There’s a great book on the subject of the messiah, called “Mashiach: Who What Why How Where and When?” which is an expository of the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. (1)
The title seems to relate to some ideas expressed in The Matrix script:
Neo: Morpheus, what’s happened to me? What is this place?
Morpheus: More important than what is when.
And from another movie by the directors as the Matrix, also with heavy messianic themes:
Who? Who is but the form following the function of what and what I am is a man in a mask.
— V from “V for Vendetta”
Most discussion on the subject of messiah in non-Jewish circles, focuses on “who” he is in terms of a specific incarnate being and not much beyond that. This has everything to do with the Tenakh giving no direct information about this entity.
For instance, searching the Soncino CD on the term “messiah” where it applies to the specific being we refer to by that title, we find this:
- 184 times ‘messiah’ is found in Midrash Rabbah
- 155 times ‘messiah’ is found in the Talmud
- 127 times ‘messiah’ is found in the Zohar
- 0 times (ZERO) ‘messiah’ is found in the Tenakh
“Messiah” however is far more than a title for an individual person. Before the “who,” in terms of messiah as a living human, there existed the “what” regarding the role and function of messiah as a ‘force’ within creation.
Both the Talmud and New Testament speak of messiah as a unique force existing from before the earth was created.
Talmud, Pesachim 54a – Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord made me [the Torah] as the beginning of his way. Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, and it is written, Thou turnest man to contrition, and sayest, Repent, ye children of men. The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. The Gehenna, for it is written, For Gehenna is ordered of old. The Throne of Glory and the Temple, for it is written, Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thou place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His name shall endure forever, and has existed before the sun!
Revelation 13:8: And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.
Hebrews 9:25,26: Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Mention of messiah as a “force of creation” is found in several places.
Midrash Rabbah,Genesis 2:4: AND THE SPIRIT OF G-D HOVERED (Genesis 1:2): this alludes to the spirit of Messiah, as you read, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (Isaiah 11:2). In the merit of what will [this spirit] eventually come? [For the sake of that which] HOVERED OVER THE FACE OF THE WATERS, i.e. in the merit of repentance which is likened to water, as it is written, Pour out thy heart like water (Lamentations 2:19).
We also find this, from the 13th century text, “Sha’are Orah” (“Gates of Light”), where power of the soul of messiah is the ‘life-force’ within all living creatures:
Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature.”(Gen. 1:24). For this verse, by virtue of the upper wisdom, includes the soul of all that moves and crawls on the earth, the life-force of all species of fish, fowl, beasts and domesticated animals as well as the animal soul that dwells within man. One must also include the upper soul that dwells within man which is called the Neshamah. Therefore this verse was interpreted … ‘The verse is referring to the soul of the Messiah’.” (2)
This ‘power of messiah’ is further shown to be unique in that it extends beyond all worlds of existence and pre-existence, back to the source of all things.
Going back to the Matrix, we find that Neo himself does not fully understand how ‘far back’ his connection goes:
NEO: Tell me how I separated my mind from my body without jacking in. Tell me how I stopped four sentinels by thinking it. Tell me just what the hell is happening to me.
ORACLE: The power of the One extends beyond this world. It reaches from here all the way back to where it came from.
ORACLE: The Source. That’s what you felt when you touched those Sentinels. But you weren’t ready for it. You should be dead, but apparently you weren’t ready for that, either.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that the soul of Mashiach originates, from the level of Keter (Atik), the loftiest point of creation.
This is absolutely necessary, for Mashiach must be able to transcend anything and everything in the world – even and especially all evil that was ever perpetrated – to rectify and perfect all mankind. (3)
This “level of Keter” as we have seen in other lessons, is the level of the machine main frame in the Matrix. The source of the “life-force” of the messiah in Torah literature, and “the One” in the Matrix:
Neo: The machine mainframe?
The Oracle: Yes. Where you must go. Where the path of the One ends.
Further, we see in Sha’are Orah that the power of the letter ‘vav’ (which is directly associated with the messiah) extends past Keter/Adam Kadmon – all the way to Ain Sof, in some mysterious fashion:
The essence of the third letter is the essence of the letter vav, and it includes the six Spheres which are the numerical equivalent of the letter vav [six], three above, which is half of vav and three of its other half below. The three of the upper half are Gedulah (also called Hesed), Gevurah and Tiferet and the three Spheres on the lower half are Netzach, Hod and Yesod. All these Spheres are included in the letter vav. Behold, the letter vav of the special Name (YHVH) stands in place of the complete Name. … This letter contains the secret of tying all the upper and lower Spheres. It ascends to Keter and descends to Malchut and it suits all the Spheres., for all are united in it whether they be above or below, to the right or to the left, and it is called the center line. … Know that this great Name YHVH is the attribute the Kabbalists call the Middle Line. … The meaning of the term “the Middle Line” is the essence of the letter vav that is found in the Name YHVH, for it stands in the place where the Name is. It is like an intermediary line, thus this name ascends ever upward until AYN SOF (the infinte), which is the essence of Keter and unites with the name EHYE, which is the essence of the Heavenly Line and then returns to unite below with the Name Adonay. After this He returns and extends to the sides, and all sides from every direction hold fast to Him. One finds that the letter vav of the Name YHVH, may He be blessed, stands in the place of the whole Name, and to it all the other Names hold fast. (4)
Neo’s ‘return to the source,’ as with Yeshua’s “complete the circuit” of mashiach and creation:
The Torah states at the completion of Creation, “And the work was complete… and G-d blessed the Seventh day and sanctified it”; on this phrase the Zohar declares: “the supernal crown (keter elyon) is the crown of Kingdom (keter malchut)”. The most elevated of the sefirot, keter, is thus linked to the most earthly, malchut. (5)
Further, the “skull” (gulgalta/golgatha) is the Keter of the highest partzuf of Arik Anpin. (6)
As Mashiach is the “middle line” (between the left and right pillars) from Malkhut up to Ain Sof, and as the tzadik, ‘does more in death than in life,’ we should not be surprised by the references to both of these concepts in the New Testament.
The symbolism here is inescapable:
John 1:19-20 – So they took Yeshua and led Him away. He went out, carrying His own cross, to a place called The Place of a Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Yeshua in the middle.
When Neo descends to the depths of ‘hell,’ when he is ‘stuck’ in the Merovingian’s ‘train station’ that he has the vision of the ‘three paths’ that lead back to ‘the source.’ (You can see this between the 7 to 15 second marks from this movie trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PQ40oCLiqI.
The righteousness of the tzadik extends from this world (Asiyah/Malkhut) to the highest levels of existence (Atzilut/Keter). Conversely the Ohr Ein Sof descends though the levels of existence into our present world of physical existence.
In the classic text, “Chassidic Dimensions” by Jacob Immanuel Schochet, the author traces the path of Ohr Ein Sof (the “Light” of Ain Sof) from its origin to its ‘destination,’ the last emanation of creation, called “Malchut” which is “Kingdom”:
“Malchut plays an important role. It is the very instrument, as it were, through which the original creative plan is actualized. It is through Malchut that the latent and potential creation emerges into manifest reality and substantiality” … “In Malchut, thus, is the origin of the revelation of the light of the Ein Sof which extends to, and illuminates, the world and creatures in a “revealed” manner. From this source there extends to each individual entity the particular light and vitality suitable for it; informing, animating and sustaining it. That is why Malchut is identified with Shekinah, the Divine Indwelling Presence or Immanence.” (7)
We see the connection between Mashiach and Ohr Ein Sof in Malkut, which is its final filter. As taught by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:
“For when mashiach comes (Isaiah 11:9) ‘The world will be filled with the Knowledge of G-d.’ As we have seen, the attainment of messianic ideals (truth, etc.) depends upon a person’s effort to acquire these traits and qualities prior to the Mashiach’s revelation. Thus on who believes in G-d is one who strives for the knowledge of G-d. Such a person will come to know G-d and cleave to Him, thereby transcending the limitations of time, space and nature. For him, everything will be miraculous … The reason for this is that Malkhut, G-d’s Kingship, the lowest of the sefirot, filters the awesome spiritual lights of the upper sefirot, especially that of Da’at, the external manifestation of Keter (the level of Mashiach)” (8)
This “connection” between levels of existence is significant not only in terms of the positive benefit of the Ohr Ein Sof and tazadikim, but also as it relates to sin, and specifically the sin of Adam.
As rabbi Pinchas Winston relates:
“One of the principle effects of Adam’s and Chava’s interaction with the snake was that they became the recipient of a kind of indelible spiritual impurity called “zuhama” (Shabbos 146a). Spiritual impurity is a tricky concept to begin with, since it is of the spiritual realm, though it will eventually manifest itself physically … That’s what zuhama did, does. It was a spiritual infiltration of the negative spiritual forces (“Chitzonios” or “Klipos”) that had been embodied in the First Snake, and which colored the way we related to the spiritual world, and, by extension, the physical world. It was a partial deadening of our spiritual senses, and therefore, ability to relate to G-d. Thus, zuhama is the true source of sin. … the “infection” of zuhama was only on the first three levels of existence. However, this still affects man, since he too, possesses all FOUR aspects of creation within him, either directly in him or through interaction with them (such as eating vegetables or animals). And, it certainly affects the animal’s world, since that is what they are made of and what sustains them.” (9)
Which brings us to a key point. The reason for Adam’s sin being so serious is that it ‘infiltrated’ not only the spiritual worlds but also the physical one (represented by Malchut) as they are all connected.
The good news however, is that because of this connectivity, the ‘cure’ can come by way of Malchut – via the suffering of a very righteous tzadik (re: Derech Hashem) and bring rectification to everything affected by Adam’s sin.
Understanding mashiach to be the greatest of the tzadikim (re: Rabbi Nachman of Breslov) we see that he (alone) has to ability to go back through time to rectify this sin of Adam as it affected all the worlds of existence. This is expressed by Rabbi Nachman in terms of the soul of Mashiach extending back to the very highest level of creation which transcends time and space:
“Keter actually has two levels, a lower level corresponding to Arikh Anpin and an upper level, the intellect of Arikh Anpin, which corresponds to Atik. Atik is referred to in the holy writings by several names: Atik (“The Ancient One”), Atik Yomin (“The Ancient of Days”), Atika Kadisha (“The Holy Ancient One”). … The connection between Mashiach and Atik is learned from Daniel’s vision: “A man came and he approached (the level of) the Ancient of Days …” Rashi explains that this refers to Mashiach, who will minister justice to the entire world. … Atik thus transcends anything that we can conceive — giving and receiving, right and left, reward and punishment, and so on. At this level there is neither past or future. Everything is in the present. And, as we have seen, every part of Creation, from the first constriction, until the lowest level of the world of Asiyah, is contained within Keter. Thus Atik includes all time and space — yet transcends it all. The soul of Mashiach “resides” within Atik, and it is from this level that all his powers will be drawn. And, since he transcends time and space, Mashiach can transcend every transgression ever committed and rectify it — for since he can transcend everything ever done, he can bring each person to a state prior to his having sinned. … With this power inherent in this exalted level, Mashiach will be able to bring the world to a state of perfection.” (10)
The above are the Torah principles that underlie the following claim:
Romans 5:17-19 – For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Yeshua the messiah. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
We thus see that the power of Mashiach to bring rectification is the very power of the Ohr Ein Sof (the “light” of G-d) being brought into the world and corresponds to the path back to the Creator.
Which puts a unique spin on this verse:
“I am the light of the world …” (John 8:12)
- “Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?,” Chaim Kramer, Breslov Resarch Institute, Jerusalem,
- “Sha’are Orah,” Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altimira Press, London, 1994, p. 55.
- “Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?,” Chaim Kramer, Breslov Resarch Institute, Jerusalem, p. 18
- “Sha’are Orah,” Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altimira Press, London, 1994, excerpts from pp.147-246.
- Malchut: The Humility of Kingship: http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380807/jewish/Malchut.htm
- Basics in Kabbalah and Chassidut: Gulgalta, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/worlds/gulgalta.htm
- “Chassidic Dimensions” by Jacob Immanuel Schochet, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn, 1990, Volume 1, pp. 93-95 (citing ‘Igeret Hakodesh’ section 20, and Tanya 1:52 & 2:7.)
- “Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?,” Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem, 1998, p. 92.
- From “The Supreme Sacrifice,” commentary on Parshas Vayikra, by Rabbi Pinchas Winston (org)
- “Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?,” Chaim Kramer, Breslov Resarch Institute, Jerusalem, pp. 208-209