In a number of previous posts I have presented some material that is contemporary with the Second Temple period, material which provides us with a glimpse into the Sages' understanding of the role of the Messiah. It is interesting to note the emphasis on the suffering that the Messiah would endure, an emphasis that is practically non-existent in modern Orthodox Judaism, especially today.
The texts also serve in revealing the Sages' understanding of certain passages in the Tanakh which were interpreted as speaking of the Messiah. Nothing is taken for granted in Jewish hermeneutics, every word is significant, every repetition, every nuance. The question I hope to raise for serious consideration, of course, is whether or not there has been any figure in all of history (other than Y'shua of Nazareth) who has fulfilled not only what the Scriptures foretold about the the Messiah, but also the traditional expectations of those to whom were entrusted the very oracles of G-d.
I do not see how Orthodox Judaism can maintain a position that so dramatically diminishes the role of the Messiah as a Suffering Servant, while remaining honest in the face of centuries of our own oral traditions and interpretations which testify to the contrary. Of course, the modern position developed, at least in part, from polemic reactions against Christendom's interpretations of passages such as Isaiah 53 and scores of other passages which argued for the Messiahship of a carpenter from Nazareth.
What is interesting and perhaps even a bit ironic is that the traditional Jewish references to passages that are used as proof texts for identifying the Messiah and describing His role in this world not only include and agree with the interpretations of the ones most commonly employed in Christian polemics, but far exceed them in scope and sometimes obscurity.
It is critical to remember that the early Jewish believers were speaking in the synagogues proving and demonstrating that Y'shua was the Messiah from the Torah, the Prophets, and, yes, Jewish tradition. There were no four-point outlines, Gospel tracts, or Romans-road. Neither were there "Christian" positions, expressions, pogroms, or persecutions for the Jews to react against or resist, theologically or otherwise, at this early stage.
In order to maintain the modern Orthodox position on the role and
identity of the Messiah, volumes of oral tradition contained in the
rabbinic literature, of which I only provided a small sampling, must be either ignored, reinterpreted, or suppressed. No matter how much time goes by or how much truth we try to suppress, one persistent question will continue to challenge and expose the futility of our love affair with the darkness: Who do you say that I
Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch