From Darkness To Light

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“The true tzadik described in the Tanya is able to transform darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness. The main holiday of transformation of darkness into light is Hanukkah, when the candles that we light transform the darkness outside into light. On Purim, we can transform bitterness into sweetness. To transform darkness into light is to rectify the Klipah of nogah, the intermediate husk. But to transform bitterness into sweetness is infinitely harder, because it involves transforming the three impure husks into holiness.” ~ (Wisdom from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Torah Classes, 13 Adar Alef, 5779)

 

Yeshu’a of Nazareth taught concerning the light of the world i.e.,  the Torah, and of those who cleave to its teaches and internalize them so that they literally become one with it. They become “Torah in the flesh.” He taught his disciples Torah, the avodas HaShem (service of G-d) etc, but his message went further then just the confines of Israel,  they reached the ends of the world, the darkest of places.

During Hanukkah Yeshu’a taught:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

This light reached the Non-Jewish world – the Nations who themselves are without light and furthest from Kedusha (holiness). They were without direction not knowing left from right (Jonah 4:11). But he who truly follows Yeshu’a teachings separated from the trappings of Rome does not walk in darkness, but enters the spiritual world and receives the spiritual reality.

A spiritual awakening.

From darkness to light.

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“The assembly of Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Master of the World, in the future I will be delighted in your light because of the Torah that you gave me, which is called “fountain of life” (Psalm 36:10). What is the meaning of “in your light we see light?” For what light is Israel waiting?’ This is the light of Messiah as it says, ‘And G-d saw the light that it was good.’ This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, observed Messiah and his deeds before the creation of the world and concealed His Messiah under His throne until his generation” (Pesikta Rabbati, 36)

Those who internalize the teachings of Yeshu’a and learn their inner meanings (found in Torah Judaism) can too becomes full of light and serve the Creator in truth. Yeshu’a tells his true disciples that they are:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~ (Matthew 5:14-16)

Putting a basket over a lamp to hide and conceal the light is akin to a wayward life, sin and running from your true purpose – the service of the Creator. In Judaism “good works” as Yeshu’a promoted is idiomatic for the commandments of the Torah. As it is taught in the Talmud:

“Four things must be done with energy, namely, the study of the Torah, good works, praying, and one’s worldly occupation. How do we know this about studying Torah and doing good works? Because it says [Joshua 1:7], ‘Only be strong and very courageous to observe to do according to all the Torah.” ~ (b.Berachot 32b)

Also, the teachings of the Nazarene should be disseminated to others who dwell in darkness in order to bring them to the Creator and His service. This is one of the ways his disciples can stay attached to him (spreading his teachings). His teachings are not meant to be concealed but proclaimed in truth. The gospel of Thomas explains it this way:

“What you hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim from your rooftops. After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lamp-stand so that all who come and go will see its light” (Thomas 33).

The light of the tzadik is his Torah teachings.
Sparks of Hasidus – The Nations And The Klipos

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Every living thing with blood in its body has an animal soul called a nefesh behemut and every human being has an additional G-dly soul called a nefesh Elokit. The nefesh behamut emanates from the klipot. The nefesh Elokit is truly a part of haShem. Everyone can detect their nefesh behemut, but not everyone can detect, or is ruled by, their nefesh Elokit. All nefeshot behemut emanate from some type of klipah depending on what type of nefesh behemut it has. Unlike the nefesh behemut that emanates from klipah, the nefesh Elokit emanates completely, and is directly a part of, haShem. While there is only one nefesh Elokit, there are two major kinds of nefashot behemot. Umot haOlam have nefashot behemot that emanate from the three, completely impure, klipot tameyut. Because Umos haOlam (the Nations) emanate from the completely impure klipat tameyut, people that have these animal souls do not detect G-dliness on their own and therefore are seemingly completely removed from their nefesh Elokit/G-dly soul. All human beings have a G-dly soul called a nefesh Elokit. The nefesh Elokit is completely concealed in the Umot haOlam from their perspective. It hovers over them and is distant from them as what is called makif rachok. (Rav Yitzhak Ginsburgh/ James Gosnell).

Kabbalah uses the term Klipa to describe evil. Literally, Klipa means a “peel” or “shell,” as in the peel of a fruit.

An orange will not retain its juice if it does not have such a protective jacket. However when one eats the orange, one discards the peel. The peel is only there to preserve the fruit. The same is true of the existence of evil. Hasidism uses the terminology “inner will” (Pnimiyut HaRatzon), and “external will” (Chitzoniut HaRatzon). When a person goes out to work, he gets involved with all the details of making a living. However, he is engaged only with his external will. His inner desire is to make money in order to do what he really wants. The existence of Klipa stems from the outer will of G‑d, whereas Kedushah (holiness) stems from the inner will of G‑d.

Kabbalah divides everything in this world into either Sitra D’Kedushah (the side of holiness) or Sitra Achra (the side of impurity) – literally meaning “the other side,” or the side of Klipa. There is nothing that is in between – every thought, speech, action, or creation has its source either in Kedushah or Klipa.

Despite being in the lowest of all worlds, man can overcome his animal drives and passions to achieve the Almighty’s purpose in creation. The soul therefore strives to perform true service of G‑d, thereby fulfilling the will of G‑d and creating a Dirah BeTachtonim, an abode for the Divine here in this world. King Solomon in Song of Songs describes this state as “black, but beautiful.” As the soul descends into the bleakness and confusion of this world it realizes that its descent is for the purpose of ascent.

Its descent into the body is dark, yet beautiful in terms of fulfillment of the purpose in creation. From this perspective it follows that the presence of forces of evil pose the greatest challenge in the quest to create a Dirah BeTachtonim. The greater the darkness and the stronger the forces of evil, the brighter is the transformation of that darkness into brilliance. Light from darkness, igniting the divine spark within.

The holy side is the indwelling and extension of the holiness of G‑d that rests only on something that abnegates itself completely to Him, either actually, as in the case of angels above, or potentially as in the case of every Jew (or non-Jews) below who has the capacity to surrender himself completely to G‑d with self-sacrifice. This is what is meant when the Sages proclaim that even when a single individual sits and learns Torah the Shechinah rests on him. However, that which does not surrender to G‑d, but is a separate entity, does not receive its vitality from the inner will of holiness. Rather, vitality is given from “behind its back,” descending degree by degree through myriads of levels through innumerable contractions until the Light is so diminished that it can be compressed and enclosed in a state of exile within that separate thing.

Kabbalah further delineates two distinct types of Klipa: klipa Nogah -literally Klipa that can be illuminated, and Shalosh Klipa Hatmayot—“three totally impure Klipa.” Klipa Nogah can be uplifted and refined, while the only form of reformation or redemption for the three impure Klipa is their destruction.

In the chariot of the prophet Ezekiel, the three unclean Klipot are called “whirlwind,” “great cloud,” and a “blazing fire,” while Klipah Nogah is described as the “translucence [nogah] around it.” From the three impure Klipot flow and derive the souls of all living creatures that are not kosher as well as the existence of all forbidden food in the vegetable kingdom, such as Orlah (the first three year’s fruit of a tree). The existence and vitality of all actions, utterances, and thoughts pertaining to the 365 negative commandments and their offshoots also flows from these Klipot. Everything in the realm of holiness has its opposite in the realm of the profane. Similarly, everything in the physical world has its spiritual counterpart from which it derives its existence and vitality. The Nefesh HaBehamit of the Jew, the souls of the kosher creatures, and the existence and vitality of the entire inanimate and entire vegetable world permissible for consumption, and the existence and vitality of every act, utterance, and thought in mundane matters that contain no forbidden aspect, whether performed for the sake of Heaven or not, all stem from klipah Nogah.

G‑d created “one thing opposite the other.” A Jew is composite of two distinct souls. His Nefesh Elokit, which is comprised of ten soul powers whose source is in the supernal Sefirot, is juxtaposed with the Nefesh HaBehamit, also possessing ten soul powers. The soul powers of the Nefesh Elokit strive for Kedushah and the soul powers of the Nefesh HaBehamit long for Klipah. These two souls vie for control of a person’s thoughts, speech, and action, which are often referred to as “garments” of the soul. A person is constantly faced with a choice to either flood the soul garments with Kedushah or garments of Klipah. If a person allows the Nefesh HaBehamit control of the mind, then the soul garments may be contaminated by the impurities of the animal drive. These impurities are vain and ruin the spirit.
Rectifying the Sparks ⚡️

When the Vessels of Chaos shattered, 288 sparks “fell” from their level and became embedded in the lower levels of creation. As they fell downwards they broke further into smaller particles. As they continued to fall, they became more numerous and coarser due to their egotistic origin. The more refined sparks were assimilated into Atzilut. The others fell into Beriah or Yetzirah constituting the “evil” (or independent) parts of those levels. The coarsest sparks fell into Assiyah and ultimately created Klipot.

It should be noted that the Shattering of the Vessels was not an accidental flaw in the Divine plan. On the contrary this process allowed for the creation of evil providing man with the exercise of free choice and the challenge to create a Dirah BeTachtonim. Furthermore, hidden sublimely within Kelipah are the original Lights of the World of Chaos. When a person transforms Kelipat Nogah or even the three impure Kelipot through destruction or Teshuvah, he releases those Lights. In every material item there are sparks of holiness that are released when that item is used for the sake of heaven. It could be that certain sparks wait hundreds or even thousands of years for someone to release them. This task is called Birur Nitzoztot, or the “Refining of the Sparks.” (Rabbi Nissan D. Dubov).
The Light Of Mashiach On The Nations

In the last 2,000 years the nations have been refined on several levels but the Sitra Achra (Other Side) fights hard to keep the Nations in darkness and in great confusion. This battle has overwhelmed the Nations for their vessels are not strong enough to contain the glorious light of Torah. Wherever there is a great revelation of G-dliness the Sitra Achra works hard to obscure and confuse the nations of this light. This is what happened with the light of Yeshu’a of Nazareth.

They concealed his light but they were unable to put it out.

The Rebbe of Chabad says of the Nations and their predicament:

“They have no good in them of their own, but there is, in a state of exile within them, G-dly vitality, a spark of the Ten Sefirot… It does not mean they have no good at all, for nothing can exist without a spark of good. But the spark has become distant and darkened to the extent that it is almost evil. They have no sense of G-dliness at all.

When they accept the Seven Noahide Laws and are scrupulous about them, they are the Pious among the Nations. They are no longer of the nations who have no good whatsoever, as explained in Hassidus that the righteous among the nations are derived from the good in klipah Nogah.”

Yeshu’a ben Yosef who is the hidden Mashiach (MBY) is also stuck in the klipah as he is busy retrieving the lost sparks among the Nations. He is said to be by the gates of Rome, outside (exiled) of the community of Israel. And here he suffers greatly as a leper and among lepers with various illnesses. He helps them and alleviates their pain. In the book of Isaiah we read:

“Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah with crimson-stained garments? Who is this robed in splendor, marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is your clothes red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?“ I have trodden the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and trod them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and all My clothes were stained. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and the year of My redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled that no one assisted; so My arm brought Me salvation, and My own wrath upheld Me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” ~ (Isaiah 63:1-6 ; see Revelation 19:13)

This above verse from the Navi is a great Sod (secret) and we will inquire of the great masters of the inner secrets of the Torah (Kabbalah). The Ramchal in his work “Secrets of the Redemption” (pg.118 and 119) says:

“I will explain to you a certain sod which is completely sealed, and it concerns what is written, “Who is this who comes from Edom…” (Yeshayahu 63:1). This is the tzaddik and he is the Mashiach ben Yosef.
“Be aware, after the Shechinah rests in its place, the Mashiach ben Yosef will return and his core-root will become strengthened. Then he will go to Batzra and there he will tread on the winepress to extract that which is befitting. We have already explained this sod thoroughly in another place, concerning the verse, ‘And one from Ya’akov will rule’ (Bamidbar 24:19) – one must delve into it. The Shechinah will supervise the avenging of its enemies from where it is – understand this well.”

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“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of HaShem and serve Him with one accord.” (Zephaniah 3:9)

Going even further and revealing more secrets the colleague of the Ramchal – Rabbi Moshe David Valle explains in more detail what these ‘stained garments‘ which the Mashiach wears.

The Garments of Nogah:

“Just as there is darkness and clouds in this lowly world so too above, and know that there is darkness and clouds that are holy and there are those that are not holy. The darkness is feminine and the clouds are masculine – so too in the unholy realm… The are clothed in the darkness and clouds of holiness and inside is the inner holiness. And this is the sod of what is written, “Behold, I am coming to you on a thick cloud” (Ex.19:9). HaShem rides in on a thick cloud. And just as there are thick clouds of unholiness and they are the sod of male and female – this is from the side of the Samech Mem and the Nachash, and they are the sod of the klipos nogah which contain in them good and bad… this is the sod – that the Mashiach is the one who refines – he will be clothed with it at the end of the refinement. Just as he will be clothed with the rest of the klipos that are completely wicked, and just as he will refine klipos nogah also of its good… then he will finish the refinement completely. And on this it says, “I will have wiped away your willful sins like a thick cloud, the sod of male and female of this side.’ What is written immediately afterwards?, “Return to Me, I will redeem you.” Also this is the sod of what is written in Sefer Daniel, “Terminate transgression to end sin (Daniel 9:24),’ and it is written afterward, “to bring in eternal righteousness…” this is the sod of the Melech Mashiach who is atik which is called ‘eternally righteous’ – for all worlds follow it and he rules over them all. And this thick cloud starts as a garment for the Melech Mashiach as it says, “I clothe heavens in blackness,” he (Mashiach) will come in on this in the end of days, when the refinement is finished… greatness will be restored. And this is the sod of what is written, “With clouds of heaven one like a man came (Daniel 7:13).”

This refinement which Rabbi Moshe David Valle speaks of is happening right now, has been happening for some time. There are ways that we can help with the refinement, aid the Meshichim. Building suitable vessels for the divine wisdom of Torah is a very important way. Vessels which can hold the glorious light of HaShem.

But how?
How To Illuminate The Soul Of Man

The level of worlds includes both man’s animal soul (נֶפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית , nefesh habahamit) as well as his native, human intellect – called the intellectual soul (נֶפֶשׁ הַשִּׂכְלִית , nefesh hasichlit). The level of souls comprises man’s Divine soul (נפש האלקית , nefesh ha’elokit).

The Intellectual Soul

“In a seminal article on the nature of the intellectual soul, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe explains its unique role in bridging the animal and Divine soul. (“Chaveev Adam” in Sefer HaMa’Amarim 5700, pg.95ff):

“The Divine soul is mainly intellectual in nature. Even though it also contains emotions, its essence is intellectual… The animal soul is mainly emotional. Though it also contains intellect, this intellect serves the emotions by understanding what is good for it [the animal soul] and how to attain what it wants, i.e.,  physical wealth, belongings, honor, prestige, and the like. It also serves to intellectually self-legitimize one’s conduct, not with arguments taken from Torah, but by arguments aimed at illustrating one’s self-merit, etc… The essence of the animal soul is craving. Because it is from the lower parts of nogah, its potency is en-clothed in coarseness and therefore all of its desires and will focus on bodily needs… But, the Supernal intent is that the animal soul be refined and purified, meaning that the power of craving in it be used to serve G-d – through the learning of Torah, the performance of the commandments, and in prayer, the toil of the heart… This refinement is achieved by the Divine soul.
[But, because] the Divine soul and the animal soul are opposites, an intermediate between the two is necessary and this intermediary is the intellectual soul. Though the intellectual soul is also from nogah, it is from the higher states of nogah, i.e., the intellect. And even though this intellect understands physical-natural concepts – e.g., knowing the breakdown of every material, all of its parts, their nature etc., meaning that the knowledge focuses upon the somethingness of the object, not its nothingness – still, it is intellect and it is natural and thus connects the Divine Soul with the animal soul… [By doing so] the intellectual soul severs the animal soul from the evil inclination. Because the intellectual soul is intellect, albeit natural intellect [focusing on nature and the somethingness in nature, as above], its proclivity is to be drawn higher to that which is above [i.e., the Divine soul]. For this reason, the intellectual soul is a vessel ready to receive insight from the intellect and emotions of the Divine soul and these insights are that which the intellectual soul can then clarify and explain to the animal soul.”

The Intellect And Free Will

It follows therefore, that man’s free will depends on his intellectual soul, because truly the only significant choice in life lies between following one’s Divine soul and following the cravings of one’s animal soul. This is indicated in the Torah in the verse that refers to free will: “…I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse, and you shall choose life, so that you and your children shall live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The Alter Rebbe writes concerning this:

“As it says, ‘You shall choose life…’ For choice is found in the intellect [the intellectual soul] alone – the choice to selecting the good an despising the evil… One must condition one’s intellect to habitually choose life.” ~ (Likutey Torah, Nitzavim 46b-c. For a deeper explanation to this point, see Ma’amarei Admor Ha’emtza’ee Devarim v.3, pg.831-5)

 

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Seeking guidance from someone who has already mastered the labyrinth, who stands on the elevated gazebo and advises the correct path to take, is the best way to avoid confusion and reach the designated point. ~ The Ramchal, Mesillat Yesharim

 

B”H

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A Matter Of Life And Death

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Words Of Kings

 

“What is meant by “Hear, for I will speak [words of] kings” (Proverbs 8:6)? The words of Torah are likened to a king, to tell you that just as a king metes out death and life, so does the Torah.” ~ (Shabbat 88b)

A king has the right to sentence a person to death even without a trial. He can also pardon a person who has been condemned to death by a court.

The Torah, too, can sentence a person to death. The Gemara states that a heathen who studies Torah deserves to die (Sanhedrin 59a). Similarly, a Jew who studies the Kabbalah without being sufficiently old or learned may die. When a certain child expounded about an angel, a fire went forth from the angel and burned him (Hagigah 13a).

The Torah can also grant pardon. Sometimes the heavenly court sentences a person to death, but when the angel of death comes for him, he finds the person studying Torah and cannot take him (Makkot 10a). Such was the case with King David. (The Power of Torah, Ben Ish Chai, pg.55,56).

G-d, Israel And The Torah Are One

The power of life and death is in the hands of the Creator, blessed be His Name (Deut.32:39). This power of life and death is also found in G-d’s Torah, as it is written:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…” ~ (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Targum Yonathan on Deut.30:19 says:

“I attest this day, not only you, who are to pass away from this world, but the heavens and the earth, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and its reverse. Choose therefore the way of life, even the Torah, that you and your children may live the life of the world to come.”

And finally Israel (particularly in the Sanhedrin) has the same power over life and death cases, those which deal with capital punishment. But as stated above, the king of Israel who is likened to Moses as the Sages explain, “Moshe was the first redeemer and Moshe will be the last.” What this means is that the Mashiach will be Moshe, a living breathing vessel of Torah.

A Torah made flesh.

Rashi commenting on Exodus 18:1 explains, “Moshe alone is of equal in importance to all Israel” (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 18:1:5).

Hence it is fitting that king Mashiach too will have power over life and death as Maimonides writes that a king may execute a murderer even without clear proof or a warning for the sake of public order, and may even leave their bodies hanging for days to instill fear in the hearts of the wicked. [* Remember, these righteous men are only human, and they can only do according to the will of the Creator].

Yeshu’a Ben Yosef – Life And Death

I have heard objections raised against Yeshu’a of Nazareth stating that he cannot be a righteous individual because in the gospels he is speaks about slaying those who object to his rule. They also claim that these statements of his are anti-semitic? Is this true?

Not at all!

First off, we must understand from what is the context Yeshu’a is speaking from. Yeshu’a of Nazareth believed himself to be the promised Mashiach. Furthermore, he had a large following of Jews who likewise believed this to be the case. When his disciples recorded his words about his enemies being slayed, he spoke of the future time when G-d would grant him the Kingdom and all would be subjected to the Kingdom of G-d. The text which is always quoted is a parable of the time when Messiah is ruling:

“But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” ~ (Luke 19:27 – read it within it’s full context)

These enemies of Yeshu’a, of the Mashiach are wicked people, those who oppose the rule of G-d and His kingdom. They would oppose all of G-d’s holy and righteous messengers.

It must also be noted that Yeshu’a never killed anyone in the whole of the gospel, and as a matter of fact he did nothing but good deeds to his fellow man. G-d had granted him great merit, as we read:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the son (Mashiach) can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the son does likewise. For the Father loves the son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the son, that all may honor the son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life (Ex.14:31). He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
~ (John.5:19-24 * These words of Yeshu’a must be understood from the context of verses such as those in Psalm 2 were the Messiah king is given over the kingdom and G-d sets everything under his feet. This is the Messianic future). 

It should be noted that in Torah literature the Mashiach is:

  • the adopted son of G-d (Ps.2).
  • the king of Israel – the anointed one.
  • a holy tzadik and the agent of redemption.

But did Yeshu’a ever reign as king in Israel? No, he did not. But does this disqualify him as the promised Mashiach? Well that is a bit more complicated. In the Torah sources we have two Messianic figures – Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. Mashiach ben David is the King Messiah who will actually fulfill the end time tasks and with him will come the final Redemption and the Messianic Era.

Mashiach ben Yosef builds the throne of Ben David, he prepares the way for the MBD. Without MBY there is no MBD. The idea of Mashiach ben Yosef is perhaps also apparent in the words of the Rambam where he said, “if he does not succeed to this extent, or if he is slain, it is known that he is not the one the Torah promised, but he is only like all the righteous and proper kings of David’s lineage who died” (see Zohar I, p. 25b, and elsewhere, that MBY is also from David’s lineage, for due to the intermarriage of the families he has ancestors from both Yosef and David, only since he seems to be unsuccessful, he is more closely identified with Yosef).

One reason he is termed MBY is because although he is a savior of Israel, he does not complete the job, but they continue in exile – like the Yosef haTzadik, who saved the children of Israel, but left them stranded in Egypt. MBD, on the other hand, will accomplish a complete deliverance, in a manner reminiscent of King David his father, who successfully defeated Israel’s enemies, and ruled the Jewish nation in their Land.

The Nevim spoke of the death of MBY in several places at the hands of Gog (the leader of Edom/Rome), and likewise Yeshu’a was killed by Gog (the ruler of Edom):

“And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Yeshu’a, the King of the Jews.” ~ (Matthew 27:37)

Let us continue to pray to the One (G-d) who has the power of life and death to grant life to His anointed and restore him to us soon and in our days, amein!

 

B”H

The Death of Mashiach ben Yosef

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King Hezekiah MBY

 

“The Holy One wanted to make Hezekiah the Mashiach and Sancheriv Gog and Magog. But the aspect of judgment said before the Holy One: Master of the World! You did not make David, who said before You many songs and praises, the Mashiach. Will you then make Hezekiah, for whom You did all these miracles and who did not sing before, into the Mashiach?! Therefore it was sealed.” (B. Sanhedrin 94a)

There are those who say that the war against Gog and Magog will occur before the coming of Mashiach. Others contend that first Mashiach will come, and only afterwards will the war against Gog and Magog will take place (Midrash Rabba 96:15, 6; Maharsha Sukka 52a, ‘Al,’ and Rambam, Hilchos Melochim 12:2.

“Israel is destined to enjoy two Meshichim. R’ Yosef said: This is obvious, for who else will enjoy it?
This is different from R’ Hillel, who said: Israel has no Mashiach, for they already enjoyed it in the days of Hezekiah.

 

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The Plot

The Sages say: He is called ‘the leper of the house of Rabbi.’ Said R’ Nahman: If he is from the living, he is like me. Said Rav: If he is from the living, he is like R’ Yehudah haNassi. If he is from the dead, he is like Daniel.” – (Sanhedrin 98b).

This is puzzling passage becomes clear if we understand it as referring to Mashiach ben Yosef. Before Mashiach ben David comes, MBY will be revealed. We are confident that through the multitude of our prayers and all our suffering during the long exile, the MBY will not be killed by the wicked Armilas. Israel will enjoy his personal greatness and the miracles that are wrought for him.

R’ Hillel opines that “Israel has no Mashiach” – that is, no MBY; rather, Israel will enjoy only the coming of MBD – “for they already enjoyed it in the days of Hezekiah.” At that time, the soul of MBY descended to earth as the tzadik King Hezekiah, and the archenemies of the pre-Messianic era, Gog and Magog, descended as King Sennacherib of Syria. Sennacherib encamped around Jerusalem with his mighty army. On the first night of Pesach, an angel smote the entire army, and the Jews awoke in the morning to find their enemies dead (II Kings 19:35).

The Sages say the Mashiach is called “the leper of the house of Rabbi.” “Rabbi” was the title given to the Sages of the Holy Land; those in Babylon were called “Rav.” The MBY suffers illnesses and afflictions to atone for the people of Israel and for the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He is called “the leper of the house of Rabbi,” meaning, the one who suffers for Israel and Jerusalem.

The MBY sits near the Gan Eden (outside the gate of Rome), suffering for the people of Israel. In every generation, a spark of his soul enters a tzadik. Thus R’ Hayyim Vital writes that his mentor, the Arizal, had in him a spark of MBY. The Arizal instructed his disciples that when they prayed, “May you speedily establish the throne of David within [Jerusalem]” (Shemoneh Esreh), they should have in mind the MBY, who is called the “throne of David” (Sha’ar HaKavanot 37a) because the tzadik whom the spark of MBY would enter is from the seed of King David.

R’ Nahman was married to the daughter of the exilarch, who was a descendant of King David. R’ Nahman said: “If he is from the living, he is like me” – the spark of the MBY enters a tzadik not only if he is of the direct male lineage of King David, but even if he is like me in that his wife is a descendant of King David.

Rav said: “if he is from the living, he is like R’ Yehudah haNassi,” who was a descendant of King David only through his mother. R’ Yehudah therefore said that were Rav Huna, the exilarch, to come to the Land of Israel, R’ Yehudah would place the exilarch’ seat above his own, for the exilarch was a direct descendant of King David through the males, whereas R’ Yehudah was a descendant only through the females (Yerushalmi, Kilayim 9:3).

R’ Yehudah suffered great afflictions in order to protect the people of his generation. Rav was saying: if we find a tzadik from the seed of King David suffering affliction, he probably contains a spark of the MBY.

“If he is from the dead, he is like Daniel,” who also suffered for Israel, as it is written, “In those days, I, Daniel, was mourning three whole weeks. I ate no fine bread, and meat and wine did not come into my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all” (Daniel 10:2-3). Then an angel came to him and said, ‘From the first that you set your heart to understand and to afflict yourself before your G-d, your words were heard” (Daniel 10:12) [Days of Peace, Ben Ish Hi, Ben Yehoyada, pg.129-131].

 

Gog U Magog

Gog U Magog

Hezekiah and Gog U Magog

When the Talmud refers to Sennacherib as Gog and Magog, it means the entire force that he assembled to destroy Jerusalem at that time. Indeed, that seems to be one of the main criterion of the War of Gog and Magog, as the Leshem (Rabbi Shlomo Elyashiv) explains:

“After Mashiach comes, a major war will be instigated against Israel, as mentioned in the Holy Zohar (Shemos 7b), and in Parashas Vayaira (119a) and Toldos (139). This is the war of Gog and Magog spoken about in Yechezkel (38, 39) and Zechariah (14), as well as in Midrash Tehillim (Mizmor 118:9). There it says: ‘Three times in the future Gog and Magog will come against Israel and go up against Jerusalem, and assemble and anger the nations with him to go up to Jerusalem…” (Sha’arei Leshem, pg.491).

The Malbim wrote (Ovadya 1:1), “Edom caused harm to Israel during the destruction of the first Temple when they rejoiced over Israel’s downfall and the destruction of the Holy Temple. Afterwards, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, who are called Edom because the city of Rome was settled by the descendants of Edom… And, after that, their well-known faith [christianity] spread.

The kingdom of Gog and Magog represents specifically Edom as explained in the (Zohar, part 2, 7b; Zohar Chodosh, Balak; Shaarei HaLeshem, part 2:11) mainly because it is the primary source of those who display arrogance with their power.

 

And they shall look upon him whom they have pierced...

And they shall look upon him whom they have pierced…

Yeshu’a ben Yosef and Rome (Gog U Magog)

“When morning came, the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Yeshu’a in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

Then the (Roman) soldiers of the government took Yeshu’a into the government’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him.

After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27:1-2, 27, 31).

Also we read in the gospel of Yochanan:

“But when they came to Yeshu’a and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.” (Yochanan 19:33-34; Zech.12:10).

Yeshu’a of Nazareth was the MBY of his generation, Caesar/Pilate was Gog and Rome was Magog. Yeshu’a was a descendant of David and could have initiated the complete Geulah two-thousand years ago but his generation was not ready, they did not merit the ‘hastened’ Geulah (Sanhedrin 98a). His fame grew greatly as all Israel heard of the pious Rabbi from Nazareth, his wisdom and all the great signs which G-d was doing through him.

“And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Yeshu’a, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – (Matthew 21:10-11)

Yeshu'a ben Yosef

Yeshu’a ben Yosef

The Sitra Achra (the Other Side) broke loose against the Nazarene with great opposition, and a company of corrupted Saduccees plotted against him and raised false witnesses and sold him to Pilate to be executed.

It is a fact that Yeshu’a was indeed MBY, it is clear from his life, teachings and deeds. Furthermore a few authorities have made this same connection. Rabbi David Valle, a colleague of the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) says of Yeshu’a in his work (Sefer Likutim, vol.1, pg.241-242):

“And this was in fact the prince of the armies, because Mashiach ben Yosef is the one who does battle, and Mashiach ben David comes to make peace in the world, not war. This is opposite of Yeshu haNotzri , who said of himself, “I did not come into the world to make peace, but war” (Matt.10:34; Lk.12:49-53). And also he himself was certainly the mystery of Mashiach ben Yosef, even though he was an illegitimate child, because a student of the Sages who is a bastard precedes the High Priest who is unlearned (Mishna Horaot 3:8). However, since it was not yet the proper time, because there was baseless hatred (sinat chinam) in Israel, he was corrupted and held by Samael, who destroyed him, and he was crucified.” [A few others say that Yeshu’a was MBY: Rabbi Shimshon Ostropoli, Rabbi Abraham Abulafia].

Rabbi David Valle wrote the following in his Italian/Hebrew manuscript, (I Sette Giorni della Verità): “There was a whole fabrication about the danger of the teachings of that man (Yeshu). It was created with false dogmas and it was done in a repugnant manner. Through him a lot of nations were going to know G-d, and now we have to fix those mistakes.”

The Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) which came against Yeshu’a was the cause of his death, it was also the cause for the destruction of the second Temple and subsequent exile to this day (B.T Yoma 9b). Aryeh Silver says in his book of Yosef haTzadik, (The Haggadah for the Generations, pg.189):

“The Midrash explains that the cause of the exile to Egypt came about from the sale of Yosef haTzadik. During Pesach we start off the Seder with something that reminds of the ultimate cause of enslavement in Egypt. It is important for us to remember this lesson today in our Seders because the brothers sold Yosef out of sinat chinam, hatred towards each other, and that is something that we still suffer from today. So until the sin of selling Yosef is completely erased and there is no more sinat chinam amongst our people, we will remain in exile. However, when all of sinat chinam is gone and the Jewish people have unity, that is when Mashiach will come.”

The Sages teach, “the actions of the forefathers serve as a portent for their descendants.”

 

Fighting the wars of G-d

Fighting the wars of G-d

 

MBY – his mission and Concealment

In both the Jerusalem Talmud (Brachot 5b) and in Midrash Rabba (Eicha Rabba) we find the story of ‘Menachem ben Hezekiah’ who was born on the day the Temple was destroyed, he is MBY. This youth (na’ar – Gen.37b) was plucked from his mother’s arms by the wind and disappeared with no trace.

It is written of this youth (na’ar), “The spirit of our nostrils, the Mashiach of G-d, has been trapped by their corruption, of whom we said we will live in the shadow among the nations.” What is the meaning of the verse, “he requested life from you’? This is a great secret, because of our many sins MBY will die as it is taught in (Raya Mehemna, Sefer HaZohar, 448).

MBY is killed in his battle against Gog U Magog which is a battle against the forces of the Other Side (Zech.12:10). Rabbi Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin says concerning this great battle:

“Mashiach ben Yosef who wipes out all traces of Amalek, the one who will be perfectly clean, dies during the end times at the hands of Gog and Magog… ‘They will look upon him whom they pierced’ means literally that Israel pierced him, although legally speaking he did not deserve to die…since his generation was not clean; however, he had to be killed in order to atone for the people of Israel” (Rabbi Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin, Poke Akarim, Letter He).

MBY does not come for his own sake, but for the sake of the Kingdom of David (MBD). He will offer up his life and pour it out unto death (Isa.53:12) and his blood will atone for his people (Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, Shney Luchot HaBrit, 1724, pg.299b).

 

image

 

Victory even in death!

It is written in the Zohar, “A tzadik, even though he has passed from this world, is found in all worlds even more so than during his normal lifetime” (Zohar, Parshas Acharei 71b).

While hanging upon the cross, Yeshu’a said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk.23;34). The common folk pitied this most recent victim of Roman occupation and oppression, though those who were Yeshu’a enemies were surely content. The rulers (Jewish aristocrats), jeered at him and remarked sarcastically, “If this man, who wants to save others, is the Mashiach, may he first save himself!” The Roman soldiers joined in the jeering. One even ran, and filling a sponge with vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to Yeshu’a to drink (Mtt.27:48). The Sadducean priests also mocked Yeshu’a among themselves. Even one of the criminals, who was crucified next to him, added his own insults (Lk.23:39-43).

Finally, Yeshu’a cried out loudly, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:6) and died. “And all the multitudes who had gathered to see the sight, when they saw what had happened beat their breasts – as an expression of mourning and returned home” (Lk 23:48).

For as long as Yeshu’a was still clothed in a physical garment, he is confined to only one place, but after he takes off his body and puts on a spiritual garment, he can literally be everywhere, as we know from the true tzadikim, that after they passed from the world, their words (teachings) revealed and publicized HaShem’s goodness. And through the Jew Yeshu’a haTzadik teachings the entire world has heard of the goodness of the Creator – the G-d of Israel.

Although he has ascended to Shamayim, his soul (intellect) is still found in our world to a greater degree than when he was physically alive, for in his teachings (soul) and through his disciples which he has left behind they will continue to publicize them to the glory of G-d.

 

B”H!

Notes:

[Targum Jonathan, Zechariah 12:10]:
“And I shall pour out upon the house of David and upon the dwellers of Jerusalem a spirit of loyal love and compassion. And they will inquire of me because they were exiled, and they will mourn for him just as they mourn for an only one and will be in bitterness over him like the bitterness over a firstborn.”

 

[Targum Tosefta, Zechariah 12:10]:
“And I shall cause to rest upon the house of David and upon the dwellers of Jerusalem a spirit of prophecy and true prayer. And afterwards Mashiach bar Ephraim shall go forth to engage in battle with Gog, and Gog will slay him before the gate of Jerusalem.
And they will look to me and inquire of me why the nations pierced Mashiach bar Ephraim, and they will mourn for him just as a father and mother mourn for an only son and will be in bitterness over him like the bitterness over a firstborn.”

Kiddush HaShem

 

MBY

MBY

“This is what our Sages taught: There is no glory other than Torah (Avot 6:3). And, concerning “If you take out the precious from the vile” (Jeremiah 15:19), our Sages taught: This refers to those who draw people to the service of G-d (Bava Metzia 85a). For this is called “taking out the precious” – i.e., glory – “from the vile” – from the lowliness of exile.” (Likutey Moharan #14:2, 3)

Bringing people back to G-d is likened to glory, for through this act, the glory of G-d is revealed – elevated from exile. In (Bava Metzia 85a) we read, “…you will be like My mouth.” In other words, whoever brings back people to G-d is given the ability to repeal and nullify a harsh decree proclaimed by Heaven! Such is the power of the mitzvah of bringing people back to G-d.

Guiding and helping one’s fellow Jew (or human being) back to G-d is a great fundamental. Concerning this great mitzvah the Zohar (II, 128b) teaches: One should run after his fellow Jew who has sinned in order to remove from him the filth and subdue the Other Side…By doing so, it is as if he gave birth to him (for the penitent is like a new-born person). This is a very great tribute which causes G-d’s glory to be elevated more than any other tribute. Whoever engages in this is like Aharon, of whom it is written (Malachi 2:6), “He brought many back from sin.” The person who brings the sinners back to G-d surpasses all others in three aspects: 1) in the way he subdues the Other Side; 2) in the way he elevates the glory of G-d; 3) in the way he causes the entire world to be preserved, above and below. About this person the verse says (Malachi 2:5), “My covenant is with him, life and peace… He will merit seeing children and grandchildren, rewarded with this world and the next. His enemies will be incapable of standing up against him. He will ascend through the Twelve Gates in Heaven (corresponding to the Twelve Tribes) and no one can stand in his way.

The Nazarenes Merit

Yeshu'a haNotzri

Yeshu’a haNotzri

Yeshu’a ben Yosef was involved in a tshuvah movement, bringing those far from G-d back to Him. He associated with sinners, but this in itself did not violate tradition, since G-d too yearns for those who have missed the mark to return, to engage in tshuvah. Various Biblical Prophets transmitted this message. Yehoshua told the idolatrous Israelites, “Turn your hearts to HaShem” (Joshua 24:23); Ezekiel 18:31); and Malachi transmitted this message from G-d: “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (Mal.3:7). The Midrash says of G-d: “My children, open for Me an opening of tshuvah the size of an eye of a needle, and I will open for you openings through which wagons and coaches can pass” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 5:3).

Jesus condemned hypocrisy and injustice among his own people and sought to prepare his followers for the coming Redemption, for the Malkhut Shamayim (Kingdom of Heaven). For Jesus, the Kingdom was not a pious theory or a far-off promise. It was an immediate reality that could not be denied or evaded. Jewish mysticism later identified the kingdom with the Shekhinah (the Presence of G-d). Jesus too identified Kingdom with Presence: the Kingdom is here and now. Jesus was compelled to make his fellow Jews aware of this awesome, humbling fact. To enter the kingdom, Jesus said, you must be like a child. Innocence is a window to the Infinite, unavailable to the skeptical mind until it pauses and reflects. Like later Hasidim, Jesus felt that it was not enough to follow the Torah: One must become Torah, living so intensely that one’s every day actions convey an awareness of G-d and evoke this awareness in others. [Daniel Matt].

During the course of the years he spent teaching, he worked exclusively among Jewish people, claiming that he had been sent only to Israel, and he cautioned his disciples not to teach among Gentiles (although the message later went out through Divine Providence). Jesus pursued the non-observant and secular among the Jewish people whom he referred to as the “lost sheep of Israel,” and he called upon them to repent. He upheld the enduring validity of the Torah and urged his disciples to reach for a standard of righteousness that exceeded even that of the Pharisees. He championed the cause of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the despised, and did not hesitate to associate with those considered outcasts. He challenged the halachic status quo by prioritizing compassion for human beings above ritual constraints, even to the point of conducting healings on Shabbat (Pikuach nefesh).

When a Scribe asked Jesus what he considered to be the greatest mitzvah of the Torah, he replied:

“The first of all the mitzvot is: “Hear, O Yisrael! HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is one. Love HaShem, your G-d, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your knowledge, and with all of your strength” [Devarim 6:4-5]. This is the first mitzvah. Now the second is similar to it: “Love your fellow as yourself” [Vayikra 19:18]. There is no mitzvah greater than these.” (Mark.12:30-31)

Another Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth

In the last two thousand years myriads of lost souls have come near to the Creator through the merit of Jesus of Nazareth. It has not been perfect, not in the least because in order for the light to reach the Other Side – the tzadik must go into the very klipa in order to extract the lost souls. This has been a very painful process, for Israel who has suffered greatly at the hands of Christians, to Jesus and his name, and also to the nations who have been taught lies. Through the stumbling of Israel over the tzadik and subsequent handing over of Jesus of Nazareth to the nations (Esav/Rome), a great light has come to them (Isa.49:6), the light of tshuvah.

Admonishing to repent – not only Israel, but also the other nations, in the line of the Prophet Yonah, who was the Mashiach ben Yosef in his generation, as explained in the midrashim and in the holy Zohar. As is written: [Isa.2:4] he will admonish many peoples; also [Pro.24:25] “for the admonishers it will be pleasant, and a good blessing will come upon them”, and also [Isa.11:4] “and admonish righteously the humble of the earth.” [Kol HaTor, chap.2, 75].

 

Retrieving the Lost Sparks.

Esav/Rome/Christianity

Esav/Rome/Christianity

Jesus has been the leading character in the battle against the great husks surrounding the nations (Esav/Rome), he wars against the husks in the capacity of the nachash (snake). The gospel of John says concerning this sod: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (3:14). This capacity of nachash is given to MBY who is the mystical embodiment of the left (The Ramchal, Kinat HaSHem tsevaot, 20). Because the root of MBY is in the left, in the realm of strict judgment, he is exposed to grave danger by his contact with the Sitra Acra, and suffers blemishes on many occasions in his vicissitudes in this world in the descent of his soul to the husks. [These blemishes are in the realm of spirituality, because he is surrounded with maklokes and strict judgment].

NEHUSHTAN

Sunk in the Klipa of Rome

Sunk in the Klipa of Rome

The sin of the golden calf by which Israel stumbled, after reaching the highest level of tikunim in the giving of the Torah, is connected with mby…for the calf ‘is the mystical representation of “the face of the ox on the left side” (Eze.1:10) which is the MBY,’ and the sin of the golden calf was responsible for the most grievous misdeed in the incarnation of the MBY – Jeroboam’s sin, ‘for afterwards came Jeroboam, who himself was MBY, and sinned against his mystical mission by making the calves’ (the Ramchal, Kinat HaShem tsevaot, 21-2).

The Ramchal teaches that in the Zohar (Ra’ya Meheimna, III, 276b), Jeroboam by his sin, ‘had to be profaned by idolatry, he and his seed.’ The Ramchal goes on to say that if it had not been for the sufferings of Moshe Rabbeinu it would have been necessary for MBY to be profaned by idolatry which would have provided the Other Side ascendency. [There have been those who have come in the root of MBY, even one like Jeroboam but they did not receive the yechida of MBY – that is the MBY in the likeness of Yosef haTzadik who is the ‘sod hameshihut – the mystical embodiment of the messiahship.’]

Jesus has suffered greatly – the Sitra Achra taking hold of him since he has fallen into the hands of Esav. The klipa of Esav is full of great filth and impurities. Like the bronze serpent which was a source of good and tikun and later turned into an object of idolatry, Jesus suffered the same after his death. The nations, who do not know their right from their left (Jonah 4:11) turned a tzadik into an object of idolatry for they did not have the emunah to guide them. The sages taught:

“Did the [brass] serpent cause death or cause life? No; [what it indicated is that] when Israel turned their thoughts upward and subjected their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were healed, but otherwise they pined away” (Rosh Hashana 29a).

The Ramchal teaches of the Mashiach’s fighting in the depths of the husks and needing to be cleansed of the filth that sticks to him. He says of the birth of Yaakov as relating to MBY (Megilat Setarim, 7):

“And afterwards Mashiach ben Yosef comes forth, his hand grasping Esav’s heel; the Sitra Achra has a hold on the heels of holiness at the lower levels, and accordingly the Mashiach ben Yosef must go into all parts of the husk, even the heels, to extract every good part of it, for which reason ‘his hand grasps the heel of Esav,’ and that is the underlying meaning of ‘on the heels of the Mashiach’ [Mishnah, Sotah 9:15], that it is necessary to subdue these heels.”

 

Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the the Vatican Sunday, March 31, 2013. "Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that is where death is," he said. "Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life!" said Pope Francis during the Easter vigil. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The MBY must use shrewdness with the Other Side in order to retrieve the hidden sparks within its possession. He approaches it in the aspect of: “To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd” (Ps.18:27). All this function was carried out by Jesus but not while alive in our world but in the spiritual worlds, it’s a battle of the minds. Jesus has been clothed in the Other Side – in the aspect of Yosef haTzaddik and his descent into Egypt and as he was known there (Zaphenath-paneah). During Jesus lifetime he was protected by the aspect of Moshe Rabbeinu (the Torah) which protects from the impurities of the Sitra Achra.

The verse, ‘the spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the water’ (Gen.1:2) alludes to the soul of MBY among the husks (Adir bamarom, 192; Igerot, I.122). [Waters is associated with nations]. Also Yonah haNavi while in the sea and in the belly of the whale symbolizes MBY sunk in the abyss of the husks (Kinat HaShem tsevaot, fo.240r).

We all must do our part to help relieve the suffering of MBY (Jesus), we must free him of the filth of the husks (Rome) which he is trapped in, we must pray that he live (Ps.21:4). Like the tzadik King Hezekiah we must destroy the klipa of the bronze serpent which was idolized:

“He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moshe had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).” (2.Kings.18:4).

Once this is done, he will be able to be seen for who he is, a son of Israel and a great tzadik!

 

"I am Yosef."

“I am Yosef.”

 

B”H!

The Cursed One

the bronze serpent

the bronze serpent

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by G-d. You shall not defile your land that HaShem your G-d is giving you for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)

The apostles summarized it succinctly in the words “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” Crucifixion as a capital punishment was not a Jewish but Roman form of execution, the most gruesome and horrifying form known to antiquity.

Jewish law recognized four kinds of capital punishment: stoning, burning, decapitation and strangulation. The Mishna, in tractate Sanhedrin 7, is specifically concerned with these forms of execution and details the crimes punishable by each. After the sentence of death was carried out, the executed individual was then hung on a pole as a means of holding him up to public display. According to religio-legal prescriptions, this applied only to male blasphemers and idolaters. The corpse had to be taken down by evening and buried. This prescription was strictly observed in the crucifixion of Yeshu.

The idea that a man had to be taken down before sunset is ancient. It is documented as early as Yehoshua 8:29 and 10:27, which state that even enemy kings who had been hanged were taken down from the tree or gallows prior to sunset. In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Gerhard von Rad remarks on this:

“The regulation about the body of a man who has been hanged…starts from the very ancient conception that the land must be protected against pollution. From this point of view the customary degrading exhibition of the corpse should be limited in time. The maxim in v.23 explaining the reason for the ordinance uses as an argument a conception which must have been generally widespread, namely, that the corpse of a hanged man is a threat to the cultic purity of the land, and thus might interfere with its yield.”

Although the sentence of crucifixion is not provided for in Jewish law, it was nevertheless known only too well in Israel long before the crucifixion of Yeshu. Here we think of the passage in Ezra 6:11, which deals with an edict of the Persian supreme King, Darius the Great, around 510 B.C.E. concerning the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Whoever did not wish to take part in the work was threatened with a terrible punishment: “Furthermore I decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of the house of the perpetrator, who then shall be impaled on it.” Hence, the threat of crucifixion was known in Israel by way of Persian culture some five hundred years before Yeshu. To be sure, it was only a threat; we have no proof that this gruesome form of execution was actually practiced at that time in the Biblical land.

7020227245_1cfa1714bd_b

There is also a report of the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (reigned 103-76 B.C.E.), which claims that he had eighty Jewish citizens crucified. The Dead Sea scrolls offer indirect proof and at the same time stress that crucifixion was scandalous and not widely practiced: the so-called Nachum Commentary from the scrolls of Qumran speaks of a “lion” that crucified his victims; this was something, according to the commentary “which never happened in Israel.”

Justice Haim Cohn notes that the verb tsalav (crucify) is employed imprecisely in the Aramaic texts of the rabbinic literature and occasionally applies to hanging (Trial and Death, 209-10). Some passages describe crucifixion as ‘kederekh hamalkhuth’, ‘in the manner of the empire.’ The old legal literature of the Sages also equates strangulation with hanging.

It is remarkable that the phrase expressing the curse of hanging (Deut.21:23) is translated in the Aramaic Targum (the translation of Yoanathan Ben Uzzi’el) as “for the crucified is a curse.” Here again, hanging and crucifixion are equated.

Of the four kinds of capital punishment in Hebrew law, the fourth, strangulation, is described in the Aramaic Targum of Ruth 1:17 as crucifixion – though it should be noted in this instance that strangulation and hanging are synonymous. As Haim Cohn demonstrates (Trial and Death, chap.8), these strikingly inexact usages are not difficult to explain. Cohn observes that capital punishment had gone out of practice long before the Rabbinic authors in question were writing. Nor should we always equate the presence of a codified law with the actual carrying-out of the punishment.

After being scourged, Yeshu haNotzri is led by the Roman soldiers to the place of execution. He is made to bear his own cross. The sight of a condemned man bearing a cross is deeply etched in Jewish consciousness. An example is provided in the Midrash Rabba in Genesis 22:6: “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Yitzhak.” The Midrash comments, “Like one who carries his cross on his shoulders.” Yitzhak, who bears the wood to the sacrificial altar on Mount Moriah, is portrayed as one bearing a cross. [Schalom ben Chorin].

Commenting on our verses in (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria tz’l, 1534-1572) eulogized the Ramak (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, 1522-1570):

“Literally, this means, “when a man has a sin for which he is sentenced to death and he is put to death.” However since the word (“sin”) can also mean “deficiency,” the Arizal rendered: “When a man is lacking any cause to be sentenced to death, then why is he put to death?
Literally this means , “you should hang him on the gallows.” However, the term “hang” can also be translated as “blame.” Thus the Arizal explained, when a person devoid of sin, such as Ramak, passes away: “you should blame it on the [?],” i.e., not on his own sins, which are lacking, but to the tree of knowledge, which caused death to be decreed upon the world.

In other words, the passing of such a tzaddik is devoid of any negative cause at all. In such a case, it is simply that G-d willed that death should occur in the world so that the righteous could enjoy the spiritual elevation that occurs when passing from one world to another (Ya’arot Devash 2,126c).

The Talmud also mentions four individuals who led sinless lives and died only because of “the venom of the primordial snake” (Shabbat 55b). [These four are – Benjamin, the son of Yaakov; Amram, the father of Moshe; Jesse, the father of David, and Chileab, the son of David]. The Talmud implies that the individuals it mentions, though sinless, could not shake the self-orientation that had been injected into humanity by the primordial snake (Torah Or, end of Mishpatim).

One who has been hanged is under G-d’s curse.

among the husks of Edom

among the husks of Edom

Isaiah describes the curses which come upon G-d’s servant: “He was despised, abandoned by men, a man of pains, schooled in sickness. He was like one who hides his face fro us – despised, and we thought nothing of him. Indeed, he carried our sicknesses and endured our pains, whereas we thought him to be afflicted, smitten by G-d, tormented. He was profaned on account of our sins, crushed on account of our iniquities. For our benefit was he punished, and through his wound we found healing” (Isaiah.53:3-5).

The Kabbalist and Mystics devoted very close attention to the profanation (curse) of the Mashiach. “He was profaned on account of our sins, crushed on account of our iniquities” (Isa.53:5)… In the Gemara, the Zohar, the Tikkunim and other sources, this verse is applied to Moshe Rabbeinu, Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David.

The word meholal [profanation] turns out, under close examination, to be derived from hol [the state of being non-holy]. So the Sages tell us in tractate Sanhedrin, in connection with the verse “if a kohen’s daughter profane herself by whoring” [Lev.21:9; Sanhedrin 50b], and in many passages in which they expound the verse “do not profane your daughter to make her a whore” [Lev.19:29; Sanhedrin 76a]. Similarly in Ezekiel: “…for the sake of His Name that is profaned among the Gentiles. And I will sanctify My great Name that you have profaned” [Eze.36:23]. His point is that “I will again make My Name holy, you having profaned it among the Gentiles.” In like manner, “whoever profanes it must be executed” [Exo.31:14]: the Shabbat is holy, and anyone who makes it non-holy deserves execution.

Now, our Sages have interpreted “he was profaned on account of our sins” as referring to Moshe, who was buried, not in the Holy Land, but in non-holy location beside Beth-peor (Deut.34:6 – Zohar III, 280a [Ra’ya Mehemna]). This was done for the sake of the sinful generation of the desert, it’s purpose being to make atonement for them and to allow them to enter the land of Israel at the time the dead are resurrected. They apply it also to Mashiach ben David (Ruth Rabba 5:6; Midrash Shmuel 19:1; Zohar II, 212a). For, like Moshe Rabbeinu, he is destined to be “profaned” like a corpse in a criminal’s grave, this being the secret meaning of the words “he placed his grave with criminals” [Isa.53:9]. From having been holy, he is to be made non-holy.

Mashiach ben Yosef is to be profaned in a similar vein. Jeroboam ben Nebat who came in the line of MBY worshipped idols and led Israel into sin; Mashiach ben Yosef is therefore to be profaned amid the husks in order to make atonement for the sin of idolatry.

The holy Ari’s disciple Rabbi Hayyim Vital tz’l and the distinguished Kabbalist Hayyim Kohen of Aleppo – author of “The Scholar’s Torah” (Zohar III, 227a; Torat Hakham [Venice 1654], p.18b), declares that Mashiach ben David is to be profaned among the Gentile nations. Both MBY and MBD are to be profaned among the Gentiles nations. It is interesting that the Prophet Isaiah doesn’t use the reflexive verb mithallel, which could mean that “he profaned himself,” but the passive mehullal, meaning that “he was profaned.” The MBY will be profaned not of his own free will but by the sins of others.

The Mashiach does not descend to the husks while he is in this world, but the superior neshama [the yechida] which is to reside in the Mashiach who is sunk among the husks together with the Shekihnah and the souls of the great tzaddikim, and there they suffer from lack of light and many kinds of distress, and they are called sufferers of illnesses who suffer the sins of Israel.

The Ramchal explains that the tzaddik ‘who has separated himself while in this world from the Sitra Achra and has cleaved to his holy root’ by virtue of his good deeds; therefore the SItra Achra has no authority to take hold of his soul when it leaves this world. But ‘sometimes that soul descends and clothes itself in the husk, in such a way that the Sitra Achra surrounds it…and, while not adhering to the soul at all, deprives it of the light which ought to be revealed to it in accordance with its merit’ (Kinat HaShem tsevaot [1888], 16). These souls, in partnership with the Shekhinah, fulfill a mission to preserve exiled Israel by bearing the burden of their sins.

There is a description of the Mashiach as a snake [nachash] on the basis of the numerical equality in gematria of the two words [mashiach and nachash both equal 358] and the explanation of his situation and actions in relation to the husks by the mystery of the changing of the staff into a snake and the snake into a staff. After examining the aspects of staff and snake in the state of Din residing in the Shekhinah, which is symbolized by the letters dalet and nun in the name Adonai (Razin Genizin, 76-7, 79), the Ramchal explains thus:

“Against this [the situation where the Sitra Achra gain the upper hand and the staff is turned into a snake] there is the Mashiach, and that is the yechida which is made ready to crown the two Meshichim. This too, belongs to the mystery of the staff… For in its place stands the Mashiach, and by force of his authority he subdues the nations and raises up all the necessary very rim [sparks which he sifts out]; but when the staff is transformed the Mashiach too has the numerical value of nachash, a snake, and the tikun is conveyed to him in a different way, in that he must go and clothe himself in the husks and be confined to prison there, deprived of light and the divine flow, and those are the diseases which he bears. And I say to you that is why is meant by the statement that he sits at the gate of Rome (Sanhedrin 98a); and that is exactly what is meant by ‘his grave was made with the wicked’ (Isa.53:9)…and from there he sifts out the sparks which Israel needs.” (Kinat HaShem Tsevaot 19)

the klipa

the klipa

Thus the soul of the Mashiach operates in two ways in order to prepare the Geulah: in the mystical form of the staff when it is standing in its place and ruling form above over the Sitra Achra and the enemies of Israel, and in the mystical form of the snake when it is among the husks and subjected to them. Even in the capacity of a nachash the Mashiach performs tikunim to subdue evil: ‘for the nachash itself can be a good tikun by overturning evil; and know that the Mashiach must stand in this relationship during the Golus, precisely in order to overturn evil so that it is below the good… It is in this regard that the king Mashiach must gather strength in this mystery of the nachash which has the numerical value of Mashiach (Adir Bamarom 192)’, for even in the midst of the husks ‘the king Mashiach, who stands in the mystical form of nachash, gathers strength in holiness and the Sitra Achra cannot detach him’ (Adir Bamarom 194). But this tikun is not of a high order, because the Mashiach suffers torments and his strength is sapped:

“Now all this applies to the Mashiach in his mystical capacity as the nachash; in that capacity, while he is in exile, he binds the husks together [and places them] below holines, and then he is said (Ps.88:6) to be ‘free among the dead’; it is to this that Scripture alludes in the verse ‘He has made me dwell in darkness like those who are long since dead’ (Lam.3:6), but he has no power to perform a tikun by way of fulfillment of a commandment but only by way of the Torah, of which it is said ‘And nothing is left except this Torah.'” (Adir Bamarom 194)

The Mashiach is called chivra (leper) after Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, who either suffered greatly or was in fact a leper. To support their claim that Mashiach is called chivra, the students of Rabbi Yehudah say, “His name is chivra after the house of Rabbi, since it says, ‘We esteemed him stricken, smitten by G-d, and afflicted'” (Sanhedrin 98b).

The Navi speaks about the Mashiach who is touched by G-d and who becomes a leper for the sake of Israel.

There is an encounter of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, a student of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, with Mashiach. On a quest to find out when Mashiach would come, Rabbi Yehoshua ends up in Rome, where he sees one leper amongst the poor and the sick who is tying and untying his bandages (Sanhedrin 98a). Rabbi Yehoshua identifies this leper as Mashiach and asks him when he will come. Mashiach answer him with the single word “Today!” Waiting in vain till the day was over, Rabbi Yehoshua complains to this teacher that Mashiach lied to him. Rabbi Shimon replies to his disappointed student: “He said he will only come today, if you will hear His voice” (Ps.95:7).

B”H!

the holy nachash!

For Kedusha [Kisvei Ramad Vali (63)]

untitled

 

“And Moshe took his wife and his sons and he saddled them on the donkey” (Shemos 4:20)

The Torah relates that Moshe saddled then on the donkey. Which donkey? Chazal teach us that it was the same donkey Avraham Avinu rode to Akeidas Yitzhak and is destined to be the same donkey the Mashiach will arrive on, speedily in our days. On a deeper level this donkey alludes to the klipos nogah. The klipos nogah can be understood as an aspect of spirituality which when attached to the tum’ah is impure but when attached to kedusha becomes holy. We can illustrate this idea through examples of ordinary mundane acts in our physical world. A mitzvah is an act of kedusha while an aveira (sin) is an act of tum’ah. Eating an apple is neither a mitzvah nor an aveira – if eaten in the proper manner the apple becomes spiritually refined and associated with kedusha. On the other hand, an apple which was stolen and eaten without a berachah becomes associated with tum’ah. This donkey is a representation of the klipos nogah which in its rectified state is a vehicle for the kedusha. The donkey, is the same name given to this klipah because it represents the less refined aspect of spirituality (the word, meaning physicality devoid of spirituality, is comprised of the same letters). In comparison to kedusha this less refined aspect is almost devoid of spirituality and is nothing more than pure physicality. When the klipas nogah is rectified and subservient to the kedusha it becomes the physicality which houses and becomes the vehicle for the kedusha to accomplish its goals in the physical world.

When kedusha descends it must be clothed in an outward appearance similar to our physical world – the klipos nogah is that external covering. The pasuk states: “Behold HaShem is riding on a light cloud and coming to Egypr” (Yeshayanu 19:1). The Hebrew word, in addition to cloud, also means thick or less refined – a reference to the klipas nogah. It is also meaning light (as in lightweight) for this klipa is lowly and almost irrelevant in comparison to the kedusha. This klipa, however, becomes a tool for kedusha to fulfill its purpose in the physical world.

The donkey used by Moshe to redeem Bnei Yisroel served as the klipas nogah used by the kedusha to drive the other klipos of tum’ah info submission. This was the same donkey saddled by Avraham Avinu when he took Yitzhak to the akeidah where it was used to prevent the tum’ah from interfering with Avraham’s mission of the akeidah, when Avraham told Yishmael (the embodiment of tum’ah) to remain behind with the donkey and not accompany them on the rest of the journey. This is the same donkey which will be used by the Melech HaMashiach to transform all the evil of this world into good and to make tum’ah subservient to kedusha – the steps required to bring about a tikkun for the entire world.

(Ramchal on the Parshas, Shemos, pg.42-43)

 

A Letter From Rabbi Gamaliel Ben Gamaliel

A Letter From Rabbi Gamaliel Ben Gamaliel

Translator, Stanley Ned Rosenbaum

 

Rabbi Gamaliel ben Gamaliel

Rabbi Gamaliel ben Gamaliel

[Translator’s note: Even in scholarly circles, Rabbi Gamaliel ben Gamaliel is but little known. His approximate dates, 31 B.C.E. – 42 C.E., make him contemporary with the second generation of Tannaim, but none of his opinions is cited in the Talmud. He is remembered mainly for misanthropic epigrams, such as “What is thought fearless is often fearfully thoughtless,” and “The more principles, the more enemies.” The text presented in the annotated translation below is by far the longest extant piece attributed to him. I have tried to retain the flavor of the original Hebrew by adding such glosses as are necessary to make the text more immediately accessible.

The RaGBaG, as he is called, is thought to be the last son of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, mentioned in Acts 22 and in many rabbinic sources. However, Jews don’t name children after the living. If his father died while the boy was in utero, accounting for the unusual name, then RaGBaG’s dates don’t accord with Gamaliel’s as far as we know them. Consequently, a considerable body of opinion holds that the RaGBaG did not in fact exist and that this piece is, necessarily, a fraud or a best a latter-day attempt at Pseudeigraha. I leave it to the individual reader to decide.]

 

Henry_Ossawa_Tanner_-_Jesus_and_nicodemus-600x513

 

 

Esteemed Philo,

 

I trust that you are well, may you continue to be so, and that the community in Alexandria is thriving despite the recent unpleasantness of which we have but lately heard. Not all my news will be unknown to you, but I trust you will indulge me.

Reports from Rome tell that Pontius Pilate is dead and by no natural cause. You may think me vindictive, but I am happy that I have lived to see it; the murdering rogue deserved no better than the fate he so freely dealt to others. I understand Pilate backed Sejanus {1} in his machinations to gain the imperium and when that one fell, he too was ruined. This is hardly to be wondered at. Pilate lacked the diplomatic skills the first Herod displayed following the battle at Actium – the year I was born, else I should scarcely know the year of my birth.

 

Pontius Pilate Roman Prefect

Pontius Pilate Roman Prefect

With Pilate gone, our King Agrippa finally felt free to complain of him to Rome, telling of his high-handedness, confiscation of property, and even murder of our people without trial {2}. I was initially grateful that Caligula prevailed, for had Sejanus become emperor, who knows what evil would here befall us. But one is as bad as the next and Caligula is rumored to be unstable. I know that he purposefully insulted your community by insisting that his statutes be placed in your synagogues.

 

It is near a hundred years since the accursed Romans have been in the land, a scourge to rival the Babylonians, may their memory be forgotten, and I have had the misfortune of being alive nearly three score and ten of those years. “By reason of strength,” I might have ten more if the Psalm [90:3] is right, but in all candor, dear friend, I do not wish them. Better to die out of this world and trust G-d’s mercy on me in the world to come than further to endure the Roman tyranny as my remaining strength fades.

 

As you will surmise, things here are no better than ever they were. Herod Antipas has lately contrived to murder “the immerser” {3} John,” a man who urged all to immerse themselves in the living waters of the Jordan before the great and terrible day of the L-rd. He maintained that this act could atone for sin. Our priests most emphatically deny this claim; to admit it would, of course, make them unnecessary! John’s “crime” was that he had the temerity to speak against Herod’s illicit marriage to his brother’s divorced wife. Shortly thereafter Herod was soundly thrashed by his Nabatean former father-in-law. He had put away the man’s daughter in order to conclude the illegal marriage. Better for Herod if we had not done away with the multiple wives our fathers had. Here in Jerusalem they say that Herod’s defeat was G-d’s retribution for John’s murder. Needless to add, John died without even the pretense of a trial.

 

Yochanan the Immerser

Yochanan the Immerser

All of our embassies to Antioch or to Rome to protest Pilate’s excesses were useless, really. Vitellius pretended to recall Pilate, but he was not recalled; he went back to help Sejanus secure the emperorship… How the Romans could have continued in office for so many years a man of such monumental brutality, corruption, and insolence is unfathomable. Apparently, the vaunted Roman “law” is something they impose on others without feeling the need of following it themselves. I fear, though, that it is Pilate’s murder of one Yehoshua ben Joseph of Nazareth, even though it is some years ago now {4}, shortly after Pilate came here if memory serves, that may prove the most troubling of all their foul deeds.

James_Tissot_Jesus_Before_Pilate_First_Interview_700

This Joshua was a Galilean, as were most of his followers, and Northerners have always been the most uncomfortable under Roman rule. Revolts against Rome invariably begin there so that we Judeans have a saying, “Can anything good come out of Galilee?” {5} The first Herod brought himself to the favorable attention of Rome by putting down a band of rebellious Galileans who had rallied around one Hezekiah, and that happened only shortly before I was born. My grandfather, who had the story from some who managed to flee, told me of it. There have been other revolts since, including that of Hezekiah’s son, most beginning in the North and all coming to the same, predictably bloody, end.

 

This Joshua, however, was, like John, a preacher of the reign of G-d that many now wish for. He had no political ambitions that I can discern. Yehoshua’s very lack of political purpose, however, may have proved his undoing. He had disciples among the Zealots who must have attached hidden meaning to his saying, “I bring not peace but a sword” [Matt.10:34]. Deluded fools. Yehoshua counseled not to resist evil but to “turn the other cheek” [Matt.5:39]. Rather a prudent counsel, I should say. It is rumored that one of his Zealot followers betrayed him to the Romans either in rage that Yehoshua would not call for a popular uprising or in hopes that his death would provoke one.

 

Yeshua ben Yosef

Yeshua ben Yosef

Romans do not differentiate between political and religious movements here anymore than they do among Jews, Samaritans, and Galileans. They have among them observers of our history who say of us, “Where their religions talk, their politics stalk.” And in fairness, with so many people here confidently expecting that G-d will raise an anointed one from among us, a messiah to deliver us, the Romans’ present fear is not without foundation.

They watch popular movements with great vigilance. One more than one occasion Pilate had soldiers dressed as Jews circulate among us and break up our legitimate demonstrations by laying about with clubs, wounding many and scattering the rest. The real reason for the death of Yehoshua was the fear that his movement would become political.

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At Yehoshua’s crucifixion they mocked him as “King of the Jews,” to which we objected most strenuously. Yehoshua had said, “The kingdom of G-d is within you” [Lk.17:21], by which I am sure he meant to comment on the verse that tells us “the Torah is not in Heaven, but very near us to do it” [Deut.30:11-14]. Such subtleties would be better cast before swine than wasted on Roman ears.

Since the Romans came we have not had the power of capital punishment and would exercise it with enormous caution if we did have it. It is a saying amongst us that a Sanhedrin that decreed one death penalty in seven years we would call “bloody.” {6} I cannot believe that any Jew would betray a fellow to the Romans for crucifixion, no matter what our differences. Crucifixion is the most painful and protracted death imaginable, far from our practices. {7}

Cropped_Brooklyn_Museum_James_Tissot_Pardon_of_the_Good_Thief

Yet perhaps this thought of mine is but a pious wish. I know that some priests implored Yehoshua to have a care not to incite the Romans to violence against us. Others, however, such as the Herodians of Boethus’s party {8} have done very well by accepting Roman rule – at a cost of their place in the world to come, or so it is to be hoped – and might sell anyone to preserve their positions. The high priest’s father-in-law has the monopoly on changing foreign coins at the Temple, six days a week. It would be seven if they could. He and his greedy brood sit in their stalls on the southern end of the Temple complex and cheat Jewish brethren from abroad by giving them grossly unfair rates of exchange.

 

The foreign Jews have no choice; they cannot use coins with images on them even to buy sacrificial animals, so they must submit to this outrageous gouging or go home without having performed their sacrifices. Since the time of Zechariah [14:21], no one had said anything in public until this Yehoshua had the courage to beard them in their foul den. When the “customers” heard it, they all left in disgust.

 

Cleansing the Temple "Zeal for Your house will consume me."

Cleansing the Temple
“Zeal for Your house will consume me.”

So the Boethusians had no choice but to depart themselves, if only for a day, and in no good humor I can tell you. Their greed might, G-d forbid, cause them to acquiesce even in murder, especially of Zealots or those whom they can convince the Romans are allied with them. And I have heard it said more than once that the only good Samaritan is a dead Samaritan, though I do not know who authored this intemperate remark.

 

Some of the priests (Saducees) plotting against Yeshua

Some of the priests (Saducees) plotting against Yeshua

Ten years on and the hoped-for revolt does not seem to be happening. But tensions remain high. I would not advise any Jew from the Diaspora to come here now. Who is to say when the Zealots will take up arms against Rome in a war we cannot win? Meanwhile, there seems to be no end to the claims advanced by this new sect.

 

Some of Yehoshua’s followers, especially amongst our women, insist that he was resurrected after the manner of Isaac who, they say, was killed by our father Abraham, ascended to Heaven, and there was given life again. You have no idea, my dear Philo, of the incredible variety of stories circulating here. But then, your Alexandrian brethren maintain the equally absurd proposition {9} that the Greek translation of Torah was the work of seventy-two scholars who produced identical texts while working independently! I suppose, then, that fables are no one’s sole possession.

BROOKL~1

It is most disturbing in any case, this rendering of Scripture into Greek. Almost, I should say, were it not such a cliché, a sword of Damocles. Admittedly, most Jews in your community have not enough Hebrew to read Scripture – I have heard this said even of you, dear friend – but do we really wish to cast it into a language where it may be read by any Gentile? Left to themselves, what will these pagans make of it? And what not?

 

If I am not being too misanthropic, let me observe that a martyred leader has one advantage over a living one; he cannot be killed again. The question is: Can such a one still lead? His brother Jacob (James), whom I see often at the Temple, is become head of the Jerusalem faction, but more than a few believe the tale of Yehoshua’s resurrection.

 

Yaakov haTzaddik (AKA James the righteous)

Yaakov haTzaddik (AKA James the righteous)

Resurrection is a controversial notion, amongst us at least. You will know how seriously the Egyptians take this matter, preserving the bodies of all with money enough to pay for it, regardless of merit.  Yehoshua said that it is easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of Heaven [Matt.19:24]. Being a man of some means myself, I hope that wealth is not a disqualification and I give generously to the poor without any of them knowing whence it comes. But we have long been divided over questions of the world to come on other grounds.

 

The parable of the rich ruler

The parable of the rich ruler

Sadducees and Boethusians say there is no resurrection, but we Pharisees hold that there must be: how else explain Elijah’s ascending into heaven and Enoch’s walking with G-d when he was no more? The question as to whether the body itself will be resurrected cannot be answered from Scripture without forcing upon the text words that it does not contain. I say nothing against the allegorical reading of which, I know, you are so fond; many amongst us have long since deviated from the path of pshat, the plain meaning of text, to look for other, deeper meanings, and this informs our rabbinic drashim. {10}

Nowhere is this new use of Scripture more eagerly undertaken than among Yehoshua’s adherents. They comb the Torah and the Prophets as well as the lesser writings looking for verses that they can equate with his reported deeds, which are magnified as they are repeated, even if they mutilate texts in the process. He is said by some to have fed a multitude as Elijah did, and by others to have raised a man from the dead, as both Elijah and Elisha. Some claim that he walked on water, which no prophet has done. Others trace his lineage to Abraham but maintain that he was sired by no human father. If I am not needlessly repeating myself, who knows where all the fable-making might lead?

In any event, this Yehoshua had no harm in him. But he was, for all that, a curious, even a strange person about whom very little is known. He is said to have been a illui [a child genius] holding his own with elders when he was twelve – that will have been about the time of Quirinius’s abominable Census {11} – and I have spoken to no one who can confirm it. “Tales from the North,” as we say here, and not to be taken seriously. Perhaps anything said in the vulgar accents of the North, be it ever so apparent, would not be believed in Jerusalem.

 

The young na'ar (lad) discussing Torah among the great Sages of Israel.

The young na’ar (lad) discussing Torah among the great Sages of Israel.

One thing I will not do – you may have my oath upon it – is to dismiss out-of-hand the words of a Northerner, no matter where from. To do aught else merely shows our predilection for prejudgment. Were not Elijah, Amos, and Hosea also Northerners? And Jeremiah’s family was from the North, though he was born not twelve stadia from where I now write. I often visit his grave to pray. And I have at whiles been impressed by what I have heard attributed to Yehoshua.

 

For example, not three months ago I heard it told that on a Sabbath he healed a man with a withered hand. When he was criticized for it, he responded with an argument about rescuing sheep on the Sabbath. “Which of you, he said, “if he had a sheep and it fell into a pit would not rescue that sheep even on Sabbath? And is a man not more valuable than a sheep?” [Matt.12:9-14]. This is a qal v’homer argument and as such well-known to us Pharisees. The Romans, who learned it from our Sages, call it a fortiori, “how much the more.”

James_Tissot_Christ_Healing_the_Withered_Hand_400

Now there is a curious flaw in Yehoshua’s reasoning that I am sure you can easily see. Sheep die if not watered every day, whereas a man with such a condition could wait one day more, or one less if it came to that! Surely, Yehoshua must have known this, so why argue as he did?

 

Healing by words is not against the Torah, and the strictest rabbi would not complain if we broke Sabbath to sustain life; I have heard it argued that throat medicine may be administered than because the extent of danger cannot be known. By extension, other treatments may also be applied, and this on the request of the afflicted person.

 

But shall we break Sabbath simply to alleviate suffering, to effect a release from pain even as the Sabbath is itself release? Is doing the “good” of a “good work” sometimes more important than avoiding the “work” required to do it? So much suffering is beyond our power to help, especially in these days, that I hesitate to judge. Extending the idea of release must be the real reason for Yehoshua’s argument.

 

The healing of the Master (Pekuach Nefesh (Saving a life)

The healing of the Master
(Pekuach Nefesh (Saving a life)

From what I know of Yehoshua’s words, it must be said that he stood in the prophets’ mighty line. It is long since anyone in Israel was known as a prophet, but you must admit, dear Philo, that he is “convicted out of his own mouth” of being a prophet. Like Elijah, he called his disciples to leave their families [1.Kings.19:20]. Like Amos [5:21-24], he had nothing but contempt for people who make a public show of piety. Like Micah [7:6], he said that sons would be set against their fathers and daughters against their mothers.

 

Like Amos, too, he was not without honor except in his own land, as he wisely observed [Matt.13:57]. Many now say that the Almighty no longer speaks through prophets. It were fearful to think that precisely in these evil times the L-rd should fall silent, but the prudent, as Amos said [5:13], hold their tongues in evil times – though he did not do so, to his everlasting honor. Would Amos himself dare to speak now, and to whom would he address himself? Such a one would likely not be escorted into exile, as Amos was, but more likely summarily killed, as was John (Yochanan the immerser).

 

The vision "Tranfiguration" with Moses and Elijah

The vision “Tranfiguration” with Moses and Elijah

The argument as to whether the man Yehoshua was or was not a prophet is, in the end , sterile. It matters more what he said and in this, I feel sure, he is a student of Hillel ‘after the spirit.” Hillel died shortly after this Yehoshua was born, but left many disciples, and one of them could have been Yehoshua’s teacher. Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others,” and Yehoshua said, “Whatsoever you wish that men would do to you, do even so to them.” So, we have here a brother Pharisee, even if from the North, doing midrash on great Hillel. And Yehoshua’s midrash is not without value.

 

His followers make much of it, too much I deem. I prefer Hillel’s rule because it calls upon us to respect the Torah that G-d has set for us, that is, to stay within mutually agreed upon boundaries, and not impetuously to impose our will upon others, for good or ill. You know my saying, “Without the Torah we would do as desire dictates, not what reason recommends.” Yet within the fences of the Torah there are times and situations, are there not, that call for action, not just passive observance?

 

Consider Yehoshua’s parable that they call “the good Samaritan.” Briefly, it says that a man beaten by robbers lay wounded by the roadside and was noticed, but not assisted, first by a priest, then by a Levite. Finally, a Samaritan passed by, tended the man’s wounds, brought him to an inn and gave money to the innkeeper to care for him until he was well enough to resume his journey.

 

Rabbi Yeshua teaching Torah to his disciples

Rabbi Yeshua teaching Torah to his disciples

It might be wished that he had called it “the good priest and the bad Levite,” or some such thing and changed the protagonists accordingly. Samaritans above all other Northerners have had an evil name here in the South since they contested Ezra’s leadership of those who returned from exile, my family among them.

 

I can, however, defend the parable told in just the way Yehoshua told it. The actors in this little drama represent what you Greek-speakers will call the “alpha and omega” of people in society, in other words, all of us from highest to lowest. Priests and Levites, most of whom are Sadducees, still hold to the notion that whatever happens to one is what one deserves, be it good or ill. One need not repair to the Ten Words [Commandments] and claim that the man was punished for evils done by his ancestors [Ex.20:5], though this was long-held to be true and I have heard it espoused even today. These days, most of us hold with Ezekiel [chap.18] that no person dies for the sin of another, rather each for his own, but it might still be maintained that stopping to help a wounded man would be interfering with the will of G-d; if he is wounded, he must have deserved it!

 

I cannot fault the conclusion, but reject the premise. Despite what some say against learning from your Greek friends, {12} a bit of Greek logic here would show the fallacy of the priest’s and the Levite’s argument. An effect, what follows an act, may have many causes. And even if the priests and Levites were correct and those hurt are justly punished, could we not say that to help the injured of any sort among us is to honor Micah’s injunction [6:8]to “love mercy” even as we “do justice”?

Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue James Tissot 1894

Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue
James Tissot 1894

On Yom Kippur we must first seek forgiveness from our fellows whom we have wronged during the past year. Could it be that failure to do right is a wrong? If we are made in G-d’s image, surely we may practice a bit of the mercy which we pray he will show us. Is not that what is meant by Micah’s “walking humbly with your G-d”? But for the hesed {13} of G-d, we might be the wounded man and not the sound ones who passed him by. Since the parable is to apply to all people, Yehoshua did properly in constructing it as he did.

 

Do not think that I have become a Yehoshua follower any more than I am a romanizer. I admire the Romans for their skill in war and even more so for their magnificent public works, vanities that they are, these things men build. Herod’s Temple is a wonder of the world, but he did not live to dwell in the palace he built by the Salt [Dead] Sea. I would not accept from them, as have some of us, citizenship in their evil empire if freely offered. No, dear Philo, one may admire what one does not like and there are things about Yehoshua that remain troubling.

The_Lords_Prayer_-_James_Jacques_Joseph_Tissot

For one thing, he was not married. Jeremiah, of course, never married, but this he says [Jer.16:2] was a command from G-d. The first scriptural commandment is “be fruitful and multiply” [Gen.1:28] and I hold that the way to end evil is not for all of us simply to forbear from bearing, as it were, and thus put an end to humanity root and branch. As I have said, “Even if all mankind succeeded in destroying ourselves, no one would learn anything from it.” Not even all of the Essenes are unmarried and he was not one of them as, I think, John was.

Early in Yehoshua’s life, his family thought him deranged [Mark.3:21], so perhaps no woman’s family would have him, but I cannot believe that, since, as I earlier said, he had many female followers. He seems rather to have cultivated them as well as tax collectors, lepers, and, of all things, Roman soldiers. That aside, some of the things he said, if they have been accurately retold, are troubling and not just to me.

Mattai called to discipleship.

Mattai called to discipleship.

It is reported that right before he was arrested he identified the bread and wine of his meal with his own flesh and blood. This proved to be too much even for some of his disciples, many of whom left him at that point [Jn.6:52]. Little wonder! We go to great lengths not to consume the blood of animals, how much more so would we abhor to consume the blood of fellow-men? His metaphor, you see, is too close to the bone.

 

Yehoshua is also said to have counseled that we “love our enemies,” and this, I think, is so contrary to human nature that it asks the impossible. I admire the Romans, but I do not love them and some, like Pilate, I always hated. In this, I recognize that I do no honor to our Torah, which asks that we hate the deed, not the doer. “O you who love the L-rd, hate evil,” as the Psalm says [97:10]. It does not tell us to hate our enemies as Yehoshua is reported to have said of us [Matt.5:43]. I think the words have been placed in his dead mouth by some overzealous follower eager to besmirch us. Many purport to speak in the name of the dead, those who cannot be approached for verification of their words.
TissotBeatitudes

I ought to reserve my hatred for those who know the Torah and yet decline to follow its precepts and ordinances, wicked men of Israel, not those lesser folk without the Torah, even the Laws of Noah, from whom proper behavior can hardly be expected. Hating Pilate, then, is my weakness and I own it. I hope you will not think less of me for it. Let us, in any case, move on to other matters.

 

Yehoshua said that he who looks at his brother with anger in his heart is as one who murders his brother and, again, he who looks at a woman with lust in his heart is as one who commits adultery with her. I read the Ten Words in Deuteronomy, part of the Northern Torah that was deemed binding upon us in Josiah’s time, as saying exactly this. So it is not to be wondered at that Yehoshua, a Northerner, should uphold this high standard. Politically, their rejection of the House of David was ill-conceived – witness all the assassinations and usurpations that marked their history – but their moral stance, it must be admitted, is often higher than what we practice here.
Priests%20Ask%20Jesus%20by%20Whose%20Authority%20He%20Acts%20James%20Tissot

However, such a commandment asks of us that we be as pure of mind and heart as we are in deed and that is a standard few, if any of us, North or South, can reach. It is enough, I think, that we refrain from breaking the Torah though, upon occasion, we inwardly gnash our teeth in self-restraint.

 

On the other hand, in positive matters we are called upon to do more than just what the Torah commands, for example, in leaving corners of our field unharvested so that the poor may with honor glean from them. The rabbis have established a standard for this, one part in sixty, but they say that the who does only this has not really done enough. {15} In all this it matters but little what our intention is, more that we do at least what the Torah ordains, and so with the rest of the commandments as well. As the people said to Moses, “We will do and by doing understand” [Ex.24:3], or so I understand the true meaning of the verse.

 

Feeling ourselves unable even to do the whole Torah ineluctably leads to setting the Torah aside as undoable. Already I hear that Yehoshua’s chief disciple, a man called Cephas [Peter], has declared that Gentile converts need not maintain the food laws that G-d so clearly gave us. These are eminently doable; some among us seem even to delight in the most detailed and complicated of observances. I do not tithe mint and cumin, but I understand those who do. You know, Yehoshua may also have said as much. “Unless your piety exceed that of the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven” [Matt.5:20].

00_159_171_PS1

In saying this, Yehoshua did not intend for us to set the Torah aside. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah, but to fulfill it” [Matt.5:17]. This I comprehend. Ever since Amos the prophets have exhorted us not to let ritual piety serve in the place of good deeds, but to be, as it were, the foundation and platform upon which the edifice of good deeds, grander than any Roman building, might be erected.

 

I know that nothing on this earth remains as it was forever, no matter how much some might wish it. Our own movement, the Pharisees, is barely two hundred years old and the Essenes but little older. When they left Jerusalem it had indeed become a den of vipers with priestly families going to Antioch to bribe the Syrians for preferment. And after the Syrians had been expelled, Simon Maccabee had himself proclaimed High Priest though his family was not eligible for the office. Here I must point out that the connection between politics and religion, of which the Romans are so chary, was highly visible.

 

Some changes are not for the better, but others are. Hillel had to change the law dealing with the extension of credit as the Sabbatical year approached, else the rich would have declined to lend money to the poor, to the complete impoverished and ruin of the latter. {16} But that is a small thing compared to what is now being suggested in the matter of accepting Gentile converts.

 

Hillel the Elder

Hillel the Elder

Though I remain unconvinced that our father Jacob proselytized among the Egyptians, who regarded our ancestors as particularly vile, converts we have had; Ruth comes easily to mind, and some among the Greeks, whose translations of Scripture you may know, have been moved to convert by their own work! Many in the Roman empire have converted to our faith; many more would likely have done so but for their aversion to circumcision.

 

Converts have been people who gladly accepted our ways; they did not ask that the ancient ways be changed so that they might more easily attach to themselves the proud name of Jew [Hebrew Yehudi]. Others have joined themselves to our communities and practice as we do without the formality of conversion, and we welcome then, but a flood of Gentile “converts” who magically dispense with central pillars of the Torah such as circumcision and kashrut [Jewish dietary laws] might wash us away. Most Jews know that even full adherence to the Torah is not sufficient for salvation. “Our deeds build for us – nothing,” as we say on Yom Kippur, but deeds are nonetheless necessary. These deeds, the mitzvoth, are G-d-given, though most would commend themselves to any right-thinking person – do not murder, do not kidnap, {17} do not swear false.

 

Since Moses’ time, ours has been a government of Torah, not of men. Tradition tells us that before the monarchy was established there was a period during which “each man did what was right in his own eyes” [Judg.21:25]. We call this tohu v’vohu, “chaos,” but anarchy is closer to the mark here. If we were progressively to strip away sections of the Torah, we should soon be left with nothing but what each person individually saw fit to do. Even King David could not set himself above the Torah with impunity.

 

The Noahide Code (Acts 15)

The Noahide Code (Acts 15)

I do not think that Yehoshua intended to set himself above the Torah, but where one man teaches in his own authority others will come to teach in theirs, and sooner or later each will do what is right in his own eyes. His chief disciples are Galilean fisher folk, hardly the kind of people from whom sound interpretation can be expected.

 

Let me not, however, demean these people. They must be Jews, for they argue amongst themselves as much as we do! Yehoshua could not have intended this. The last thing we need now is another fraction, especially one that the Romans could find dangerous. How then might we sift Yehoshua’s wheat from the chaff of his followers and so prevent a breach between us? And, I might add, avoid Roman wrath cascading down upon the just and the unjust alike. Where is the leader with the wisdom of Solomon and the strength of Samson to pull pillars of our own house back toward one another without the roof falling in upon us?

 

If the Almighty, blessed He, does not smite the Romans with plagues such as He visited upon Pharaoh and thus cause them to lose their grip on us, then I fear we will continue to witness revolts. And as a raven may provoke an eagle until, at length, the eagle turns and tears the raven apart, we too shall be torn apart. I should like to be more optimistic, dear Philo, but even as the passing of many years has dimmed my eyesight, the sight of my mind is clearer and this is what it sees.
torah-sofer-lena-day

[Jesus Through Jewish Eyes, by Beatrice Bruteau, pg.81-93)

Notes:

 

  1. Prefect of Rome’s Praetorian Guard, who may have seduced the wife of Tiberius’s son Drusus and so enlisted her help in poisoning him. Sejanus was executed by order of the Senate in 35 C.E. Pilate’s fate is unknown.
  2. “Legacy to Gaius,” in The Judaic Tradition, ed. Nahum Galtzer (Northvale, N.J: Aronson, 1987), 123ff.
  3. The mikveh is the ritual bath required of male and female Jews to remove “ritual” impurities and make the worshipper fit to reenter the Temple or synagogue. RaGBaG’s unusual spelling is nonetheless correct; it reflects Isa.22:11.
  4. RaGBaG may have his chronology a bit mixed up here, for he implies that Jesus was killed before John, a theory that was proposed and refuted in the twentieth century. On the other hand, being so close to the events themselves, perhaps his account of things warrants further investigation.
  5. John 1:46. No Gospels were written in RaGBaG’s time, but except for this reference, two others to John and the Good Samaritan of Luke, all New Testament references come from Matthew, as we would expect. Matthew was a Jew writing for other Jews.
  6. The Sanhedrin was Israel’s judicial body, made up of Sadducees and Pharisees, with competence in civil and some criminal matters. The remark concerning capital punishment is in Mishnah Makkot (“Punishments”) 1:10. A later rabbi, Eleazar ben Azariah, said”one [death sentence] in seventy years we would call bloody.”
  7. The four legitimate methods are stoning, strangling, burning, and drowning.
  8. Boethusians were adherents of Simon ben Boethus, appointed high priest by Herod the Great in 24 B.C.E. and hence loyal to the Herodians.
  9. The Letter of Aristeas purports to be an account of the writing of the Septuagint at the invitation of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.E.).
  10. Drashim are rabbinical explanations or comments on Scripture that aim to produce moral imperatives; they are often homiletic.
  11. This census was ordered in 6 C.E. Christian tradition misremember or misappropriated it to 6 B.C.E.
  12. He seems to be referring to what became a rabbinic dictum proscribing the study of Greek language. See Saul Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (New York: Feldheim, 1965), 16.
  13. The word hesed means “unmerited or uncompelled reward.”
  14. Critics have been quick to point out that this is an obvious pilferage of Kipling’s “lesser breeds without the Torah” and that the author exposes himself as no earlier than a late-nineteenth – or early-twentieth- century author.
  15. Mishnah Peah (“Gleanings”) 1:2
  16. This is the legal fiction known as prozbul (“corridor”), by which debts are “sold” to a third party only for the duration of the Sabbatical year.
  17. Reading “Do not steal” in the Ten Commandments as “Do not kidnap” is suggested by the parallel verse Exo.21:16 and the observation that simple theft would be out of place in the context of crimes with capital implications, such as murder, adultery, and false witness. What is intended is “Do not abduct [in order to enslave].”