I just finished a short book entitled, “Mashiach: the Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition”, by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet, third edition, 1992.
Interesting to discover how Jews are thinking about messiah today. Key words in the book are: auspicious (time), precursor, merit, demand, and hasten. The text was not overly difficult to follow — the footnotes, however, are often rather hard-going and lengthy.
First, I found the entire manner of thinking about messiah to be both highly entailed and half-blind — I say this with a pained sense of sadness. Jews today (to mean modern orthodox Jews) believe that a POTENTIAL messiah is alive in the world — in every generation. He is a naturally-born male of the lineage of Solomon and he is a “saint” — Hebrew is tzadik (*1) — but there is no mention of being sinless throughout life. Interestingly, for messiah to come, the timing must be “auspicious” or the candidate/precursor cannot become messiah.
The thinking is that the “soul” of messiah exists in the spiritual realm and has since before Creation. The author did not explain the process of how this “soul” of messiah can overtake the life of the candidate for messiahship, but such is the expected method of turning the tzadik into messiah. This event is scheduled by God to happen at a fixed time, although the coming of messiah can be “hastened” by Jews working together to “merit” his soon arrival through good works. Messiah could not have come in a former era which was premature such as prior to the Davidic line. Perhaps Moses would have made a good messiah, but the time was not ripe. Our time, however, is a possible era, although some moments are more “auspicious” than others.
Messiah can be HASTENED if only Jews the world over will eagerly and earnestly desire his arrival. If Jews would only be repentant for their sins, keep the Sabbath correctly (and keep other stipulations of the Torah), then they can even “DEMAND” that messiah come sooner than the fixed date. Thus, it is up to sincere Jews to MERIT or earn the right to demand messiah’s arrival. This helps me to understand why sincere orthodox Jews who are actually loving people can feel justified in throwing rocks at your car if you drive on Sabbath.
Second, the most interesting and confounded part of the book was the appendix regarding “Messiah ben Joseph“. The thinking is that there must be two (2) messiahs to come in the future: one is the suffering “ben Joseph” and the last the victorious “ben David”. I knew that rabbis thought along these lines a few centuries BCE, but was surprised to find that little has changed. The proof text which the author gave was a PORTION of Zechariah 12:10 on page 95 and following. Messiah ben Joseph will be of the tribe of Ephraim (not Judah as is Messiah ben David), be a precursor to Messiah ben David, rebuild the Temple, and wage battle against the descendants of Esau, victoriously.
Then, …”the immediate result of this war will be disastrous. Mashiach ben Yossef will be killed. This is described in the prophecy of Zechariah who says of this tragedy that ‘they shall mourn his as one mourns for an only child.’ His death will be followed by a period of great calamities. .. shortly thereafter Mashiach ben David shall come, avenge his death, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace and bliss.”
Rabbi Gaon is cited that this “second Messiah” does not HAVE to come, but is contingent upon “the spiritual condition of the Jewish people at the time the redemption is to take place.” (p. 98)
The most tell-tale problem with Rabbi Schochet’s book is the way he partially quoted Zechariah 12:10. The full passage reads:
Yes, this passage is about a man who was the son of Joseph, legally, anyway. But Rabbi Schochet could not permit the full quote in his text, because it begs the question, is not this the Yeshua ben Yossef of two millenia past?
Also, not mentioned were the passages of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52 and following which together prophecy of the Messiah ben Joseph who has come. His death by crucifixion and the reason for that death is explained by prophets centuries before the invention of crucifixion:
“A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it [it is finished]. – (Psalm 22, ESV)
Isaiah 52 & 53
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.- (Isa 52:13-15; Isa 53, ESV)
I would ask Rabbi Schochet to explain why these passages were not found worthy of mention in his appendix regarding Mashiach ben Yossef. Of whom did David speak in Psalm 22 if not the son of a particular carpenter named Yosef who was crucified by Gentile “dogs”? With David, I ask, “Who has believed?” Why will the Chosen People refuse to simply read and believe?
The day is coming when they shall believe. Hosea prophesied of this coming day when Jews the world over will turn to Messiah, Yeshua ben Yosef:
First, the bad news that Israel has rejected the Plan of God:
(Hsa 5:4 ESV) – Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the LORD. (Hsa 5:5 ESV) – The pride of Israel testifies to his face; Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt; Judah also shall stumble with them. (Hsa 5:15 ESV) – I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.
Then, the Good News that Israel will repent:
(Hsa 6:1-3 ESV) – “Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
How could the Lord “return” to His place unless He had left? Messiah ben Yosef has come the first time, and He is the same Messiah who is coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah — but only when the Chosen People acknowledge their guilt and seek His face, and in their distress earnestly seek Him. After “two days” (and it has been two millennia) He will revive Israel — and He has. The nation of Israel, though embattled on all sides, CANNOT be destroyed — no matter what comes. The age of Messiah is upon us! He will rule from the center of the world and Jerusalem will be the capitol of this planet with all the nations bringing their glory and talents to honor Israel – for salvation is ever of the Jews. The final millennium of this planet will Know the LORD, the Holy One who is the Firstborn from the Grave, the perfect Jewish man who is the King of all the Nations, the Firstborn of MANY brethren.
I would ask you, Rabbi Schochet, to follow the urging of Zechariah. Let there be “pleas for mercy”. When you look on Him, on Him whom they have pierced — when you shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn”. Then you will know that Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach Ben David are one and the same — both as the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah. Join Rabbi Kaduri who is not the only Jewish scholar of late to place his trust in Yehoshua ben Yosef.
He is coming for you, Rabbi Schochet. May the Lord bless you! Whether that be a day of bliss or a day of woe is entirely up to you. “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” The Lord self-describes as Elohim (אֱלהִים): the plurality of Divinity. The LORD is echad, not ever yachid – never, never, never yachid. When, O Israel, will you hear this?
The day when Israel DOES hear this will be the great day of Hosea’s hopeful word. God, hasten that day when you “pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy”!
*1 – tzadik: the term for “saint” is based on the concept of “righteousness. Maimonedes, the rabbi known as the Rambam, taught that a tzadik is a person whose righteous merit has exceeded their sinfulness, thus any Jew can become a tzadik. Obviously, this is in keeping with the Muslim belief that Allah “weighs a man in the balance” to determine if he goes up or down. And while Rambam enjoyed an optimistic thought, the fundamental flaw stems from a low estimation of God’s holy righteousness and subsequent intolerance of sin — an absolute intolerance. Of the many attributes by which God has been declared, it is the most exalted of the angelic realm who proclaim Him as thrice Holy. The problem with current thinking is the bifurcation in Jewish thought which does not have room for the Justification merited by one Perfect human life, having been unjustly slain, so that others might profit thereby. Obviously, God does not punish the wrong-doer with an instantaneous and just punishment upon the sinner’s first peccadillo. Unfortunately, Jewish scholars such as Rabbi Schochet opine that God is more lenient than He actually is — that He is not altogether Holy. However, each sin (whether that of Adam, Moses, or Stalin’s) HAS been perfectly resolved in the economy of God’s jurisprudence. Going further, orthodox Jews hold that the Temple sacrifices were adequately substitutionary for human sin to salve God’s indignation; currently, the Temple is not necessary for this remedy — an indication that God has moved, possibly softened His formerly over-zealous angst against lawbreakers. The Talmud declares that 36 tzadik are always living among us in anonymity — only their closer followers are perhaps aware of their identity. These Tzadik Nistar are all that keeps God from destroying the world of Sin for their sake. Thus, the Devil hates them and opposes them aggressively. Through his desire to exterminate all Jews, these 36 will die and he can then enjoy victory over God’s plan. It does not take a great deal of imagination to see how permutations of these considerations cause intelligent people to think in a manner which digresses further and further from God’s authoritative Word to the point that a “common sense” understanding of that Word becomes obfuscated — hence, Hosea’s prophecy (and David’s and Isaiah’s, etc.) falls upon deafened ears. “Who has believed?” (Isaiah 53) is the question that rings through the generations. Poor Rabbi Schochet who, for now, prefers to not believe the prophets so as to trust in Yeshua ben Yosef; all the momentum of his life — status, friendships, community, income — are keeping him damned. To break away from that entire lifespan by making the decision FOR Yeshua now would be meritorious indeed.