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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Servant, the Branch

Now it was Chanukah in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Y'shua walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly." 

Y'shua answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

"I and My Father are one."  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Y'shua answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?"

(cf. John 10)

In Hebrew, the word nes is used to describe a miracle that reveals the presence of G-d in the lives of our people.  In the Torah, nes denotes a raised, clearly visible signpost pointing to the place where the leader has established his post of command.  A nes, a banner, indicates the direction in which the army as a whole, and each one of its members, is expected to move.  In the opinion of many of our Sages, there could hardly be found a more meaningful way of defining the miracles in Jewish history, than by the use of the word nesim (plural form), calling them "signposts" and "banners."

The Scriptures refers to nesim as "signs" that bring to mind a specific idea or truth i.e. phenomena and events that win over minds for a given truth.  Our Sages refer to them as signposts and banners for all our wanderings through history, signposts which reassure us that there is a G-d Who watches over us and that it is His will which guides all of our movements.  We are exhorted to look to these banners whenever we become uncertain about our future actions, when we must orient ourselves once again to the path that will keep us close to Him.

When the nes of Chanukah occurred, we were still in the land.  However, at the beginning of our second period of independence, as we read in Zechariah, the prophet was careful to impress upon us that this new beginning was not the beginning of an era of military prowess and autonomy.  The prophets clearly stated that the structure of Judea's statehood was to serve as a foundation for a greater edifice that would not be completed until the far distant future.  The nation would become itself the most convincing signpost pointing to a future in which battles would be waged only for G-d's victories, and mountains would become plains not through military might, not through material strength, but only through the Spirit of G-d. 

The future described by Zechariah will be the time in which G-d will bring forth His Servant, letting Him emerge inconspicuously, like a slowly growing plant.  "Behold, I will bring forth My Servant the tzemach, the young sprout" (cf. Zechariah).   Tzemach denotes a quiet, steady growth like that of a plant.  According to our Sages, it represents the One in Whom eventually our final redemption will culminate, and in Whom the Spirit of G-d in its seven-fold manifestation will find its dwelling place:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.The Spirit of the L-RD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the L-RD.  (Isaiah 11:1-2) 

Therefore, the salvation will not be a sudden miracle like a bolt of lightning into the course of history, suddenly transforming the earth with its overwhelming might.  It will begin with a tzemach, a plant of history, which, in the words of King David was "prepared and protected in every way, even before anyone can see it grow."  According to the Sages, the ultimate redemption will take mankind by surprise, because it expects it salvation precisely from where it will never obtain it; because mankind is dazzled by material splendor, mankind pays little attention to the seeds of the Spirit of G-d that grow quietly and modestly, right under their feet.  In other words, mankind advances blindly towards it's salvation:

I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

And then the princes of the earth will exclaim:

Who would have thought that which we have heard from time immemorial; and upon whom has G-d's arm been revealed?   For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.  He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.   He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:1-3)

But those who walk through this world with their eyes open will see "the footsteps of the proclaimers overt the mountains" even before the word reaches them:

"Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child.   Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children.  Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?" says the L-RD. 

"Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?" says your G-d.   "Rejoice with Jerusalem, And be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;  that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory." (Isaiah 66:7-11) 

From the very beginning we were told that our spiritual salvation would grow and unfold like a tree.  The menorah represented the tzemach of a tree.  Out of one root stock there emerged a trunk with branches, branch and fruit knobs, chalices and blossoms, and on the crowns of the trunk rested the light, the light given by G-d, all of which turned their lights towards the light of the trunk in the center. 

It is to this menorah, this tree of lights, that the words of the prophet Zechariah which we read on Chanukah refer.  The word had come the prophet Zechariah that G-d would bring His Servant like the shoot of a growing plant, who was shown the tree of light and told "not by might, nor by strength, but by My Spirit" will the triumph over the world be attained. (cf. Zechariah 4:6)

6 comments:

  1. And yet Israel was born in a day in 1947. Was this another nes?

    Res Ipsa

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  2. Considering the victory they achieved against what I would consider impossible odds the day after they declared statehood - absolutely.

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  3. I have heard that verse quoted by premillennialists as evidence of the coming apocalypse. It's one of those things that can be difficult to place when establishing a biblical world view.

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  4. It seems to me that in Christ, God has at last found everything he sought when he called out a people for his name from among the peoples of the earth. He called a servant (Isaiah 41:8), he called a son (Exodus 4:22), he planted a vine (Hosea 10:1).

    Where the original servant, son and vine failed in their various roles, the Lord Jesus has become the perfect Servant, the exalted Son and the True Vine.

    Israel's future is bright and hopeful not because of its own performance, but because when as a nation they recognize their Messiah and cleave to him in repentance and faith, God will attribute to those "in Christ" all the attributes of his Son.

    He is the tender plant, seeded in the land of Israel two millennia ago, who carries in him the hopes of a nation.

    You are right: the world will not see this coming.

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  5. Where the original servant, son and vine failed in their various roles, the Lord Jesus has become the perfect Servant, the exalted Son and the True Vine.

    That's a very astute comment that many miss. Well said.

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  6. When I read your posts I like to go read the passages you refer to and get all the context. Where in Zechariah do you find the reference to tzemach, and that Israel wouldn't have autonomy? Thank you for your teaching!

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