We are going to continue with the Mesorah Publication, Ezekiel commentary, Appendix III, p (v) on the “Suffering of the Zaddik”, starting with “The Zaddik as Representative.” It begins by saying “Sefer Chassidim then cites Ezekiel’s suffering as described in Chapter 4, remarking: ‘For this is (the way) before God. When something is decreed and they do not repent, then punishment must come. Now if the zaddik is made to suffer, then that punishment has been borne by him. Evil had been declared in the sinful days of Menashe and Yehoyakim, but the people had merely been exiled-they had not suffered harsh physical punishment. The Attribute of Justice (“midat ha din) argued, ‘Why should they be treated so leniently?’ So God said to Ezekiel: ‘Accept the suffering upon yourself so that the Attribute of Justice should not have a legitimate claim, for when he sees the suffering of the Zaddik who does not deserve to be punished, he will not present his claim.’ Thus, according to Sefer Chassidim, God’s Attribute of Justice seeks a punishment for the entire community, but is satisfied when it is meted out only to the Zaddik.
The Oneness of Israel. To understand this concept we must once more revert to the idea which we have discussed throughout the commentary: the essential oneness of Knesset Israel. While every individual is created in the ‘image of God’ and is himself an Olam Katan, a miniature world, God’s justice can nevertheless address itself to the community of Israel as a whole. (In the above mentioned places we examined this idea as it applied to the obligation of each individual to rebuke evildoers as part of his communal responsibility; to the situation where the innocent are punished together with the guilty; to the ability of a righteous person to save the entire community in his merit; and to the possibility of a later generation being punished for the sins of the earlier one).
Shared Guilt. When the entire community is considered an indivisible unit, then indeed every individual shares guilt for the sin of every other one (see Maharal Sanhedrin: ‘Although the Zaddik cannot be said to have sinned as an individual, nevertheless he can be said to have sinned as a part of the community.’ And by the same token the suffering of the one, can be seen as the suffering of the whole (see Maharal: ‘A merciful king punishes the great ones who are the form of the community, its worthiest part which is tantamount to the whole’). See also Mesilat Yesharim Ch. 4 who, in discussing the tension between God’s Justice and his Mercy, mentions the possibility of Mercy tempering Justice to the extent that a partial payment (punishment) may be accepted in lieu of the full severity of the appropriate chastisement). Thus Ezekiel ‘atones’ for his people, because the communal guilt is assuaged by the pain suffered by the community through one of its indivisible components.
The Seventh Year. The oneness of Knesset Israel upon which these concepts are predicted, exists only because of its essential holiness. It is ‘one’ because of its communal soul which forges unity out of its many members. The Law of the Seventh Year is crucial in fostering this perception because it teaches that even the ground is God’s: if even the inanimate land must express its holiness as part of his creation, then surely live creatures have an essence of holiness. A people who had forgotten the lessons of the seventh year cycle; who had forgotten that the land is his, and had seen themselves forsaken by God (8.12), would have had no understanding of this truth. Thus the explanation of the Shemitah law, and that of Ezekiel’s suffering are essentially one, and were combined by Rabbi Abuha.”
There is a passage in John 11.47-53 that expresses many of these ideas about the Suffering Zaddik. Caiaphas “prophesies” that “it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”
We have been dealing with the message of the “voice” of Isa 40.3, keep that in mind. This is understood in a Jewish context as the voice of Elijah who is to come. This was the message of Yochanon Ha Matvil, John the Immerser. This message goes from Isa 40.1 to Isa 66.24, divided into three sections of nine chapters each. These nine chapters are divided into three sections of three chapters each. When you look at the middle section, it comprises Isa 52.13 through Isa 53.12. It is the middle section of the middle section. In a chiastic structure it becomes the theme. Each section talks about the redemption of Israel, ending with the idea that there is no peace for the wicked (48.12, 57.21, 66.24).
Patterns are very important in the Scriptures because these patterns in Hebrew will give “glue” to the same message even though the story will be different. This concept is very important in “Torah and New Testament Foundations” because the patterns in the Torah will “overlap” into the Gospels and Epistles. This is important because when one comes up with a teaching, let’s say like the one that says “You are going through the Tribulation”, you will see all the patterns in the Scriptures, with the festivals and idioms, and realize that that belief and position is unworkable.
So, in like manner, we have these patterns in Isa 40 through 66, with Isa 53 being the theme. This is how the redemption comes The very first commentator on these chapters was Yonaton Ben Uzziel, who authored the “Targum Ben Uzziel.” This is an Aramaic paraphrase of the Prophets. He studied under Hillel, one of the eighty Tannaim who did, and he was a contemporary of Yeshua. He interprets Isa 52.13 as applying to the Messiah, so this gives us an idea of how first century Jews saw this passage and interpreted it. However, he identified the rest of it as applying to Israel, and we would disagree with that, and so did the writers of the Gospels and Epistles. They quoted Isa 53 as applying to Messiah in many verses.
Yeshua also used the Midrashim, which is an early interpretation in rabbinic literature on the Scriptures, as well as non-legalistic rabbinic literature (aggadah) and, on some occasions, the Jewish religious laws (halakah). For example, in Matt 16.21-23 Yeshua says to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” This phrase is from a midrash on Gen 22 when Abraham is going to offer Isaac on Mount Moriah. Yeshua uses what Abraham said in the midrash to express the same idea to Peter. Satan was trying to prevent Abraham from offering Isaac on Moriah, and Peter has just voiced his opposition to Yeshua’s statement that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer on Moriah. He tells Peter to stop being an adversary to his purpose.
Paul uses the midrashim on Exo 24.9-18 to express an idea in 1 Cor 13.12. Moses and the people are coming out of Egypt in the first redemption, they get to Sinai and they are told to bring freewill offerings to build the Mishkan. The women brought their brass mirrors (Exo 38.8) to make various articles. It specifically mentions that the Kior (laver) was made from these mirrors. The commentary on this is that Moses “saw through a clear glass” and the future “plainly” but we see through a “thick glass” and a “mirror dimly.” James 1.17 says that with the Father there is no variation or shifting shadow (see clearly). We don’t have a clear view of prophecy and that is important. The Gospels and Epistles are full of references to the Jewish midrashim, so it is good to look at the Talmud, Midrashim, the Liturgy and even the Zohar. Some people think that the Zohar is the most mystical of all Jewish writings, but it isn’t. A speaker at a conference on Jewish mysticism asked the audience before he got started a question. He asked, “What do you think is the most mystical of all the Jewish writings?” Everyone was saying, “the Zohar”, and the speaker said, “No!” He said it was the New Testament, especially the writings of Paul. We are not opposed to Jewish mysticism like the Zohar, but most people do not study the Zohar and are not qualified to deal with it. The Zohar is the basic work of literature in Jewish mysticism called the Kabbalah. It is a group of books, including commentary, on the mystical aspects of the Torah and scriptural interpretations, as well as material on mythical Cosmogony and Psychology. It also covers the nature of God, the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of souls and the redemption. It is written in a cryptic, obscure style and it first appeared in Spain in the thirteenth century (article “Zohar” in Wkipedia).
We are not qualified enough, or have a foundation, to interpret things correctly from the Zohar. There are people trained in this and it is nothing to fool around with. But, we don’t agree with all of it, either. The word “mystical” in Hebrew thought does not mean what the world, or Christianity, thinks it means. Mystical means a higher level of understanding, the revealing of things hidden that have a deeper meaning. We quote from these sources sometimes, like the Zohar, because it is part of the evidence on the midrashim.
So, in closing, Isa 52.13-15 is a high point, then Isa 53.1 through 53.10 is a low point and speaks of the suffering servant (or zaddik), but Isa 53.11-12 ends on a high point. In Part 28, we will pick up here in our study of the redemption.