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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Prophet, Priest, and Redeemer

Although Moses was not of the Messianic lineage, he is certainly a type of Messiah, as our Sages are fond of saying: the latter Redeemer (i.e. the Messiah) will be like the former redeemer (i.e. Moses).  The similarities between Moses and the Messiah are numerous.  

Both Moses and the Messiah began their vocations, if you will, in Egypt (cf. Hosea 11).  As infants, both Moses' and the Messiah's life were in danger (cf. Jeremiah 31).   Moses' life was saved by Divine intervention, as was the Messiah's (cf. Isaiah 53).   Moses was rejected and often treated spitefully by the people he was sent to deliver and yet responded in love, while interceding on their behalf.  The same can be said of the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 53).  And, of course, both functioned as redeemers of their people.  (cf. Zechariah 9 and Isaiah 53). 

The trait that perhaps best characterizes both Moses and the Messiah is humility.  In the Torah it is written that: "[Moses] was very meek, above all men who were upon the face of the earth" (cf. Numbers 12).  When the prophet Zechariah speaks of the Messiah he describes Him as "lowly, and riding upon  . . . the foal of an ass" (cf. Zechariah 9).  Interestingly, both also had a calling as prophet and priest.  

Messiah: The Prophet

We read in in the Torah:

"The L-RD your G-d will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear . . ." (cf. Deuteronomy 18).

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan renders this passage in Deuteronomy as follows:

And a right Prophet (or Prophet of Righteousness) will the L-rd your G-d give you, a prophet from among you of your brethren like unto me, with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), will the L-rd your G-d raise up unto you; to Him you shall be obedient.

The majority of Jewish commentators argue that Joshua or a number of other prophets fulfill this prophecy recorded in Deuteronomy.  However, there is a rabbi, Rabbi Levi ben Gershon (the Ralbag, 14th century), who identifies the Prophet described in Deuteronomy 18 as the Messiah:

'A Prophet from the midst of thee.'  In fact, the Messiah is such a Prophet as it is stated in the Midrash of the verse, "Behold my Servant shall prosper' (Isaiah 52:13) . . . Moses, by the miracles which he wrought, brought a single nation to the worship of G-d, but the Messiah will draw all peoples to the worship of G-d.  

The Midrashic passage to which the Ralbag is referring: 

It is written, 'Behold, my servant shall deal wisely, He shall be exalted, and extolled and be very high' (Isaiah 52:13).  It means, He shall be more exalted than Abraham of Whom it is written, 'I lift up my hand' (Genesis 14:22).  He shall become more extolled than Moses of whom it is said, 'As a nursing father beareth the nursing child' (Numbers 11:12).  'And shall be very high' - that is, Messiah shall be higher than the ministering angels . . . (Midrash Tanhuma).  

We even read of those in the first century who also believed that the prophet in Deuteronomy was a reference to the Messiah (cf. John 1).  Several years later, Shimon bar Yonah, would quote the Deuteronomy passage as textual support that G-d had, indeed, raised up that prophet from their midst (cf. Acts 3).  

Messiah: The Priest

Although neither the Messiah or Moses were of Aaronic lineage, they were both called to serve in a priestly role.   Moshe anointed Aaron and his sons to serve as High Priests and inaugurated them with the elaborate anointing ceremony recorded in Leviticus.  Moses was also able to enter the Holy of Holies at anytime, while Aaron and his sons were limited to just once a year and not without blood.  Moses would often serve as an intercessor between the children of Israel and G-d whenever they sinned.  

The Messiah was also called to fulfill a priestly role.  The Psalmist speaks of the Messiah when he writes: "You are a priest forever" (cf. Psalm 110).  Isaiah speaks of the Messiah's role of intercessor when he declared that the Messiah "bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (cf. Isaiah 53). 

It is important to understand that the Jewish leadership was anticipating a priestly Messiah.  They also believed that there was a prophetic dimension to the ministry of the priests during the First Temple Period.  

We will recall that the High Priest wore in his breastplate the Urim and Tumim, whereby they discerned the will of Hashem and gave counsel accordingly.  The Sages believe that the Urim and Tumim disappeared towards the end of the First Temple period and since then, many Jewish leaders hoped for a time when a priest would once again employ the Urim and Tumim to communicate directly with G-d and reveal His will for the people.

And the [Governor] said unto them, that they should not eat of the holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Tumim (cf. Ezra 2:63).

And so, there were many who looked forward to a Messiah who would unite the offices of Priest and Prophet (as well as King and Priest cf. Zechariah 6) in himself:

They discussed what should be done about the altar . . . which had been profaned and very properly decided to tear it down . . . and deposited the stones in a suitable place on the Temple Mount to await the appearance of the Prophet who should give a ruling about them (cf. I Maccabees 4).

Curiously, the Talmud also teaches that Moses was indeed a High Priest (cf. Zevachim 101a).  The Talmud also states that: "All the prophets prophesied only for the coming of the Messiah (cf. Sanhedrin 99a).  

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