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Vayeshev: Mashiach ben Yosef

Updated: 16 hours ago

עוד־יוסף חי

“Joseph still lives.” Genesis 45:28

In Parashat Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23), we are introduced to the lives of two individuals, Yosef and Yehudah. These personalities form two threads that are woven together, extending all the way into the Redemption. The concept of Redemption, and the Messiah in Judaism is profoundly multifaceted. It is often oversimplified by those seeking to make these ideas palatable to a mass audience. However, attempts to make the concept understandable borders on misleading the audience. 

In Jewish thought, there is a duality to the idea of Mashiach: Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. In general, when people speak of the Messiah, they are referencing Mashiach ben David, whose mission is to gather the exiles of Israel, rebuild the Temple and establish world peace. The mission of Mashiach ben Yosef is vastly different. His purpose and end goal is the same, but he dies in the redemptive process. One of the foundational source texts to study the death of Mashiach ben Yosef is found in Zechariah 12:10,

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10

The Gemara comments on this passage,

“What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]? — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, ‘The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph’, and the other explained, ‘The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination (yetzer hara)’. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, “And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son…” Sukkah 52a, Soncino Press Edition

The Talmud continues,

“Our Rabbis taught, The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, the son of David (May he reveal himself speedily in our days!), ‘Ask of me anything, and I will give it to you’, as it is said, ‘I will tell of the decree, etc. this day have I begotten you, ask of me and I will give the nations for thy inheritance.’ But when he will see that the Messiah, the son of Joseph, is slain, he will say to Him, ‘L-rd of the Universe, I ask of You only the gift of life’. ‘As to life’, He would answer him, ‘Your father David has already prophesied this concerning you’, as it is said, ‘He asked life of you, you gave it to him, [even length of days for ever and ever].” Sukkah 52a, Soncino Press Edition

This is the only passage where Mashiach ben Yosef is explicitly mentioned in the vast sea of the Talmud. He is a mysterious and enigmatic figure, who resurfaces in the writings of the Midrash, Zohar and later rabbis, and is the focus of the book Kol HaTor, Voice of the Turtledove, written by R’ Hillel Shklover, the disciple of the Vilna Gaon (1720 CE – 1797 CE). In Judaism, it is said there is a Messiah in every generation, a Tzaddik HaDor (Righteous one of the generation) who fulfills the mission of the Messiah to some degree. While this is true, it does not discount the idea of one ultimate Messiah ben David, who accomplishes the ultimate mission of ending the Exile and restoring peace to the world. In the same manner, various individuals have fulfilled the role of Messiah son of Yosef in their respective generations, to a certain extent. According to the Rabbis, Yitzchak, Yehoshua bin Nun, and Yonah HaNavi all fulfilled that role, and were prophetic prototypes of the ultimate Mashiach ben Yosef. One of the clearest pictures of the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef is told in the life of Yosef HaTzaddik, from where the name “ben Yosef” is derived. R’ Ari Kahn of explains,

“Jewish tradition speaks of an additional Mashiach, one not as well known or as well-publicized: Mashiach ben Yosef (the Messiah, son of Yosef). This week’s Parsha, then, is not only the story of Yosef and Yehuda, two dominant personalities; it is much more. Knowing that Yosef and Yehuda represent two elements of Redemption, we are forced to reread and reconsider this week’s Parsha on the meta-level, examining both the personal stories and behavior of the two key characters as well as the implications these have on the Jewish view of Messianic Redemption. Like Yosef, Mashiach ben Yosef is a vulnerable Messiah. We don’t know how his mission will work out, for, like Yosef, his position is precarious, and at times it appears that he will fall into the traps set by others, and fail. There were times that Yaakov thought Yosef was dead – but the epic words uttered by Yaakov “Od Yosef Chai! Yosef lives on!” reverberate through history, and according to the great mystics, apply equally to Mashiach ben Yosef. Just as the rumors of Yosef’s demise were greatly exaggerated, so, it is believed, Mashiach ben Yosef will ultimately succeed.” R’ Ari Kahn, Vayeshev, Ketz-Bavel-Zerubavel, [1]


Speaking of duality, or a perhaps of unity, Parshat Vayeshev opens with a paradox:

“This is the history of the generations of Jacob. Joseph . . .” Genesis 37:2

Yosef HaTzaddik

We are told “this is the toldot (history) of Yaakov,” and then the Torah proceeds to tell us the story of Yosef. The commentators explain that Yaakov and Yosef are one. To understand this idea, we must explore the father-son relationship in Jewish thought. The Talmud teaches that the “son is a limb of his father.” Yitzhak Kasdan elucidates the passage,

“Indeed, this is the underpinning of the concept in the g’marah (Sanhedrin 104a) that “b’ra m’zakeh aba” – a son brings merit to his father through good deeds, learning Torah, etc. He does so because “b’ra kareih d’avuah” (cf. Eruvin 70b), a son is considered an extension – literally the leg – of his father, either because the son and father are part and parcel of each other (i.e., are joined together) or because the father is considered the gorem, the cause, of his son’s actions (i.e., since the son emulates him by following in his footsteps). In other words, the son’s actions and accomplishments are considered as the father’s and are credited to the father.” Yitzhak Kasdan, Understanding The Mitzvah of Hesped [2]

This subject is spoken by the Alter Rebbe, R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi, (1745 – 1812 CE) in his epic work, the Tanya. Yanki Tauber of elucidates,

“Rabbi Schneur Zalman delves further into the metaphor, examining the biological and psychological dynamics of the father-child model and employing them to better understand our relationship to each other and to our Father in Heaven. A microscopic bit of matter, originating in the father’s body, triggers the generation of a life. In the mother’s womb, a single cell develops into a brain, heart, eyes, ears, arms, legs, toenails; soon it emerges into the world to function as a thinking, feeling, and achieving human being. Physically, what has originated in the father’s body and psyche is now a separate, distinct, and (eventually) independent individual. On a deeper level, however, the child remains inseparable from his begetter. In the words of the Talmud, “A son is a limb of his father.” At the very heart of the child’s consciousness lies an inescapable truth: he is his father’s child, an extension of his being, a projection of his personality. In body, they have become two distinct entities; in essence, they are one.” Yanki Tauber, The Head, [3]

Rebbe Nachman illustrates the unity of father and son,

“This is (Genesis 49:24) “…from there the Shepherd, the evan (the Rock) of Israel.” Onkelos translates [“EVaN” as a composite of] AV and VeN (father and son). This is the complete-statement: father and son as one. For a half-statement corresponds to the son alone, but the complete-statement is father and son as one. Everything is encompassed there, and through this one can come to the concept of shepherds, as above. Hence this is the meaning of, “from there the Shepherd, the EVaN of Israel.” R’ Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Moharan I, 22:10, Volume 3, published by the Breslov Research Institute, pg. 381

Yeshua said on Hanukkah at the Temple,

“It was the Feast of Hanukkah at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. The Judeans therefore came around him and said to him, ‘How long will you hold us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Yeshua answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, these testify about me. But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I told you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Fathers hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:22-30

The Torah portions about Yosef’s life always coincides with Hanukkah. R’ Ari Kahn explains the connection,

“…it is no accident that the festival of Hanukkah, with its tragic fratricidal overtones, always falls during the weeks when the portions regarding Joseph and his brothers are read. Similarly, the destruction of the Second Temple is attributed by the Midrash to the unwarranted hatred between brothers that is the plot of these Torah portions.” R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish, The Light of Messiah, [4]

Ketonet Passim

Yaakov favored Yosef above all of his sons. He is the firstborn of Rachel, his beloved wife. The crown of Yaakov’s affection for Yosef was the gift of the ketonet passim, popularly translated as a “coat of many colors.”[5] To illustrate the difficulty of translating these words, various Bibles have rendered the word as,

“a coat of many colors” – KJV, Old JPS, LXX “a long-sleeved robe” – CJB “a tunic reaching to the soles of his feet” – MKJV “a richly ornamented robe” – NIV “a beautiful robe” – NIrV

R’ Aryeh Kaplan explains the various interpretations of the Rabbis,

“It was a royal garment. . .The word passim can be translated as colorful (Radak, Septuagint), embroidered (Ibn Ezra,Bachya; Ramban on Exodus 28:2), striped (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim), or with pictures (Targum Yonathan). It can also denote a long garment, coming down to the palms of the hands (Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Baaley Tosafoth; Bereshith Rabbah 84), and the feet (Lekach Tov). Alternatively, the word denotes the material out of which the coat was made, which was fine wool (Rashi) or silk (Ibn Janach). Hence, kethoneth passim, may be translated as ‘a full-sleeved robe,’ ‘a coat of many colors,’ ‘a coat reaching to his feet,’ ‘an ornamented tunic,’ ‘a silk robe,’ or ‘a fine woolen cloak.” R’ Aryeh Kaplan, The Living Torah, Genesis 37

Perhaps ‘Ketonet Passim’ can be translated as:

“A long, striped and colorfully ornamented robe, made of silk and wool, with long sleeves and reaching to the ankles.”

What is the significance of the ketonet passim and why did it incite the hatred of Yosef’s brothers? This word is only used one other time in the Tanakh to describe the apparel Tamar, the daughter of King David [5], so the garment definitely holds an implication of royalty.

“It was not merely an extravagant gift, a token of his father’s affection; it symbolized a status, perhaps marking Yosef as his father’s heir.”[6]

This is powerful, as Yosef is being singled out to receive the torch from Yaakov, who received it from Yitzchak, who received it from Avraham. Should not the coat of colors have gone to Reuben? 1st Chronicles explains,

“And the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel – for he was the first-born, but, since he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, yet not so that he was to be reckoned in the genealogy as firstborn. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came he that is the prince; but the birthright was Joseph’s.” 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, JPS

Casting Lots

Genesis Rabbah establishes an important link,

“AND HE MADE HIM A COAT OF MANY COLORS (PASSIM). Resh Lakish said in the name of R. Eleazar b. Azariah: A man must not make a distinction among his children, for on account of the coat of many colours which our ancestor Jacob made for Joseph, THEY HATED HIM. The word PASSIM indicates that it reached as far as his wrists (pas). It is called PASSIM because they cast lots (hefissu) over it, as to who should carry it to their father, the lot falling to Judah.” Genesis Rabbah 84:8, Soncino Press Edition

Psalm 22 echoes this idea,

“They divide my garments among them. They cast lots for my clothing.” Psalms 22:18

The New Testament describes this event happening before the death of Yeshua at Gulgalta. Like Yosef before him, Yeshua’s garment was divided,

“And when they (the Romans) had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.” Mark 15:24, Matthew 27:35, Luke 23:34, John 19:23 27

The Blood of a Goat

In one of the most tragic elements in the Parashah, the brothers take Yosef’s garment and dip it in blood,

“And they took Yosef’s coat, and killed a male of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood.” Genesis 37:31

The Targum explains why the brothers used the blood of a goat,

“…because its blood is like the blood of a man.” Targum Jonathan to Genesis 37

The Rambam explains links this idea to Yom Kippur, as R’ Ari Kahn explains,

“Rambam notes that a goat is always brought as a sin offering on holidays, and ties this offering directly with the goat’s blood with which Yosef’s coat of many colors was stained by the brothers.” R’ Ari Kahn, Vayeshev, For a Pair of Shoes, [7]

Garments of Light

Like Yosef before him, it is said that the Mashiach will also receive a garment in the incredible text, Pesikta Rabbati (845 CE),

“As a bridegroom puts on a priestly diadem (Isa. 61:10). This text teaches that the Holy One, blessed be he, will put upon Ephraim, our true Messiah, a garment whose splendor will stream forth from world’s end to world’s end; and Israel will make use of his light and say: Blessed is the hour in which He was created! Blessed is the womb whence he came! Blessed is the generation whose eyes behold him! …Blessed are the forebears of the man who merited the goodness of the world, the Messiah, hidden for eternity [-to come].” Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 37, translated by William Braude, Yale University Press, pg. 689

Maaseh Avot Siman L’banim

The Ramban
Wall painting of the Ramban , at the wall of Akko’s Auditorium. Author: Chesdovi. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wikimedia Commons

The Ramban, R’ Moshe ben Nachman (1194 -1270 CE), summarizes a teaching from the Midrash Tanchuma (on Lech Lecha),

“I will tell you a principle, which you should keep in mind throughout all the coming passages regarding the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is a major principle, which the Sages mention succinctly when they said,”Everything that occurred to the Patriarchs is a sign (or portent) for their descendants.” Ramban on Genesis 12:6, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg. 293

The Artscroll commentary to the Ramban explains,

“Whenever the Torah records an incident that occurred in the Patriarch’s personal lives, it is because that event foreshadowed some parallel event that would affect the Jewish people in the future.”

R’ Ari Kahn of elucidates this important idea,

“In order to understand the significance of the teachings in Genesis generally, and in this Torah portion specifically, we must introduce the concept of ma’aseh avot siman l’banim, which literally translates “the actions of the forefathers serve as a portent for their descendants.” Put another way, history repeats itself, or, in theological terms, Jewish history is Jewish destiny.” R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish, Vayeshev, Light of Messiah, [4]

In other words, Jewish history is Jewish prophecy. As Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, says,

“That which has been is that which shall be, and that which has been done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

 If what happens in Genesis has prophetic ripples into Jewish history, what event is foreshadowed by the brothers selling Yosef to the gentiles?

The Concealment

The Artscroll Commentary cites R’ Yaakov ben Asher (1269  – 1343 CE), known as the Baal HaTurim (the Master of the Rows/Lines), giving four reasons why the brothers did not recognize Yosef,

  1. When he left them, their beards were full, but his was not….

  2. It never entered their minds that he would rise to such eminence…

  3. They were introduced to him under his Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah…

  4. He spoke Egyptian and they spoke the Holy Tongue [that is, they did not recognize his voice because he spoke in Egyptian to a translator who then relayed his words to them (see Rashbam).” Baal HaTurim on Genesis, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg. 390

Kol HaTor says,

“Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him – This is one of the traits of Yosef not only in his own generation, but in every generation, i.e., that Mashiach ben Yosef recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him.  This is the work of Satan, who hides the characteristics of Mashiach ben Yosef so that the footsteps of the Mashiach are not recognized and are even belittled because of our many sins.  (See below 103).  Otherwise, our troubles would already have ended. Were Israel to recognize Yosef, that is, the footsteps of ben Yosef the Mashiach which is the ingathering of the exiles etc., then we would already have been redeemed with a complete redemption.” Kol HaTor 2:39, translated by R’ Yechiel Bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 37

There is a tradition in a text called the Secrets of R’ Shimon bar Yochai, that Mashiach will be concealed and rejected,

“The Messiah of the lineage of Ephraim shall die there, and Israel shall mourn for him.  After this the Holy One blessed be He will reveal to them the Messiah of the lineage of David, but Israel will wish to stone him, and they will say to him: ‘You speak a lie, for the Messiah has already been slain, and there is no other Messiah destined to arise.’  They will scorn him, as Scripture says: ‘despised and abandoned (by) men’ (Isa 53:3).  He shall withdraw and be hidden from them, as Scripture continues: ‘like one hiding faces from us’ (ibid.).  But in Israel’s great distress, they will turn and cry out from (their) hunger and thirst, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will be revealed to them in His glory, as Scripture promises: ‘together all flesh will see’ (Isa 40:5).  And the King Messiah will sprout up there, as Scripture says: ‘and behold with the clouds of heaven etc.’ (Dan 7:13), and it is written after it ‘and authority was given to him’ (Dan 7:14).  He shall blow (his breath) at that wicked Armilos and kill him, as Scripture forecasts: ‘he will slay the wicked one with the breath of his lips’ (Isa 11:4).” Nistarot ben Shimon bar Yochai, translated by John C. Reeves [8]

Kol HaTor notes something incredible, even the scholars will be struck with blindness,

“How strong is the force of the Sitra Achra that he managed to hide from the eyes of our holy forefathers the danger of the klipot layers: from the eyes of our forefather Abraham, the klipa of Ismael; from the eyes of our forefather Isaac, the klipa of Esau; and from the eyes of our forefather Jacob, the klipa of the terafim.  During the footsteps of the Mashiach, the Sitra Achra becomes even stronger, in order to strike Biblical scholars with blindness.” Kol HaTor 5, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 122

A major component of this concealment is that Yosef was given a new name by the Gentiles, Tzofnat Paneach, which the Targumim translate as “the man who reveals mysteries.” The Baal HaTurim says,

“Zaphenath-Paneah – The gematria of this name (828) is equal to that of the phrase מגלה מסתרים, revealer of things that have been hidden.” Baal HaTurim, Genesis, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pgs. 384 - 385

The idea of the concealment of the Redeemer is a fundamental principle in the Tanakh. Just as Moshe Rabbeinu was named by an Egyptian and cloaked in Egypt, so was Yosef HaTzaddik.  As Yosef was sold for silver to the Gentiles, and given a new Gentile name, so too will Mashiach ben Yosef be sold for silver, handed over to the Gentiles and be given a Gentile name. Messiah himself is said to be a leper (chivra) at the gates of Rome (Sanhedrin 98a). Rome signifies Christianity in Rabbinic literature. Although Mashiach is at the gate of Christianity, he is outside of the city. From a distance, he appears to be part of the system, but is actually outside of it, waiting for Israel to be ready.

Sinat Chinam

The concealment of Yosef happened because he was rejected by his brothers,

“His brothers said to him, ‘Will you indeed reign over us? Or will you indeed have dominion over us? They hated him all the more for his dreams and for his words.” Genesis 37:8

 These words are echoed when Moshe himself first appeared to Israel,

 “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you plan to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian? Moses was afraid, and said, “Surely this thing is known.” Exodus 2:14

Yeshua quotes this very passage in the Gospels,

“One of the multitude said to him, ‘Rabbi, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him,’Man (בן־אדם), who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” Luke 12:13-14

R’ Yaakov Emden (1697 – 1776 CE), known as the Yaavetz, wrote about Yeshua,

“…the Nazarene brought about a double kindness in the world. On the one hand, he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically, as mentioned earlier, and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah.” R’ Yaakov Emden, Seder Olam Vezuta, translated by Harvey Falk, Jesus the Pharisee, pg. 21 [9]

If the Yaavetz is correct, why is there so much sinat chinam, baseless hatred, for Yeshua of Nazareth? Kol HaTor remarks,

“During the period of the footsteps of the Mashiach, the Sitra Achra becomes stronger in all areas, especially against the internal nature of the Torah and against the revelation of the secrets of gematria computations that concern the footsteps of the Mashiach. This is what the Gaon explained was meant by our Sages in their statement that the wisdom of scribes will turn putrid. This is what is meant by “they taunted the footsteps of Your Mashiach” [Ps. 89:52]. Nevertheless, when the final end comes, the final days, the prophecy “every valley will be raised” will be fulfilled, and this refers to gematria, etc., as it says in the holy Zohar. As explained by the Gaon there (Tikunei Zohar, p. 139), the wisdom of scribes will turn putrid, and he (Mashiach ben Yosef) will be debased because of our transgressions (Isa. 53:5).” Kol HaTor 3.6, translated by R’ Yechiel Bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 85

 This baseless hatred was the cause of the Second Temple’s destruction,

"But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause." Yoma 9b, Soncino Press Edition

Since baseless hatred, like that of Yosef’s brothers, was prevalent in the Second Temple period, the Yom Kippur liturgy speaks of the Ten Martyrs who were killed as an atonement for sale of Yosef. Yeshua said,

“… this happened so that the word may be fulfilled which was written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause." John 15:25

As Mashiach ben Yosef and Yosef before him experienced sinat chinam from Israel, so Israel will experience baseless hatred from the nations. This is in accordance with the principle of ‘Whatever happened to Yosef, happens to Tziyon.” Mashiach is the yechida, the universal soul of Israel. In other words, Israel and Mashiach are prophetic of each other. Their destinies are connected, and reflect one another. The two are one. Painfully, R’ Ari Kahn says,

“Jewish tradition refers to the sale of Yosef as a stain on the collective conscience of the entire nation – a stain that much of Jewish practice and Jewish history is geared toward cleansing…It seems an inescapable conclusion that Jewish theology considers the brothers guilty of the sale, and senses the repercussions of that episode throughout our history.” R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish, For a Pair of Shoes,

It is important to note that all humanity is guilty before HaShem. And it is for Israel, and yes even the world, that Mashiach ben Yosef came. R’ Daniel Krentzman remarks on this incredible cosmic mission,

“The need for the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef came about as a result of the sin of Adam. In theory, had Adam not sinned and brought about tremendous spiritual damage to himself and the world, there would not have been a need for the tikun olam efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef, in every subsequent generation. Mashiach ben Yosef thus comes to rectify that damage and return mankind to the state of Adam before the sin.” Yonah the Navi as Mashiach ben Yosef, Daniel Krentzman, pg. 10 [12]

The Death of Mashiach Ben Yosef

The Ramchal, R’ Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (1707  – 1746 CE), writes,

The Ramchal
Wall painting of the Ramchal , at the wall of Akko’s Auditorium. Author: Yuval Y. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wikimedia Commons.
וחלקי המאורות יצאו על ידי משיח בן יוסף, שאם לא היה זכות בדור היה צריך למות, ובמותו היה מעלה אותם, ובהיות זכות בדור יעלם גם בלא מות, אבל ביום הקרב אסר את ארמילוס הרשע ־ כי צדיק מצרה נחלץ ויבא רשע תחתיו [משלי יא, ח], ובכח תקוניו יעלו הנופלים האלה

“The parts that belong to the spiritual luminaries will become manifest with the advent of the Mashiach ben Yosef. If the generation is unworthy, then he will have to die, and in death he will elevate them. And if the generation is worthy, then even without his dying, he will elevate them…” Ramchal, Ma’amar HaGeulah, Secrets of the Redemption, Translated by R’ Mordecai Nissim, Feldheim Press, pg. 101

R’ Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823  – 1900 CE) writes in his work, Poked Akarim, Letter Hei [11],

ומשיח בן יוסף המוחה כל זכר עמלק, שיהיה נקי לגמרי, סוף נהרג על ידי גוג ומגוג. ונאמר עליו (זכריה י”ב, י’) והביטו אשר דקרו כמו שאמרו ז”ל בסוכה (נ”ב). משמע פשטיה כאילו ישראל דקרוהו. והיינו דמצד עצמו ודאי היה משפטו שלא למות כלל, רק לפי שלא נהפך למלאך כאליהו, ויש לו חיבור עם שאר בני אדם מישראל להיות יחד קומה שלימה דכנסת ישראל שבאותו דור. והם לא ניקו לגמרי, על כן הוכרח ליהרג לכפר על בני ישרא רבי צדוק הכהן מלובלין זי”ע ספר פוקד עקרים אות ה

“Messiah Son of Joseph who wipes out all traces of Amalek, the one who will be perfectly clean, dies during the end times at the hands of Gog and Magog…’ They will look upon him whom they pierced’ means literally that Israel pierced him, although legally speaking he did not deserve to die…since his generation was not clean; however, he had to be killed in order to atone for the people of Israel Poked Akarim, Letter Heh – cited in The Concealed Light, “Pierced”, Tsvi Sadan, pg. 49

The Ben Ish Chai, R’ Yosef Chayyim (1835 – 1909 CE) comments on the dispute between R’ Dosa and the other Sages as to the meaning of Zechariah 12:10,

“There is a dispute in the Gemara as to the reason for this incidence of great mourning in the future. Some say it is on account of the slaying of the Messiah descended from Joseph, a tzaddik who will pave the way for the coming of the Messiah descended from David. . . Actually, both opinions are true…the people will mourn the death of the Josephian Messiah “because they have stabbed him” – because it is their sins that will cause him to die, as it is written, “He was crushed because of our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). This is similar to the mourning over Yoshiyahu. . . the people will weep over him because their sins are what caused his death. Therefore when we say, “May you speedily establish the throne of David within [Jerusalem].” (daily liturgy), we are praying that he not be killed. The Arizal explained that the “throne of David” refers to the Josephian Messiah, who is the “throne” or base of power, for the David Messiah (Sha’ar HaKavanot 37a).” Ben Ish Chai, Ben Yehoyada, Days of Peace,Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Publications, pgs. 114-115

The Shelah, R’ Isaiah Horowitz (1565 – 1630 CE), explains in his monumental commentary Shnei Luchot HaBrit (the Two Tablets of the Covenant),

“The Mashiach ben Yosef, when he comes, does not come in order to establish his own dynasty, rather he comes to help re-establish the Davidic dynasty. He will even sacrifice his own life in order to accomplish this. His blood will atone for the sins of the Jewish people. His atonement will take the form of the Davidic dynasty being restored to the Jewish people as an everlasting kingdom.” Shelah, Shnei Luchot HaBrit, Vayeshev-Miketz-Vayigash, R’ Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1640), translated by Eliyahu Munk, pg. 317


At the beginning of Parashat Vayeshev, Yosef is described as a na’ar. This is a title for the Angel of HaShem spoken of throughout the Tanakh (Exodus 23). While it is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on this connection, we will mention it in passing. The Kol HaTor notes,

“A youth” — (Gen. 37:2) “and he was a youth” — Four individuals were given the appellation ’ youth’: Yosef, Joshua, Metatron, and David.” Kol HaTor, Chapter 2:94,  translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 49

Yosef and Metat-ron are connected,

“The independence of Mashiach ben Yosef is related to three categories: a) the Mashiach ben Yosef from above is מטט-רו”ן Metatron, the Minister of Interior; as is known, Yosef is Metatron. Both of them are from זיהרא עילאה the light from above…” Kol HaTor 1.20, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 20

R’ Joel David Bakst says,

“Mashiach ben Yoseph is the meta-archangel known throughout the Talmud (including the standard commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot), Midrash, and Zohar, as Metatron.” R’ Joel David Bakst, The Secret Doctrine of the Vilna Gaon, Vol 1, pg. 134

R’ Ariel bar-Tzadok echoes the idea, but applies it to King Messiah,using Yosef as the analogy to describe the relationship between Metatron and HaShem,

“MemTet rules over G-d’s entire universe, not just here on planet earth. Thus when Melekh HaMashiah comes, he will be MemTet incarnate. As such, he will serve as G-d’s regent over the entire universe and not just king here on earth. Mashiah will be to HaShem what Yosef was to Pharaoh in Egypt. Thus, we see that the role and authority of Mashiah is not merely limited to this world.” Identifying Shiloh – The Secret Soul of the Mashiah, Parashat Vayehi, 5762, Rabbi Ariel bar Tzadok, [13]

The Unity of the Meshichim

As we noted at the beginning of this article, the concept of the Mashiach contains a paradoxical duality. However, as Parashat Vayeshev teaches us, based on the principle of Yaakov-Yosef, what appears to be two is actually one. Kol HaTor remarks on the two Mashiachs,

“…at the beginning of the Redemption, when the wood of Yosef and the wood of Judah are “pieces of wood in your hand, ” when they are still divided into two, on the level of the awakening from below. At the time of the complete redemption, however, when the two pieces of wood have become “one in My hand” (the hand of G-d), then the meshichim will be like two inseparable friends; they will have become one, they will have become the King Mashiach who is on the level of the trustworthy friend of the final redeemer, Moshe Rabbeinu, may he rest in peace.” Kol HaTor, Chapter 2, Section 2, 1, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 70

R’ Hillel Shklover continues,

“(Ez. 37:19) the wood of Yosef – This refers to Mashiach ben Yosef for the entire Redemption depends on the unification of the two pieces of wood: the wood of Yosef and the wood of Judah (as it states in this chapter). They are the two meshichim: Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David, who at first, i.e., when the Redemption starts naturally from below, will be separate individuals in “your hand” [Ez. 37:17]. Afterwards, they will become one in “My hand” [Ez. 37:19], the hand of G-d – that is, miraculously, with the help of the clouds from Heaven.” Kol HaTor, 2.101, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 81

Howard Schwartz in his incredible compilation of Jewish midrash and aggadah, Tree of Souls, writes,

“Lubavitch theologians searched the existing messianic traditions that the Rebbe…was the Messiah. Here they encountered two apparently contradictory traditions. One holds that the Messiah is a divine figure, who makes his home in a heavenly palace. The other tradition holds that the Messiah will be the Tzaddik ha-Dor, the greatest sage of his generation – a human being. . . the earthly human Messiah was identified as Messiah ben Joseph, who was said to pave the way for the heavenly Messiah, known as Messiah ben David. However, this myth held that Messiah ben Joseph would lose his life in the process. Before the death of the Rebbe, Jacob Immanuel Schochet, a prominent Lubavitch scholar, often lectured on the subject of the Messiah…in these lectures, Schochet presented a new messianic theory, combining the myths of Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David into a single myth. Here, rather than having one Messiah prepare the way for the other, the figure of the Messiah was simultaneously human and divine. This was made possible by the descent of the soul of the heavenly Messiah into the body of the human one. Thus, in the Lubavitch view, the heavenly Messiah himself will not descend, but merely his soul, which will fuse with the soul of the human Messiah…” Tree of Souls, Howard Schwartz, Oxford University Press, pg. 486-487

Mashiach ben Yosef is resurrected by Mashiach ben David. The two become one at the resurrection.

Yosef = Yeshua

It is a fascinating fact that in the Gospels, Yeshua’s earthly father is named Yosef. But not just any Yosef. Yosef bar Yaakov.

“Yaakov became the father of Yosef, the husband of Miriam, from whom was born Yeshua, who is called Messiah.” Matthew 1:16

The connections between Yosef and Yeshua are numerous, and can be explored in great depth. The following list highlight some of the parallels,

Od Yosef Chai!

After 22 years of concealment, Yosef reveals himself to his brothers,

“Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, please. They came near. He said, I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now don’t be grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here, for G-d sent me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45:4-5

After the revelation, the brothers run to Yaakov, to tell him that his long lost son is not only alive, he is the king of Egypt!

“They (the brothers) went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan, to Yaakov their father. They told him, saying, ‘Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!’ His heart fainted, for he did not believe them.” Genesis 45:25-26

The story is truly unbelievable. Imagine for a moment, G-d forbid, that someone’s child came up missing, and it was reported that the child was killed. The pain of a parent in this situation is unspeakable. Yet after twenty years of pain and suffering, a family member comes and loudly proclaims, “The child is alive! And he is vice-president of the United States!”In this case, truth is stranger than fiction, and this is difficult for Yaakov to believe,

“They told him all the words of Yosef, which he had said to them. When he saw the wagons which Yosef had sent to carry him, the spirit of Yaakov, their father, revived. Israel said, ‘It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive…” Genesis 45:27-28

In the above passage, an incredible transformation takes place: Yaakov becomes Israel!

“…the spirit of Yaakov, their father, revived (וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב). Israel said, “It is enough, Yosef my son is still alive.”

When Israel believes that the Mashiach ben Yosef is alive, the ‘spirit revives’, the Resurrection of the Dead will occur. There is a famous Jewish song about King David that says,

דוד מלך ישראל, חי, חי וקיים

David Melech, Melech Yisrael, David Melech, Melech Yisrael, Melech Yisrael, chai v’kayam!

(David, King of Israel, lives and endures!)

The book Kol HaTor connects this to to the phrase Od Yosef Chai, Yosef is still alive,

“The two meshichim cooperate and help one another: Mashiach ben Yosef, as revealed in the words “Yosef still lives”; and Mashiach ben David, as revealed in the words “David, King of Israel is alive and exists.” They are alive and exist in every generation, carry out their missions, and affect one another with their powers and special attributes.  Thus they need one another.  Without the abundance of their strength, their might, and their endowments, Israel could not exist for even one moment, G-d forbid.  However, they – their powers, images, and endowments – are hidden as long as our many sins cause Israel and the Shechina to remain in exile.  We must know that these two great powers can operate and their strength can affect, even totally affect events, only when no one disturbs or separates them.” Kol HaTor 2.1, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 27

Kol HaTor continues,

“Yosef is still alive. Alive still is Yosef. The son of David is alive and exists. A righteous person lives by his faith. The tree of Yosef and the tree of Judah will become one in the hand of the L-rd…” Kol HaTor 5, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 118

Amazingly, the gematria of the phrase, “Od Yosef b’ni Chai (Yosef my son is still alive) is equal to Yeshu, the name of Yeshua in Judaism today.

ישו = עוד יוסף בני חי = 316

Od Yosef b’ni Chai = Yeshu = 316 My son Yosef is still alive = Yeshu = 316

The message of the Kol HaTor about Mashiach ben Yosef being alive is perhaps the central principle of Kol HaTor,

“Yosef is still alive.” The basic approach of the Gaon is encapsulated in the principle “Yosef is still alive, ” meaning that the Mashiach ben Yosef is still alive and will live, because, as it is written, every aspect of the beginning of the Redemption is dependent on him…” Kol HaTor 1.6, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist, pg. 5

This is indeed the message of the Gospel. The real Jewish Besorah. Mashiach ben Yosef is alive! Od Yeshua chai! Yeshua is still alive. As the angel said,

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Yeshua, who has been crucified. He is not here, for he has risen…” Matthew 28:5-6



  1. Vayeshev, Ketz Bavel-Zerubavel, R’ Ari Kahn,

  2. Understanding the Mitzvah of Hesped by Yitzhak Kasdan,

  3. The Head, by Yanki Tauber,

  4. Vayeshev, The Light of Messiah, R’ Ari Kahn,

  5. The word ketonet passim is used in 2 Samuel, in the case of Tamar who was hated by Amnon, and like the first one, was also torn, “She had a garment of various colors (כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים) on her; for with such robes were the kings daughters who were virgins dressed. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her. Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her garment of various colors that was on her; and she laid her hand on her head, and went her way, crying aloud as she went.”- 2 Samuel 13:18-19

  6. Ketonet Passim: What Joseph Wore, Wendy Angel

  7. Vayeshev, For a Pair of Shoes, R’ Ari Kahn,

  8. Nistarot ben Shimon bar Yochai, translated by J.C. Reeves

  9. Seder Olam Vezuta, Translated by Harvey Falk

  10. Vayeshev, Clothes Make the Man, R’ Ari Kahn,

  11. The Living Torah Commentary by R’ Aryeh Kaplan on Genesis 37,

  12. Yonah the Navi as Mashiach ben Yosef, R’ Daniel Krentzman

  13. Identifying the Secret Soul of Mashiah, R’ Ariel Bar Tzadok

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