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.
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.