Midrash Konen was a small allegorical publication, no earlier than the 11th century and possibly as late as the 16th century, which yet again missionaries take out of context, do not bother to explain to the reader that it is allegorical (and not literal).
Midrash Konen post dates Rashi who supposedly changed the subject of Isaiah 53 from the messiah to Israel (again, someone neglected to give this information to the author of Midrash Konen, which is also known as HaShem be-Ḥokhmah Yasad Areẓ).
This is a very stylized myth -- allegory -- not at all literal. In the midrash G-d takes a name out of the Torah and transforms it into drops of water, light and fire -- the elements He uses to create the world. Let's just read a bit of it, shall we? "The earth is stretched out upon the waters, and the waters on the pillars of hashmal (angels), and the pillars of hashmal (angels) on the Mountains of Hailstones, and the Mountain of Hailstones on the Storehouses of Snow, and the Storehouses of Snow on the Storehouses of Water and Fire, and the Storehouses of Water on the sea, and the sea on the deep, and the deep on chaos and chaos on the void and the void stands upon the sea, and the sea stands upon the sweet waters, and the sweet waters stand on the mountains, and the mountains stand upon the wind, and the wind upon the wings of the storm, and the storm is tied to the heavens, and the heavens are suspended from the arm of the Holy One, blessed be He."
Does that seem literal to you?
This is Jewish mythology, folks, which presents a discussion between a rabbi and angels. This is NOT literal and is not meant to be literal, yet the missionaries will claim that the midrash, referencing Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:5, tells us that Elijah says: "Bear thou the sufferings and wounds wherewith the Almighty doth chastise thee for Israels sin;" and so it is written, "He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities" until the time when the end should come."
As we've seen before this missionary quote is from the 19th century Christian book The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters by Driver and Neubauer which is discussed in this blog post.
The midrash discusses how all of Israel, including Moshiach ben Yosef, will suffer before the messiah reveals himself. Moshiach ben Yosef (messiah from the house of Joseph) is a soldier who may appear in the day of the messiah -- and he will die in battle. This is not "the" messiah (that is Moshiach ben David, the messiah from the line of King David).
In other words, the midrash states that there will be suffering in the days before the real messiah comes. This suffering will visit all Jewish people (per Midrash Konen). Since the Messiah will be alive at this time, and since the messiah is Jewish, he will also be one of those suffering at that time, (according to these Midrashim).
What does any of that have to do with Isaiah 53 talking about Jesus suffering? What does it have to do with Isaiah 53 being about the messiah suffering even though it isn't "the end of days" or the messianic era?
It has nothing to do with it. Yet again the missionaries have just lifted something out of context to give the erroneous conclusion
Midrash Konen is allegory and it dwells on the last days and speaks of the suffering of ALL of Israel, including moshiach ben Yosef who will be alive in those days. Again, out of context, distorted and totally misunderstood. Not to mention that it is midrash aggadah.
Another Jewish source missionaries will site claiming that "ancient Jewish sources" interpreted the servant in Isaiah 53 as "the" messiah (and not the Jewish nation) is יפת בן עלי הלוי / Yefet ben Ali (Yefet, son of Ali).
Jews for Jesus does not cite Yefet ben Ali on Isaiah 53, but other missionaries do -- and again the source yet again appears to be the 19th century Christian book The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters by Driver and Neubauer which is discussed in this blog post. This book was the brainchild of Edward B. Pusey, an English Christian missionary, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, from 1828 until his death. Pusey's goal was to missionize the Jews. The infamous book he sponsored (regarding Isaiah 53) has been used to evangelize the Jews for well over a hundred years. "the way whereby our L-rd's kingdom is to be enlarged, plainly is by Missionaries," wrote Pusey.
Would Christians hold up Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, as a great expert on Christianity?
Of course not.
Normative Christianity rejects the teachings of Joseph Smith.
Yet missionaries hold up Jewish apostates as if they are some reputable Jewish source, and this is the case with Yefet ben Ali as quoted (selectively as we will see) by missionaries.
So who was Yefet Ben Ali?
He was not a "Rabbi."
He was not a "Rabbinical" source.
He was a 10th century (C.E.) Karaite.
What is a Karaite?
These were apostate Jews, coming to fruition in the 9th century CE (shortly before it died out) who denied the authenticity of the oral mitzvot (Talmud). The Karaites were a sect which appears to have begun when the Muslims defeated Jerusalem in the 7th century C.E, reaching its peak in the 9th century CE (900 years after Jesus), mostly dying out less than a hundred years later.
The Karaites rejected the oral mitzvot (Talmud) hundreds of years after the oral mitzvot had been recorded. There are people today who call themselves Karaites, but do not confuse the ancient group with people who today claim to be Karaites. There are less than 100,000 Karaites worldwide (about 30 - 50,000 in Israel), and most are not even Jewish. In 1932, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, there were only some 10,000 of them in Russia and approximately 2,000 elsewhere in the world. The modern Karaites claim they are descended from the ancients, but this seems highly unlikely. Modern Karaism took the name of the ancient group -- and while they claim to be linked to them that link is precarious indeed. From Aish's Crash Course on Judaism regarding the Karaites.
(The Muslims defeated Jerusalem in the 7th century CE (Omar). This is where we begin the history of the Karaites). "Indeed, when Omar defeated the Persians and took over Babylonia, he immediately gave his blessing to the Reish Galusa to head the Jewish community. As a matter of fact, Omar was so fond of the Reish Galusa -- Bustenai Ben Haninai -- that when he himself decided to marry the daughter of the Persian king, he insisted that Bustenai marry her sister. Thus in a bizarre twist of fate, the Reish Galusa became brother-in-law to the caliph.
(After the death of Bustenai, his sons by an earlier wife sought to delegitimatize his sons by the Persian princess, claiming that she never converted to Judaism. However, this was unlikely as the case of a Reish Galusa marrying a non-Jewish woman without conversion would have caused a furor and public condemnation. Indeed the Gaonim of the day ruled that all his children were legitimate Jews.)
During the long history of Babylonian Jewry, sometimes the Reish Galusa wielded more power, sometimes the Gaonim. Much depended on the political climate and the personalities involved. Generally, however, the position of the Gaon was determined by scholarship, while the position of Reish Galusa was depended on lineage (as the Reish Galusa was traditionally the descendant of King David.)
And it was a dispute over lineage that gave rise to a splinter sect in 8th century Baghdad -- a splinter sect that came to be known as the Karaites.
When Shlomo, the Reish Galusa, died childless in 760, two of his nephews Hananiah and Anan vied for the position. Hananiah got the job and Anan went off to start his own religion.
This is another example of a pattern we have seen previously -- a split among the Jews due to an ego problem. (We saw it, for example, in Part 20 with Rehoboam and Jeroboam.)
The sect that Anan started in some ways was similar to the Sadducees. Like the Sadducees, the Karaites didn't recognize the authority of the Oral Torah and hence they read the Written Torah literally. (Their name, Karaites, comes from the Hebrew verb, kara, meaning "read.")
As we saw earlier, it is impossible to live a Jewish life without the Oral Torah as so much of the Written Torah is not specific enough. Thus, where the Torah commands "and you shall write them [these words] upon the doorposts of your home," how can anyone know which words of the Torah, or indeed, if the entire Torah is to be written on the doorpost? It is the Oral Torah that explains that this passage refers to the words of the Shema prayer, which are to be written on a parchment scroll and then affixed in a specified place and manner on the doorpost. The mezuzah!
As a result of their literal reading of the Torah, the Karaites came to observe Shabbat in total darkness, unable to leave their homes all day except to go to the synagogue. They did away with the observance of Chanukah because it is not mentioned in the Written Torah, as well as with the separation of meat and milk for the same reason.
One might think that this sect would have little appeal, and initially it did not. But, with time, the Karaites began to attract those Jews who wanted to dismiss the opinions of the rabbis; this turned out to be a huge draw.
That is, until the great sage, the Sa'adiah Gaon entered the picture.
Sa'adiah Gaon is famed for his writings, particularly the Book of Belief and Opinions, and for his critiques of the Karaites which made mincemeat of their beliefs.
His arguments stopped the spread of Karaitism which could have overwhelmed the entire Jewish world. It was so popular at one point that in the 10th century the majority of Jews in the Land of Israel were Karaites.
However, the Karaites never recovered from the assault of Sa'adiah Gaon on the logic of their beliefs. Their numbers shrunk with time, though unlike the Sadducees, they never completely disappeared.
(Incidentally, up until World War II, there was a large Karaite community in the Crimea, which in trying to save themselves from the Nazis, claimed that they were not actually Jews. Of course, they were murdered too.)
Today, there is a small number of Karaites left, living chiefly in Israel, though no one is sure how many as the Karaites forbid census-taking. Their population has been variously estimated at 7,000 all the way up to 40,000. The Karaites are reputed to be very religious people, and from the outside appear indistinguishable from Orthodox Jews, though they are forbidden to marry other Jews and marry only each other.
When the Sa'adiah Gaon died in 942, the period of the Gaonim of Babylon was almost over. It would officially end in 1038 with the death of Chai Gaon."
The Rambam opined that Karaites of 1000 years ago were not heretics (as many other Jewish sources opined), but were ignorant, acting in error based on the customs they were taught. They were not intentionally heretical, per the Rambam, but were like kidnapped children who don’t know any better.
Whether an apostate (heretic) or in error it is quite clear that referencing a Karaite is NOT appropriate or logical. This is not a "Jewish source" any more than quoting some non-normative Christian source would be acceptable as a "Christian source."
Yefet ben Ali, therefore is not a "rabbinical" source. He rejected rabbinical Judaism!
The Driver and Neubauer book mentions that Yefet ben Ali personally saw the passage as messianic he also states that many Karaites view the servant as the Jewish nation, and that Saadia Gaon (9th century CE) viewed the servant as Jeremiah the prophet. "Some of the learned (Karaites) apply the prophecy to the pious of their own sect (the Jewish people), resting their view upon two arguments: In the first place, because their history answers to the descriptions given in this section; and secondly, because of the word "lamo" (in their deaths), which is plural. Others of them think the subject of it to be David and the messiah, saying that all the expressions of contempt, such as "many were desolated at thee", refer to the seed of David who are in exile (the Jewish people); and all the glorious things, such as 'behold my servant will be prosperous' and 'so shall he sprinkle', refer to the Messiah." The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters by Driver and Neubauer.
As anti traditional Judaism as he was, Yefet ben Ali was just as anti-Christianity -- another fact missionaries never mention to their followers as they quote him.
Jews for Jesus also references Eliezer HaKalir in their "Jewish sources" whom they state say that the servant in Isaiah 53 was the messiah. Even Jews for Jesus starts out by remarking that the man was "one of (the) greatest Jewish religious poets."
Poets, by their nature, are POETIC and not literal!
Why are Jews for Jesus and other missionary sources including Michael L. Brown quoting from a פּיּוּטִ / payuut (poem) to "prove" something?
R' Elazar (also known as Eliezer Hakalir) was a Kabbalist - a mystic, a poet. His writings are "drash" -- mystical commentary. That is, by definition it isn't what the passage means in any ordinary sense. So once again we are dealing with Midrash Aggadah allegory. It is NOT meant to be taken at face value. It is homily -- not a literal interpretation that missionaries wish to present to unknowing believers in Jesus as "fact".
R' Elazar was one a very prolific liturgical poets and was the author of many of the kinot / lamentations for Tishah B'Av. How deceitful of Jews for Jesus to quote a poet for "proof" of anything.
Torah.org states "It is certain that R' E' lived before the time of Rashi (died 1105) as Rashi quotes R' E's poems many times in both his Tanach and Talmud commentaries. Some say that the paytan / liturgist was R' Elazar the son of R' Shimon bar Yochai, one of the sages of the Mishnah in the second century. Others contend that he lived in the fifth century and is the R' Eliezer ben R' Shimon who is mentioned in Midrash Rabbah to Vayikra 23:40. Still others identify him as R' Elazar ben Arach, a member of the generation which saw the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash (the Second Temple) in the first century C.E. "
The poem quoted by Jews for Jesus and other missionary websites is the musaf prayer for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). As usual the missionaries are quoting, out of context, a tiny bit of a much larger poem (prayer / payyut). The passage is part of 'Az MeLifnei Beraishit' (Then before the world was created). Read the poem and it is quite clear that none of it is literal. There are four stanzas with each stanza of the piyyut relating to the קדושה / kedusha prayer. In the repetition of the עמידה / Amidah (Standing Prayer) Jews stand to say a special prayer called קדושה / kedusha prayer. This is a sanctification of G-d in which we declare that G-d is One and that He is holy, transcendent beyond anything in creation.
From R' Moshe Shulman's article on this topic is a partial translation of this prayer from the section missionaries selectively quote (and note the parts they do not quote!):
Then before Creation;
The Holy Temple and Yanin were prepared;
An exalted place of prayer from the beginning;
was prepared before there was any people or language.
It was strong for the Shechina to rest there;
Unintentional sinners were shown the upright way;
The wicked whose sins that were red;
were washed and purified to be as they were before.
If He was angry with an anger causing fear;
Holy One do not bring all your anger;
Even if we have continued to steal until this time;
Our Rock will not bring a plague on us.
Our righteous Moshiach (messiah) has been removed from us;
We are beaten and none is here to stand for our righteousness;
Our sins and the yoke of our rebellion are upon him;
He is wounded from our rebellion.
From the earth raise him,
From Seir rise up;
To gather us on Mount Lebanon,
again by the hand of Yanin.
Note that it says the messiah is wounded FROM our rebellion (not "for" -- no one can atone for your sins except you yourself). When read in context the missionary claim is clearly undercut. As R' Shulman wrote in his article: "The simple meaning of this prayer is that we had a Holy Temple for atonement, and now we are in exile, and when Moshiach comes he shall return us to the Holy Temple. (Mount Lebanon) When looking at this passage in full it is somewhat difficult to see what the missionaries are trying to say. Certainly seeing this passage in the context of those before and after, it is hard to see the point they are making."
This payyut is based on the teaching in the Midrash Tanchuma parsha Nasa 11, page 506 in the standard Hebrew edition. There it says: " Teach us, our Rabbi, how many things were created before the Creation of the world?' 'Thus taught our rabbis, "Seven things were created before the world was created. They are: (1) the throne of glory (2) the Torah (3) the Temple (4) the Patriarchs (Abraham Isaac and Jacob) (5) The people Israel (6) the name of the Messiah (7) repentance."
Notice that it is the name of the messiah. Also notice that it is Midrash.
In the Midrash the proof of this pre=existent name is based on the rabbinic interpretation of Psalms 72:17 which literally says: "His name should last forever, may his name last as long as the sun",
This was interpreted as meaning: "His name shall forever endure, before the sun (was made) Yanin was his name."
Remember this is Midrash -- not literal. The Rabbis many times took verses out of context to teach spiritual lessons, this is an example of that. Do not let the missionaries mislead you -- they seem to think that any mention of the messiah = Jesus. This ignores the fact that the real messiah is a Jewish king who will bring world peace and global knowledge of G-d. We do pray that this human king comes speedily and in our days -- as he is, like all of us, a servant of G-d. Many Jewish sources, using homily and allegory, relate the messiah (and King David and Moses and others) to the exalted servant of Isaiah 53 -- but the missionaries mislead their followers into thinking that our teachers relate the messiah to Jesus, and this is totally false.
Jewish commentators state that the section the missionaries love to quote is not about the messiah, but can be attributed to death of the righteous King Josiah or to King Zedekiah -- but yet again it must be emphasized that this is a POEM -- not a literal meaning of the passage in Isaiah 53. This particular poem is found in the מוּסָף musaf ("additional") service of Yom Kippur.
This week's parsha (Torah reading) is פקודי / Pekudei (Sh'mot / Exodus 38:21-40:38) which discusses the completion of the מִשְׁכַּן / Mishkahn (Tabernacle, or tent of meeting) and ends with the phrase "Moses completed all the work. The cloud / הֶעָנָ֖ן covered the Communion Tent, and G-d's glory / וּכְב֣וֹד filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not come into the Communion Tent, since the cloud had rested on it, and G-d's glory filled the Tabernacle. . . G-d's cloud would then remain on the Tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night. This was visible to the entire family of Israel, in all their travels."
Note that it says "G-d's cloud."
So what is this cloud?
What about the burning bush which attracted Moses, and from which a voice spoke to Moses?
The burning bush was not G-d either. In Sh'mot / Exodus 3:2 Moses did not "see" G-d at all in the bush — it was an "angel" (messenger) not G-d. The angel did not take on the form of a burning bush either -- "G-d's angel appeared to [Moses] in the heart (or flame) of a fire."
How about the cloud on Mount Sinai, mentioned in תְּרוּמָה / Parsha Terumah (Sh'mot / Exodus 20:18) "Moses entered the mist where the Divine was [revealed]."
G-d was not that cloud either.
Two lines later (Sh'mot / Exodus 20:20) G-d tells Moses "Do not make a representation of anything that is with Me."
In this week's parsha the term we are translating as G-d's glory is וּכְב֣וֹד (and glory). כָּבוֹד means glory or honor and the prefix וּ (vav) which is used to mean "and" or "but." Some translations will use the word "presence" for כְב֣וֹד, but this might mislead a reader into thinking that this is somehow part of G-d (and G-d has no parts). It is rather a way we perceive His presence. Glory is a much closer translation than presence. Glory is the translation used in both the Judaica Press and The Living Torah translations. Glory is more accurate and less open to misinterpretation of some physicality. The word כָּבוֹד / 'kavod" is more commonly translated as "honor" than glory. . . In describing G-d's כָּבוֹד / kavod the The Living Torah states it is:
Either a feeling of holiness (cf. Ramban) or an actual physical glow (Moreh Nevukhim 1:44). In any case, G-d's presence was evident in the Tabernacle (Moreh Nevukhim 1:19).
"The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 1:64) explains that the term “Kavod Hashem”, or any use of kavod in reference to G-d, has numerous meanings. For example, when Moshe asks from G-d (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:18) “hareini nah es kevodecha”, he was asking to understand the essence of G-d. Therefore, in that instance, the kavod refers to the essence of G-d. In the case of the mishkan (Tabernacle), he explains that the kavod Hashem was a light created by G-d to delineate the importance of that specific place. Therefore, the kavod Hashem referred to in the above verses meant some type of light that was emanating from the mishkan, seen through the surrounding cloud.
"We see a clear example of this at the revelation at Sinai. The Torah (Sh'mot / Exodus 24:16) relates how the kavod Hashem rested on Har Sinai, with the anan enveloping it for six days. On the seventh day, G-d called out to Moshe to enter into the anan, where he then received the Torah. Taking the Rambam’s (Maimonides) interpretation, this would mean the cloud covered the mountain and the light emanated from within it. . .
"A cloud and light are actually ideal representations as they share a common feature. They both exist within the physical world, able to be seen, yet lack any physicality – nobody can “touch” light or “feel” a cloud. G-d is not physical, so there is no means of physically representing Him. Yet there are times when G-d chooses to reveal Himself to the nation, and the people need a means of identifying G-d’s presence. The choice of these two entities reflects the need for the manifestation to be observable, yet still intangible (there are other instances throughout the Torah where these two are used)."
Most Christians believe that G-d had a body (and that body had a name: Jesus). Thus the concept of a G-d as something physical is an inherent part of Christianity (for most Christians), while the Torah and Judaism completely rejects the concept that G-d is anyone or anything. G-dd is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that G-d assumes human form makes G-d small, diminishing both His unity and His divinity. As the Torah says: "G-d is not a man." (Bamidbar / Numbers 23:19).
The Torah tells us G-d is incorporeal (has no physicality) time and time again.
"You did not see any image on the day that G‑d spoke to you at Horeb [Sinai]."-- D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:15.
G-d has no physical manifestation -- He is not a bush, a cloud, or a man. (D'varim) Deuteronomy 4:15 clearly tells us that the Israelites did not see G-d in any form. Ergo G-d was NOT the pillar or the cloud. "You cannot see My Face, for man cannot see Me and live." (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:20).
Sh'mot / Exodus 24:17, told us “the appearance of the glory of HaShem was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop before the eyes of the Children of Israel." Note that it says the appearance of the glory of G-d, not the appearance of G-d.
"But will G-d indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You; much less this temple that I have erected." Melachim Alef / 1 Kings 8:27.
What does it mean when, in this parsha, we are told that the people saw a cloud covering the Mishkahn by day and a light (fire) by night? The Rambam explained that this was a creation by G-d to delineate the importance of that specific place (where the Ark of the Covenant was kept). Therefore, some type of light was emanating from the Mishkahn (Tabernacle). By day the people saw the cloud, and just as we might have an electric light on during the day but can't differentiate between sunlight or the light from a street lamp outside during the day the people did not notice the light during the day. At night (when it was dark) the light was seen (Moreh Nevuchim 1:64).
For more discussion on the concept of G-d's glory in the Mishkhan (and later in the Temple) you might want to read this article from the Mesora website.
Missionary duplicity never ceases to amaze. First Jews for Jesus says that the 11th century Jewish sage רבי שלמה יצחקי / R' Solomon Isaac aka Rashi (1040 CE - 1105 CE) changed the entire Jewish view of Isaiah 53 from the messiah to Israel as a direct response against Christianity. Jews for Jesus claims "Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki, 1040-1105) and some of the later rabbis, though, interpreted the passage as referring to Israel. They knew that the older interpretations referred it to Messiah. However, Rashi lived at a time when a degenerate medieval distortion of Christianity was practiced. He wanted to preserve the Jewish people from accepting such a faith and, although his intentions were sincere, other prominent Jewish rabbis and leaders realized the inconsistencies of Rashi's interpretation."
Then the missionaries quote as "proof" a source who lived 700 years after Rashi!
When one sees a missionary referencing a Jewish source to "prove" Jesus a number of questions should come to mind:
The missionary argument presented by Jews for Jesus (and Michael Brown and many other missionaries) that "once upon a time" the Jews said the servant was the messiah and we "changed" it in the 11th century (Rashi) due to Christianity.
It is insulting for a missionary to think that Judaism is so weak that we would ever consider changing anything to mold it to Christianity -- would Christianity change something to "avoid" an Islamic interpretation? It is stupid and insulting to attribute such an action to Judaism.
IF the servant in Isaiah 53 were the messiah we would state so -- after all we do attribute many passages to the messiah -- what is one more? The Jewish sages and commentators who do attribute Isaiah 53's servant to the messiah (or David, or Moses) do so as the exalted messiah, not the suffering (Jesus type) messiah -- and they do so in drash (homily, allegory -- not a literal interpretation. Remember -- prophecy is always based on the literal meaning of a passage, so an allegorical one cannot foreshadow the "suffering Jesus").
But, let us return to Herz Homberg -- yet another source held up by the missionaries to "prove" that Isaiah 53 is about Jesus. Homberg is quoted as saying "According to the opinion of Rashi and Ibn Ezra, it relates to Israel at the end of their captivity. But if so, what can be the meaning of the passage, "He was wounded for our transgressions"? Who was wounded? Who are the transgressors? Who carried out the sickness and bare the pain? The fact is that it refers to the King Messiah."
Who is Herz Homberg?
Homberg lived in the late 18th early 19th century in Austria.
Yes, Homberg lived 700+ years after Rashi supposedly "changed" the Jewish interpretation of the servant in Isaiah 53 -- once again, did someone fail to give him the "memo" that there was aby worldwide Jewish conspiracy, based on one man (Rashi) to change the Jewish interpretation of this passage?
Missionaries cite this quote by Herz Homberg -- from Jews for Jesus to Rosh Pina, ICLnet, and many many more. The original source (once again) appears to be the 19th century missionary book The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters by Driver and Neubauer which is discussed in this blog post.
Homberg was of the early radical Reform movement -- the one who offered to have all their followers convert to Christianity if the Christians would not kill them. From R' Moshe Shulman's article Moshe Ibn Crispin on Isaiah 53 "His many activities after leaving Germany to spread his ideas to Austrian Jews included, setting up a system of schools that were devoid of the teaching of Judaism, he was a censor of Jewish books, and tried to have all the yeshivos (Jewish schools of higher education) closed.
"His four sons converted to Christianity.
"In his book on his beliefs, 'Benei Zion' he denied belief in a Messiah, denied all traditional Jewish customs, and argued that Judaism and Christianity were essentially the same.
"To missionaries this person is an authoritative voice of Judaism!
"The point is that if we are going to discuss what the 'Rabbis' believe, we need to know that these sources quoted are really Rabbis, or respected mainstream Orthodox religious scholars. Not heretics or people who are ignorant of what the Rabbis really teach. Just being born Jewish does not make one an expert in what Judaism teaches, nor does it make what the person writes 'Judaism.'"
Very well put, R' Shulman. A Jew may be educated or not. He may be teaching Judaism or his own personal opinions -- with Homberg it is obviously not Jewish teaching, but his own uneducated opinion. How do we know this?
Homberg attacked the rabbis of his time, considering them incorrigible. Aside from wanting to close all the yeshivot (Jewish schools) he also called for the burning of rabbinic books. On top of all of that (as if that wasn't enough to discredit this man as a "source") Homberg persuaded the Austrian government to tax candles kindled by Jews on Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yomim Tovim (holidays)!
This is the "source" quoted by missionaries as some great Jewish source on Isaiah 53!
Homberg was even accused by the Austrian (non-Jewish) officials for whom he worked of corruption and nepotism -- as well as personally taking some funds raised in taxes. This is NOT a Jewish source, let alone a man to hold up in admiration.
Let this be a warning to Jews who are exploring Christianity and looking at the "Hebrew roots" movement or the "messianics" -- read your T'nach. Do not blindly believe the sources presented to you -- do your OWN research. When a missionaries says "this Jewish source supports Christianity" do not blindly believe them -- check for yourself!
So often the missionaries are taking lies and distortions without checking them for the facts. The missionary may, himself, be innocent and simply "passing on" something they themselves were told -- but whether they are lying purposefully or by accident the harm is the same. As you can see with just a very quick post they are all distorted, pieces that don't fit Jesus or the Christian agenda are ignored and the rest totally misused. Herz Homberg, a Reform Jew of the 19th century is presented as "proof"? This is what Jews for Jesus calls "The Rabbis' Dilemma" (Isaiah 53)? Please!
R Moshe Alshich (on some missionary sites called "El Sheik" or "Al Sheik") lived from 1508-1593 CE in the Middle East, primarily in Safed, Israel, where he is buried.. R' Alshich lived 500 years after Rashi supposedly changed the Jewish concept of the servant from the messiah to Israel.
The missionaries claim that the older Jewish opinion was that Isaiah 53's suffering servant was the messiah but that the Jewish sage רבי שלמה יצחקי / R' Solomon Isaac aka Rashi (1040 CE - 1105 CE) changed the entire Jewish view of Isaiah 53 from the messiah to Israel as a direct response against Christianity. Jews for Jesus claims "Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki, 1040-1105) and some of the later rabbis, though, interpreted the passage as referring to Israel. They knew that the older interpretations referred it to Messiah. However, Rashi lived at a time when a degenerate medieval distortion of Christianity was practiced. He wanted to preserve the Jewish people from accepting such a faith and, although his intentions were sincere, other prominent Jewish rabbis and leaders realized the inconsistencies of Rashi's interpretation."
Rashi did not change the Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53 from the messiah to the Jewish nation, this is a missionary claim originating in the 19th century and is easily disproved. Read the blog post "Rashi "changed" the Jewish interpretation from the messiah to Israel"
Returning to the missionary claim -- if Rashi "changed" the Jewish view of the servant from the messiah to the people of Israel (the Jewish nation) in the 11th century did someone forget to pass the message on to R' Moshe Alshich who lived in the 16th century? Why are missionaries quoting someone who lived 400 years after Rashi to "prove" that Rashi changed it?
A bit backwards, don't you think?
How do missionaries explain this major time discrepancy?
Missionaries are notorious for throwing out references and quotes with abandon hoping that there is so much mud thrown up that no one will bother to check each one of his facts -- or if they did the reader / listener would get so bored they'd tune out the truth.
Now if Rashi CHANGED the servant from the messiah to Israel 500 years before R' Ashlich then why would any Jew state as a fact that the servant is the messiah? Does this make any sense? Did Alshich not know the Jews had conspired to changed the interpretation missionaries such as Jews for Jesus or Michael Brown?
Already you can see this doesn't make sense. The literal meaning of the servant in Isaiah is Israel. Using homily the servant has been applied to many different people -- including Moses, Abraham and others.
How do we know that R' Alshich's commentary is not literal?
R' Alshich was a great Kabbalist. Indeed R' Alshich is considered one of the great darshanim (sermonizers) of the Jewish world.
Do you remember what the sage the Ramban (Nachmanides) told the King of Aragon (Spain) about sermons (aka midrash aggadot or stories)? He explained to the king: "We have a third book called Midrash, meaning sermons. It is just as if the bishop would rise and deliver a sermon, and one of the listeners whom the sermon pleased recorded it. In regard to this book, those who believe it well and good, but those who do not believe it do no harm." (Disputation at Barcelona).
The modern resource The Encyclopedia Judaica speaking of אַגָּדָה / aggadah: "The aggadah comprehends a great variety of forms and content. It includes narrative, legends, doctrines, admonitions to ethical conduct and good behavior, words of encouragement and comfort, and expressions of hope for future redemption. Its forms and modes of expression are as rich and colorful as its content. Parables and allegories, metaphors and terse maxims; lyrics, dirges, and prayers, biting satire and fierce polemic, idyllic tales and tense dramatic dialogues, hyperboles and plays on words, permutations of letters, calculations of their arithmetical values (gematria) or their employment as initials of other words (notarikon) – all are found in the aggadah."
Torah is understood on many levels -- this is called PaRDeS.
* P'shat (פְּשָׁט) - the "plain" ("simple") meaning of a passage
* Remez (רֶמֶז) - "hints" implied in the text but not explicit
* Drash (דְּרַשׁ) - which is a deeper or even midrashic meaning -- often inferred from other scripture
* Sod (סוֹד) - "secret" ("mystery") meanings
These four levels (PaRDeS) are all valid, but the meaning of a passage is always derived from the plain (pshat) reading. R' Alshich's quotes are Drash. Ergo Brown (and D&N and many other Chrstians who quote one section out of context) either don't understand PaRDeS or simply choose to lie to their readers and lead them to believe that what is pshat (plain meaning) is really drash (midrashic).
The Pusey book never gives original sources, so it is hard to track down these quotes. In the case of R Moshe Alshich it comes from a very obscure work called Marot HaTsobeot" (Collected Visions), on the prophets and their prophecies. Marot HaTsobeot is an exegetical and mystical commentary. That is, by definition it isn't what the passage means in any ordinary sense. So once again we are dealing with Midrash Aggadah allegory. It is NOT meant to be taken at face value. It is homily -- not a literal interpreation.
But even so the Pusey version is self serving and not true to the original at all. For example, the Pusey has R Moshe Alshich saying what Brown quoted him as saying: "our rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view."
That is not what R Moshe Alshich says. He doesn't say doesn't say "our Rabbis of blessed memory." R Moshe Alshich uses a common abbreviation: R"ZL. The usual assumption would be that that's what it means, but the abbreviation also stands for *my* Rabbis of blessed memory.
The missionaries are also lying to their readers by only partially quoting this passage. They leave out a very pertinent part of the quote: "Our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view: for the Messiah is of course David, who, as is well known, was ‘anointed’, and there is a verse in which the prophet, speaking in the name of the L-rd, says expressly, ‘My servant David shall be king over them’. The expression my servant, therefore, can be justly referred to David."
We cannot emphasize this enough: R' Alshich is saying that King David is the messiah in question!
R' Alshich goes on to say that the suffering "which entered into the world, one third was for David and the fathers, one for the generation in exile (the Jewish people) and one third for the King Messiah."
R' Moshe was a mystic and using aggadah (homily) he was writing about the highly mystical homilies used by other mystics like himself. R' Alshich was not speaking literally (he references Midrash Tanchuma for one). Alshich divides this fourth servant song of Isaiah to correspond to the three divisions of the Midrash (so much for "literal") as his comments align with the Aggadah.
R' Alshich's comment (who he then states is King David) is made about Isaiah 52:13-53:1 (not Isaiah 53 in whole) and points to King David; Moses; and the Jews (Israel).
Missionaries, through selective quotation, mislead their readers about R' Alshich's true statements and the fact that they are clearly allegorical in nature (not literal).
Using allegory R Moshe equates the Messiah with King David (who was a messiah). He then writes about different worlds populated by angels.
He, R' Moshe was a mystic, writing in the center of Jewish mysticism, is transmitting a mystical interpretation of the text.
In other words this is not ps'hat (plain meaning).
It is not intended to be taken literally by anyone. It is simply homily and R Moshe says that HIS rabbis envision it (homiletically).
This makes the passage of my Rabbis of blessed memory" logical. He is explaining where his homily stems from. He is NOT saying "all the Rabbis who ever lived" as the missionaries infer.
Pusey and his translators may not have understood Jewish mysticism or they may simply have ignored context because they were trying to prove that Jews speak of the servant in Isaiah as the messiah. Their error (or they ignored it) was in misusing and mistranslating a common abbreviation: R"ZL.
R' Alshich states that the servant is Israel and then using Midrash (allegory) first says king messiah IS king David not Jesus or some other messiah, and BTW David was a messiah, an anointed king of Israel). Then R Moshe Alshich compares the servant to MOSES. Folks: this is midrash! Allegory!!! Midrashim were written in an allegorical style that was NEVER meant to be taken literally.
So R Moshe Alshich never meant for any of this to be taken literally, but using Kabbalist reasoning meant it to be viewed as allegory.
This particular part of the midrash explains that the messiah of whom R Moshe Alshich speaks is King David himself (who was a messiah): "The Messiah is of course David, who, as is well known, was "anointed", and there is a verse in which the prophet, speaking in the name of HaShem, says expressly, "My servant David shall be king over them" (Ezekiel 37:24). The expression My servant, therefore, can justly be referred to David."
He then goes on to say the following: "The Almighty, however, says that there is no need for surprise at their attitude of incredulity in the presence of these marvels [of the restoration of Israel], for who believed our report--the report, namely, which we made known to you from heaven, but which the kings had not heard of? So fearful was it, that in the eyes of everyone who did hear it [of the restoration of Israel], it was too wondrous to behold. . ."
He even references Moses in relation to Isaiah 53: "And he made his grave with the wicked. I will show you an instance of this in the chief of all the prophets [Moses], who, by still suffering after his death, endured a heavier penalty than others who had suffered for their generation. Moses was buried away from the Promised Land."
The Rav goes on at length relating Isaiah to Moses. In other words: to try and say the interpretation of el-Sheikh is that Isaiah is speaking of the messiah and only the messiah is untrue and simplistic -- and in the case of Christian missionaries deceptive.
R' Moshe Shulman has an article about this often used personage by missionaries. Read his article Rabbi Moshe Al Sheich and Isaiah 53. Here is a snippet:
The Al Sheich is not approaching this as a literal commentary, but as a non-literal sermon. We cannot use what he says, no matter how interesting it is, to draw conclusions as to what the Rabbis think Isaiah 53 means. Another proof (if we need it) that he is abandoning the literal meaning is that he quotes a famous Midrash and gives an interesting explanation: Our Rabbis say that of all the suffering which entered into the world, one third was for David and the fathers, one for the generation in exile, and one for the King Messiah. . .
he is explaining Isaiah 53, in the context of the Midrash dealing with suffering. He divides Isaiah 53 into three to correspond to the three divisions of the Midrash. The first part of the Midrash (David and the fathers) is 53:9-12 - Moshe. The second part (generation in exile) is 53:2-8 - the righteous of Israel. The third part (for the King Messiah) is 52:13-53:1 – the Messiah."
Missionary Misuse of Jewish Sources on Isaiah 53, Ibn Crispin aka "Moshe Kohen, a 15th-century rabbi in Spain"
Jews for Jesus uses the description "Moshe Kohen, a 15th-century rabbi in Spain" for a person most missionaries name as "Rabbi Moshe Kohen "Ibn Crispin" of Cordova, Spain." The quote given is "This passage, the commentators explain, speaks of the captivity of Israel, although the singular number is used in it throughout. Others have supposed it to mean the just in this present world, who are crushed and oppressed now…but these too, for the same reason, by altering the number, distort the verses from their natural meaning. And then it seemed to me that…having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers, and inclined "after the stubbornness of their own hearts," and of their own opinion, I am pleased to interpret it, in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis, of the King Messiah."
In his second volume of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Michael L. Brown wrote "other significant commentators interpreting this key passage with reference to the sufferings of Messiah son of David include Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin (or Ibn Krispin)"
It took days (weeks) of research to find out that Ibn Crispin was a philosopher. "Ibn Crispin" was a title -- the man's real name was Moshe Cohen. He was a Yeminite poet who lived in the 14th century.
Yes, that is right.
Ibn Crispin was also a mystic.
Taking his writings as literal considering he was a mystic and poet is a flagrant missionary slight of hand and distortion.
Ibn Crispin's most famous book was "Sefer ha-Musar" which had major Averroistic themes. (The main concept was the marriage of religion and philosophy).
So Ibn Crispin was a mystical thinker using allegory and trying to quote him as if he is making psh'at (literal interpretation). If you can read French I highly recommend you read) 'A propos de l'Averrosme juif' (On Jewish Averroism), by Vajda, G. (1952).
Averroes (for those unfamiliar with him) was a MUSLIM philosopher of the 12th century named Abu'l-Walid Ibn Rushd. He came from Cordova (same as Ibn Crispin). Averroes tried to reconcile Aristotle's theories with Islam. His work was translated into Hebrew and it influenced a whole generation and Moshe Ibn Crispin was one of the MOST influenced.
Missionaries (like Michael Brown) who hold Moshe Cohen, aka Ibn Crispin, up as some great rabbinical source to “prove” that “the rabbis” relate the suffering servant in Isaiah 52-53 to the messiah (and not Israel) is far from the mark. Ibn Crispin was an obscure poet and a philosopher who followed a Muslim's teachings. This is an instance of missionaries taking the words of a Jew as "Jewish teaching" -- when nothing could be further from the truth.
Still, let's quote part of the lengthy entry from "Ibn Crispin" in the Driver and Neubauer book -- the quotes the missionaries either gloss over or do not quote: "My servant. . . in each (case it is used in scripture) it is plainly applied to the sons of men born of human parents. . . the expression cannot possibly be applied to the substance of the Creator himself, as is done by our opponents in their theory of the trinity, according to which, this man was of the substance of the Creator. . .
"For they (the Christians) hold that the whole (G-dhead) is of one substance, but that it is divided into three persons, the father, the son and the spirit, that the son took flesh and came down to the earth: now even granting all of this, which, though it is impossible to speak about, still less to conceive, you nevertheless maintain, how could he describe himself as 'my servant,' i.e. as one who devoted himself to serve 'me,' i.e. to serve himself? since, for a man to be called his own servant is a palpable absurdity. . .
"He shall be high, etc. These words afford likewise an answer to our opponents (the Christians); for they refer exclusively to the future. The prophet says, 'He will be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly;' and this language clearly cannot be applied to G-d; for how could it be said of Him that, like a mortal man, he will at some future time be high and exalted, as though He had not been so before? Yet if G-d is G-d He is the same in the past as He will be in the future.
"If, now, they (the Christians) say that the word servant denotes the flesh in which He became incarnate in the world. . . but during the whole time that he is reported to have been incarnate (as Jesus), we do not find that exaltation or supremacy ever fell to his lot, even to the day of his death. . ."
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.