“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s-staff from between his feet, until Shiloh will come, and to him shall the subduing of the peoples be” (Gn 49:10).
Even though my lectures deal with the Soul of Messiah, this verse requires of me to stay closer to Pshat this time:
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah” – The scepter is a clear allusion of kingship and authority (cf. Psal 45:7, Is 14:5; Ez 19:14; cf. Ramban). The verse doesn’t mean to say that there will always be kings and officers of Judah in Israel, as history and Torah prove otherwise (cf. Dt 28:36); rather, the position of higher authority that Yakov gave to Judah over his brothers will not be transferred to anyone else; and in case there arises an external ruler, he must be perceived as a temporary ruler or a viceroy (cf. Yerushalmi Horayot 3:2; Ramban).
What is Shiloh? It seems that Shiloh derives from Shalah – tranquil or safe, the main root of ‘Shalom – peace’ (cf. Sforno; Shlemah 157); i.e. Shiloh is he who brings the so expected period of tranquillity and security.
The Midrash splits Shiloh into two: “Shai” (gift) and “lo” (to him); based on the verse: “they will bring a gift [shai] to him who is to be feared” (Psal 76:12 ).
“To him” emphasizes that Shiloh is a title given to a lone man; one who takes the duty to carry the scepter and the Mekhoqeq, harmonizing all the rules of the sages, thus bringing a time of safety and tranquillity.
Onkelos directly attributes this to Messiah, because – he explains – the Kingship is his (She’Lo – שלו).
This verse refers clearly to what we call: ‘the Messiah’ (haMashiakh; the anointed one) – even though technically speaking, such a title has been given by Oral Tradition because it doesn’t appear anywhere in Scripture; but it can be inferred from the idea of anointing kings. After all, in Gematria: “Shiloh will come” (Yavo Shiloh) equals Messiah (Mashiakh).
יבא שילה = משיח = 358
“And to him will be subduing of peoples” – “A number of nations united to serve God and the King Messiah” (words of Rashi). “To him will be the weakening and breaking (i.e. subduing) of the nations” (words of Ramban & Radak). This is the original phrase from which the Prophet Isaiah developed the verse:
“In that day the root of Yishai will stand as a banner for the peoples; to him the nations will seek, and his resting place will be glorious” (Is 11:10).
Now we can be sure of two things:
(a) He comes from the tribe of Judah
(b) and specifically from the line of Yishai (the father of King David).
In fact the Messianic line goes through David; the first king with scepter of Judah, as it is said: “I will rise up your seed, who shall be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom” (2S 7:12; 1Chr 17:11-14).
So he who brings Shalom (peace) to Israel and the nations comes from the loins of King David; as specifically stated in the verse: “of the fruit of your body I will place on your throne” (Psal 132:11).
If we dig into the secrets of the Torah, “Shevet m’Yhudah” (scepter from Judah) equals in Gematria ‘Hoshea’ (Deliverer).
Shiloh equals Moshe – Moses (cf. Baal haTurim); he was the first deliverer of Israel. This is because Messiah is a prophet like Moses (cf. Dt 18:18), thus our sages say that “the first redeemer is the last redeemer” (Shmot Rabbah 4:2). This gives to Shiloh not only the role of ruler and king, but also the role of redeemer of the nation; just like Moses.
שבט מיהודה = הושע = 381
משה = שילה = 345
ABOUT MESSIAH BEN DAVID
“I will raise to David a righteous branch and he will reign as king and prosper and will execute justice and righteousness in the Land” (Jer 23:5).
• The King Messiah will be heralded by the Prophet Eliyahu (Mal 3:23-24; cf. Eruvin 43b); although there’s not a clear tradition on how this is gonna happen.
• The King Messiah obviously will be a Jew who obeys Torah (Dt 17:18-19), in fact he will be well versed in Torah law – a wise counsellor – and will have a special sense for understanding what is concealed even in the heart of people, as it is said (Is 11:3): “he will not judge after the sight of his eyes” and again: (Is 11:5) “righteousness will be girdle of his loins”.
• When he will establish his kingdom, certainly it will be an era of tranquillity and peace for the world [as hinted in the name of Shiloh], a time of correcting the human nature (Zeph 3:13), a time of being occupied with the knowledge of Torah where there’s no place for war (Is 2:2-4). It will be a time of harmonizing opposites, to the point that once the Earth has been perfected, we will turn naturally into vegetarianism as it was in the beginning, as in the Garden of Eden (Gn 1:29-30 cf. Ramban on Lv 26:6; Abarbanel on Is 11); this is found in the statement that: “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb” (Is 11:6) and “the cow will feed with the bear” (Is 11:7) and “the infant will play near the hole of the cobra” (Is 11:8).
• The Prophet also states that in the days of Messiah God will gather the exiles of Israel “from the four corners of the earth” (Is 11:12; Ez 36:24); and join again the tribes of Ephraim with the tribes of Judah, and make them one (Ez 37:16-19).
• And in his time the Resurrection of the dead (Tekhiat haMetim) will take place (Dn 12:2;cf. 2Mac 7:9; Yovel 23:30; Sanh 90b-92a).
Until here what we know for certain about the King Messiah – whom we call: the Son of David – but beyond this, things get complicated. We don’t know the chronological order of this information because “The prophet sees accurately, but because of sin [or repentance] HaShem alters the predicted times” (Lichtenstein; cf. Yonah 3:10), and we can’t be sure that certain prophecies are going to be fulfilled literally, metaphorically or at all (for example Rambam is of the opinion that “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb” is metaphorical). Besides, most of the things we know about him come from Aggadah (i.e. from Oral Tradition and Jewish Stories that are not necessarily meant to be understood literally).
“In its time I will hasten it” (Is 60:22).
When will he come?
Some say, when the moment comes, then God will hasten it; but if you think of it, it doesn’t make any sense. There’s a clear difficulty: If something comes in its time then it is not hastened and if it’s hastened, then it comes before its time; it can’t be both ways.
God is here speaking in paradoxes and he means to say that the two realities exist before him: “If Israel merits it, ‘I will hasten it’ and if not, then ‘In its time’. Thus the moral of the story is: when will Messiah come?
“Today, if you hear [God’s] voice” (Sanh 98a).
How will he come?
“With the clouds of Heaven” (Dn 7:13) or as a “humble man riding a donkey” (Zech 9:9)?
“If Israel merits, with the clouds, if not, riding a donkey” (Sanhedrin 98a).
The prophecies concerning Messiah and redemption depend highly on Israel’s behavior, hence the issue: we can learn through the Secrets of the Torah every Truth about the Soul of Messiah, from its inception before the Sun (Ps 72:17) to its revelation in the end of days. But if you try to understand his mission only from Pshat (in the plain and simple meaning) it’s all blur paradoxes.
•For example Rambam understands (Hilkhot Melakhim 9:1) that King Messiah “will build the Sanctuary (i.e. the Holy Temple) and gather the dispersed of Israel”. But from the verses above mentioned we can only know for sure that God will do it as part of the final messianic redemption; as stated by our sages: “When does God build Jerusalem? When he gathers the dispersed of Israel” (Berakhot 49a). It doesn’t say anywhere that Messiah in person must physically gather the exiles and re-build the Temple; but: “God, your God” (Dt 30:3). As a matter of fact according to other opinions the Temple will be already built when Messiah comes; he won’t do it; but given the nature of Prophecy, any scenery is possible, and since the building of the Temple is associated with Messiah, it is of course a task of Messiah’s Soul; whether there’s a physical Messiah or not.
•Rambam states that “he will fight the wars of God”; probably an allusion to the war of Gog and Magog which is expected before Messiah establishes his kingdom (Ez 38; Sanh 97b). The whole Psalm 2 speaks about it. The kings of the world with gather to fight and destroy Israel, and King Messiah will arise with his army to destroy them (cf. Zohar Vayera). That’s supposed to be the literal interpretation, expected for the end of days; but again, we don’t really know its exact chronological position in this chain of events; or if he will fight with a literal army – as Isaiah says: The wicked one will be slain “with the breath of his lips” (Is 11:4). And what if all Israel repents in one day and the nations convert from their ways reaching a global Messianic consciousness? Then there won’t be war!! Everything is conditional.
”But you, Bethelehem Ephratah, though you are small to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you will come for me one who is to be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1 ).
This can be interpreted in two ways:
(1) Rashi interprets here that while Messiah’s origin is before the sun, in this verse “Beit-Lehem” is not a reference to the town per se, but to the house of David, who was born there (1S 17:58) and whose family was considered the smallest of Judah because of their Moabite ancestors (Ps 69:9 , 118:22). Almost in agreement with Rashi, David Altschuler says (in Metzudat David) “Bethlehem is the Messianic dynasty’s origin and not Messiah’s literal birthplace”.
(2) The other interpretation is that in fact the prophecy is being told directly to the town – which was in deed a very small town. The phrase “out of you will come” in this case implies that either Messiah or his father will be born there. This literal interpretation is followed in Aggadah: “Where are they [i.e. Messiah and his father] from? From the royal city of Beit-Lehem of Judah” (Yerushalmi Berakhot 2:4 [17b]; cf. Eikah Rabbah 1:51); Yonathan ben Uziel follows the same idea, based on what the Torah and the Prophet say:
“And Rahel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrat, which is Bethlehem. And Yakov… proceed and spread his tent beyond Migdal Eder – the place from whence, it is to be, the King Messiah will be revealed at the end of days ” (Targ Pseudo-Yonathan on Gn 35:21). Why does the Targumist say this? Because Micah not only says that Messiah will come forth from Bethlehem; it also states concerning Migdal Eder that “to you shall come the former kingdom [of David]” (Micah 4:8); and Migdal Eder is at the border of Bethlehem.
So it all depends on how you interpret it, he might be from Bethlehem or might not be.
THE CYCLE OF MESSIAH
Will we recognize him once he is among us? Will Israel say: Behold the Messiah and welcome him? Or will he pass unrecognized at first? Yosef was unrecognized, Moshe was unrecognized and King David was unrecognized. The man who is meant to be Messiah will not be easily recognized or accepted either, and this is because the level of holiness of Messiah’s soul is so high, that in its cycle [Gilgul] its holiness is concealed from the Klipot (the evil husks that conceal the holy light in the Soul) with sins and problematic situations that are simply ruses to trick the other-side: they would think that since it comes from a place that needs so much correction, this Soul is going to cause the body to further sin; but instead, it’s going to manifest Godliness to the world and be able to submit totally to God (cf. Shaar haGilgulim almost at the end of ch. 38).
This is the reason that the great Souls that are part of the cycle of Souls of Messiah are born simpletons and sometimes even to evil people.
– Avraham was born from Terah, an idol worshipper who – according to a legend – angered his master by being intimated with his wife during her Niddah; from which union Abram was born.
– Then in the account of Sodom the daughters of Lot made him drunk and slept with him; from which union Moab was born; he is the ancestor of Ruth from whom David would come.
Later Judah was seduced by Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law who had dressed herself as a prostitute, and became pregnant of twins. No one knew who their father was so she was going to be judged for disgracing the honor of the kingship, in the same way that the daughters of the priests are judged for desecrating the honor of their father’s priesthood (cf. Ramban on Gn 38:24; cf. Lv 21:9). One of the twins was Peretz; ancestor of Messiah. Judah said: “Tzadkah miMeni” (She is more righteous than I) (Gn 38:26). Rashi expounds: “Tzadkah – She is right (in her words); Mimeni – it is from me (that she is pregnant)”. And our Rabbis expounded that a Divine Voice (Bat Kol) went forth and said: It is from me, from my doings, that these events emerged” (Sotah 10b).
– Many years later, Ruth the Moabitess married Boaz, from which union Oved (the father of Yishai) was born. However the sages on that time had a problem with this: the Torah forbids a Moabite from joining Israel (Dt 23:4 ). The sages decreed then that Torah forbids intermarriage with a Moabite but not with a Moabitess (Yevamot 76b).
– A story says that Yishai was questioned again about his Jewishness and he decided not to have more children with his wife Nitzevet. When the time passed, he tried to have a child whose ancestry would not be questioned through his concubine – a Canaanite maid-servant – but that night Nitzevet took the place of the concubine and conceived King David; who was viewed as a bastard, as it’s written (Ps 69:9 ): I am become… an alien unto my mother’s children (cf. Yalkut haMakhiri; Sefer haTodaa). Finally the Sanhedrin cleansed David’s name by decreeing once and for all that a Moabitess is permitted to marry and convert to Israel (Yevamot 77a).
– Then King David – the paradigm of King Messiah – sent one of his soldiers to die in battle in order to hide that had slept with his wife and made her pregnant (2S 11). Then he married her, and from “Uriya’s wife” Solomon was born.
– Precisely for being son of Bath-Sheva, Solomon’s right to the throne was also questioned (cf. Pesikta Rabbati 6); besides, he also sinned by increasing three things that God told him not to increase: gold, women and horses (cf. Ramak on Zohar 3:173b). This actually caused the kingdom to be split into two. But even then, God says about him: I shall prepare the throne of his kingdom forever (1Chr 22:10; cf. 1K 1:31).
– The Ramak (above mentioned), on the other hand, says that because “Solomon blemished himself… Nathan – his close brother – merited that Messiah would come from him instead”. So, will Messiah come from Solomon or Nathan? Reuven Margolies harmonizes the two ideas saying that: “Messiah is referred to [in the Zohar] as “seed” of Nathan, even though he is a descendant of King Solomon [because both genealogies were entwined by a levirate marriage]” (Margaliot Hayam, on Sanhedrin 95b, note 6).
Such is the cycle of Messiah’s soul, thus fulfilling the verse (Is 53:2): “he grew up before him like a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground… no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” (cf. Lichtenstein).
To this point we believe that Rambam is correct when he says that the candidate to be the ultimate king Messiah (bekhezkat Mashiakh) has to fulfil – at least – these three things (Hilkhot Melakhim 11:4):
- Obey Torah and teach others to do so.
- Repair the breaches in observance of Torah.
- Fight the wars of God.
THE ROLE OF MESSIAH BEN YOSEF
The Targum Yerushalmi (on Zech 2:10) and Rashi tell us that Messiah ben Yosef will fight the war of Gog and Magog; which is also a war against the evil Inclination; in the secret of what our sages taught:
“[when the Evil Inclination has no power] the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart… the house of Nathan apart… Levi… Shimeites… all the remaining families [of the house of David], every family apart, and their wives apart” (Zech 12:12-14).
“What is the cause of the mourning? … the cause is the slaying of Messiah ben Yosef… the cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination” (Sukka 52a).
Before going further we should point out that prophecies of this nature are subject to change, as the Midrash states: “If we do not repent, the events of ben Yosef will come to pass. But if we repent, they will not, and Messiah ben David will appear to us suddenly” (Rafael Patai, the Messiah texts pg 317).
The Midrashim manage the possibility that if Israel is worthy Messiah ben Yosef would not even need to come physically, and in case he comes, he would not even need to die, so if he dies, it doesn’t need to be in a literal war.
Now let’s develop further the fight between Yosef and the evil Inclination:
Yosef said to his brothers:
“I am about to die and God will remember you (pakod yifkod) and bring you up from this land to the land which He swore about to Abraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yakov” (Gn 50:24).
His words “pakod yifkod“- ‘God will remember you’ – were not only his parting words, but the very words that Moses later used to announce the redemption that Yosef had foretold (Midrash HaGadol 50:24, cf. Ex 13:19).
And who will redeem them from exile? The first one was Moses our master, and the last one, Messiah. Yosef didn’t rescue them from the exile, but he began the process of Redemption. This can only be understood under the words: “And they shall oppress them for four hundred years” (Gn 15:13), although according to the genealogies they stayed in Egypt only 215 years. This is because, as Rashi says, the exile began already at the birth of Isaac, since he never lived in his own land. Therefore, Yosef began the process of Redemption; a process that many could not perceive, as things got actually worse after he passed away.
“Messiah ben Yosef” is the process of redemption; a redemption in the likeness of Yosef. He leads the footsteps until the revelation of Messiah ben David, who is said to have the soul of Moses himself – as it’s written: “a Prophet like me” (Dt 18:15).
“The essential function of Messiah ben Yosef is to prepare Israel for the final redemption, to put them into the proper condition in order to clear the way for Messiah ben David to come” (Saadia Gaon, Emunot veDeot 8:6).
As we have seen in previous parashot, the archenemy of Yakov/Israel is Amalek = Edom = Esav = Samael = Satan, and Messiah will defeat him in its due time.
As our sages understand from the words of the Prophet, it is Messiah ben Yosef who will fight Edom = Seir = Satan = Evil Inclination.
“The house of Yakov will be a fire, and the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Esav stubble, they will burn them and consume them, and there will be no survivor of the house of Esav” (Ovadiah 1:18).
“The progeny of Esav shall be delivered only into the hands of the progeny of Yosef” (Baba Bathra 123b).
It is a secret in the verse: “wicked people will not oppress them anymore… I will also subdue all your enemies” (1Chr 17:9-10); this is a task of Messiah ben Yosef who fights the Wicked One, as it is known to those who study the ‘grace’ [KheN] of the Torah.
THOUGHTS ABOUT MESSIAH BEN YOSEF
Rabbi Hasdai Crescas said: “No certain knowledge can be derived from the interpretations of the prophecies about Messiah ben Yosef, nor from the statements about him by some of the Geonim”. What does it mean?
In the Pshat, we know nothing of Messiah ben Yosef; as all the details of his role belong only to Aggadah; any attempt to give a definitive interpretation about his life based on Aggadah could fall into error, and will prevent us from seeing the whole picture of the Soul of Messiah working for the final redemption in each generation. Instead, the legends about him are written purposely in riddles because they contain mystical secrets that only those who have eyes to see can see.
Let’s try to explore all the possibilities of this role, knowing that Yosef is the paradigm.
• It is assumed that the man who is meant to be Messiah ben Yosef doesn’t have all the Messianic qualifications to be considered the King Messiah. For starters it is assumed he is not from Judah, it might be that he dies in battle, it might be that he never reigns as king…. But what makes him “Messiah” is the fact that the Soul of Messiah is fully awakened in him and working through him, leading him to give the necessary steps for the final redemption, even if the final redemption doesn’t happen in his days.
• It is suggested that MB’’Y must be a military soldier who fights literal wars for the sake of redemption, since Deuteronomy implies that the house of Yosef is meant to fight the heathen nations (Dt 33:17) and the Ephraimite Joshua ben Nun (the Messiah ben Yosef of his generation) did these things.
• But then, we know that Yosef our father was NOT a warrior but a revealer of secrets – so it might be that MB”Y teaches secrets of the Torah and his war will not be against flesh and blood but against the other side, for the Aggadah teaches he will be killed by Armilus – the spiritual king of the Sitra-Akhra & the Erev-Rav (cf. Nistarot Shimon bar Yohai).
• Because of the above and since Yosef is the paradigm of the righteous man (the Tzaddik), Reb Nathan teaches that the character of MB’’Y is embodied in the righteous ones (the Tzaddikim) of each generation; those who actively work for redemption (cf. Likutei Halakhot, Hodaah 6:20). The man that is meant to be MB’’Y must be – like the tzaddikim – someone of a very high morality and purity, in a constant battle against evil, therefore he will be emphatic in calling Israel to repentance; for this is the reason he came to be; otherwise his coming into physical reality would not be necessary.
• It is suggested that MB”Y is an Ephraimite king over the kingdom of Ephraim, just like Yarobam – the MB’’Y of his generation (1Ki 11:26, 28, 37-39); The Hai Gaon uses this verse: “I will take you: one from a city, and two from a family” (Jer 3:14), to interpret through Aggadah that people in the upper Galilee will gather to MB’’Y, considering him the King of Israel (cf. Responsum of Hai Gaon, Midreshei Geulah 135).
• But what does Yosef teach of this matter, now that Ephraim has been assimilated into the nations (Hosh 7:8)? Yosef was actually rejected as a ruler over his family. He became a ruler over the gentiles; unrecognized by his brothers until they repented at the very end. This is a secret in the verse: “And they will mourn for him… as bitterness for firstborn” (Zech 12:10).
• It might be that the Soul of Messiah awakens on a specific individual only to fulfil certain redemptive role; such it was the case when the King Cyrus was ‘anointed’ by God to rebuild Jerusalem – and the Vilna Gaon teaches this was made by the Soul of Messiah ben Yosef (cf. Kol haTor 2:70).
• The title “Ephrata” given to Beit-Lehem (the birthplace of David; Micah 5:1) in a Remez alludes to Ephraim; as it’s written: “Yarobaam ben Nevat Ephrati” (1K 11:26), and again: “Behold, we heard it in Ephrat” (Ps 132:6) – i.e. “in the book of Joshua who came from Ephraim” (Rashi).
It might be that Messiah ben Yosef having some Ephraimite ancestor (due to intermarriage of families) would have the Messianic qualifications to be considered Messiah ben David as well – namely, being from the line of King David (cf. Rabbi Moshe Friedman); or it might be that he’s called “Son of Ephraim” because of his role against the evil Inclination (Sukka 52a) and doesn’t need to be an Ephraimite at all, since it is Torah Law that King Messiah must come from David, but there’s no law about this Aggadic figure – and proof for this is that the Mekuvalim never cared for the tribal lineage of the MB’’Y of each generation. In fact certain Midrash (Pesikta Rabbati 36-37) uses the expression: “Ephraim my righteous Messiah” (Efraim Mashiakh Tzidki) and here Ephraim refers to All Israel and not the tribe of Ephraim. In such scenery he’s a potential King Messiah as well, and the only thing that would prevent him from being so is the behavior of Israel, by which, as we have read above, God will require of him to fulfill the role of Messiah ben Yosef instead.