sense, the death of the Egyptian firstborn was a sacrificial death.

The rather shocking idea that the death of the firstborn brings about redemption is found in the very command to consecrate all of Israel’s firstborn. The translation, “You shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is every firstborn” (Exodus 13:12), fails to reveal the true meaning. The Hebrew for “set apart” here actually signifies “sacrifice.” Israel, accordingly, was to sacrifice their firstborn. It is only in verse 15 that we learn that the death of the firstborn is replaced by the process of ransoming. Further still, it is the tribe of Levi that becomes the substitute for the firstborn (Numbers 8:18), since the Levites have no inheritance in Israel…

By appointing Messiah as the Firstborn, God thus sets him up to be the preeminent Firstborn, the ultimate Lamb. As such, he has no substitute; no one can pay the ransom for him. Rather, he is bound to pay the ultimate price to redeem Israel by sacrificing his own self.

Sadan, pp 16-17

There doesn’t appear to be a reasonable and legitimate way to separate Messiah as the firstborn, from Israel as the firstborn. Further, the ultimate and “preeminent Firstborn” must sacrifice himself as the “price to redeem Israel.” That was and is the great purpose of the Messiah as the sacrifice of the firstborn, to act as the substitute for firstborn Israel, much in the matter that the Levites were “sacrificed” for the sake of each firstborn child of the other tribes. It was Messiah’s purpose to die for the redemption of all Israel.

Most Christians are probably asking right about now, “but what about us?” That’s where God’s grace comes into play and where our gratitude should be expressed. Up until this point, everything is happening within the context of Israel’s relationship with God. Up until this point, the Gentiles; the rest of the world, haven’t been involved except in the role of conquerors and persecutors of the Jews. Except for Israel, up to this point, all of the other people groups on earth have been pagan, polytheistic, idol worshipers.

Period.

But the endlessly bountiful graciousness of God (and this was always part of His plan) opened the doors of salvation for the rest of us, too. Though from a Jewish perspective, this was completely “out of scope” for the plan, God allowed the sacrifice of the ultimate Firstborn to redeem not only Israel, God’s firstborn, but the entire human population of the earth.

I can’t even begin to express how amazingly HUGE this is. The Jewish disciples couldn’t have possibly understood the fantastic impact of the Master’s words in Matthew 28:18-20 when he commanded them to “make disciples of all nations.” I’m not even sure that they “got it” until nearly two decades later when Peter, seeing the Roman Centurion Cornelius and his household receiving the Holy Spirit, exclaimed:

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. –Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

I think this must have been the moment when it truly dawned upon Peter what God had in mind and the staggering and mind-blowing impact the Messiah’s sacrificial and redemptive death and resurrection would have in the world. Not only would all Israel be saved (Romans 11:26) but “that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17 ESV)

The Jewish Pharisee Paul (also known as Saul among the Jews) was specifically commissioned by the Master (Acts 9) to be the emissary to the Gentiles and to carry the Good News of salvation offered by God through the Jewish Messiah to the nations. I promise you, the Gentiles had no idea what was about to happen to them, how their lives would be changed, and how the entire fabric of the next two-thousand years of human history would be inexorably altered by the will of God, all thanks to the grace of the Creator of the Universe and His choice of the Israelites as His “light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:6).

This entire debate started when I tried to describe Jesus as the Minister of Peace to the entire world. This point was entirely lost on my audience (apparently) and so, employing Sadan’s book once again, I’ll conclude with part of his commentary on another name for the Messiah: “Prince of Peace” (sar shalom):

Rambam very likely based his interpretation on the opinion of Rabbi Yose Haglili, who lived shortly after the destruction of the Temple and who is recorded as saying, “The name of Messiah is Shalom, as it is said, ‘Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'” (Masechtot Ketanot, Derech Eretz II).

…The Prince of Peace therefore, is greater than Moses, Isaiah, Ezra, and the rest of Israel’s prophets, for none of them were able to establish lasting peace.

Sadan, pg 239

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and the security of Israel, for in praying for Israel’s peace, you are praying for your own, thanks to Jesus Christ, our Lord, King, Master, and Savior.

Amen.

The Elusive Unchanging Dove

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Lord, [to last] seven days. The first day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations; seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to the Lord; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations.

Those are the set times of the Lord that you shall celebrate as sacred occasions, bringing offerings by fire to the Lord — burnt offerings, meal offerings, sacrifices, and libations, on each day what is proper to it — apart from the sabbaths of the Lord, and apart from your gifts and from all your votive offerings and from all your freewill offerings that you give to the Lord.

Mark, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the Lord [to last] seven days: a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall observe it as a festival of the Lord for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages. You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your God.

So Moses declared to the Israelites the set times of the Lord.

Leviticus 23:33-44 (JPS Tanakh)

The Midrash teaches: “Just as a dove (yonah) is simple and accepts authority, the Jewish people accept God’s authority by ascending to Yerushalayim during the holiday. Just as a yonah is distinguished to its partner, who can tell it apart from other birds, Klal Yisrael are separated from the non-Jews by how they cut their hair, their fulfillment of milah and their care to wear tzitzis. The Jews comport themselves with modesty, like doves…Just as doves atone, Yisrael atones for the nations when they bring the sacrificial bulls for them during Sukkos.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“The Dove”
Kinnim 23

Wait a minute. Besides the part where it said “Klal Yisrael are separated from the non-Jews,” what did that say?

Just as doves atone, Yisrael atones for the nations when they bring the sacrificial bulls for them during Sukkos.

Yes, that’s what I thought it said.

I was reading this passage this morning (as I write this) and tried to recall exactly where in the Bible it says that the sacrifices of Sukkot were intended to atone for the nations of the earth. Naturally, my middle-aged memory being what it is, I couldn’t pull up the data, so I turned to my favorite research tool: Google. Turns out that the plain meaning of the text in the Torah regarding the Sukkot sacrifices doesn’t talk about atonement for the nations. But there’s always this:

These seventy oxen correspond to the original seventy nations of the world enumerated in the Torah who descended from the sons of Noah, and are the ancestors of all of the nations till this day. Israel brought these sacrifices as atonement for the nations of the world, and in prayer for their well-being; as well as for universal peace and harmony between them.

Thus our Sages taught, “You find that during the Festival [Succot], Israel offers seventy oxen for the seventy nations. Israel says: Master of the Universe, behold we offer You seventy oxen in their behalf, and they should have loved us. Instead, in the place of my love, they hate me (Psalms 109).”

G-d appointed Israel a kingdom of priests to atone for all these nations, and appointed Jerusalem a house of prayer for all the peoples…

We pray for the day when Israel will be fully restored to its land, rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and bring peace between G-d and man, and between all peoples. Amen.

-Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman
“The Significance of Succot Sacrifices”
15 October 2005/12 Tishri 5766
Ohr Somayach International

Here’s another look at the same picture:

The Talmud (BT Sukkah 55:B) teaches that the seventy bulls that were offered in the Holy Temple served as atonement for the seventy nations of the world. Truly, as the rabbis observed, “if the nations of the world had only known how much they needed the Temple, they would have surrounded it with armed fortresses to protect it” (Bamidbar Rabbah 1, 3).

-quoted from The Temple Institute website.

The irony involved in this commentary is that even though the nations hate Israel and destroyed her Holy Temple, still the Jewish people continue to pray for the peace and redemption of the nations.

Actually, we do find the number of bulls that are sacrificed during Sukkot is 70 in Numbers 29 starting at verse 12. There’s also another connection between the nations, Israel and celebration of the feast of Sukkot found in the books of the Prophets:

Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.” And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day. –Zechariah 14:16-21 (ESV)

Sukkot is the only festival of the Jews when representatives of the nations of the world will be actually commanded to appear in Jerusalem to celebrate and, as you see, God desires this so much, that there will actually be penalties for nations refusing to be represented at this event in the days of the Messiah.

The Hebrew4Christians site adds a little more information to confirm this:

Prophetically, Sukkot anticipates the coming kingdom of Yeshua the Messiah wherein all the nations shall come up to Jerusalem to worship the LORD during the festival.

But that’s all in the future. What about now and especially, what about in ancient times? Has Israel been atoning for us all along and have we disastrously ended our own atonement before God by destroying the Temple and scattering the Jewish people throughout the earth?

I don’t know, but pondering all these thoughts did bring the following to mind:

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” –John 4:22-26 (ESV)

I’m not necessarily drawing a direct connection between all of these points, but they are rather compelling. Consider this. In ancient times, during the Sukkot festival, it is thought that the Israelites sacrificed 70 bulls for the atonement of the nations of the world. In the Messianic Age to come, the nations are commanded to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot with Israel. And in his Sukkot commentary, Rabbi Ullman alludes to not only Zechariah 14 but this other prophetic word:

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” –Isaiah 56:6-7 (ESV)

Salvation for the nations comes from the Jews. It seems like our atonement in ancient days came from Israel and for those of us who are Christians, it continues to come from Israel even though the Temple in Jerusalem currently does not exist.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. –John 3:16-17 (ESV)

We from the nations cannot escape the great gift that Israel has continued to bestow upon us from days of old until this very time. God made Israel a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6) and that light has been allowed be spread from Israel and the Torah to the rest of us (Isaiah 2:2-4) so that we too can illuminate the world with that light (Matthew 5:14). But this is only possible because God sent the Jewish Messiah and King, our Master, to all of us. And this is only possible because the Messiah and Savior was as obedient as a dove (Matthew 3:16) and as silent as a lamb led to the slaughter (Jeremiah 11:19).

The Christian church hasn’t replaced Israel and we certainly haven’t merged into her so that Israel has ceased to be a people before her God. We among the nations are Israel’s beneficiaries. May we continue to bless the heart of Zion and her first born son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, King of the Jews.

That which can be grasped will change. That which does not change cannot be grasped.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Grasping Change”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Without mentioning it specifically, the Zohar sees great significance in the fact that the dove (and turtledove) is the only kind of bird permitted for sacrifice. In this way, the mysterious legendary dove with an olive leaf in its mouth becomes a representation of King Messiah…

-Tsvi Sadan
Yonah – Dove, pg 113
The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources

He is the elusive, unchanging dove.

 

 

The Concealed Light: A Book Review

The Zohar – the mystical commentary on the Torah – is even more specific in its discussion of the nations’ plot to rise up against Israel:

At that time King Messiah will wake up and will leave the Garden of Eden, from that place that is called Bird’s Nest and will be revealed in the region of Galilee. On that day the whole world will become angry, and all the inhabitants of the world will hide in holes of the rocks and in caves and think they will not survive. Of this time it was written, ‘Go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily’ (Isaiah 2:19) … ‘The glory of his majesty’ – this is King Messiah when he will rise up to terrify the earth” (Zohar, Shmot, 7b)

-Tsvi Sadan
“Majesty” (ga’on) pg 28
from the soon to be published book:
The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources

That’s probably not what you expected from a book containing over 100 names of the Messiah, all from Jewish sources, particularly since these names are supposed to reveal something to both Jews and Christians about Jesus Christ. However, this book isn’t written primarily for Christians (although we will find amazing insights into the identity of Christ in Sadan’s book). It’s written for Jews…and not just “Messianic Jews.” Hence the Jewish sources.

Let me explain.

I’ve always been bothered by the Jewish/Christian “disconnect” about the Messiah. If the Tanakh (Old Testament) is supposed to contain prophesies pointing to the Messiah, and Jews and Christians both have the same Tanakh (Old Testament), why don’t Jews and Christians see the same Messiah? Do you think the traditional Jewish Messiah and Jesus Christ look like the same guy? Think again. Better yet, re-read the above-quoted passage from Sadan’s book citing “Majesty” as a name for the Messiah. Does that seem like the Jesus you’ve learned about in church to you?

If both Jewish and Christian sources speak of the same Messiah, how come the Jewish Messiah and the church’s Christ look like two completely different people? I tend to answer that question by saying that the church gave Jesus a complete makeover in the first few centuries of the Common Era, stripping him of all Jewishness in his appearence, his teachings, and his identity. We’ve turned him into a Goyishe King and a “Greek god” who bears not the slightest resemblence to the Jewish Messiah spoken of by the ancient Hebrew prophets.

That is, unless you look very closely and make a tremendous effort to peer beneath 2,000 years worth of whitewash and veneer. Some Jews and a few non-Jewish Christians have made this effort and have discovered a very different person, a Jewish person, hiding or perhaps imprisoned underneath. Tsvi Sadan is one of the Jews who has made the effort, and who has seen the “Jewish Jesus.” To do that, he has searched for him in the Torah, in the Tanakh, in the Talmud, and even in the Zohar. The Messiah; the real Messiah is there.

If you consider the Bible as the only valid source for authoritative information, you probably will have “issues” with Sadan’s book. He doesn’t rely only on Biblical sources. He does however, rely solely on Jewish sources, even to the degree that references to the New Testament are quite rare (but not entirely absent). But why?

Who is the primary audience of this book, again?

If you’re a Christian, you may be thinking that attempting to portray the Messiah using anything but the Bible is going to generate a highly skewed image of him, making him “too Jewish” and painting a portrait that does not fit anything that we know Jesus to be. However, you’re wrong, at least in part. You are correct in that the Messiah you find by reading the text and commentary on his Jewish names is very Jewish by appearance and demeanor. Your concerns have likely been verified by the above-quoted name for the Messiah (remember, this is only a taste). However, you’re wrong if you think you can’t find Jesus the Jew and the Savior in these pages. He’s there. He’s just had his veneer removed and his true face restored.

In an outstanding Jewish commentary from the ninth century CE on Psalm 36:9, “In Your light we see light,” the author offers an imaginary conversation between God, Satan, and Messiah which reflects his own understanding of who is Messiah and what is his role. In this conversation, Satan attempts to deter God from honoring Messiah. Challenged, God asks Messiah what he intends to do in light of the suffering inflicted upon him because of those whom he came to save, and the Messiah answers:

“Master of worlds, with the joy of my soul and the pleasure of my heart, I accept upon myself that none from Israel will perish and that not only the living will be saved in my day but also those hidden in the soil…and not only those will be saved, but all hosts whom you have thought to create but have not. This is what I desire, this is what I accept upon me” (Pesikta Rabbati, 36).

-“Glorious” (kavod) pp 120-21

Hebrew FireNot quite the face you remember of Jesus from the Christian paintings, but not all the different, either. One of the things that you’ll need to accept in reading Sadan’s book is that, if the Christian Jesus looks a little different to the non-Jewish believer in these pages, so does the Jewish Messiah to the Jew, but just a little. In addition to finding a wholly Jewish Messiah, you also find the hints and clues that point to the Sufferer (sovel), pg 164, the Holy One of Israel (kedosh yisra’el), pg 206, and the Prince of Peace (sar shalom), pg 238 among many other names.

But let’s look at this book another way.

You have a jigsaw puzzle with 101 pieces. You know when you put the puzzle together, you’ll have a picture of Jesus as he was and will be, as the Jewish Messiah, as Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. This is a Jesus; a Yeshua, you have never, ever seen before. No one in the church talks about this guy, but you know that when you put this puzzle together, you’ll see the face of the same man who walked with Peter and John in the Galillee. You’ll see the same face that the hungry and the poor among Israel saw as he taught them, and fed them, and comforted them, as a shepherd does his sheep.

So you open Sadan’s book and you find the first piece of the puzzle in the first chapter: Alef (the book organizes the names of Messiah chapter by chapter alphabetically, but the alphabet is Hebrew). You find the first name: Different (acher). You read the two pages that describe “acher” as a name of the Messiah and you get the first glimpse of the Messiah. You file away those characteristics and turn the page. You find the next name: Stone (even) and start reading…and so on and so on. Turn the page and turn another. As you turn pages and continue reading names and building the puzzle a piece at a time, a face slowly begins to take shape. You start to visualize its colors and its moods. The face is unfamiliar, almost alien, but there’s something about the eyes that attracts you, as if you’ve seen his gaze somewhere before.

And by the time you read the last page; by the time you place the last piece of the puzzle into its proper location, you will see him. And you will be amazed.

Boaz Michael, President and Founder of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) was gracious enough to send me an advance copy of Sadan’s book, which will not become available for sale at FFOZ’s sister site Vine of David until March 15. There will be an advance book party in Israel at Sokolov 2 (2nd floor) the evening of March 14th at 8:30 p.m, but I don’t have any additional information on this event (assuming you’ll be in Israel on that date). To purchase the book, go to the Vine of David resource page for The Concealed Light.

Tsvi Sadan’s book The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources gave me something that I’ve been awaiting for a long time: a reconnect between the Jewish Messiah and the Christian Jesus. It’s a path linking the Moshiach of Israel to the King of the Jews we see described in the Apostolic Scriptures. To successfully assemble all the pieces of the puzzle, you will have to set aside whatever trepidation you may have regarding extra-Biblical Jewish texts, and forgo any discomfort you may experience regarding any Kabbalistic “puzzle pieces” you come across. It is not unreasonable, unfair, or even inaccurate to call upon all those Jewish sources in order to recreate the face of the Jewish Messiah. After all, Christianity has been fabricating the visage of Jesus using heavily refactored imagery, turning a middle eastern Maggid into a European Savior for nearly twenty centuries.

All Sadan is doing is pealing the bits and pieces of the mask off of the face of Moshiach one layer name at a time. At last, I’ve gotten a look at the Master I have come to follow with my heart and my life. It’s good to wipe away some of the dust and grime that has been covering the window and to finally see him more clearly.