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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ordeal and Triumph of the Messiah

I will greatly rejoice in the L-RD, my soul shall be joyful in my G-d; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

It is taught, that in the month of Nisan the Patriarchs will arise and say to the Messiah: Our true Messiah, even though we are your forebears, you are greater than we because You suffered for the iniquities of our children, and terrible ordeals befell You, such ordeals as did not befall earlier generations or later ones; for the sake of Israel You became a laughingstock and a derision among the nations of the earth; and You sat in darkness, in thick darkness, and Your eyes saw no light.

Your skin cleaved to your bones, and Your body was as dry as a piece of wood; Your eyes grew dim from fasting, and Your strength was dried up like a potsherd - and all these afflictions on account of the iniquities of our children, all these because of Your desire to have Your children benefit by that goodness which the Holy One, blessed be He, will bestow in abundance upon Israel.  The Patriarchs will say to Him: Our true Messiah, be content with what You have done, for You have made content the mind of our Maker and our minds also.

[The question of the Messiah's sufferings may be explained in Jewish terms as follows: When Israel's sins exceeded all bounds, G-d first vented His wrath on the sticks and stones of the Temple (cf. Pesikta Rabbati 2:6, Midrash on the Psalms 62:4 and 79:3; Lamentations Rabbah 4:11).  After the Temple's destruction the Messiah, by the same token, became One upon Whom G-d's wrath was vented.  For in the absence of Israel's repentance, punishment for sin, violations of the Torah, had to be imposed upon something or someone, in accordance with G-d's design . . . which preceded the Creation of the world.]

Why does the verse in Jeremiah 31:20 speak twice of mercy: In mercy I will have mercy upon Him?  One mercy refers to the time when the Messiah will be shut up in prison, a time when the nations of the earth will gnash their teeth at Him everyday, wink their eyes at one another in derision of Him, nod their heads at Him in contempt, open wide their lips to guffaw, as it is written: All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head (Ps 22:8); My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaves to my throat; and You lay me in the dust of the earth (Ps, 22:16).  

Moreover, they will roar over Him like lions, as it is written: They open wide their mouth against me, as a ravening and roaring lion.  I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is become like wax; it is melted in my inmost parts (Ps. 22:14-15).  They will growl over Him like lions who wish to swallow Him, as it is written: All out enemies have opened their mouths wide against us.  Terror and the pit are come upon us, desolation and destruction (Lam. 3:36-47).

The second mercy refers to the time when He will come forth out of prison and the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to Him: My true Messiah, do not be afraid of them [the nations] for all these will die by the breath of Your lips, as it is written: And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked (Isa. 11:4).   He will make seven canopies of precious stones for Him.  As for each canopy, out of it there will flow forth four rivers - one of wine, one of honey, one of milk, and one of pure balsam.  And the Holy One, blessed be He, will embrace the Messiah in the sight of the righteous ones, the pious ones, the Holy ones, the mighty men of Torah of every generation will gaze upon Him.

[The foregoing commentary is derived from meditation upon the verse Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance . . and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness (Jeremiah 31:13-14) Pesikta Rabbati 37:1]

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Shimon bar Yonah answered and said, "The Messiah of G-d."  And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day . . . (Luke 9:20-22).

Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And you are witnesses of these things." (Luke 9:20-22; 24:46-48).

"Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled" (Acts 3:18).

Then Rav Sha'ul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,  explaining and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Y'shua whom I preach to you is the Messiah"  (Acts 17:2-3).

"Therefore, having obtained help from G-d, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come --  "that the Messiah would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22-23).

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