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The Gemara describes Moshiach as someone who bore the sickness of B'nei Yisrael and is compared to a metzora; see Ben Yehoyada and Chidushei Agadot, see also:Sanhedrin 98b

The Gemara there quotes a pasuk in Yeshayahu:

But in truth he has borne our sicknesses and endured our pains; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of G-d, and afflicted

Rashi on this pasuk in Yeshayahu teaches why:

he was chastised with pains so that all the nations be atoned for with Israel’s suffering. The illness that should rightfully have come upon us, he bore.

The question however, is, why does Moshiach needs to bear our illnesses? In the sefer בעקבי הכתובים - איוב I think it is explained that Moshiach will carry our illness because we cannot endure it, we are not "strong enough", so Moshiach will "take it from us". Is this correct?

The Abarbanel on 53:10 explains the use of the word for sickness (cholim) in this pasuk. The Abarbanel explains that the purpose of the suffering is not to destroy or kill them B'nei Yisrael, but to encourage them to be better and merit redemption. Why then does Moshiach needs to "bear our sickness"?

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  • It's not Mashiach, it's Hashem.
    – N.T.
    Apr 10, 2022 at 12:24
  • Maybe reconsider the scope or focus of your question. The rabbis in turn are each saying Mashiach's name will be his own. The rabbis [Rabbanan] say Hiwwara ("white" - Rashi: metzora) d'bei Rebbi will be his name, citing Isa. 53 etc. Then R' Nachman says, If he's living he'll be someone such as me having dominion over the Jewish people [cf. "the halakha is like R' Nachman"] etc. Apr 15, 2022 at 17:02
  • I edited my question. I hope this is better.
    – Shmuel
    Apr 19, 2022 at 18:55

3 Answers 3

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why does Moshiach needs to bear our illnesses? In the sefer בעקבי הכתובים - איוב I think it is explained that Moshiach will carry our illness because we cannot endure it, we are not "strong enough", so Moshiach will "take it from us". Is this correct?

That is one explanation of one of the Midrashic mashalim that R. Yaaqov Edelstein gives, that similar to weak oxen that are laden with a heavy burden the ox driver might remove the burden from upon the weaker oxen and place it upon the stronger ox that can handle it. So too God may take the suffering that was due to the nation and place it upon a righteous man.

So your question then emerges:

The Abarbanel on 53:10 explains the use of the word for sickness (cholim) in this pasuk. The Abarbanel explains that the purpose of the suffering is not to destroy or kill them B'nei Yisrael, but to encourage them to be better and merit redemption. Why then does Moshiach needs to "bear our sickness"?

If, as the Abravenel says, the purpose of the suffering is to cause the Jewish nation to turn to God, how does it help if the suffering is shifted to the righteous man? What does that change about the nation such that it is thereby being turned to God? Of what efficacy is it that he should suffer when it is the nation that need to undergo some type of transformation?

I believe the answer is given in R. Yaaqov Edelstein's explanation of the second mashal:

המשל השני בא לבאר שלפעמים הייסורים באים לצדיק כדי ללמד את שאר בני האדם איך צריך לעבוד את ה' אפילו מתוך ייסורים ומאותה סיבה מכה בעל הכדים על הכדים כדי להראות ללקוחות כמה הם חזקים ואיך הם יכולים ליפול לארץ ולא להישבר ומהצדיק שקיבל את ייסוריו ולא בעט בהם ולא כפר בה' ילמדו שאר האנשים לעבוד את ה' בכל מצב

The second mashal comes to explain that sometimes suffering comes upon the righteous in order to teach the rest of humanity how to serve God, i.e. even when suffering, and for that reason the forger strikes vessel upon vessel, in order to demonstrate and show how strong they are and how they are able to fall down to the earth and not shatter, and from the righteous that are subject to suffering that it does not diminish from them nor does it cause them to deny/doubt God, they teach the rest of humanity how to serve God under any circumstance.

When the messiah, or any righteous person, has suffering shifted to them in the stead of the nation, it still has a pedagogical effect intended to turn the nation to God. Instead of them suffering directly and being goaded to return to God, they instead see a stellar example of how one ought to react to suffering. It is through observing the unwavering commitment of the righteous in the face of adversity, that the nation is taught to cleave to God under all circumstances and is thereby (ideally) turned towards God.

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    Wonderful, thank you very much! Just came across this teaching of Rav Edelstein, but did not know that it was so wonderful :).
    – Shmuel
    Apr 20, 2022 at 17:02
  • @Shmuel My pleasure, מועדים לשמחה Apr 20, 2022 at 17:06
  • That is beautiful Apr 20, 2022 at 21:03
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It's brought in Likutei Moharan II:8 (R' Nachman of Breslev's final lecture) ideally by prayer and "shining forth of the sun" healing and forgiveness of sins are attained and neither Yisrael nor the Tzaddiq/Mashiach need suffer. But if not then one or the other could suffer, God forbid. Accordingly some (or the main) perushim for example Rashi (Isa. 53:3) comment the "suffering servant" is all Yisrael referred to as one man.

Summary of Ot 6 (Waw): Revelation of God’s glory, like "the shining forth of the sun," leads to healing and forgiveness of sins, for sins are like darkness. All this is attained by prayer, which gets multiplied by adding a "neighbor" (Shakhen) to the prayer congregation. But when the prayer is not fit, the Tzaddiq may suffer for the people, God forbid.
The lesson is further interwoven and Mashiach is mentioned in Ot 10 (Yud).

Ot 6 full:

And this is like healing, for all the aspects mentioned above are like healing. For revelation of the honor mentioned above is like the shining forth of the sun, like (Isa. 60): "And the glory of Hashem is risen upon you;" and through the shining forth of the sun comes healing, as our Rabbis of blessed memory said (Baba Batra 16): "As the day advances, the illness lightens," as is written (Mal. 3) "And unto you who fear My name shall the sun of righteousness and healing shine forth." For the spirit of prophecy which spread out via the revelation of the honor, this is like the healing that comes through the shining of the sun, like (Prov. 18): “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity." And the main revelation of the honor is through the prayer mentioned above, which the clouds, which are the Other Side and the husks, are annihilated and go away, and then converts are made, and the honor is revealed as mentioned above.
And this is like forgiveness of sin, which comes through much prayer, through which the sun shines forth, through which healing comes. For sin is like cloud, which darkens the light of the sun, for the nature of the sins is they are like darkness, as is written (Isa. 29): "And their works are in the dark;" and this is like sickness, for the main source of sickness comes from sins, as our Rabbis of blessed memory said (Shabbat 55): "There is no affliction without there being sin," for it is said [Ps. 89:33]: "Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes;" for the sins are like clouds, which darken the light of the sun, through which the healing is, and through the prayer the sins are atoned, for prayer atones, for it is in place of offering (Berakhot 26b): as is written (Isa. 56): "I will bring them to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices." And when the sins are atoned, this is like the clouds being annihilated and going away, like (there 44): " I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins" etc.; and then it is like the shining forth of the sun, from which is the healing, for the main source of illness is the aspect of sin, which is like cloud and darkness, which darkens the light of the sun, which is like healing; and when the sin is forgiven, it is like the clouding being annihilated, and then the sun shines, and then comes healing as mentioned above, and all this comes through prayer, which atones sins as mentioned above.
And the main way of prayer, through which sin is forgiven and we are saved from the sickness, comes via adding a neighbor [Shakhen] from Israel, for whenever a neighbor is added from Israel, the prayer greatens and grows very much. And this is the aspect of congregation of Israel. For the more the souls of Israel are congregated and increased together, the house of prayer increases much much more, for three stones build six (i.e. 3 x 2 x 1 permutations of) "houses," and four stones build twenty four houses, five stones build 120 houses etc., until the mouth cannot speak and the heart cannot think, as is brought in Sefer Yetzirah. Hence, the more one stone is added, the houses are multiplied very very much more, multiple multiple times as mentioned above. And the souls are like stones, like (Lam 4): Let the holy stones be poured out etc., and the houses are like “For my house shall be called a house of prayer.” Hence the more one soul is add and increased to the congregation of Israel, the house of prayer grows much more, for now, when one more soul gets added to the congregation, very many more other new permutations, double double and many many times over as mentioned above, and therefore when one neighbor is added from Israel, for example in a place Israelites live, when another Israelite neighbor is added, then the prayer is increased and grown very very much, for one soul was added to the congregation as mentioned above, and through increase of the prayer, through this the sin is forgiven, which is the aspect of healing as mentioned above.
And this is aspect of (Isa. 33) “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick;” for via a neighbor being added, through this we are saved from the sickness as mentioned above, for: “the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity,” for through the neighbor the prayer was increased, and then it is the aspect of forgiveness of sin as mentioned above, and through this comes healing, and the sickness is annulled as mentioned above.
[And know, that sometimes it is the aspect of lifting of sins through the congregation as mentioned above, and sometimes it is, God forbid, the aspect of (there 53): "Surely he has borne our sicknesses;” for when the congregants are not meritorious, then they do not merit to the aspect of lifting of sins, and then the Tzaddiq is forced to accept upon himself afflictions for the sake of Israel, and only the world gets saved from sickness, but not the Tzaddiq, God forbid, for he accepts afflictions for Israel, like: "Surely our sicknesses" etc.; but when they merit and their prayer is fit, then it is like: "The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity" [Isa. 33], and then also the Tzaddiq is saved from illness, like: "And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity," as mentioned above.]

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Likutei_Moharan/II8

https://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%9C%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%98%D7%99_%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%94%D7%A8%22%D7%9F_%D7%AA%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%90_%D7%97

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  • Interesting, thank you for pointing out this teaching of R' Nachman of Breslov.
    – Shmuel
    Apr 20, 2022 at 17:04
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Posting another answer because - the Gemara there isn't necessarily saying Mashiach has to suffer or bear our sickness. Reading precisely again, Rabbanan only said:

ורבנן אמרי חיוורא דבי רבי שמו שנאמר (ישעיהו נג, ד) אכן חליינו הוא נשא ומכאובינו סבלם ואנחנו חשבנוהו נגוע מוכה אלהים ומעונה
Rabbanan said, Chiwwara d'bei Rebbi is his name, for it says (Isa. 53:4), "Indeed he bore our sickness and suffered our pains" etc.

First, the simple context. Question is asked, What's his [Mashiach's] name? Each of the schools of rabbis bring their understanding of Mashiach's name in terms of their teacher['s name]. Yes for Rabbanan's answer Rashi only comments

חיוורא דבי רבי - מצורע של בית רבי:
The Metzora (an affliction) of Beit Rebbi [Yehuda haNasi]

But why the language "Chiwwara d'bei Rebi/ White of Beit Rebbi"? -- Chiwwar is a color, and is not the simple targum of Metzora (which would be Segira closed i.e. outcast or Metzora, untranslated -- see the targums in Tanakh). Why not "Metzora d'bei Rebi?" The simplest meaning is Rebbi suffered much sickness and affliction.

The explanation of this name goes utterly far and deep, as is the whole discussion there of Mashiach's names. To start to understand and behold the depth one should see the Chidushei Agadot haMaharal starting daf 219 here. Just to give some context and a few things I've gathered there:

  • Shilo's school said his name is Shilo - alludes to Yaakob, for whom the whole world was created, so Shilo is his name because the world and everything in it is Shelo - for him.
  • Yinon etc. - ruler, referring to Masiach's inconceivably high status - corresponds to Abraham - (Gen. 23:6) "You are the prince of God.."
  • Chanina etc. - charm and favor from God - corresponding to Yishak who received this tremendous degree of favor (up to here, the three Patriarchs; and Mashiach includes all the levels and has many names as does H"Y who said "I am H' your God" - speaking to different types of people according to their degree)
  • "Some say Menachem" - Maharal notes the "some say" - Who? Just as we want Mashiach and don't know him and can't know him, he's far too exalted, so too he comforts us in the exile etc. hence the Menachem/Comforter.
  • Chiwara d'bei Rebi - "Because Mashiach also includes the intellectual levels... We've already explained Tzaraat is a downturn and loss for a man and he's considered like dead, and since the physical natural world is in opposition to the Mashiach, therefore they z"l said he sits among the poor that suffer sickensses [picking scabs] like we've explained at length above. And this that's written here, Chiwara d'bei Rebi is is name, is because Tzaraat because of the loss that comes because he's in Beit Rebi; it's not because of his bad state bringing him Tzaraat, rather his whole business is cleaving to the intellectual Torah which the physical world opposes to the extent there's loss to the intellect from the physical world's side, therefore it was common for there to be Tzaraat by someone who was in Beit Rebi clung to the Torah and Chokhmah. ...
  • Also Chiwarra refers to the Zohar the bright light, the intellect the superb that Mashiach will be incomprehensible etc.
  • Chiwarra - white - a curtain a veil ...

... much more there...

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  • Interesting. Never heard of this Maharal. Thanks for adding this!
    – Shmuel
    Apr 23, 2022 at 19:39

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