Mashiach: Death

Hora’ah – הוראה – Teaching

Beyond the idea that the life and suffering of a tzaddik can affect the atonement of others, are concepts related to the impact of the death of such a person.

Tzaddikim are greater after their passing than when they were alive (Chullin 7b). The power and ability which the tzaddikim possess to rectify souls is even greater after the Tzaddik passes away from this world.
Crossing the Narrow Bridge, Chaim Kramer, p. 343

In Leviticus we are told of the story of the death of Aaron’s two sons who bring “strange fire” into the Holy of Holies and are struck dead. Moses’ comment following this event is a bit surprising at first, as he seems to cast their deaths in a very positive note:

“Then Moses said to Aaron, This is what the Lord spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come near to me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”
Leviticus 10:3 

Midrash Rabbah shows that Moses expected someone to lose their life in order to sanctify the Name of G-d at that time, however Moses had thought it would be himself or Aaron who was to die:

R. Samuel b. Nahman said of: THROUGH THEM THAT ARE NIGH UNTO ME I WILL BE SANCTIFIED: This utterance was addressed to Moses at Sinai, but its application was not known to him until the occurrence happened, when Moses said to Aaron: ‘My brother, at Sinai, I was told that I would sanctify this House, and through a great man would I sanctify it, and I thought that either through me or through you would this House be sanctified, but now I see that your two sons are greater than you or I.’
Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus 12:2

The Stone Edition Chumash, in its comments to Parsha Acharei (Leviticus 16:1-18:30), ties the death of Nadab and Abihu to Yom Kippur and atonement, and brings in the element of “trust” relating it to both Yom Kippur and the tzaddikim in life:

“The Torah introduces the Yom Kippur service by saying that God spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, which implies that there was a connection between that tragedy and the Yom Kippur service … Why is the death of the righteous (i.e., Nadab and Abihu) mentioned in conjunction with the chapter of the Yom Kippur service? Because just as Yom Kippur brings atonement, so the death of the righteous brings atonement (Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1) … When a righteosu person such as Nadab and Abihu dies and his soul ascends to the world of souls, the other righteous souls in Heaven rejoice at his coming. This good feeling above can inspire a spirit of forgiveness and atonement to the righteous person’s survivors on earth. This is the connection to Yom Kippur. However, and this is crucial, both Yom Kippur and the death of the righteous bring atonement only on one condition. Yom Kiippur atones only for people who recognize it as a holy day and treat it as such; those to whom it is merely a day of refraining from food and work, but without a spiritual dimension, do not find atonement on Yom Kippur. Similarly, those who do not honor the righteous in life do not benefit from their ascent to Heaven in death.”
Stone Edition Chumash, p. 636

The Chasam Sofer makes clear that the above discussions do connect their deaths to the idea of bringing atonement to others and includes another source:

“Noting the juxtaposition of the death of Aharon’s children to the Yom Kippur service, Chazal comment that just as on Yom Kippur, Klal Yisrael’s sins are forgiven, so too, the death of tzadikim atones for our sins. In a similar vein, the Gemara, noting that the death of Miriam immediately succeeds the parashah dealing with the laws of the red heifer comments that just as the red heifer atones (for the sin of the Golden Calf), so too, the passing of tzaddikim atones.”
Chasam Sofer, Rabbi Yosef Stern p. 216,217

Sources indicate that Messiah ben Joseph is to die, associating his demise with Zechariah 12:10:

“We have found that the first Mashiach will be from the tribe of Ephraim who will nevertheless die while revealing himself; he will be followed by the Mashiach descended from David. When the Torah speaks of G-d taking, “two birds which are pure,” these words are similes for the two kinds of Meshichim….the words “to slay the one bird” in this context are an allusion to the death of the first Mashiach… he will die as an atonement for the sins of the people.”
Rabbi Chayim ben Attar, Ohr HaChayim, translation by Eliyahu Munk – 5 vol. pg. 1107

“What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]? — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son (Zechariah 12:10).”
Talmud, Sukkah 52a

The Zohar presents several examples of the death of a righteous person effecting tikkun (restoration). In Yehuda Liebes book, Studies in the Zohar, the author cites Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai’s teachings on three righteous men of his day, stating:

“Apart from benefiting their own souls, the death of these three sages also brought about a tikkun of the world … their deaths parallel that of Rabbi Simeon … which is a tikkun of the Shekinah. There too, not only does his soul arrive in Paradise, which is the Shekinah, but by his death and his devekut (“clinging” to God) he effects its tikkun.” … “He (bar Yohai) is the Yesod, the basic element that brings about the tikkun and simultaneously, himself undergoes tikkun, and it is his coupling with the Shekinah that brings about its redemption. This is clearly a messianic role.”
Studies in the Zohar, Yehuda Liebes, pp. 52,64

A more recent example of a teacher of Israel believing his death could atone for others, is that of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a prominent figure in Jewish history. In his English translation of a book about the rabbi’s life, renowned author Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan states:

“The Rebbe left Breslov on Tuesday morning, arriving in Uman on Thursday, the 5th of Iyar (May 9, 1810). Uman had been the scene of the great massacre of 1768 where thousands of Jews had been slaughtered by Gonta and his Haidmacks. Rabbi Nachman said that he now had the task of rectifying all these souls with his own death.
Nachman’s Wisdom, Breslov Research Institute, pp. 442-443.

Rebbe Nachman spoke of a soul being restored through the death of another, specifically mentioning one special tzaddik who suffers on their behalf:

“Know that there is a field where the most beautiful and pleasant trees and herbs grow. The precious beauty of this field and its plants and trees is impossible to describe. Happy is the eye that has seen it! The trees and herbs are holy souls which grow there. But there are many naked souls roaming and wandering in exile outside the field. They are waiting and longing to be fixed, so as to be able to go back in to their places. Sometimes even a great soul, on which many other souls depend, may go outside the field, and it is very hard for it to return. All these souls are waiting expectantly for the Master of the Field who can do what is necessary to restore them. Sometimes a soul is restored through the death of someone, or through a mitzvah or act of devotion performed by someone. Anyone who wants to gird his loins and put himself forward as the Master of the Field has to be strong and powerful, a mighty warrior, a man of outstanding wisdom and saintliness. He needs to be on the highest of spiritual levels. There is one tzaddik who can only complete the task with his own death, and even for this he needs to be very great indeed, because there are many great tzaddikim who even with their death would not be able to help. Only a tzaddik on the most outstanding of levels can complete what is necessary in his lifetime. For he has to go through tremendous suffering and hardship. Yet through his greatness he is able to overcome everything and accomplish all that is needed in the field. When the Master of the Field succeeds in restoring the souls and bringing them in, then it is very good and beautiful to pray. For then prayer attains its perfection. The Master of the Field labors constantly, supervising everything, watering the trees and the plants, tending and cultivating them and doing all the other work needed in the field. He sees to it that all the trees are the right distance from one another so that none should overshadow and weaken another. Sometimes it is necessary to put a very close follower at a great distance so that he should not overshadow his friend.”
Garden of the Souls, Likutey Moharan I:65

Rabbi Ari Kahn raised a fascinating connection between the akeida and ideas from the New Testament:

“There is little doubt in my mind that the offering of Yitzchak as a korban serves a prototype for Christian writers to understand the crucifixion and the eventual resurrection. And there’s even … an ancient midrash that when it says that Yitzhak carried the wood, that the idea of carrying his cross…on the way there, tzalav…What are we doing borrowing Christian things? It’s the other way around…Most people who read the New Testament do not understand any of it. Because the New Testament is based on two primary sources: One is Scripture, the other is collective Jewish knowledge, which includes Midrash, whoever reads the New Testament and is not well versed in Midrash, does not understand the references, does not understand what the writer is saying. So therefore, most of the readers of the New Testament only know Scripture, so they catch the Scriptural references, but they completely miss all of the Midrashic references because they do not understand them.
Ari Kahn, The Akaida and Resurrection (06:33-08:14) 


“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:28

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”
Matthew 26:2

“Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and call things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”
Luke 18:31-33

“…saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
Luke 22:42

“The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Yeshua answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
John 2:18,19

“…even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
John 10:15

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority ;but being high priest that year he prophesied that Yeshua would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of G-d who were scattered abroad.”
John 11:49-52

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by G-d to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which G-d did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of G-d, you have taken[c]by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;  whom G-d raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: “‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.  Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence. (Psalm 16:8-11) Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that G-d had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Yeshua, G-d as raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of G-d, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that G-d has made this Yeshua, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Acts 2:22-36

Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the G-d of our fathers, glorified His Servant Yeshua whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  and killed the Prince of life, whom G-d raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.  “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which G-d foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Mashiach would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Yeshua haMashiach, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which G-d has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your G-d will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.  And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which G-d made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, G-d, having raised up His Servant Yeshua, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
Acts 3:11-26

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
Acts 5:30,31

“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to G-d, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from G-d, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Messiah would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
Acts 26:19-23

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But G-d demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of G-d through Him.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to G-d through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in G-d through our Lord Yeshua the Messiag, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
Romans 5:6-11

“For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Messiah died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
Romans 14:7-9

“For the love of Messiah compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;  and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Messiah according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of G-d, who has reconciled us to Himself through Yeshua the Messiah and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,  that is, that G-d was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Messiah, as though G-d were pleading through us: we implore you on Messiah’s behalf, be reconciled to G-d. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of G-d in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-21

“Grace to you and peace from G-d the Father and our Lord Yeshua the Messiah who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our G-d and Father,  to whom be glory forever and ever. ”
Galatians 1:3-5

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible G-d, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the called out ones, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,  and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
Colossians 1:13-20