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Metzora: Chivra | The Leper Messiah

Updated: Jun 21

“…the Messiah is Israel’s guarantor; he has undertaken suffering to atone for Israel’s sins in order to shorten the exile (Yalkut Shimoni 499).” Ben Ish Chai, Aderet Eliyahu, Haftarat Yitro, Days of Peace, Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Publications, pg. 127

In Parashat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1–15:33), we read of the laws of tzara’at, commonly translated as “leprosy.” While the word “leprosy” remains the best English approximation available, it fails to communicate the reality of the concept. Tzara’at appears to be of spiritual origin, affecting even houses and clothing, unlike actual leprosy, known as Hansen’s disease. The fact that the ‘leper’ is brought to the kohen, and not to a doctor, is a sign of a spiritual condition. The Midrash Rabbah describes a progression of the affliction,

“I will put the plague of tzaraat in a house” (14:34). So is it when leprous plagues come upon man: First they come upon his house. If he repents, it requires only the removal [of affected stones]; if not, it requires tearing down the entire house. Then the plagues come upon one’s clothes. If he repents, they require washing; if not, they require burning. Then the plagues come upon his body. If he repents, he undergoes purification; if not, “He shall dwell alone.” Midrash Rabbah, cited at [1]

 As we noted in Parashat Tazria, the Torah uses the word  אדם (Adam, man, mankind) instead of the more common word איש (ish, man), to identify the leper,

אָדָם כִּי־יִהְיֶה בְעֹור־בְּשָׂרֹו

“When a man (adam) shall have a rising in his body’s skin, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes in the skin of his body the plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons, the priests…” Leviticus 13:2

While “adam” can and does mean “man,” (and has a connection to the word “red”), it hearkens back to Adam HaRishon, the First Man, who sinned in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s sin caused a shock wave effect of spiritual leprosy throughout creation, causing untold suffering in the world. When Adam was confronted about his sin by God, he immediately points at the woman, and says, “the woman YOU gave to be with me gave it to me.” Instead of owning up to his disobedience, he shifts the blame onto Eve (and God!), and speaks lashon hara, the evil tongue, malicious slander or gossip. The cause of tzara’at is ascribed to lashon hara, and the one who experiences tzara’at is called a metzora (leper). In Aramaic, the word for leper is “chivra,” which literally means “white”. The Torah describes Miriam, the sister of Moshe, speaking lashon hara and is punished with the affliction,

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman…The anger of HaShem was kindled against them; and he departed. The cloud departed from over the Tent, and behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. Aaron looked at Miriam, and behold, she was leprous.” Numbers 12:1, 9-10

Moshe then prayed for Miriam to be healed. The healing of tzara’at is associated with the Redemption and with Moshe Rabbeinu,

“HaShem said furthermore to him, Now put your hand inside your cloak. He put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. He said, “Put your hand inside your cloak again. He put his hand inside his cloak again, and when he took it out of his cloak, behold, it had turned again as his other flesh. It will happen, if they will neither believe you nor listen to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.” Exodus 4:6-8

If the first Redeemer is like the last Redeemer, Messiah too will be associated with the healing of tzara’at. The phrase “as white as snow” echoes the prophet Isaiah, as he describes the seemingly leprous spiritual condition of Israel and the remedy for her,

“From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it: wounds, welts, and open sores. They haven’t been closed, neither bandaged, neither soothed with oil. . . Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice. Relieve the oppressed. Judge the fatherless. Plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says HaShem: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:6, 16-18

Matthew 8

The Gospel of Matthew highlights the connection between the Messiah and the metzora, the leper. The King James Version renders the passage,

“Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean.” Matthew 8:2-3

Yeshua’s response in the King James version is seemingly passive, rigid and cold. The phrase, “I wilt” comes from the Greek word “Thelo.” The Strong’s Concordance says,

θέλω – Thelo

“…to determine (as an active voice option from subjective impulse; whereas βούλομαι (boolamee) properly denotes rather a passive voice acquiescence in objective considerations), that is, choose or prefer (literally or figuratively); by implication to wish, that is, be inclined to (sometimes adverbially gladly); impersonally for the future tense, to be about to; by Hebraism to delight in: – desire, be disposed (forward), intend, list, love…” Strong’s Concordance on Thelo, e-Sword

When a concordance references a “Hebraism” one should pay close attention. Yeshua’s response was not passive. He spoke to the leper in an active voice. Re-reading this passage in this light, it says,

וַיִּשְׁלַח יֵשׁוּעַ אֶת־יָדוֹ וַיִּגַּע־בּוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר חָפֵץ אָנֹכִי טְהָר

Vayishlach Yeshua et-yado, vayiga-bo vayomer “Chafeitz anochi, t’har And sent forth Yeshua his hand, and touched him, and said, “I desire it! Be clean.”

“…Behold, a leper came to him and worshiped him, saying, “Master, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Yeshua stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I desire it! Be made clean.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Yeshua said to him, “See that you tell nobody, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moshe commanded, as a testimony to them.” Matthew 8:1-4

Yeshua LOVED to heal the metzora! It was his desire! Moreover, Yeshua could have simply spoken the word, while keeping a safe distance. Rather, he reaches out, and touches the afflicted person! The metzora probably spent a long time without a human touch, avoided on all sides. In touching the metzora, Yeshua became ritually impure (tameh), yet he absorbed the tzara’at into himself, and extinguished it. Incredibly, a Hebrew term for tzara’at is “touched” (nega), which we will discuss later. Luke gives us an additional detail about this man,

“It happened, while he was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man full of leprosy. When he saw Yeshua, he fell on his face, and begged him, saying, “Master, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Luke 5:12

This particular leper was covered in leprosy, and was close to the stage of being declared clean,

“…the priest shall examine him; and, behold, if the leprosy has covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean of the plague. It has all turned white: he is clean.” Leviticus 13:13

The Christian Hebraist John Gill makes an interesting spiritual interpretation,

“…the mystical or spiritual meaning of this is, that when a man sees himself to be a sinful creature, all over covered with sin, and no part free, and disclaims all righteousness of his own to justify him before God, but wholly trusts to, and depends upon the grace of God for salvation, and the righteousness of Messiah for his acceptance with God; he becomes clean through the grace of God and the blood and righteousness of Messiah.” John Gill on Leviticus 13:13

The Talmud makes an interesting interpretation of these laws on a deeper level, connecting them to Mashiach,

“The son of David will not come until the whole world is converted to the belief of the heretics. Raba said: What verse [proves this]? it is all turned white: he is clean.” Sanhedrin 97a, Soncino Press Edition

Yeshua then tells the metzora to go show himself to the kohen, and offer the sacrifice according to the Torah as a testimony to the Temple priests. At this time, the priesthood was controlled by the Sadducees, and in their days the healing of tzara’at was likely a rare event. It would have stunned them, challenging them to look deeper into the person of Yeshua. What was the sacrifice that Moshe commanded?

The Sacrifice of the Leper

The book of Leviticus describes the sacrifice of the metzora,

“This shall be the law of the leper on the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go forth out of the camp. The priest shall examine him, and behold, if the plague of leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two living clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. The priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. He shall sprinkle on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird go into the open field.” Leviticus 14:2-7

What is the meaning of this sacrifice? The following elements are:

  1. Two Living Clean Birds

  2. Cedar Wood

  3. Scarlet

  4. Hyssop

  5. Earthen Vessel

  6. Living (Running) Water

What is the meaning and secret of this passage? How does it connect to the other korbanot (sacrifices)? First, regarding the birds, the Talmud says,

“What makes the leper different that the Torah said:  ‘He shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be?’ He separated a husband from his wife, a man from his neighbor, therefore said the Torah: ‘He shall dwell alone’. R. Joshua b. Levi said: Wherein is the leper different that the Torah said: ‘Two living clean birds [he should bring] so that he may become pure again.’ The Holy One, blessed be He, said: He did the work of a babbler, therefore let him offer a babbler as a sacrifice.” Arachin 16b, Soncino Press Edition

The message to the metzora is clear. His lashon hara will be atoned for by sacrificing the animal who “chatterers” throughout creation. On a deeper level, the clean tzippor (bird), is identified as either a Tor (turtledove) or a Yonah(dove). Both the “Tor” and the “Yonah ” are names for the Mashiach. In fact, as pointed out by Xus Casal, the word ‘tzippor’ has the gematria of ‘zehu Mashiach’ (this one is Mashiach):

צפר = זהו משיח = 376

While it is beyond the scope of this article to elucidate, the two birds in the sacrifice of the Leper creates a microcosmic echo of Yom Kippur. On this holiest day of the year, two identical goats are brought together, one is killed, and the other released. The exact same scenario played out with Yeshua and a man named “Yeshua bar Abba”, popularly known as Barabbas. As the bird is sacrificed, its blood joins the water flowing from the jar of clay. The human body is likened to a jar of clay, and HaShem is the Potter. In a seemingly disconnected passage, the Midrash Rabbah makes a curious observation when Moshe struck the rock,

“He smote the rock and brought forth blood, as it is said: Behold, He smote the rock, that waters gushed out – vayazubu (Ps. 78:20), and the the word vayazubu is an expression used of blood, as it is said: “And if a woman have an issue (yazuv) of her blood (Lev. 15:25). For this reason did he smite the rock twice, because at first he brought forth blood and finally water.” Exodus Rabbah 3:13, Soncino Press Edition

According to the Midrash, when the Rock was struck, it brought forth flowing blood like a woman during her flow and then released water. From this we may gather something about atonement and purity, resulting in life, living water, flowing from the Rock. The Midrash is stunning in light of the Gospel’s description of the death of Yeshua,

“Now a vessel full of vinegar was set there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop, and held it at his mouth…When they came to Yeshua and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” John 19:29, 33-34

The apostle Paul makes an incredible observation,

“Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the Rock was Messiah.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

It is fascinating that the Gospel of John mentions “hyssop” at the execution stake of the Messiah. It may be possible that the stake itself was made of cedar wood. In the Torah, the hyssop and cedar create a connecting thread between the Sacrifice of the Leper, the Red Heifer, and the blood of the Lamb for Passover. The Midrash Rabbah says,

“The hyssop, for instance, appears to man to be of no worth, yet its power is great in the eyes of God, who put it on a level with cedar in numerous cases,-in the purification of the leper, and the burning of the Red Heifer; and in Egypt too He commanded a precept to be performed with hyssop, as it says: AND YOU SHALL TAKE A BUNCH OF HYSSOP. Of Solomon, also, does it say: “And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springs out of the wall” (I Kings 5:13) – to teach you that the small and the great are equal in the sight of God. He performs miracles with the smallest things, and through the hyssop which is the most lowly of trees, did He redeem Israel.” Exodus Rabbah 17:2, Soncino Press Edition

Like the cedar and the hyssop, the scarlet yarn formed a part of the korbanot of the Red Heifer, the goats of Yom Kippur, the salvation of Rahab in a Passover-esque fashion. Messiah himself was cloaked in a garment of scarlet.


Regarding the sacrifice of Yeshua of Nazareth, anti-missionaries commonly cite Ezekiel 18:20 as ruling out the possibility that someone can die or suffer for another’s sins,

“The soul who sins, he shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be on him.” Ezekiel 18:20

Considering the above, is it possible that a tzaddik, a righteous person, can atone for their generation? Does the passage above rule out the idea of vicarious atonement? The Talmud brings down the principle, מיתתן של צדיקים מכפרת, “the death of the righteous atones,”

למה נסמכה מיתת מרים לפרשת פרה אדומה ־ לומר לך: מה פרה אדומה מכפרת ־ אף מיתתן של צדיקים מכפרת. אמר רבי אלעזר: למה נסמכה מיתת אהרן לבגדי כהונה? ־ מה בגדי כהונה מכפרין ־ אף מיתתן של צדיקים מכפרת מועד קטן דף כח.א

“Said R. Ammi, Wherefore is the account of Miriam’s death placed next to the [laws of the] red heifer? To inform you that even as the red heifer afforded atonement [by the ritual use of its ashes], so does the death of tie righteous afford atonement [for the living they have left behind]. R. Eleazar said, “Why is [the account of] Aaron’s death closely followed by [the account of the disposal of] the priestly vestments? [To inform you] that just as the priest’s vestments were [means] to effect atonement, so is the death of the righteous [conducive to procuring] atonement.” Moed Katan 28a, Soncino Press Edition

The Midrash Rabbah continues the theme,

יב א״ר אבא בר אבינא מפני מה נסמכה פרשת מיתת מרים לאפר פרה אלא מלמד שכשם שאפר הפרה מכפר כך מיתת הצדיקים מכפרת מדרש רבה ויקרא, פרשה כ ,סימן יב

“R. Abba b. Abina enquired: For what reason was the section recording the death of Miriam placed in close proximity to that dealing with the ashes of the Red Heifer? Simply this, to teach that as the ashes of the Heifer effect atonement, so the death of the righteous effects atonement.” Leviticus Rabbah 20:12, Soncino Press Edition

 The Ramchal, R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, says in his monumental work, Derekh HaShem, The Way of the Lord,

“… suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik (righteous person) as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept this suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree. Such suffering also includes cases where a tzaddik suffers because his entire generation deserves great punishments, bordering on annihilation, but is spared via the tzaddik’s suffering. In atoning for his generation through his suffering, this tzaddik saves these people in this world and also greatly benefits them in the World-to-Come. In addition, there is a special higher type of suffering that comes to a tzaddik who is even greater and more highly perfected than the ones discussed above. This suffering comes to provide the help necessary to bring about the chain of events leading to the ultimate perfection of mankind as a whole. … Beyond that, the merit and power of these tzaddikim is also increased because of such suffering, and this gives them even greater ability to rectify the damage of others. They can therefore not only rectify their own generation, but can also correct all the spiritual damage done from the beginning, from the time of the very first sinners.” R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Derech Hashem, Translation by Aryeh Kaplan, Feldheim Publishers, pgs. 123-125

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov speaks of the blood of the tzaddik,

“To sanctify God’s Name, he sacrifices his own name – i.e. his prestige…As a result of all this, even though he is prestigious, he is still not at all prestigious. One the contrary, he is quite the reverse. Everyone speaks about him and fabricates lies about him [of things] that never crossed his mind, so that, quite literally, his blood is shed by this. Yet he does this intentionally, because it is an aspect of bona fide self-sacrifice – for the name is the soul, as explained above – and from this too his blood is shed…With this, he saves the Jewish people from what they deserved to have happen to them, God forbid, for the purpose of a unification, as explained above. However, by sacrificing his name, which is his soul, he saves them, as explained above.” Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan 260:2, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 289

The Breslov Commentary to Likutey Moharan explains the above,

“The list of those who sacrificed their names for God includes the Ari, the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Rebbe Nachman to mention a few. Today, everyone recognizes the spiritual greatness of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the holy Ari. Yet, when he first began revealing his Kabbalistic teachings, the Ari faced serious opposition and was nearly excommunicated. Initially, the Baal Shem Tov kept his greatness hidden by masquerading as a simpleton. When, at the age of thirty-six, he began to reveal his amazing pathways in devotion to God, people refused to accept his teachings. . . some of the fierce opposition mounted against him remained. Preferring to sacrifice his own name in order to sanctify God’s Name, the Baal Shem Tov submitted himself to their abuse and did not seek the fame and prestige due him…Reb Noson writes: From this lesson we learn that anyone who would draw close to the tzaddik – to learn from him how to truly serve God, and for the tzaddik to rectify his soul – must be willing to sacrifice his good name. For the only way to draw close to the true tzaddik is through self-sacrifice – i.e. to sacrifice one’s honor and name, which are one’s soul. Such a person must be ready to forfeit prestige and standing in his family and community, and be willing to suffer the humiliation and ridicule heaped upon him by others…Only someone who is willing to sacrifice his name and prestige for God can hope to attain the truth, and so come closer to God and to the true tzaddik (Likutey Halachot, Shluchin 5:36, Torat Natan 1).” Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan 260:2, Breslov Research Institute, pgs. 28-29

Isaiah 53

All of this discussion inevitably leads to Isaiah 53, perhaps the most controversial passage in the Jewish-Christian dialogue. Today, like much of the last two thousand years, this text forms the primary battleground between missionaries and anti-missionaries. This has resulted in an endless cycle of missionaries claiming the verse refers to the Messiah and not Israel, and anti-missionaries responding the verse refers to Israel and is not Messianic. Like almost all arguments between these camps, they focus on the translation of individual words or side-issues that distract from the truth. The end result is a series of volleys with none hitting the mark. In truth, there is a concept called Elu v’elu, “these and these are the words of the living God.” It harmonizes to seemingly contradictory positions on particular texts, and is part of the dialectic of the Talmud. Instead of “either-or” scenarios, the solutions become “both-and.” In truth, the text of Isaiah 53 refers to BOTH Messiah and Israel. Mashiach is the yechida, the universal soul of Israel – they are mirror images of each other.

In a Dr. Michael Kigel’s stunning interview with R’ Mendel Kaplan, they discuss the idea of Isaiah 53 as referring to Israel and Messiah. While we encourage everyone to watch all three parts, the following is a partial transcript of Part 3 of the interview:

Dr. Michael Kigel: “…In Isaiah chapter 53…when we look on, the people look on to this Messiah, this whole time, he’s been stigmatized and ostracized as this person who is sick and is therefore a sinner, and suddenly we realize, oh my G-d, this person has been carrying my sins, and so I’m overwhelmed with shame, and I’m overwhelmed with shame when I see this Messiah figure.

R’ Mendel Kaplan: “It doesn’t talk about shame or suffering on our behalf, that’s not the emphasis here, in these verses the emphasis is, ‘we just realized, we had it all wrong. We had it all wrong because we assumed that if he was suffering, he was suffering on his own accord. We find out, no, actually he is suffering on our accord.”

Dr. Michael Kigel: “…seeing that requires so much eye opening…”

R’ Mendel Kaplan: That’s really paradigmatic of Mashiach, which is a time of eye opening. We’re going to enter into a whole new phase, a whole new reality. All of a sudden, everything we thought was, isn’t. And everything we thought isn’t, is. . . this is one of the paradigms, of how we had it all figured out, and we actually had nothing figured out.

Dr. Michael Kigel: “…Does it make sense that we would be struck by such remorse, and shame, at what we’ve been doing all of along, by hurting this other person…why would he have to be a suffering servant to begin with?

R’ Mendel Kaplan: “The answer can be understood in two levels. The first is, the way we see Mashiach, as being a neshama, a soul that’s connected to all souls. Very much likened to the concept of the brain. So when we talk about the cosm of the Jewish people, we often invoke anthropomorphic terms. The guf, the gigantic body. We say that there is einei ha-edah, the eyes of the nation. We talk about the melech (king) being the heart, lev ha-am…we talk about the simple people, we talk even about the heels, that’s is one of the interpretations of the words ikvos Mashiach, the footsteps of Mashiach, that the people will be at the very lowest level. The Brain always feels the pain of the rest of the body. It’s not because the Brain is loftier that it is exempt. It is because the Brain is loftier, that it is necessarily connected. So, if Mashiach is who Mashiach is, which means he is what is called in the language of Kabbalah, yechidah, the pinnacle, the atomic essence of the cosmic Jewish soul, it follows is he has to feel the pain of the sins, otherwise he is not “Mashiach”.

Dr. Michael Kigel: “It sounds like it is almost as if he is feeling it willingly…”

R’ Mendel Kaplan: “. . . my Brain feels the pain of the body. . . The brain necessarily feels the pain of the rest of the body. And this concept is invoked not only with regard to Mashiach, but also with regard to super-tzaddikim.” Passages, Dr. Michael Kigel’s Interview with R’ Mendel Kaplan, [3,4,5]

The book of Isaiah speaks of the subject of Isaiah 53 as “touched”, translated into English as “stricken”. As mentioned above, this word is a synonym for leper,

אָכֵן חֳלָיֵנוּ הוּא נָשָׂ֔א וּמַכְאֹבֵינוּ סְבָלָם וַאֲנַחְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ נָגוּעַ מֻכֵּה אֱלֹהִים וּמְעֻנֶּה

“Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by G-d (naguah), and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4

The Talmud identifies this “Chivra” (Leper) as the Mashiach,

ורבנן אמרי: חיוורא דבי רבי שמו שנאמר (ישעיהו נ״ג) אכן חליינו הוא נשא ומכאבינו סבלם ואנחנו חשבנהו נגוע מכה אלהים ומענה

“What is his [the Messiah’s] name? . . . The Rabbis said: His name is Chivra (the Leper), as it is written, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)” Sanhedrin 98b, Soncino Press Edition

The Ben Ish Chai, R’ Yosef Chayyim of Baghdad, commenting on this passage says,

“The Sages say that the Messiah is called “the leper of the house of Rabbi”. . . The Josephian Messiah suffers illnesses and afflictions to atone for the people of Israel and for the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple. He is called “the leper of the house of Rabbi” meaning, the one who suffers for Israel and Jerusalem. The Josephian Messiah sits near the Garden of Eden, suffering for the people of Israel. . .” Ben Ish Chai, Ben Yehoyada, Days of Peace, Days of Peace, Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Publications, pg. 130

The Midrash tells us of the great suffering the Messiah takes upon himself,

“R. Levi taught in the name of R. Idi: Suffering is divided into three portions: One, the Patriarchs and all the generations of men took; the generation that lived in the time of [Hadrian’s] persecution took; and one, the lord Messiah will take.” Midrash Tehillim, Psalm 16.5, Yale University Press, pg. 198

The Ben Ish Chai comments on Sanhedrin 93b,

“…through afflictions, the Messiah rises to great spiritual heights. In addition, his afflictions atone for Israel so that they can continue to live and perform mitzvot. Since without the Messiah, these mitzvot would not have been done, he is a partner in Israel’s mitzvot. Thus because He loaded him up with afflictions like millstones, He loaded him up with mitzvot as well.” Ben Ish Chai, Benayahu, Days of Peace, Days of Peace, Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Publications, pg. 117

Commenting on Isaiah 53, the Zohar makes the remarkable statement:

בְּשַׁעֲתָא דְּאַמְרִין לֵיהּ לִמְשִׁיחָא צַעֲרָא דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּגָלְוּתְהוֹן, וְאִינּוּן חַיָּיבַיָּא דִּי בְּהוֹן, דְּלָא מִסְתַּכְּלֵי לְמִנְדַּע לְמָארֵיהוֹן, אָרִים קָלָא וּבָכֵי, עַל אִינּוּן חַיָּיבִין דִּבְהוּ. הה”ד, וְהוּא מְחוֹלָל מִפְּשָׁעֵינוּ מְדוּכָּא מֵעֲוֹנוֹתֵינוּ תַּיְיבִין אִינּוּן נִשְׁמָתִין וְקַיְימִין בְּאַתְרַיְיהוּ. בְּגִנְתָּא דְּעֵדֶן אִית הֵיכָלָא חֲדָא, דְּאִקְרֵי הֵיכָלָא דִּבְנֵי מַרְעִין. כְּדֵין מָשִׁיחַ עָאל בְּהַהוּא הֵיכָלָא, וְקָרֵי לְכָל מַרְעִין וְכָל כְּאֵבִין, כָּל יִסּוּרֵיהוֹן דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, דְּיֵיתוּן עָלֵיהּ, וְכֻלְּהוּ אַתְיָין עָלֵיהּ. וְאִלְמָלֵא דְּאִיהוּ אָקִיל מֵעָלַיְיהוּ דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, וְנָטִיל עָלֵיהּ, לָא הֲוֵי בַּר נָשׁ דְּיָכִיל לְמִסְבַּל יִסּוּרֵיהוֹן דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, עַל עוֹנְשֵׁי דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא. הה”ד אָכֵן חֳלָיֵינוּ הוּא נָשָׁא וְגוֹ’. כְּגַוְונָא דָּא רִבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בְּאַרְעָא. בְּגִין דְּלֵית חוּשְׁבָּנָא, לְאִינּוּן יִסּוּרִין דְּקַיְימִין עָלֵיהּ דְּב”נ בְּכָל יוֹמָא, עַל עוֹנְשֵׁי דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא, וְכֻלְּהוּ נַחְתוּ לְעָלְמָא, בְּשַׁעֲתָא דְּאִתְיְהִיבַת אוֹרַיְיתָא. וְכַד הֲווֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאַרְעָא קַדִּישָׁא, בְּאִינּוּן פּוּלְחָנִין וְקָרְבְּנִין דַּהֲווֹ עַבְדֵי, הֲווֹ מְסַלְּקִין כָּל אִינּוּן מַרְעִין וְיִסוּרִין מֵעָלְמָא. הַשְׁתָּא מָשִׁיחַ מְסָלַק לוֹן מִבְּנֵי עָלְמָא, עַד דְּנָפִיק בַּר נָשׁ מֵהַאי עָלְמָא, וּמְקַבֵּל עוֹנְשֵׁיהּ, כְּמָה דְּאִתְּמַר זֹהַר, שְׁמוֹת, וַיַּקְהֵל

“When the Messiah hears of the great suffering of Israel in their dispersion, and of the wicked amongst them who seek not to know their Master, he weeps aloud on account of those wicked ones amongst them, as it is written: But he was wounded because of our transgression, he was crushed because of our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). The souls then return to their place. The Messiah, on his part, enters a certain Hall in the Garden of Eden, called the Hall of the Afflicted. There he calls for all the diseases and pains and sufferings of Israel, bidding them settle on himself, which they do. And were it not that he thus eases the burden from Israel, taking it on himself, no one could endure the sufferings meted out to Israel in expiation on account of their neglect of the Torah. So Scripture says, “Surely our diseases he did bear, etc. (Isaiah 53:4). A similar function was performed by R. Eleazar here on earth. For, indeed, beyond number are the chastisements awaiting every man daily for the neglect of the Torah, all of which descended into the world at the time when the Torah was given. As long as Israel were in the Holy Land, by means of the Temple service and sacrifices they averted all evil diseases and afflictions from the world. Now it is the Messiah who is the means of averting them from mankind until the time when a man quits this world and receives his punishment, as already said.” Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 212a, Soncino Press Edition

The Concealment

Kol HaTor speaks of the concealment of Mashiach,

“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 Ishmael; 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

Kol HaTor also comments,

“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

In a similar fashion, the Zohar say of Moshe Rabbeinu, the First Redeemer,

א”ל רַעְיָא מְהֵימָנָא, בְּאוֹמָאָה עֲלָךְ בִּשְׁמָא דִּיְדֹוָ”ד, לָא תְּאַחֵר בְּכָל יְכוֹלְתָּךְ, דְּהָא אֲנָא בְּצַעֲרָא סַגֵּי. וַיִּפֶן כֹּה וָכֹה וַיַּרְא כִּי אֵין אִישׁ, עוֹזֵר לִי, לְאַפָּקָא לִי מֵהַאי צַעֲרָא, בְּהַאי קְבוּרָה דְּאִתְּמַר עָלַי, וַיִּתֵּן אֶת הָרְשָׁעִים קִבְרוֹ, וְלָא אִשְׁתְּמוֹדְעָן בִּי, וַאֲנִי חָשִׁיב בְּעֵינַיְיהוּ בֵּין עֵרֶב רַב רַשִׁיעֲיָיא, כְּכֶּלֶב מֵת דְּסָּרַח בֵּינַיְיהוּ, דְּחָכְמַת סוֹפְרִים תִּסְרַח בֵּינַיְיהוּ, בְּכָל קַרְתָּא וְקַרְתָּא, וּבְכָל אֲתָר דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל מְפוּזָרִין בֵּינַיְיהוּ בֵּין מַלְכְּוָון. וְאִתְהַדְּרוּ אִינּוּן עֵרֶב רַב רַעְיָין עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל, עָאנָא דְקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא, דְּאִתְּמַר בְּהוּ וְאַתֵּן צֹאנִי צֹאן מַרְעִיתִי אָדָם אַתֶּם, וְלֵית לוֹן יְכוֹלֶת לְמֶעְבַּד טִיבוּ עִם ת”ח

“The Faithful Shepherd said to him: I intone on you solemnly the name of Yud Kei Vav Kei, that you will do your utmost not to delay THE REDEMPTION, since I am EXISTING in great distress. FOR ABOUT ME, IT IS WRITTEN: “And he looked this way and that, and when he saw that there was no man” (Shemot 2:12) to help me, to take me out of this distress, from this grave, since it says about me, “For they made his grave among the wicked” (Yeshayah 53:9). They do not recognize me but regard me as one of the evil mixed multitudes, like a dead dog that has caused a stench among them. The wisdom of the scribes shall become vapid (stinking) among them in each and every city, and in all places where Yisrael are scattered throughout their kingdoms. The mixed multitudes become the shepherds of Yisrael, who are the flock of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is said about them: “But you, my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men” (Yechezkel 34:31). And they have no ability to do good with the Torah scholars.” Zohar, Parashat Naso, Volume 17, published by Kabbalah Centre, pg. 106

There is a tradition in a text called Nistarot ben Shimon bar Yochai (The Secrets of R’ Shimon bar Yochai), that Mashiach will be concealed and rejected, citing Isaiah 53,

“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]

Rebbe Nachman says,

“They will not know at first that he is the one. Afterwards, each will reach his own conclusion and will consider that it is possible that this is him. Happy will be the strong of faith in those days.” The Scroll of Secrets, the Hidden Messianic Vision of Rebbe Nachman, pg. 60

Rabbi Yehudah Chayoun writes,

“…if the Jews merit redemption, they will immediately recognize Moshiach by his signs and wonders. If they are unworthy, however, his authenticity will be questioned.” Rabbi Yehudah Chayoun, Otzros Acharis HaYamim, When Moshiach Comes, Targum/Feldheim, pg. 119

Pesikta Rabbati explains that Mashiach suffered for the sins of Israel, and thus merits to become greater than Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,

“In the month of Nisan, the Patriarchs will arise and say to the Messiah: “Ephraim, our true Messiah, you are greater than we are because you suffered for the iniquities of our children; and terrible ordeals befell you, such ordeals as did not befall earlier generations or later ones; for the sake of Israel you became a laughingstock and a derision among the nations of the earth, and sat in darkness, in thick darkness, and your eyes saw no light, and your skin cleaved to thy bones, and you body was as dry as a piece of wood; And your eyes grew dim from fasting, and your strength was dried up like a potsherd – All of these afflictions on account of the iniquities of our children…the Holy One, Blessed be He, will lift the Messiah up to the heaven of heavens, and cloak him in something of the splendor of His own glory…” Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 37.1, translated by R’ William Braude, Yale University Press, pgs. 685-686

The Gates of Rome

The Talmud says the Mashiach is concealed at the gate, among lepers. The Vilna Gaon emends the text to read apitcha d’Romi (אפתחא דרומי), at the “Gate of Rome.” Rome is a term for Christianity, as it is important to note he is sitting on the outside. From a distance, he may appear to be a part of it, but like a leper, we have turned our face from him, considering him smitten and afflicted. The Talmud says,

“R’ Yehoshua ben Levi met Elijah standing by the entrance of R. Shimon bar Yochai’s tomb…and he asked him, “When will the Messiah come?”

“Go and ask him himself,” Elijah replied.

“Where is he sitting?”

“At the entrance.” (Vilna Gaon: at the gate of Rome)

“And by what sign may I recognize him?”

“He is sitting among the poor lepers…”

R’ Joshua ben Levi found the Mashiach, and asked him, “When will you come Master?”

“Today,” answered the Mashiach.

On his returning to Elijah, he asked, “What did he say to you?’

“He lied to me”, R’ Yehoshua said, “he said that he would come today, but he has not.”

Elijah answered him, “This is what he said to you, ‘Today, if you will hear his voice.” Sanhedrin 98a, Soncino Press Edition

The redemption is dependent upon Israel, if they ‘hear his voice.’ The sefer Tomer Devorah of the Ramak, R’ Moshe Cordevero, says,

כצִיפר נודדת מִן קנה ־ שהִיא השכינה , כן אִיש נודד מִמקוֹמוֹ, ונטיר לה, ואומי דלא יתיב לאתריה עד דיחזיר לה לאתרה (זוה”ק תצא דף רעה). הנה גם הוא מחֹלל מפשעינו מדכא לרצונו מעונותינו ורפואת שניהם בידינו רבי משה קורדובירו, תומר דבורה, פרק ה

“Like a bird who wanders from her nest” – [the “bird”] referring to the Shechinah, “so is a man (referring to HaShem) who wanders from his place” (Mishlei 27:8). He (HaShem) waits for Her (the Shechinah) and swears that He will not return to His place until He returns Her to Her place (Zohar Saitzei 278a). Thus, He, too, is ill because of our transgressions, crushed willingly because of our iniquities. The healing of both is in our hands.” Tomer Devorah, Chapter 5, 21st of Month, Tomer Publications, pg. 54

It is in our hands to “heal the metzora”! We must open our eyes and “behold the man.” We must see that Mashiach ben Yosef was sold to the nations, and this is the reason for the Galut (Exile). Spiritual tzara’at, leprosy, has spread over mankind, and Mashiach, the ultimate Tzaddik, has made atonement, secured forgiveness, and is the Guarantor of Israel and of the world. May the Redemption be hastened, and let us all pray the prayer of the leper that David HaMelech himself prayed,

“Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7



  1. Parsha In-Depth: Metzora,

  2. Parashat Tazria-Metzora – Xus Casal

  3. Passages – The Suffering Servant – Isaiah 53 (Part 1 of 3) – Isaiah 53 as Israel

  4. Passages – The Suffering Servant – (Isaiah 53) (Part 2 of 3) – Israel and Messiah

  5. Passages – The Suffering Servant – Isaiah 53 (Part 3 of 3) – Isaiah 53 as Messiah

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