Mashiach: Suffering

Hora’ah – הוראה – Teaching

“The Holy One, blessed be He, will tell (the Messiah) what will befall him: ‘There are souls that have been put away with you under My throne, and it is their sins which will bend you down under a yoke of iron, and make you like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering, and will choke your spirit as with a yoke; because of the sins of these souls your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Are you willing to endure such things?…if your soul is sad at the prospect of your suffering, I shall at this moment banish these sinful souls.’ The Messiah will say: ‘Master of the universe, with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself, provided that not one person in Israel shall perish; that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but that also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption; and that not only these be saved in my days, but also those who died as abortions; and that not only these be saved in my days, but all those whom You thought to create but were not created. Such are the things I desire, and for these I am ready to take upon myself whatever you decree.’ At these words, the Holy One, blessed be He, will appoint for the Messiah the four creatures who will carry the Messiah’s throne of glory.”
Pesikta Rabbati 36, Yale University Press, Translated by William G. Braude

Excerpts from “The Zaddik,” by Samuel Dresner:

“The tzaddik dies two kinds of death: actual death and apparent death” (rabbi Yaakov Yosef, Z.P 30). “Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him; but weep sore for him that does away” (Jer.22:10). The prophets words are to be understood in the following way: “Weep ye not for the dead,’ that is, for the tzaddik who actually dies… For to the contrary, the actual death of the tzaddik is called a hilulla, a time of joyous festivity, because he goes from this vale of sorrows to the tranquility of the next world. ‘But weep for him that does away’… That is, for the tzaddik who does not actually die, but who descends from his rung, going down to join himself to the common people in order to raise them… For if they do not wish to be joined to him and raised, it was all for nothing that he went away from the security of his rung.” It is for this latter death that the tzaddik should be mourned and bemoaned, that he died again and again for the people, descending into the pit for their sake, to no avail. Yet, despite failure, anxiety, and even, at times, despair – “all this is for the suffering of Israel and not for his own suffering. To deliver the wicked the tzaddik goes to them and learns the wickedness of their ways. “He has no joy in this world because of worry over the danger of the Evil Inclination, that it might seize him in its grasp” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef 107d). “The tzaddik, the servant of the L-rd, knows the battle with the Evil Inclination and with the enemies who wait along the way of one who serves the L-rd. This way is a way of danger, for he must ever live a life of anguish – how to escape from their net and how to warn others of the dangers from these enemies. ‘The more knowledge, the more pain (Eccl.1:18) …

The tzaddik is in peril from enemies of the spirit who threaten the life of his soul. He is in peril also from enemies of the flesh who oppose and hamper him every step of the way. “The earthly ones cause the heavenly ones to fall from their rung” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef 141c; Yochanan 8:23). “Woe to the wicked who turn the soul [the tzaddik] into a body, for they give the tzaddikim no rest, even though they are in the service of the L-rd…! Woe unto them, for they bring evil to their own souls!” (ibid 87c). “Moses too was of the persecuted ones and not of the persecutors” (ibid 58c). Though the tzaddik may be able to save the people, he is not accepted by all of them. He is the “’stone which the builders rejected’ (Ps.118:22). The tzaddik is called the cornerstone, the foundation of the world, for upon him the entire world is situated. But the builders, who are the scholars, have rejected him” (Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, P.Y 67a). The tzaddik suffers exile. “One is filled with anguish over the exile of the learned who serve the L-rd, from the learned who are the prophets of Baal and because of whom the Temple was destroyed” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef 163d). Indeed, the exile of the tzaddik is the bitterest of all exiles. “There are three kinds of exile: First, the exile of Israel from the nations; second, the exile of the learned from the unlearned; third, the exile of the faithful ones of Israel, the servants of the L-rd, from the scholars who are motivated by fame and show. This latter exile is the most severe… for the people suffer one exile, the scholar two, and the pious all three! (ibid, 167c). But this exile, bitter and harsh as it is, must be expected and borne by the tzaddik. In the Song of Songs reference is found to the exile of the tzaddik. The soul speaks: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, what will you tell him? That I am lovesick’ (Song 5:8). ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, you are the tzaddikim. ‘I adjure you’ to bear the exile of the wicked as I, the soul, bear the sickness of the ugly body because of the love of my beloved…. You must do the same. ‘If you find my beloved’ in the exile of the wicked, through your prayers, tell him that the soul, which is a portion of the Shechinah, is lovesick” (ibid, 174c).

The tzaddik must be ready to receive criticism for striking out on a new path, for “because he joins himself to the common people, he is mocked’” (Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, K.P 15b). The hitlahavut or fervor which characterized his worship, his study and his observance of the mitzvot was also an object of scorn. “The people hate the tzaddikim who fear the L-rd and guard His way, because they are two opposites. The people are small of spirit and shorten the way of the L-rd, whether in prayer or mitzvah, which they perform in a sluggish manner by rote. This is not the case with the tzaddikim, who take pains with the way of the L-rd. The Torah is fulfilled only by one who offers his life for it” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef, 58c). “Not only do they observe the mitzvoth sluggishly, but they are angry with the tzaddik who observes the mitzvoth of the L-rd with joy and fervor” (ibid, 34a). “Not only do they forsake the L-rd, but they despise the holy ones of Israel, the faithful ones of Israel who act for His Name Who is blessed, who sanctify themselves in many ways of holiness. They despise them, because they do not act as they do” (jbid, 104a). Envy lies beneath this hatred and, because of it “they slander the holy ones on high” (ibid, 37c). The truth is that those who mock the tzaddik “are jealous of him” (ibid, 104a), for in their heart of hearts they know he is. “Everyone recognizes the rung of the tzaddik and renders him honor. Even the wicked know his rung, only they do not speak his praise with their mouth” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef 173c).

“And Yosef brought evil report of them [his brothers] unto their father” (Gen.37:2). Now one must ask himself, “How could Yosef transgress?” It is likewise difficult to understand how this shameful act could be written in the Torah in the first place. Furthermore, the verses which follow the above one also present a problem. “Now Israel loved Yosef more than all his children… And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him” (Gen.37:3,4). And we not shocked that the founders of the tribes of the L-rd transgressed the negative commandment, “You shall not hate your brother” (Lev.19:17), and the positive commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev.19:18)? But according to our explanation, it is all quite understandable. “And Yosef brought evil report of them to their father,” that is, to their Father in heaven. For all the evil which he saw in them he took upon himself in part and made confession before their Father in heaven, because he joined himself with them. This is the mystery of the tzaddik. And that is why it is written, “And Israel loved Yosef.” For to take upon oneself all the reproach of mankind, fulfilling the verse, “And you shall love they neighbor,” is to stand upon a lofty rung. Therefore, Israel (his Father in heaven) loved Yosef, measure for measure, for he stirred up love first, to love his brothers and take the blame for their faults upon himself. “His brethren saw that their father loved him”… therefore they hated him… For whom the one loves, the other hates” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef 33c). It is the tzaddik who cries out, “’ I am lovesick,’ that is, ‘sick’ from the hatred I bear… because of the ‘love’ I share with You” (ibid, 36d).
The Zaddik, Samuel Dresner, pg.157-161

The Tzaddik’s Willingness To Suffer For The People

His willingness to undergo persecution for their sake is palpable evidence of the tzaddik’ concern for the people. His life is often one of peril and suffering. Indeed, “the healers of the soul must go down to Gehinom to raise the wicked” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef 145a; Zohar III, 220b). In descending to the wicked he lowers himself into the pit and puts his very life at stake, “for he who descends from his rung is called dead. In this manner we understand both the dictum of Resh Lakish, ‘The words of the Torah are only fulfilled by one who is willing to give his life for it” (Berachot 63b), and the dictum of Yaakov Yosef: “He who wishes to live, finds death; he who is willing to die, finds life”
Toldot Yaakov Yosef 151b

“Messiah, son of David who loveth Jerusalem. Elijah takes him by the hand, lays him down in his bosom, holds him, and saying, ‘Bear thou the suffering and wounds wherewith the Almighty doth chastise thee for Israel’s sin;’ and so it is written, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities,’  (Isaiah 53:3) until the time when the end should come.
Midrash Kohen, Jellinek, p. 29

The suffering of certain tzaddikim is part of a chain of events impacting atonement through time:

“Suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept this suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree … In addition, there is a special, higher type of suffering that comes to a tzaddik who is even greater and more highly perfected than the ones discussed above. This suffering comes to provide the help necessary to bring about the chain of events leading to the ultimate perfection of mankind as a whole.”
“Derech Hashem” (The Way of G-d), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1997, p. 122.)

This ability to atone for generations from Adam through time is associated with the Messiah:

“The sins of those who are hidden with Thee will cause Thee to be put under an iron yoke, and they will do with Thee as with this calf, whose eyes are covered, and they will choke Thy spirit under the yoke, and on account of their sins. Thy tongue shall cleave to Thy mouth (Psalm 22:16). On which the Messiah inquires whether these troubles are to last for many years, and the Holy One replies that He has decreed a week, but if His soul were in sorrow, He would immediately dispel these sorrows. On this the Messiah says: ‘Lord of the world, with gladness and joy of heart I take it upon Me, on condition that not one in Israel should perish, and not only those alone should be saved who are in My days, but those who are hid in the dust; and that not only the dead should be saved who are in My days, but also those who have died from the first days of Adam until now; and not only those, but also those who have come into Thy knowledge to create them, but have not yet been created. Thus I agree and thus I take all upon Me …  Ephraim, the Messiah, our righteousness, though we are They Fathers, yet Thou are better than we, because Thou hast borne all the sins of our sons.”
Yalkut Shimoni,, Parasha Yeshiah (English translation of unknown origin), Dimin Frankfurter, p. 808

The Zohar connects the suffering of the tzaddik to the suffering servant of Isaiah:

“Why is it that whenever sinners multiply in the world and punishment impends over the world, the virtuous among them are smitten for them, as we have learnt, that for the guilt of the generation the holy and righteous are seized upon? Why should this be? If because they do not reprove mankind for their evil deeds, how many are there who do reprove but are not listened to (though the righteous do humble themselves before them)? If it is in order that there may be no one to shield them, let them not die and let them not be seized for their sins, since it is a satisfaction to the righteous to see their destruction. He replied: It is true that for the guilt of the generation the righteous are seized upon, but we may explain this on the analogy of the limbs of the body. When all the limbs are in pain and suffering from sickness one limb has to be smitten in order that all may be healed. Which is the one? The arm. The arm is smitten and blood is drawn from it, and this is healing for all the limbs of the body. So men are like limbs of one body. When G-d desires to give healing to the world He smites one righteous man (tzaddik) among them with disease and suffering, and through him gives healing to all, as it is written, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities… and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). A righteous man is never afflicted save to bring healing to his generation and to make atonement for it, for the “other side” prefers that punishment should light upon the virtuous man rather than on any other, for then it cares not for the whole world on account of the joy it finds in having power over him.”
Zohar, Bemidbar 218a 

Rebbe Nachman, like the Ramchal, spoke of various levels of tzaddikim, and their suffering, including a specific one whose death could benefit others:

“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

Nachmanides (the Ramban) on the suffering Mashiach:

“The text continues, referring still to the Mashiach, ‘As many were astonished at you’ [Isaiah.52:14]. Their astonishment was shown by mocking him when he first arrived, and by asking how one ‘despised’ ‘meek and riding upon an ass’ (Zechariah 9:9), could conquer all the kings of the world who had laid hold upon Israel, and rescue him from their hand; so acted Pharaoh towards Moses, when he mocked him, as he says (Exodus 6:12), ‘How will Pharaoh listen to me?’… The kings will close their mouths [Isaiah 53:15], and even in the chamber of their heart (Ezekiel 8:12) will be afraid to speak of him, saying each to his neighbor, even in your thought curse not a king’ (Eccllesiastes 10:20). 53:1 When the report of the Mashiach comes among the people, who is there among them that will believe it? The arm is that which he will cause to journey at the right hand of the Redeemer, just as it is said that he ’caused the arm of His Majesty to journey at the right hand of Moses’ (Isaiah.63:12). Upon whom has this arm been revealed so that he might believe in him? 53:2 For at the beginning he was like a small tree springing up out of the dry earth, which never grows great enough to put forth boughs and to bear fruit; he was despised [Isaiah53:3], for he had no army and no people, but was ‘meek and riding upon as ass,’ like the first redeemer Moses, our master, when he entered into Egypt with his wife and children upon an ass (Exodus 4:20). 53:3 He was pained for the iniquities of Israel, which occasion his tarrying, and hold him back from becoming king over his people; and known to sickness, because a man who is sick is continually distressed with pain… is here used of the distress produced by excessive love, as in 1 Samuel 22:8, II Samuel 13:2; or it may mean, perhaps, that he will really, as sometimes the case with men, be made sick by his distress. 53:4 Yet he carried our sicknesses, being himself sick and distressed for the transgressions which should have caused sickness and distress in us, and bearing the pains which we ought to have experienced. But we, when we saw him weakened and prostrate, thought that he was stricken, smitten of G-d… and by his stripes we were healed [Isaiah 53:5] – because the stripes by which he was vexed and distressed will heal us: G-d will pardon us for his righteousness and we shall be healed from our own transgressions and from the iniquities of our fathers… The metaphor of healing is often used with reference to redemption [Jeremiah 30:13].”
Ramban, Driver and Neubauer, pp. 80-82 citing Chaval, R. Chaim Dov, pp. 87,88

The Ramban says earlier in his commentary that when Mashiach is faced with the revilings of his oppressors, he will give no answer, but keep silent and cease not to entreat for Israel:

“… He was oppressed and he was afflicted [Isaiah.53:7]: for when he first comes, ‘meek and riding upon an ass,’ the oppressors and officers of every city will come to him, and afflict him with revilings and insults, reproaching both him and the G-d in whose Name he appears, like Moses our mater, who when Pharaoh said, I know not the L-rd, answered him not, neither said, the G-d of heaven and earth who will destroy you quickly etc., but kept silence. So will the Mashiach give no answer, but keep silent and cease not to entreat for Israel…”
Ramban, Driver and Neubauer p.82


New Testament

“From that time Yeshua began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”
Matthew 16:21

“But I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”

Matthew 17:12

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
Matthew 20:18,19

“And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt?”
Mark 9:12

“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
Luke 17:25

“And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the mashiach to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”  … “and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the mashiach would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.”

Luke 24:25-24, 46

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.”
John 12:27

“But the things which G-d announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His mashiach would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.”
Acts 3:1

“And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the mashiach had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Yeshua whom I am proclaiming to you is the mashiach.”
Acts 17:2,3

“So, having obtained help from G-d, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the mashiach was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
Acts 26:22,23

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that mashiach died for our sins according to the Scriptures,”
1 Corinthians 15:3

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