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I found the following quote in a missionary site:

They argue that the rabbies expected the messiah to be without a father,hence he will be born of a virgin!! Supporting their claims by the words of the midrash.

They wrote:

It’s important to understand that the belief that the Messiah, the Son of God, wouldn’t have a biological father was also held by the Sages. Midrash Genesis Rabbah 35: “The redeemer whom I shall raise up from among you will have no father, as it is written, ‘Behold the man whose name is Zemach [branch], and he shall branch up out of his place’; and he also says, ‘For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground.’” The same idea can also be found in Midrash Genesis Rabbah 37: “The Holy One said to Israel, you have spoken before me, saying, we are orphans and have no father. The redeemer whom I shall raise up out of your midst will have no father also, as it is said, ‘Behold the man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch up out of his place.” Therefore, the Sages attest to the Messiah as having no biological father, and furthermore, connect him to Isaiah 53.

Anyone help me please understand the true meaning of the midrash, if it does exist?

Thanx

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    I have yet to find this in anything other than Christian claims. Can you cite the actual text? (One site has it possibly from Bereishit Rabbati but the medrash rabbati doesn't seem to be available in a full form online). The next challenge is attemting to understand medrash as literal and representing any other opinion besides the author/editor.
    – rosends
    Nov 5, 2021 at 20:31
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    Midrash Rabbah chapter 35 is talking about parshas Noach. That parsha has nothing to do with the quote that you cite. It sounds as if it might be talking about the blessing of Yehudah (as being a shoot) but I did not find it. The first sentence of your citation is totally false. The reference to being orphans is a cry from Lamentations and is what the Children of Israel cry when they have been exiled. The Messiah will be born of a father of the line of King David and his wife. Nov 5, 2021 at 20:37
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    Go to sefaria.org to see the Medrash Rabba. If you have an actual online reference give the link. Nov 5, 2021 at 20:38
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    the reference seems to be to Bereishit Rabbati not Bereishit Rabbah but one site stops with the free preview 5 p'rakim early and the other has nothing in 35 nli.org.il/en/books/NNL_ALEPH001986846/NLI
    – rosends
    Nov 5, 2021 at 20:49
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    @caprireds keep in mind that the authors of the midrash lived centuries after the founding of Christianity, knew very well about Christianity's existence, and still rejected it.
    – Heshy
    Nov 5, 2021 at 20:50

3 Answers 3

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This midrash does not exist in Bereishit Rabba. Indeed, the verse referenced by the translation "Behold the man whose name is Zemach [branch], and he shall branch up out of his place" is Zechariah 6:12 (see here), and that verse does not appear in Bereishit Rabbah 35 or 37 — or in fact in Bereishit Rabba at all — as can be seen by searching this page (after letting it load) for words of the verse (even צמח will do). Searching Sefaria (which has a good number of classic midrashim) for "צמח שמו" finds only 12 hits in the Midrash and Talmud categories (see here), and none appear to be your midrash.

Instead, this midrash is allegedly found in Bereishit Rabbati, which is a medieval midrash attributed to R. Moshe HaDarshan. Such an attribution (for the ch 37 midrash) can be seen in Abarbanel's Yeshu'ot M'shiḥo (p. 217 of PDF), but the midrash isn't found in the Bereishit Rabbati that we have today, and neither is the one from ch 35 (even Abarbanel only says that the midrash is "said to be from Bereishit Rabbati"). The citations that you are seeing are probably from Pugio Fidei, a medieval Christian polemic by Raymond Martini that allegedly contains extracts of R. Moshe HaDarshan's midrash. The accuracy of these citations is in dispute (as you can see on the linked page).

The midrash Bereishit Rabbati is not well-known, in my experience, and hardly forms a "standard interpretation" of Jewish beliefs (besides the fact that many midrashim are contradictory, and one can't take all midrash at face-value; see especially the question Is belief in midrashim optional?). Add to that the midrash's late authorship (where the Jewish author was certainly aware of Christianity and its claims) and the fact that the midrash may or may not be in the original, and it's likely that some misinterpretation (to be generous) is going on here.

But as you asked for an interpretation, let's give the full text of the midrash (the ch 37 one) that Abarbanel cites.

‮ויאמר אליהם ראובן אל תשפכו דם (בראשית לז, כב), זה שאמר הכתוב: יתומים היינו ואין אב (איכה ה, ג). אמר רבי ברכיה: אמר הקב״ה לישראל אתם אמרתם לפני: יתומים היינו ואין אב, אף גואל שאני עתיד להעמיד מכם - אין לו אב, שנאמר: הנה איש צמח שמו ומתחתיו יצמח (זכריה ו, יב). וכן הוא אומר: ויעל כיונק לפניו (ישעיה נג, ב). ועליו אמר דוד: אני היום ילדתיך (תהלים ב, ז).

And Reuben went on, "Shed no blood! ... " (Genesis 37:22), this is like what the verse says: "We have become orphans, fatherless" (Lamentations 5:3). R. Berachya says: the Holy One said to Israel, "you said to me 'we have become orphans, fatherless', so too the redeemer that I will bring from among you will be fatherless, as it says: 'a man called the Branch shall branch out from the place where he is' (Zechariah 6:12). And it also says: 'for he has grown, by His favor' (Isaiah 53:2). And David said about him: 'I have fathered you this day' (Psalms 2:7)."

Abarbanel says that "father" here means "teacher" — the Messiah will learn everything via prophecy — and in fact bring back prophecy to Israel — and not gain his wisdom from a human teacher. He then points out that part of the midrash (including the Lamentations verse) is similar to what's found in Eicha Rabba, where the redeemer refers to Queen Esther, and "no father" means "orphan". Abarbanel then cites a midrash on Isaiah 53:2 that we no longer have, saying that when the Messiah enters the world, his father will die. He then gives another understanding of "no father" as "no comforter", and also points out that if God is bringing the Messiah from "among you", the Messiah must be like us. He has a few more comments, but the gist of it is here.

Please be wary of citations to Jewish sources from Christian sites, especially from missionary sources.


Props to the other answerers (Yaacov Deane, Derdeer) for locating the citation.

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I found on google books a "sefer yeshuot meshichu" by Isaac Abrabanel (Don.) (החלק השני, העיון השלישי, הפרק השלישי). He seems to attribute it to R' Moshe Hadarshan's Bereishis Rabbah (or Rabbati), 37:22. Among other things, he compares it to a similar exigiesis by the same rabbi in Eicha Rabbasi where Esther is referred to as "a redeemer with no father", where it clearly means an orphan (Esther 2:7), and explains that the intention here is that the Moshiach will herald the renewal of prophecy, and that although prophets typically study by other prophets of the older generation, the Moshiach will come to prophecy "without a father" meaning without a prophet-teacher to raise him up spiritually. It's a long piece, so if you're interested you can read it yourself.

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The midrash does exist but not as the Christian missionaries cite it.

It is actually Midrash Bereshit Rabbati which is based upon the book of Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan (someone quoted by Rashi frequently)

title page of Midrash Bereshit Rabbati

The interpretation of the missionaries is also not correct.

This midrash is not discussing the birth of Moshiach but rather is discussing a kabbalistic concept found in Torah teaching relating to the concept of the Redeemer who is described in some places by the name Tzemach, which means Sprout, like sprouting from the ground.

This appears in chapter 35:21 beginning with the words, The Rabbis say Yaacov is a sign for his descendants…

Bereshit Rabbati 35:21

That all that is explained below in regard to what G-d will do for us in connection with this aspect of the final Redemption is a consequence, measure for measure with the actions that Yaacov Avinu took to bury his wife, Rachel at Beit Lechem (Bethlehem) on the road to Efrat.

In the Talmud and other midrashim it indicates that this midrashic name is specifically associated to the Hebrew name Menachem because they (צמח and מנחם) share the same numerical value. This individual is also referenced in the service of Hoshanah Rabbah during Sukkot.

This redeemer dies (meaning he is not murdered nor executed, like is emphasized by Rambam in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, 11:4 ), gets buried in the ground and through that process brings about what is referred to as the ingathering of the Exiles.

This spiritual ingathering is how all the sparks, which are also referred to as Tikkunim in other kabbalistic texts, which have been partially elevated via the blessings (like for example over the food which we eat every day) made by all the Righteous throughout every generation, are elevated to their final intended state (the Source from which they were hewn) through attachment to the soul of this individual who bears the name Tzemach during its ascent from this world to the World of Souls. The sparks hitch a ride, so to speak.

This ingathering is what is intended in the Amidah prayer in the blessing about Sound the Great Shofar… which is said before the blessings for the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin, the rebuilding of the Temple (the emphasis being that the ingathering precedes the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem) and the resurrection of that same redeemer called both Tzemach and Menachem. This ingathering is also referenced according to Midrash Bereshit Rabbati in Micha 4:6.

This spiritual ingathering is also referenced by the Ari z”l in Eitz Chaim and also by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato in his classic, Derech HaShem in context of how the very highest individuals on the spiritual level will perfect not only themselves and those alive during their generation but also all those both before and after them.

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    None of this lengthy exposition of yours is found in the midrash you shared with us.
    – Derdeer
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:34
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    Your opening line is also incorrect, since aside from quoting jeremiah 31:17 which contains the word צמח and גואל in juxtaposition, it says nothing even remotely resembling what the missionary site quotes. So no, the midrash they quote frankly does not exist.
    – Derdeer
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:40
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    @Derdeer If you review both the question from the OP & the early comments from Rosends, they indicate that the missionaries are either confused about (or intentionally obscuring) the referenced source for their proselytization. Not unusual practice. Assuming the good intentions of the OP, this answer clarifies what the correct source is and also what the traditional teaching associated with it is. If you personally disagree with that understanding, you are entitled and certainly welcome to offer an alternative answer. But what is offered here is an accurate & authentic traditional answer. Nov 8, 2021 at 1:55
  • @Yaacov Deane ,thank you brother for your answer ..I really needed clarification like that.
    – capri reds
    Nov 8, 2021 at 22:19
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    I have done it immediately after reading your post.. I like to show it by words and acitons...
    – capri reds
    Nov 9, 2021 at 14:24

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