by Xus Casal ben Yohani
Part 1: Moshiachim
Messiah, is the well known concept in Judaism of a leader anointed (chosen) by the Creator to fulfil His Will.
In these days most of Jews know about the King Messiah, son of David.
Messiah ben David concept was found in Torah through the Jewish method of interpretation, called PaRDeS. Is not directly found when reading the Peshat (direct) text.
(Gn 49:10) “The sceptre shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be”.
(Dt 18:18) “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like you [Moshe]; and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him”.
The sages understand that Shiloh is a name for Messiah (Sanhedrin 98b), and that no prophet has risen yet like Moshe. Messiah will be that Prophet like Moshe. We find this evidence in the Torah, because God gave to 70 elders the spirit of Moshe, and when Moshe died, Yehoshua took the reins of Israel, and even then, the Torah says: “But there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moshe” (Dt 34:10).
A lot of commentators address and give their interpretation on this Messiah in detail. For example the Rav Simeon Kara (together with the Targum Yonathan) said: “He (the king Messiah) is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, ‘My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly’ (Isa. 52:13)” (Yalkut Shimeon on Zec 4:7). In other commentary, Rambam said: “the King Messiah will rise… from the throne of David, knowledgeable in Torah. And he who does not believe in him or doesn’t wait for his coming, he denies not only the prophets but also the Torah and Moshe himself” (Hilchot Melachim [royal laws] 11:1; cf. Dt 30:3-5; Abarbanel, Mashmia Yeshuah 2:3).
Less known is the concept of Messiah ben Yosef, also called ben Ephraim, a suffering Servant who dies and prepares the way for the King Messiah. This Messiah takes his name from Yosef, son of Israel who was sold by his brothers and given to the gentiles. The experts call this sin: selling Yosef. “Because they sell the righteous for silver” (Amos 2:6).
The First time we hear of a Messiah who dies is in Talmud.
Talmud; tractate Sukkah 52a:
“Messiah ben Yosef was slain as it is written: And they shall look upon me, because they have pierced him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son” (Zac 12:10).
Before that, the only record we had is the Nazarene Writings (who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah), and the alternative (maybe the original) reading of Isaiah 53 in the Hebrew text found in Qumran.
Ada Yardeni and Benyamin Elitzur recently have translated a text found in an old stone (called: ‘Hazon Gabriel’, dated from the 1st century, possibly from the sect of the Essenes). In the lines 16-17 of the stone we can read: “My servant David, ask Ephraim” (Avdi David bakesh minuto lifnei Ephraim).
In the line 80 we read: “leshloshet yamim hayeh” (in three days you shall live).
And In line 81 we read: “Sar haSarin” (leader of leaders). The full text could be read this way: “Leshloshet yamim hayeh, anos Gavriel, gozer Alekha, sar haSarin” (in three days you shall live, I Gabriel order to you, O leader of leaders).
In other words, the sect who wrote this stone believed that someone died/or should die and resurrect in three days, a prince of princes, a Messiah. This gives us a hint that in the Judaism of the 1st century, the idea of a Messiah who dies and rises existed, and it was even a part of the faith for Redemption (such the Nazarenes and this party of the Essenes).
Part 2: the Messiah’s atonement
It is understood in the Judaism of the 1st century that Messiah (the so called ben Yosef, or ben Ephraim) had to die, and that his dead would atone for the sins of Israel.
Actually, within the Chassidic movements is found the belief that a Tzaddik (a very righteous person) atones (is a means of covering) for the sins of his generation.
Everything starts in Ezekiel account: “the soul that commits sin, that soul shall die… but if the wicked turns from all of his sins… he shall live, he won’t die” (Ez 18:20-21). So the Question is: Why the Righteous dies? Because it is said: “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him” (Ez 18:20).
We read in Talmud (Moed Katan 28a): “Said R. Ammi: Wherefore is the account of Miriam’s death placed next to the [laws of the] red heifer? [Nm 19:2/20:1] To inform you that even as the red heifer afforded atonement [by the ritual use of its ashes], so does the death of the righteous afford atonement [for the living they have left behind]”.
The Zohar Noah 131 says: “The Tzaddik (righteous man) is, of a truth, himself a [metaphorical] offering of atonement [in the upper worlds, because he sacrificed his will unto the will of God]. But he who is not Tzaddik [righteous] is disqualified as an offering because he’s blemished, as it is written, ‘they shall not be accepted for you’ (Lv 22:25). So the tzadikkim alone are atonement and a sacrifice for the world”.
The sages clearly know that Messiah is the highest Tzaddik in this world, and then his sacrifice would atone for the whole world.
It is said that the Name of Messiah is one of the seven things created before the world, together with the Torah, repentance, Gan Eden, Gehenna, the throne of Glory and the Temple (i.e. these 7 things were created with the purpose of this world’s redemption) (Nedarim 39b, Pesikta 54a).
Sanhedrin 98b: “Rav said: The world was created only on David’s account. Samuel said: On Moshe account; R. Yohanan said: For the sake of the Moshiach. What is his name? – The Rabbis said: His name is ‘the smitten scholar’ [nagah], as it is written, Surely he hath borne our grieves, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken [nagah], smitten of G-d, and afflicted.. .. those of the house of the Rabbi say: ‘the sickly’ [Cholaya], for it says, “Surely he has borne our sicknesses” (Is 53).
We read in Shemot Rabbah 35:4
“Moses said to God: Will not the time come when Israel shall have neither Tabernacle nor Temple? What will happen with them then? The divine reply was: I will then take one of their righteous men and retain him as a pledge on their behalf, in order that I may pardon all their sins”.
Part 3: Messiah’s resurrection
Another doctrine found in real Judaism is the resurrection from death in the Olam HaBa (the era to come, the world to come) (Dn 12:1-4; Is 8:16, 26:19). The Sages agree in their Scriptural understanding that the Resurrection from death will happen during Messianic era. Most of them actually agree that Messiah is gonna perform the resurrection in the name of HaShem (the Living God, Blessed be He).
Isaac Abarbanel said in his book: Yeshuot Meshicho (2:1): “Do not wonder by the fact that Moshiach could be of those who rise up from death, because this possibility was considered in the Gemara Sanhedrin”
Which Gemara he means? This one: “If Moshiach will be from the living, then he will be like Rabbeinu haKadosh, if he will be from the dead he will be like Daniel” (Sanhedrin 98). Obviously, if he’s like Daniel (according to Rashi, this is a possibility), then it is implied that he will die first, and then he will rise to fill his role as King Moshiach.
Rambam certainly said that if the aspirant to messiah dies, then he’s not Messiah, but in this sentence and context he’s obviously talking of Messiah ben David, because the sages agree that Messiah ben Yosef must die (Sukkah 52a).
Also they understand that Isaiah 25:8 (He will swallow up death for ever!) and 26:19 (your dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise) will be fulfilled in the Messianic era.
Rabbi Menachem bar Shlomo, the Meiri says: “The King Messiah will resurrect the dead.”
Some sages go further, and tell us that the firstborn from death is Messiah ben Yosef. The first one who receives the so called: Resurrection from death, a state of perfect tikkun (correction), with a body that cannot die anymore.
“Messiah ben Yosef, also referred to as Messiah ben Ephraim, is killed. Then, Messiah ben David’s first act is to bring about the resurrection of Messiah ben Yosef.”
Pesikta Rabbati 146b
“Our Sages said, ‘King Messiah is subjected to sufferings of every generation according to the sins of that generation.’ The Holy One, blessed be He, said, ‘In that hour of the Redemption I shall resuscitate him – create him a new and he will no longer suffer.’”
Part 4: Gog and Magog
“[Zech. 12:12] What is the cause of the mourning? — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained. The cause is the slaying of Messiah ben Yosef, and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination. It is well with him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah ben Yosef, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son; but according to him who explains the cause to be the slaying of the Evil Inclination, is this an occasion for mourning? Is it not rather an occasion for rejoicing? Why then should they weep?”
Rashi (together with Ibn Ezra) comments in this verse: “The words: ‘The land shall mourn’, are found in the prophecy of Zechariah, and he prophesies of the future, that they shall mourn on account of Messiah ben Yosef, who shall be slain in the war of Gog and Magog”. When Rashi comments: ‘the war of Gog and Magog’ he refers the notes in Targum on Zech 12:12. However, according to many sages the one who fights the war of Gog and Magog is the Messiah King (Gog and Magog are midrashic names on which commentators and sages do not have a full agreement of their meaning. Some believe to be 70 nations collectively anti-Messiah, some believe to be religions [Targum on Ezekiel identifies Gog as Rome]).
Zohar, Vayera: “In the 70th, on three, all the kings of the worlds shall gather to the (big) city, and HaShem shall awake on them hail and hailstones, and they will be lost from the world. And only the kings that shall not go there will remain in the world, to return for other wars. From that time the Messiah King will be awakened all over the world, and will gather with him few peoples and few armies from all the edges of the world. And all of the Israelites will be gathered, in all their places.”
The professor Klaussner made a study on this war (that Rashi talks about), and on the fact that Targum Onkelos doesn’t mention Messiah ben Yosef on it, and said: “we conclude with reasonable certainly that in the pre-Hadrianic period it was believed that Messiah ben David would, with the aid of Sechinah, fight against and overcome the enemies of Israel; but in the post-Hadrianic period, the fight was attributed to Messiah ben Yosef, who after a great but not decisive victory, would have to be slain. The final and decisive victory… would give the crown to Messiah ben David” (Klaussner).
In the Targum on Shir haShirim 8:4 we read:
“Don’t stir up or awaken love, until it is ready. The King Messiah shall say: ‘I adjure you, my people, beit Israel! Why do you contend with the nations of the earth in order to get out of the Dispersion and why do you rebel against the armed might of Gog and Magog? Would that you might wait but a little longer, until the nations who have gone up to wage war against Jerusalem are destroyed, and after that the Lord of the Universe shall remember for your sake the love of the righteous, and it shall be His will who deliver you”
This Midrash actually is asking the dispersed Israel to not take their land by the sword, but to wait the hand of HaShem against Gog and Magog, meaning that is not a physical war that must redeem Israel, but the Torah (the Love of the righteous).
From all of this information we could understand that Messiah ben Yosef war is not necessarily a literal one, but it is a spiritual war in the upper worlds against the evil. A War that may be reflected in this world through the death of a Tzaddik (righteous man) who carries the sin of the entire nation. As we read: “within his generation, who would reason that he was cut off out of the land of the living being stricken for the transgression of my people? [i.e. for the transgression of Israel]” (Is 53:8).
Part 5: Only one Moshiach
The issue with Gog and Magog is that the sages give Messiah ben Yosef political/militar attributes, while all the spiritual facets are on Messiah ben David. Ben David is the teacher, is the king, the ruler, the Rabbi, while Ben Yosef seems a poor guy that would be resurrected by [the asking of] Messiah ben David as second in charge.
The Kabbalists and Chassidics today are starting to discover a world that was known in the 1st century about these two Messiahs. There’s the possibility that Ben Yosef and Ben David are two roles of the same person.
As we have seen, Isaac Abarbanel said in his book: Yeshuot Meshicho (2:1): “Do not wonder by the fact that Moshiach could be of those who rise up from death, because this possibility was considered in the Gemara Sanhedrin”
In other part he said (Yeshuot Meshicho 1:2:2):
“The Moshiach will have to die in order to purify the generation and he will wait in a spiritual state in “heaven” until he rises from the dead, as it’s written in the Talmud Sanhedrin [98b].”
The Deep Sod interpretations of the Chassidics have leaded them into a deeper meaning of the words of the sages about Messiah. In their devotion and study they understand that Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Yosef are midrashically one and the same. Some reached the conclusion that ben Yosef is a concept, something abstract in the Upper Worlds that is manifested here in some form/person in each generation, and obviously it will be manifested purely in the person of Messiah ben David. This is because Messiah ben David receives from Gan Eden [the Upper Worlds] the Whole (100%) Soul of Messiah.
The Meor Aynayim; (parashat Pinchas) writes, in name of Baal Shem Tov that “within each and every Jew there is a ‘spark’ of the soul of Moshiach”.
Eliezer Hakkalir; Musaf Yom Kippur
“The Messiah our righteousness has turned from us. We are alarmed; we have no one to justify us. Our sins and the yoke of our transgressions he bore. He was bruised for our iniquities. He carried on his shoulders our sins. With his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53). Almighty G-d, hasten the day that he might come to us anew; that we may hear from Mt. Lebanon, the Temple, a second time through the Messiah.”
Of course, the King Messiah ben David will receive the ben Yosef soul, coz Ben Yosef is part of the Soul of Messiah. In this Kabbalistic understanding, there are no two Moshiachim, there’s only one. There are many who receive the soul of Moshiach In each generation, and we can recall those whose light was shining in the soul of Moshiach (Yosef, Moshe, King David or Hezekiah). But only one, the King Messiah ben David who is to come, will receive the whole Soul of Moshiach. i.e. The King Moshiach ben David would be also ben Yosef.
Zohar; Balak 340-342.
“And from the hills I behold him” In the Future to Come, when Messiah will come, that higher hill needs to take and bring him inside her wings in order to firm him up and place him in the higher life. From it will emerge on that day, Messiah ben David. That is the secret of: “I will tell of the decree: HaShem has said to me, ‘You are My son; this day have I begotten you'” (Psl 2:7): I am destined to speak to this place that is called ‘decree’, and give the good tidings. “HaShem, “has said to me, ‘You are My son; this day have I begotten you'”, that very day, produces that decree, from under her wings, with much life, with many adornments and many blessings, as is proper. That law, will not remain on its own. Because then, another Messiah [ben Yosef], will also be included in it. There, he will be fortified, and at no other place, because this is a lower hill, that has no life of its own. That Messiah will die and be killed, and he will remain dead until this hill will gather life from the higher hill, Then [ben Yosef] will rise”.
Talmud, Sukkah 52a:
“Our Rabbis taught, The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to Messiah ben David (May he reveal himself speedily in our days!), ‘Ask of me anything, and I will give it to you’, as it is said: ‘I will tell of the decree… this day have I begotten you, ask of me and I will give the nations for thy inheritance’. But when he will see that the Messiah ben Yosef is slain, he will say to Him: ‘Lord of the Universe, I ask of You only the gift of life’. ‘As to life’, He would answer him, ‘Your father David has already prophesied this concerning you’, as it is said, ‘He asked life of you, and you gave him (even length of days for ever and ever)’.”
This Midrash shows some evidences that people can easily miss. Messiah ben David sees in the future how Ben Yosef is died, and he asks the gift of Life. God then gives Life to Ben David (not ben Yosef). So this Midrash can be understood as Messiah ben Yosef coming back from death as ben David.
That’s why the Kabbalists said things like this:
Isaac Luria in his comment on Zohar, Shemot 8b says: “the man destined to be Moshiach births naturally in this world, and to him is given the [whole] soul of Moshiach from Gan Eden, making him realize he’s the Moshiach, then he shall be hidden, risen to heaven, and then he shall be completely revealed and Israel will recognize him as Moshiach” (Zohar harakia).
Actually the Kabbalistic Rabbi Hayim (ben Yosef) Vital said in his book: Sefer Chizyonot that Moshiach ben David and Moshiach ben Yosef are two titles of two different functions of the same person (Sefer Chizyonot page 106).
Additionally: “Moshiach [who will be largely unknown] will thereupon rise up to Heaven just as Moshe ascended to the firmament, and will subsequently return and be revealed completely for all to see. The entire Jewish people will then perceive him and flock towards him” (Arba Meiot Shekel Kesef p. 68).
During the cleansing of the Metzorah (Lv 14:49), a bird is killed over running water in an earthen vessel and a second bird is dipped along with other elements in its blood. The Metzorah is sprinkled with the blood seven times and the living bird is released into the open field. That the living bird flies away covered in the blood of the slaughtered is significant. This aspect of the ritual creates a connection between the two birds and Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky notes that the numerical value of צפר (tsippor) is 370 and corresponds to the words זה משיח (zeh moshiach), “this is Moshiach.” He says: “This [passage regarding the ‘two birds’] refers to Moshiach ben Yosef [who will die] and Moshiach ben David [who will rule the Earth]… ..This passage hints at the notion that Moshiach ben Yosef, the suffering servant, and Moshiach ben David, the reigning king are two natures of one individual”.
In hindsight, it is clear that while the releasing of the living bird by the priest foresees the resurrection of Messiah, its flight into the open field depicts his ascension into heaven.
The Kabbalists are walking in the steps of the Judaism of the 1st century. They are revealing things that the Nazarenes and Essenes taught. The tradition also said that the Oral Torah was written down in a codified form (in form of many interpretations and opinions). The people in the first century believed in only one Messiah, who would be a Tzaddik who die, rise, hide (the Messiah that comes riding a donkey), ascend to heaven and finally manifests (the Messiah that comes with the clouds) and everyone confess he’s the Messiah.
This is normal when we see the account of Yosef. He was sold by his brothers to the gentiles, hidden (Yakov thought he was dead), raised as the second leader of Egypt (only in the throne Pharaoh would be higher), and then he was revealed as leader and brought salvation to his family. Messiah ben Yosef, in the manner of Yosef would do the same.