Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VIIPart VIII | Part IX | Part X


An Introduction to the Talmud

by Dr. Harris Brody

Part V

Every Sabbath in synagogue the Torah (Law) and the Haftorah (prophets) are read. However, Isaiah 53 is excluded. Why? It is not read to specifically avoid any Christological reference.

In Part IV of "An Introduction to the Talmud" we saw that Rashi opposed the original interpretation of Isaiah 53 as referring to the Messiah as the Suffering Servant. The majority of Jews today, even among the Orthodox, are ignorant of the passage. While studying in an Orthodox Yeshiva (Jewish seminary), I was surprised that most of the students knew little or nothing of it. After giving the traditional Deresh (commentary) of the chapter, I asked several to explain verse three:

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."

I asked them, "Why would we reject our own Messiah? Does it not say that He would be despised and rejected? Why would we hide our faces from Him?" I then explained from verse one that our own people would not even believe this report concerning the Messiah.

The typical response to my questions was, "I do not know." Then the regular studies of Talmud continued. If only the Messianic passages of Talmud would be studied it would all point to Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) as the Suffering Servant whom we have rejected.

Even the disciples of Yeshua had trouble comprehending His role as the Suffering Servant. They only wanted the Kingdom to come. When Yeshua spoke of His death as substitutionary atonement, they did not understand what He meant. And to the Pharisees Yeshua did not fit into their "marks" nor conform to their ways.

Yeshua used the Scriptures to testify of Himself. As with unsaved Jews today and the Jews of Yeshua's day, if they would believe in their own Scriptures it would point to Yeshua as Messiah and to His two advents. Yeshua Himself said,

"Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me... For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:39, 46-47).

Among the Yeshiva students I inquired as to why we reject our own Messiah and do not believe the report about Him. Could it be that our "spiritual leaders" who handle the Scriptures refuse to be obedient to them. Then I shared from Jeremiah:

"The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that _ handle the law - _ knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit" Jeremiah 2:8).

Rashi's interpretation of Isaiah 53 is contrary to Scripture and is unprofitable. He rejected the truth and taught a false theology. As God stated through Jeremiah:

"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:23).

Rashi's interpretation of Isaiah 53 is a lie which "can hold no water" before God. Even when examining the content of the chapter, Isaiah 53 itself points out that the Suffering Servant is Messiah. For example, I usually ask who is the author of Isaiah and the average Jew will say it is Isaiah. I then ask if Isaiah was a Jew. The reply is yes. I will then ask if the people of Isaiah are Jews or not. After these facts have been established, I will read verse eight:

"He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken."

In the verse we have the phrase "of my people." The "my" refers to the author of the book who is Isaiah. The "people" of Isaiah are the Jews. If this it the case, and it is, then how can the third person singular "he" in the verse also be the Jewish people? It cannot for it would be breaking all the rules of grammar. We can therefore interpret Isaiah 53:8 as "for the transgression of my [Isaiah's] people [the Jews] was he [Messiah] stricken."

To accept Rashi's interpretation is to accept a falsehood, but today's Rabbinics love to have it so. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the same sort of situation in his day:

"The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" (Jeremiah 5:32).

In sharing Isaiah 53 with unsaved Jews, and teaching the proper Derash, I share further words from Jeremiah:

"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said we will not walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16)

"Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return" (Jeremiah8:5).

How sad it is to refuse the good and accept the evil. Because of this sin, God lays stumbling blocks before Israel (Jeremiah 6:21).

To the Jew the Messiah would be a stumbling block. This would also include Isaiah 53:

"And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Isaiah 8:14).

This verse and its interpretation are given of the Messiah in the Talmud:

"The son of David cannot appear ere the two ruling houses in Israel shall have come to an end... And he (Messiah) shall be for a sanctuary, for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both houses of Israel" (Sanhedrin 38a).

In the Soncino edition of the Talmud the footnote refers to Isaiah 8:14 and the reference given for the Son of David is the Messiah. The rabbis agree that as the cornerstone of the Temple is symbolic of the Messiah, it is the Messiah that is to be our foundation of faith. To remove the cornerstone is to remove the Messiah out of our life. From Isaiah we read:

"Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isaiah 28:16).

As has been established, this stone, the Messiah of Isaiah, was prophesied to be rejected. Not only do we find this in Isaiah 53 but also in the Psalms:

"The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner" (Psalm 218:22).

Even Rashi in his commentaries accepted these two preceding verses as relating to the Messiah. Even though he denied that Isaiah 53 refers to the Messiah, he never denied that there is a personal Messiah.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VIIPart VIII | Part IX | Part X

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