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Psalm 23: The Good Shepherd

Updated: 7 days ago

Psalm 23 may be the most famous chapter of the Bible. It has provided comfort for billions across the globe for over three thousand years. It begins,

“HaShem is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalms 23:1-3

A shepherd watches over his flock

The Psalms declare,

“Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock, you who sit above the cherubim, shine forth.” Psalms 80:1

In English, the word ‘shepherd’ is a contraction of the words ‘sheep’ and ‘herder’. In Hebrew, the word is רעה ‘Ro’eh’. Pastor Matt Morton, writing for The Eagle newspaper, succinctly summarizes the power of this Psalm,

“Psalm 23 personalizes the metaphor of G-d as our shepherd to a degree that no other biblical passage really does. Most of us know that shepherds provide for and protect their sheep. They lead their sheep to food and water. They fight off wild animals and bandits that threaten their sheep. The Scripture is full of imagery describing G-d as a good shepherd for the nation of Israel and for the world as a whole.” [1]

 To understand the concept of God as a shepherd, we must view the pattern of the tapestry that the Bible is weaving through its connecting threads. A principle of interpretation states that the first mention of a concept in the Torah provides a lens through which subsequent mentions should be interpreted. Abel appears to be humanity’s first shepherd. As Jewish history is Jewish prophecy, we may derive information about the Last Shepherd (Mashiach) from the First.

“And Abel was a keeper of sheep…and Abel, he also brought the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And HaShem accepted Abel and his offering.” Genesis 4:2-4

Abel was a righteous person who experienced sinat chinam, baseless hatred, from his brother who killed him, spilling his blood. In fact, on a deeper level, he was “resurrected” as Seth [2], and is connected to the neshama (soul) of Moshe Rabbeinu, and therefore, ultimately the Mashiach. [3] Abel becomes a ‘fractal’ pattern of Mashiach ben Yosef. 

The Avot, Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov and the Twelve Tribes were all shepherds (Genesis 13:7, 26:20, 30:31, 46:32). Even Rachel Immeinu was a shepherdess (Genesis 29:9). Yosef HaTzaddik, the archetype of Mashiach ben Yosef, himself was a shepherd, experiencing sinat chinam from his brothers which resulted in his “death” and ultimate “resurrection” and return to Israel. It is of no surprise then that Moshe Rabbeinu, who is a prototype of Mashiach par excellence, also experienced sinat chinam (baseless hatred). Exodus describes the encounter between Moshe and the Burning Bush, 

“Now Moshe was tending the flock of his father-in-law Yitro, the priest of Midian.” Exodus 3:1

The Midrash comments,

“G‑d tests the righteous. How does He try them? With sheep. He tried David through sheep and found him to be a good shepherd, as it is written (Psalms 78:70), “He chose also David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds.” As a shepherd, David would bring the smallest sheep out first, so that they should graze upon the tender grass; then he allowed the old sheep to feed from the ordinary grass; lastly, he brought forth the young sheep to eat the tougher grass. Whereupon G‑d said: He who knows how to look after sheep, bestowing upon each the care it deserves, shall come and tend My people. Also Moses was tested by G‑d through sheep. Our rabbis relate that when Moses was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness, a little kid escaped from him. He ran after it until it reached a shady place. When it reached the shady place, there appeared in view a pool of water, and the kid stopped to drink. When Moses approached it, he said: “I did not know that you ran away because of thirst; you must be weary.” So he placed the kid on his shoulder and walked back. Thereupon G‑d said: “Because you were merciful in leading the flock of a mortal, you shall tend My flock, the people of Israel.” Midrash Rabbah, cited at [4]

Moshe’s successor, Hoshea the son of Nun, whose name was changed to “Yehoshua” (and is called “Yeshua” in Nehemiah 8:17), is chosen to be the Shepherd over Israel,

“Moses spoke to the HaShem saying, “Let HaShem, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who may go out before them, and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of HaShem not be as sheep which have no shepherd. HaShem said to Moses, “Take Yehoshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him…” Numbers 27:15-21

The Midrash above says that David was found to be a “good shepherd”. He watched over the flocks of his father’s sheep at Bethlehem prior to his anointing as the Shepherd of Israel, 

“Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your children here? He said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is keeping the sheep.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and get him, we will not sit down until he comes here. He sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy (admoni), and withal of a beautiful face, and goodly to look on. HaShem said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers: and the Spirit of HaShem came mightily on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.” 1 Samuel 16:11-13

Israel became like sheep without a shepherd during times of wicked leadership, as the prophet Micaiah prophesied to the king of Israel,

“And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have no shepherd.” 1 Kings 22:17

This led to the era of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah who admonished the leadership of Israel and the people to return to HaShem as sheep that had lost their way. The book of Ezekiel excoriates the false leaders of Israel,

“Then the word of HaShem came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds

of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘This is what the Lord HaShem says: “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should the shepherds not feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you searched for the lost…” Ezekiel 34:1-4

This challenge stands today – admonishing rabbis, pastors and congregational leaders to look out for the sheep that HaShem has entrusted into their hands. Today, there is no shortage of self-seeking religious leaders, false teachers and prophets. The prophets speak of a day when HaShem Himself intervenes to shepherd His people,

“For thus says the Lord HaShem: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture; and on the mountains of the height of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie down in a good fold; and on fat pasture shall they feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, says the Lord HaShem. I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but the fat and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice.” Ezekiel 34:11-16

Zechariah 13 

Like the book of Ezekiel, the book of Zechariah is filled with prophecies concerning the future Messianic Era. It was written in the sixth century BCE, after the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel from the Babylonian Exile. The people hoped and longed for the restoration of Israel to the glorious heights of King David and Solomon. 

Within its pages, glimpses of the Messiah can be seen. He is the Branch (3:8, 6:12) who builds the Temple, rides into Jerusalem on a donkey (9:9), yet is pierced and killed (12:10), and in the future reveals himself on the Mount of Olives during the final climactic battle (14:4). The thirteenth chapter of Zechariah speaks of a fountain that will flow for the future cleansing and purification to the house of David. Verses 2 through 6 speak of the downfall of false prophets and the destruction of idolatry. 

Unfortunately, there are some Christian teachers who misunderstand Zechariah 13:6 as a messianic prophecy. The verse says in the King James Version,

“And one shall say to him, “What are these wounds in your hands?” Then he shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Zechariah 13:6, KJV

A surface reading of “these wounds in the midst of your hands,” may sound like the pierced hands of Yeshua. This interpretation is seemingly supported by the verse of the pierced Messiah in the preceding chapter,

“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 Sages interpreted this pierced figure as Mashiach ben Yosef,

“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

At first glance, connecting the pierced individuals of chapters 12 and 13 seems natural, but a careful reading illustrates otherwise.

Reading In Context

It is critical to review the passage in context:

“In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, says HaShem of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. And it shall come to pass, that when anyone shall prophesy, his father and his mother that begat him shall say to him, “You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of HaShem. And his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesies. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed, every one of his vision, when he has prophesied, neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive. But he shall say, “I am no prophet, I am an husbandman, for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.” And one shall say unto him, “What are these wounds in between your hands?” Then he shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Zechariah 13:1-6, KJV

The phrase, “in that day” is an idiom for the ‘Day of HaShem’, a reference to the Messianic Era. This event will happen in the future. During this time, idols, false gods and false prophets will be cleansed from the land. The wounded individual in Zechariah 13:6 is a false prophet. As we mentioned earlier, some Christians have tried to connect the pierced Messiah of Zechariah 12 with this false prophet. One Christian apologist clarifies the point,

“Ironically enough, [Zechariah 13:6] is used by some anti-missionaries as an actual prophecy of Jesus (Even more peculiarly, some Christians, unfortunately, point to this verse as a Messianic prophecy, apparently without examining the context).” [5]

Anti-missionaries gleefully agree with this Christian interpretation, proclaiming that Jesus is this false prophet. Are the anti-missionaries (and a few Christians) correct? Does Zechariah 13:6 refer to Yeshua?

The Navi Sheker

Since we have established that the context occurs in the Messianic Era, and refers to the downfall of idolatry and false prophets, let’s examine the navi sheker, the false prophet, of the verse in detail.

Verse 3: 

" . . . his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesies."

The individuals piercing/stabbing (daqar) the false prophet in the text are his father and mother. This does not fit the description of Yeshua of Nazareth, who was pierced by Romans. Yosef, Yeshua’s earthly, legal father, likely died before he began his ministry. This is indicated by the fact that Yosef is not mentioned after Matthew’s birth episode, and Luke’s passage about Yeshua being in the Temple at age 12. At the crucifixion, Yeshua makes provision for Miriam to be taken care of by Yochanan, thus indicating her status as a widow. Therefore, this part of the prophecy does not align with the Gospels. 

Verse 4: 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed, every one of his vision, when he has prophesied, neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive.”

As we have established, false prophets will be ashamed of their lies, nor will they dress like Elijah to fool people into following them.

Verse 5: “But he shall say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a man who works the ground (אִישׁ־עֹבֵד אֲדָמָה), keeping the red stuff from my youth.”

The Hebrew for this person’s occupation is ish-oved adamah, a man who works the ground, i.e. a farmer. Yeshua’s occupation was never described as being a farmer. He was a carpenter (charash in Hebrew, tekton in Greek). This is an unusual response from the false prophet, that does not appear to make sense. The Jewish Publication Society commentary clarifies the verse, linking the person who ‘works the ground’ to Noach, who worked the ground growing grapevines, from which he became drunk. The JPS says,

“I.e., I was addicted to wine like Noah, the tiller of the soil (cf. Gen. 9.20–21), hence my hallucinations and ravings; cf. Prov. 23.33.” JPS 1985 Footnotes to Zechariah 13:4, cited at

In other words, the false prophet is denying his own vision, claiming that he was drunk when he made the false predictions. Alternatively, Rashi renders the phrase ‘ki adam chiqnani min’urai’ (for a man entrusted me with his cattle), to mean that the false prophet raised cattle or was a shepherd over livestock. [2] So far, this does not align with the Yeshua.

Between the Hands

But what about the wounds in the hands? Does this question refer to Yeshua? It is well known that he was pierced in his hands. Let’s examine verse 6 in detail,

Verse 6: “And one shall say unto him, “What are these wounds in between your hands?” Then he shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”

The Hebrew says,

מָה הַמַּכּוֹת הָאֵלֶּה בֵּין יָדֶיךָ

“Mah ha’makkot ha’eleh bein yadecha?” “What are these wounds in your hands?”

It is important to note that the Hebrew does not say ‘b’yadecha’, in your hands, but ‘bein yadecha’, ‘in the midst of’, or ‘in between your hands’. To illustrate the point, look how different translations render the passage:

Sefaria: “What are those sores on your back?”

King James: “What are these wounds in thine hands?”

Modern KJV: “What are these wounds between your arms?”

Douay-Rheims: “What are these wounds in the midst of thy hands?”

NIV: “What are these wounds on your body?”

Amplified: “What are these wounds on your breast or between your hands?”

New Living Translation: “Then what are those scars on your chest?”

English Standard Version: “What are these wounds on your back?”

How did these translations come up with such significantly different renderings? Why do some translations say “hands” and others say “back” or “chest”? The word “hand” in Hebrew, is יד (yad). In Hebraic thought, the word “yad” can apply to the entire arm, as anyone who lays tefillin (puts on “phylacteries”) knows. This is clear in Deuteronomy, where the commandment for laying tefillin is stated,

וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת עַל־יָדֶךָ וְהיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ׃

“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand (yadecha), and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 6:8

During shacharit, morning prayers during the weekdays, tefillin are worn. The tefillin box for the hand is actually placed on the upper arm, near the heart, and wrapped down the arm to the fingers. The second part of the verse says to place the tefillin shel rosh (phylactery for the head) “between your eyes” (bein einecha). The word for between, bein, is the same word used in Zechariah 13:6. No one reads Deuteronomy 6:8 as if the tefillin boxes go inside the eyes, rather it sits between the eyes, on the upper forehead, in the center. Therefore, the word “bein yadecha” (between your hands) refers to the region between the arms, or shoulders, specifically the torso. Rashi, comments on the verse,

“Between your shoulders. There they flog the sinners.” Rashi on Zechariah 13:6 [6]

The Talmud explains in the Tractate Makkot, citing the passage in question, that the location is “between the shoulders”,

“R. JUDAH SAYS: FORTY [LASHES] IN FULL. AND WHERE IS THE ADDITIONAL LASH APPLIED? BETWEEN THE SHOULDERS. Said R. Isaac: What is R. Judah’s reason? It is written, And one shall say, what are these wounds between your hands? Then he shall answer, I was beaten in the house of my friends. And the Rabbis [what say they to this]? That [say they] is written in reference to the [punishment of] school children.” Makkot 22b, Soncino Press Edition

This is an important point, as a similar phrase “between your arms” is used elsewhere in the Tanakh. 2 Kings says,

בֵּין זְרֹעָיו

“Now Jehu drew his bow with full strength and shot Jehoram between his arms (bein z’roav), and the arrow came out at his heart, and he sank down in his chariot.” 2 Kings 9:24

Notice that the Jehu’s arrow hit Jehoram “between his arms”, and that the arrow penetrated his heart. The reference between the hands, clearly refers to the torso region. The implication may be here that the false prophet flogged himself like the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:28), and that others saw his wounds and questioned him regarding their origin. His explanation that he was wounded in the house of his friends means that he was flogged by them for disobeying the Torah, and that he is not a false prophet. 

Strike the Shepherd

Despite the messianic overtones in the book of Zechariah, the wounded individual of Zechariah 13:6 has nothing to do with Yeshua of Nazareth. It speaks of the last days when the land is cleansed of idols and the false prophet will recant his false prophesying, and return to being a farmer after being chastised by his friends. His wounds are on his torso, not “in his hands”. The chapter then takes a turn, speaking of a Shepherd being struck, against the companion of the Holy One,

חֶרֶב עוּרִי עַל־רֹעִי וְעַל־גֶּבֶר עֲמִיתִי נְאֻם ה׳ צְבָאוֹת הַךְ אֶת־הָרֹעֶה וּתְפוּצֶין הַצֹּאן וַהֲשִׁבֹתִי יָדִי עַל־הַצֹּעֲרִים׃

“O sword! Rouse yourself against My shepherd, the man in charge of My flock —says HaShem of Hosts. Strike the shepherd and let the flock scatter, and I will also turn My hand against all the shepherd boys.’ Zechariah 13:7

The Ibn Ezra says this refers to the wars in the land that will lead to the death of Mashiach ben Yosef. In this unusual interpretation, he claims that the ‘shepherd’ refers to Mohammed, the founder of Islam, and that the Gever Amitti is Yeshua,

ושאמר גבר עמיתי על יש”ו הנוצרים שכפי מחשבת בני אדום ואמונתם הוא היה בן האל עצם מעצמיו ולכן קראו גבר עמיתי כפי דבריהם, וכינה את אומות אדום בשם משיחם שהיה גבר עמיתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא

“And that a gever ammiti is about Yeshu, the Christians that according to the thought of the Edomites and their faith he was a son of God himself. And so they call him gever ammiti (their words), and called the nations of Edom by the name of their Messiah that he was the gever ammitav of the Holy One, Blessed be He.” Abarbanel on Zechariah 13:7

The Artscroll commentary says,

“Abarbanel suggests that My shepherd is referring to Mohammed and My colleague is referring to Yeshu as their followers refer to them in this manner.” Trei Asar, the Twelve Prophets, Volume II, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg 294

R’ Lichtenstein (who was a believer in Yeshua) agrees that the ‘man next to me’ refers to Messiah,

“The man next to me” is a reference to the Messiah, for he is the man next to the Holy One, blessed be he. For he is like a second to the king . . .” R’ Yechiel Tzvi Lichtenstein, Commentary on the New Testament, on Matthew 26:31, cited in Torah Club, Chronicles of the Messiah, Volume 5, pg. 1478

While the Targum links the ‘shepherd’ to the King of Babylon (meaning Edom), as a shepherd in the negative sense, R’ Yishmael the Kohen Gadol cited the passage in a favorable sense as a tribute to R’ Shimon ben Gamliel. This event occurs in the text Avot d’Rabbi Natan during the deaths of the Ten Martyrs, 

“[When Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel was executed], R’ Yishmael ben Elisha . . . began weeping and crying out, “Holy mouth, faithful mouth! . . . O mouth that would express precious gems, precious stones, and pearls of Torah wisdom! . . . Regarding you Scripture states, ‘O sword, arouse yourself against My shepherd, the man who is My colleague! – says Hashem, Master of Legions (Zechariah 13:7).” Avos DeRabbi Nassan, Swartz Family Edition, Artscroll, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg. 547

The Artscroll commentary says,

“This verse is understood here as an allusion to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel’s death by the sword, for as Nasi of the Jewish people, he could fittingly be titled the “shepherd” of God’s children (Ahavas chesed; Ben Avraham; see also Avos De-Rabbi Nassan, Nusach 2, Ch. 41; cf. Binyan Yehoshua).” Avot DeRabbi Natan goes on to cite Exodus 22:23 in application to these sages,

“My wrath shall blaze and I shall kill you by the sword.” Exodus 22:23

The Artscroll commentary reveals an interesting connecting thread to Zechariah 13:7,

“It is unclear why the Baraisa associates the death of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel and R’ Yishmael ben Elisha with this verse. Ben Avraham suggests that the verse is expounded to read, My wrath shall blaze against the Jewish people and I shall kill you by the sword. In other words, the Baraisa is saying that these great men were killed to atone for the sins of the nation. [This may be that Rabban Shimon was held accountable for the sins of his people.”]

Now we understand why Yeshua applied this verse to himself prior to his death,

“Then Yeshua said to them, ‘All of you will stumble because of me tonight, as it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” Matthew 26:31, cf. Mark 14:27

The Good Shepherd

As the Midrash calls David the “Good Shepherd”, the words “HaRoeh HaTov” connect to the following words, which all link to the Mashiach,

  1. Lightning – ברק

  2. I am the King of the World – אני מלך העולם

  3. How Awesome – מה נורא

  4. Beautiful Light – אור יפה

In Mark 6, Yeshua feeds five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Notice the language of the Gospel in describing the actions of the Master,

“Yeshua came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

He saw that the leaders of the day were not providing for the spiritual and physical needs of the people. The Sadducees who controlled the Temple were in league with Rome and profiteering from the sale of sacrifices. The Pharisees, who were the defenders of the truth and entrusted with teaching the Torah, were controlled by the followers of Shammai, who tied heavy burdens upon the people. It was a time of oppression and harassment of Israel coupled with a spiritual depravity in a generation that merited the destruction of the Temple. Yeshua had compassion for his people,

“When it was late in the day, his disciples came to him, and said, “This place is deserted, and it is late in the day. Send them away, so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages, and buy themselves bread, for they have nothing to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They asked him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give them something to eat?” He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go see.” When they knew, they said, “Five, and two fish.” He commanded them that everyone should sit down in groups on the green grass.” Mark 6:35-39

Remember the words of Psalm 23,

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Psalms 23:2

The Gospel continues,

“They sat down in ranks, by hundreds and by fifties. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves, and he gave to his disciples to set before them, and he divided the two fish among them all. They all ate, and were filled. They took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and also of the fish. Those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.” Mark 6:40-44

It is a Jewish expectation that the Messiah will bring forth food in a miraculous way. Isaiah says,

“Behold, the L-rd HaShem will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:10-11

Yeshua met the needs of people, resulting in their praising HaShem, repentance and renewing their faith. Psalm 37 says,

“B’tach (trust) in G-d and do good. Dwell in the land and re’eh (shepherd) faith.” Psalm 37:3

Rebbe Nachman comments on this verse in Likutey Moharan,

“B’tach in God – This is as in “calm and BeTaCh (security)” (Isaiah 32:17). He has absolute rest….and re’eh faith – He can be like the Faithful Ra’aya (Shepherd), sacrificing his soul for the Jewish people.” Likutey Moharan 79:4, Volume 9, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 171

The Breslov commentary on Likutey Moharan states:

“Rebbe Nachman links the Hebrew verb r’eh, which means ‘tend’ or ‘shepherd’ with Ra’aya, the Aramaic noun for shepherd.” The Zohar repeatedly refers to Moshe Rabbeinu as the ‘Ra’aya Mehemna,’ the Faithful Shepherd, whose self-sacrifice in tending for the Jewish people had no equal. Rebbe Nachman thus reads ‘re’eh’ (shepherd) faith, as alluding to the aspect of Moshe-Mashiach, sacrificing oneself to hasten the coming of God’s chosen redeemer.“ Commentary to Likutey Moharan, Volume 9, Footnote 55, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 170

This mesirat nefesh (self sacrifice) of the Shepherd’ led to the sheep of Israel being scattered and exiled for 2000 years. The return of Israel to their land has set the stage for the final reunification as Ezekiel says,

“I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king to them all. They will no longer be two nations and never again be divided into two kingdoms. They will never again be defiled with their idols, their detestable things or with any of their transgressions. I will save them out of all their dwellings in which they sinned. I will purify them. Then they will be My people and I will be their God. My servant David will be king over them. They will all have One Shepherd.” Ezekiel 37:22-24

At that moment, the Messianic Era will begin. Idolatry will be destroyed and false prophets will disavow their deception. Yeshua will build the Temple.  Then the fountain of cleansing will begin to flow and the Good Shepherd will unify the kingdom. This is why Yeshua laid down his life for all Israel and the world, as Isaiah 53 says,

“All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way. But the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on him.” Isaiah 53:6

In contrast to the self-serving shepherds and false prophet, he is the Good Shepherd who laid his life down for the sheep. For the Redemption to come ‘today’, we only need to attune our ears to his voice,

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters the flock. He flees because he is a hired hand and does not care about the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, with One Shepherd.” John 10:11-16, NASB



  1. Matt Morton, The pronouns that make Psalm 23 so powerful, The Eagle

  2. Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 29

  3. Drushei Olam HaTohu, Drush Aitz HaDa’at 11, cited by R’ Asher Resnick

  4. Midrash Rabbah, cited at

  5. on Zechariah 13

  6., Rashi on Zechariah 13

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