Thursday, September 2, 2010

Elul; Preparing for a Virgin Birth

The heat finally broke here in the Seattle area and I am already looking for the fall. The month of Elul will soon lead us to not only cooler weather but our holiday season as well. The word אלול “elul” is Aramaic and means “search.” Betulah (virgo), the constellation associated with this month, moves along her heavenly course in search of her beloved. The words אני לדודי ודודי לי “Ani ledodi v’dodi li” (I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine) express the essence of this month. For this reason, “Elul” is often taken as an acrostic form of these words—א"ל"ו"ל.

As stated above the mazal (astrological sign) of Elul is Betulah, a virgin. When the prophet asked, “Can a nation be born at once?,” it was a reference to the immediate establishment of the eternal monarchy of Yisrael through the future advent of Mashiach. The breaking forth of this sudden kingdom is compared to birth from a virgin womb. The usual toil involved in the conception of a nation just isn’t present; Yisrael is born by Hashem’s will alone. With perfect emunah we await the coming of this messianic kingdom, an event which is rehearsed in early autumn. Betulah wails, we hear the cry of the shofar’s blast. Tishrei’s “Yamim Norim,” (days of awe) are birth pangs whose memory fades with the coming simcha of Sukkot, a chag expressing the realization of our nearing messianic kingdom. In the sukkah we dine with the patriarchs and are sheltered in a cloud—we receive a taste of the world to come.

Our Sukkot liturgy speaks of the re-established kingdom in more of this peculiar language; זרע עמוסי רחמו, נולדו כילד ממעיץ...חלה וילד מי זאת, מי שמע כזאת “The seed borne by Him [Hashem] from the womb, born like a child from its mother…She delivered and gave birth: ‘Who is this? Who has heard of the likes of this?’” The words chosen to describe the establishment of this sudden nation clearly reflect the mystical circumstance surrounding the birth of our King and help to further build the connection between the life of Mashiach and his nation.

The mother of Mashiach, who is herself traditionally referred to as The Virgin (Ha-betulah), traveled from the Galilee to Bethlehem. She followed her love. Yosef was a tzadik; he married his young bride before they journeyed to the suburb of Jerusalem. It may have been late in Elul, in some traditions this is the only time in which custom does not discourage a marriage late in the month. Certainly, by the time the holy couple entered the hill-country surrounding Jerusalem, the moon of Tishrei was nearly term—full.

The move from Elul to Tishrei, like other transitions during the year, is marked by a changing of the celestial guards. The month of Tishrei is associated with the constellation of Moznaim (scales). The new moon of this month, Rosh Hashanah, is called Yom Hadin—judgment day. Hashem holds the world in the scales of decision. On this day it is decided whom will be born and who will die during the coming year; the success or failure of every human being is measured out. When the parents of Mashiach entered the city of David, it had already been decreed that the child being carried by the young woman would live; he would be born and prosper. Yeshua entered this world, born from a virgin, under the branches of a sukkah—under the cover of stars. For this righteous couple, the shelter of the sukkah became a marriage tent. The relationship of Yosef and his bride was consummated not in the conception of a child, but in the birth of our King Mashiach. This virgin birth rehearses the creation of a nation and a salvation that will spring up from the ground, seemingly out of nowhere, at the returning of our King.

This messianic kingdom and the birth pangs signifying its arrival are written of in the twelfth chapter of the Revelation of Yochanan. His words continue in the tradition of our prophets and sages. Alone, far from home, in exile on the island of Patmos, Yochanan looked in to an autumn night’s sky. He watched as the stars came alive and recorded the vision in a book.

ואות גדול נראה אז בשמים אשה עטה מעטה שמש ולבנה תחת רגליה ועל-ראשה אשה יציץ נזר שנים עשר כוכבים: והיא הרע ללת התסעק בחבליה כי נהפכו עליה צריה.

“There was a great wonder in the sky; a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Being with child, she cried, travailing in birth, and pained to deliver.”

Here Yochanan’s vision is placed firmly within its High Holiday context. This heavenly drama is rehearsed by the stars each year at Rosh Hashanna. Certainly, the woman crowned with twelve stars is none other than the constellation Betulah, the virgin. The crown she wears is a star cluster called Coma Bernice. In Yochanan’s vision the virgin giving birth is the nation of Yisrael; she brings forth a child (the Mashiach) who is taken into heaven to be hidden from a dragon (a grouping of stars called Draco) who seeks his destruction. Yisrael finds refuge in the wilderness where she narrowly escapes a flood sent by the dragon. Again, the account is told in such a way as to blur the narrative line between the life of Yeshua and the history of his people.

Without thought, we often wish one another a Mazal Tov—a “good constellation.” Hashem created the stars for times and for seasons; our wish is that joyful events might inaugurate seasons of blessing for Yisrael. We hope that one simcha is a sign of more to come. Ultimately, our desire is to see the days of Mashiach. With each rotation of the moon, with every movement of the constellations, we await a holiday without end. From the first contractions felt by his mother during the awesome days between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur and his miraculous birth at Sukkot, the life of Yeshua creates a pathway and foreshadows the sudden sprouting of a re-established nation, a messianic kingdom that will bring peace and joy to the entire world.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

D.I.Y. Ascension Day

Here’s how we’re making Yom HaAliya happen.

1. Customized biodegradable balloons
2. Sandy shoreline with fire pit
3. Guitar savvy friends
4. Kosher dogs (fish and honey for the traditionalists)

Yom HaAliya is a great time to gather with friends to celebrate the ascension of Yeshua who rose like a wholly burnt offering into the sky ten days before Shavuot. Think ascension, things that rise; we’re having a biodegradable balloon release. You could do this or fly kites, or blow bubbles. Add an evening fire pit and smoky feast into the mix and you have a real winner of a holiday.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shavuot Ramblings

Shavuot is coming. I will reflect on Mt. Sinai and the upper room. I’ll read longingly of mighty rushing winds and flaming tongues. I’ll spend the night learning two doors down from the synagogue in a house we have been working to convert into proper a study hall; we’ll read megilat Ruth and remember her descendant King David who was born and also died on this holiday. Like all Torah, the connections between the customs and texts related to Shavuot spin off like fractals, each one giving birth to countless more.

It’s from a midrash that we learn King David died on Shavuot. The only time his death is mentioned in the NT is in the second chapter of Acts during Peter’s addressing of the masses on that same day. It’s not a coincidence. Thousands gathered to hear the student of a controversial king. They were in the upper room of the Temple and Peter poured out his heart, challenging anyone who would refute the legitimacy of His reign.

On the anniversary of King David’s death we read the book of Ruth which was written by the prophet Samuel in an attempt to defend G-d’s chosen. It wasn’t enough that David had been raised in the fields, believed by his own father to be the product of infidelity; the entire nation was unsure of his questionable pedigree, they doubted even the permissibility of his lineage.

The line of Mashiach is called in to question today and he is also called a child of adultery. If the prophet Samuel were here he would defend his line as well, not to mention his birth. Samuel had also been the product of a miraculous birth. Hannah was barren, and the prophet was only born after his mother prayed so fervently she appeared to be drunk…drunk…like the 120 in the upper room.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Give to G-d

Yeshua gave the best answers.
They [a group of Pharisees and Herodians] came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Yeshua knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denari and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Yeshua said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to G-d what is G-d’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
They were amazed at him. To those within earshot of the conversation the question had seemed imposible to answer. If Mashiach said publically that Israel need not pay taxes to Caesar he would have been arrested for rebellion against the empire, and on the other hand, he would never say that a Jew is obligated to pay the nations to reside in The Land.

The key to understanding the answer provided by Yeshua is in a parable he spoke just before this episode. In the mashal Israel is compared to a vineyard, HaShem its owner. In the story tenants are allowed to operate the vineyard, but when the owner of the vineyard sends his servants to collect what is owed him, the servants are mistreated, beaten, and killed. After his son is killed as well, the owner of the vineyard returns to bring retribution upon the wicked tenants and reclaim his land. Here Yeshua teaches that everything belongs to HaShem and the rulers of the world are merely temporary stewards of what is his.

To those employed by the government Yeshua seemed to give an acceptable answer. However, those righteous Jews who understood that everything belongs to G-d understood Yeshua’s faithfulness to the creator of all. As he often did, Mashiach answered an impossible question.
Rabbi Elazar of Bartosa would say: Give Him what is His, for you, and whatever is yours, are His. As David says: "For everything comes from You, and from Your own hand we give to You" (I Chronicles 29:14).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Seed of Mashiach, For Shavuot

While sipping coffee and looking through old files on my laptop, I came across something I wrote about 5years ago regarding the genealogy of Yeshua. Its a tradition on Shavuot to read megilat Ruth and stay up all night learning. A discussion regarding the seed of Mashiach is also traditional as Rut is the mother of the King. It seemed fitting to post this lesson regarding the messianic line as described by Matthew. Feel free to use this lesson for the coming holiday. Its long, but you've got all night.

The Seed of Mashiach.

From the earliest moments of creation Hashem preoccupied himself in the making of the light of Mashiach. Some have spoken of this Messianic light as having been hidden in a fog, wrapped in darkness. The messianic seed was carried down throughout all generations, hidden in unlikely places. This can be compared to a King who sent his royal carriage with a procession of white horses and noblemen through the broad section of town while he himself chose to travel unnoticed riding a donkey down narrow back alleys.

Opening to the first chapter of the besorah of Mattai we are given a list of names recounting the lineage of Mashiach. At the heart of this messianic pedigree are five holy women: Tamar, Ruth, Rachav, Batsheva the wife of Uriah, and finally, Miryam the mother of Yeshua. In mentioning these names the author of sefer Mattai intends to remind it’s readers of the unique circumstances in which the spark of Mashiach has been brought down through time.

Listing the royal lineage of the kings of Israel with the specific mention of the five women named above, sefer Mattai emphasizes the unlikely path of Mashiach through generations that are clouded by incest, prostitution, adultery and murder. Each of these holy men and women conceived children through what would seem to be, questionable interactions.

The first female listed in the genealogy is Tamar. The Torah relates that soon after Tamar married Judah’s son, the son died. According to a practice called yibum it was the responsibility of the closest male relative to take Tamar as a wife and have a child who would be called the son of the deceased. In that way the child would continue the lineage of the family and inherit the deceased man’s belongings. After the first son died, Judah’s second son married Tamar. He too died shortly after the wedding. Because two of Judah’s sons had died after sleeping with Tamar, Judah rationalized that this had caused his two son’s death. Judah felt giving his youngest, and now only son, to be Tamar’s husband was out of the question. Tamar shamefully returned home to live with her parents. She was a teenage girl, with two dead husbands, no prospects, possessions nor children. What Judah didn’t know was his sons had died because of their own transgressions. With Judah’s refusal to give his youngest son to Tamar the line of Mashiach stopped. The messianic seed that continued to form with each generation could not be passed on.

For now, physical and spiritual components destined to come together in the forming of Mashiach were trapped in Tamar and Judah. The Torah explains that Judah arrived in the town where Tamar was living to sheer sheep. When Tamar heard he was in the area she assumed Judah had brought his youngest son to perform the right of yibum, so his third son could take her as his wife. She ran to greet him wearing beautiful garments and a veiled face. When Judah saw this striking young woman standing alone along the way he took her to be a prostitute and made his proposition. Tamar accepted the proposal and slept with him. Strangely, the Torah records the event as casually as if Judah and Tamar had been buying and selling fruit at the market. What appears on the outside to be a blatant disregard for morality is explained quite differently in the midrashim. According to the midrash, when Judah passed by Tamar he caught her sent on a breeze. It was the most intoxicating fragrance he had ever smelled. It was the sent of the garden of Eden and the days of Mashiach. Judah was unwilling to consort with her so an angel came to further persuade him. The angel said to Judah, “If you fail to turn in to her tent, from where will the kings come?” It was at this point when Judah approached Tamar. Tradition further explains that it was actually because of Tamar’s extreme spirituality that she accepted his offer. Tamar knew that yibum must be performed, and understood she had to conceive. What is important to realize is that while Judah and Tamar were together, Hashem was busy creating the light of Mashiach.

Another woman to be noted in the lineage of Yeshua is Ruth. Ruth is perhaps the central female figure in the ancestry of the kings of Israel. The controversy surrounding this holy grandmother of King David began generations before her birth. Ruth came from the people of Moav a corrupt non-Jewish nation descending from Lot who although a worshiper of the one G-d, separated from Avraham to live in Sodom. The city was lost to any hope of rational thought. In Sodom every rule was turned on its head. Rape and molestation were open and public activities. The city was destroyed by G-d. Lightning rained down from the sky and the city was engulfed in flames. Only three righteous persons escaped. Lot and his two daughters took refuge in the wilderness. This story also takes a bizarre twist. Lot’s daughters immediately decide to get their own father drunk and sleep with him, each becoming pregnant in the process. In the Torah, our earliest encounter with the seed of Mashiach is in this horrifying union. Bereshit Rabbah 41:4 states, “I have found David my servant; where did I find him? In Sodom.” In this Midrash, Hashem explains that he found the light of Mashiach in a most unlikely place; in the apparent rape of Lot by his daughters. As difficult as it may seem, hidden on the inside of this situation is a holy motivation which can only be uncovered with a close and sensitive reading of the text.

When Sodom was destroyed Lot’s daughters believed the entire world had been annihilated. Just a few generations earlier the world’s populations had been destroyed with water. Now these two girls believed G-d had devastated its inhabitants again, this time with fire. Yibum is at the center of this encounter as well. The sisters are recorded in sefer Bereshit as having made the statement, “there is not a man on earth left to be with us” (19:31). According to the practice of yibum it was (they believed) their duty to raise up seed from their father. There was no time to question the choice. If Lot were to die do to the extreme anguish felt at the loss of all those he had loved including his wife no relative could be found to raise up a son unto his name. Within both Lot and his daughters was the seed of Mashiach.

From the consorting of Lot’s oldest daughter with her father came a son named Moav (meaning of father). An evil nation descended from Moav cursed with a heavenly declaration that no Moabite could enter the congregation of Israel. Ruth was a daughter of Moav caring the seed of Mashiach, the spark she had inherited from her ancestors. Ruth desired to enter the nation of Israel. It was known by Israel’s finest Torah minds that this was in fact a possibility. Although a Moabite was disallowed from entering the people of Israel a Moabitess was permitted. Ruth had in fact already married two Israelite men before entering the land of Israel. After her first husband died his brother performed the act of yibum taking her as his wife. He too perished. The story begins to sound remarkably similar to that of Tamar. Ruth’s mother-in-law instructed the obedient young woman to find a redeemer (who would perform the act of yibum) on the threshing floors belonging to a near relative of her now dead husband. His name was Boaz. The final threshing of grain was a happy occasion. It meant a large payoff, a time of drinking, singing and an end to the long harvesting hours. Ruth’s mother-in-law instructed Ruth to bathe in water, dress in her finest garments and only enter the area used for threshing barley during the night after the harvesters had laid down to rest from a night of feasting. She told Ruth to find Boaz and lay herself at his feet. Again a strange twist in the story, from the out side what Ruth’s mother-in-law was asking her to do looked a lot like what many prostitutes would be doing that same night. Women often snuck into the threshing fields for the purpose of selling themselves for grain. However, Ruth’s mother-in-law hid a code word in the phrase she used when speaking about Boaz. She told Ruth to notice “the place where” Boaz was sleeping and go and meet him there. In Hebrew these words are “et hamakom asher.” In a language without vowels the final letters of each of these three words when brought together spell out the name Tamar. Ruth knew she would look like a prostitute to anyone who saw her nevertheless she fulfilled the wishes of her mother-in-law and went to Boaz during the night.

When Boaz awoke with the startling realization that Ruth lay at his feet he treated her respectfully as a woman of holiness rather than take advantage of the situation in an inappropriate manner. He declared his intentions to properly take her as his wife and perform yibum. A question arises- what caused Boaz to treat this foreign woman dressed as a prostitute in such an honorable way? The answer is found in our text and is the name of the second woman mentioned in Mattai’s rendering of the lineage of Mashiach. Rachav, a foreign born woman who joined herself to the people of Israel was also Boaz’s mother. Before her joining the holy nation Rachav an extremely righteous woman had lived as a prostitute. Boaz knew holiness sometimes existed hidden under a mask. He also knew that at all times you need to know the inside of a situation before you can understand it.

The fourth woman listed in Mattai’s lineage is Batsheva. The Torah tells us that from the roof of his palace King David glimpsed Batsheva bathing. He fell in love instantly. The Torah relates that although Batsheva was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a man who fought among the ranks of Israel, King David slept with her. She became pregnant. In an attempt to cover up the act King David called Uriah back from war and encouraged him to be with his wife. Uriah refused. As long as his fellow solders were fighting on the battle-front Uriah would not allow himself the pleasure of being with Batsheva. When sending Uriah back to his military service, King David intentionally placed Uriah in the front lines to die. On the surface this story seems to paint King David in an entirely negative light. However a look into some of the midrash surrounding the event and a close reading of the story reveal more.

When King David was young he killed an enormous man named Goliath. After killing him he approached the body and sought to remove the giant’s head with his own sword. There is midrash that explains that Goliath was covered in dense armor from head to toe. David tried to remove it but was unable to. It was then that he met Uriah for the first time. The man stepped forward and informed the hero of Israel that he knew how to remove the heavy armor but would only do so if David made an oath to find him an Israelite wife. David agreed and Uriah soon married Batsheva who‘s name means daughter of an oath. This forbidden marriage of Batsheva to a non-Jew which was facilitated by David himself created a detour in the road of David’s future. Batsheva had always been intended as David’s wife says the midrash. In hindsight this is obvious; the Mashiach would eventually come from their union. Because David vowed to give a daughter of Israel to a non-Israelite Hashem made sure it would be his own wife he was to give away, not the wife of another.

In ancient Israel it was the practice of solders to give their wives a bill of divorcement (a get) before going off to war. Without such a practice the wife of a fallen solder whose body could not be found or identified would remain legally married. Without the proof of a body, it would be assumed the man was still alive somewhere. On a technical level, Batsheva was unmarried (Kethubot 9b). The Talmud explains that Uriah the Hittite was also guilty of treason, a crime punishable by death, at the time he was sent to the front lines by King David. When Uriah stood before the King he referred to his general as my lord and refused to heed the request of the highest authority on earth, the King of Israel. King David’s punishment by G-d for the bloodshed of Uriah appears to have its root in his making inappropriate vows to Uriah long before his coming together with Batsheva and those vows coming back to haunt him. The interactions between King David and Batsheva are far more pure on the inside of the story than from how they might appear from the outside. This is the message of Mattai’s lineage.

The author of sefer Mattai desired its readers to meditate on the pattern found in the Torah and Midrashim before naming the fifth and final woman listed in the genealogy: Miryam the wife of Yosef ben-Ya’akov. It would be through this woman that the light of Mashiach, the final king of Israel, would enter the world.

In her mid teens Miryam had entered into kiddushin a kind of contract binding herself and Yosef together for a period of time before their actual wedding. During this period Miryam was visited by a malach, the angel Gavriel. He greeted her with the words, “Be glad, you who are loved, the master is with you.” Miryam had been uncomfortable allowing a strange man to speak to her in such a way. Gavriel told her to not be afraid. He explained that she would conceive and birth a son, and that she would call his name Yeshua. He further told Miryam that Hashem would give her son the throne of his father David from which he would rule over the house of Jacob forever.

Yosef was a tzadik who truly loved Miryam. When he learned that she had become pregnant he was devastated but nevertheless refused to shame his bride. He decided to call off the wedding as quietly as possible. This would be difficult where they lived, a town with a population of only 200. In the night an angel spoke to Yosef dispelling his fears. The angel explained that Miryam hadn’t been with anyone. It was the same ability Hashem held to create light from darkness that had now caused the light of Mashiach to flourish within her womb. The messianic seed that had been forming from the earliest generations was now ready to enter the world in the person of Yeshua Meshicheinu. Again the birth of this holy king of Israel would be shrouded in what looked from the outside to be simple adultery.

Like Father Like Son, David and Yeshua a conclusion.

Our Mashiach was believed by many to be a mamzir, an illegitimate child. To this day there are those who teach this. It has been impossible for some to understand the circumstances under which the Mashiach would be born. According to halachah a mamzir is disqualified from the crown of Israel. For this reason the author of sefer Mattai divides the messianic lineage into three sets of fourteen. In Hebrew fourteen is the numerical equivalent of the name David. Those who teach that Yeshua was a mamzir only establish a greater connection between Melech Yeshua and his holy ancestor David.

As a boy David spent his time alone in the fields watching over his father’s flocks. The midrashim tell us that David’s father Yishai kept him in the field because he was not convinced that David was actually his son. David was raised as a mamzir. In this case David’s father believed him to be the son of an adulteress affair. We read in scripture that Hashem sent the prophet Shmuel to the home of Yishai in search of the next king of Israel. The prophet instructed Yishai to bring his sons forward. Yishai brought seven young men to stand before Shmuel. From oldest to the youngest, the old man turned each one away. He spoke to Yishai and insisted there must be another. It must have been at this point when Yishai realized David was truly his son. Shmuel poured oil over David and consecrated him as Melech HaMashiach, the anointed king of Israel. May the day come soon when Yeshua is recognized as the same.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 10 Days

Before Mashiach ascended and was hidden by a cloud he spoke to His students, saying:
See, I am sending out the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city [Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high.
This instruction was given 10 days before Shavuot. On Shavuot we observe the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai…and there we find a connection. These 10 days are a reflection of the 10 Words (commandments). Yeshua’s students remained in Jerusalem until the holiday. They were all together, 120 of them, davvening on the morning of Shavuot when something like a rushing wind filled The House. Fire appeared above their heads and they began speaking in all the languages of the earth. The book of Acts explains that on that day Mashiach’s followers were filled with Ruach HaKadosh, this was the promise of HaShem sent from our Mashiach. The Spirit of G-d was given on the same day in which He gave His Torah.

In Hebrew gematria and our kabalistic tradition the number 10 is represented by the letter י (yud). The Didascalia Apostorlorum is an ancient manuscript written sometime in the 3rd century, it was said to contain teachings passed down from the 12 Apostles and explains this gematria through a teaching which connects Mashiach to the giving of the Torah.
Now previously our communities were deserts in which there is now a highway and the knowledge of true religion without mistake, but having freshness and clarity, even Isus Christos and His rule which was from the beginning. For you know that He gave a simple and pure and holy Law of life, wherein our Savior set His name. For whereas He spoke the 10 Words, He signified Ἰησοῦς (Yeshua): for 10 represents yud; but yud is the beginning of the name of Yeshua. (Didascalia Apostolorum)
Inasmuch as the letter yud is the smallest of all letters it is associated with hiddeness. This hidden point is the source of chochma or wisdom.
Chochma is defined as the germinal, highly condensed revelation of G-dly light in the highest level of immanence that is in the life force of all of creation.(Fiftieth Gate edition of the Zohar, Introduction)
10 days after Mashiach was hidden his students were filled with this wisdom from on high. Mashiach Yeshua is a conduit and vehicle of connection between HaShem and His creation. It was through him that the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai and through Him that G-d’s Spirit was delivered. During the ten days between the ascension of the Mashiach and our observance of Shavuot we should give special attention to each of the 10 Words…May they be written on our hearts.

Mashiach HaTsippor, For Ascension Day

Yom HaAliyah, which recalls the ascension of Mashiach into the sky on the fortieth day of the Omer, is preceded seven days by the minor holiday of Lag BaOmer, a memorial to Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai z”l. In honor of these two sacred days, I would like to reflect on an idea found in Zohar Hakodesh attributed to Shimon Bar-Yochai which sheds light on many aspects of the life of Mashiach including His ascension.

Mashiach the Bird-
The Zohar and other kabalistic writings drawing from its text relate Mashiach to a “bird.” In fact, at the beginning of his commentary on Parshat Metzorah, The Ohr Hachaim z”l explains that one of Mashiach’s names is Tsippor (Bird). It is written that the soul of Mashiach exists on the outskirts of the Garden of Eden in a place called the היכל קן ציפו (Heichal Ken Tsippor) “bird’s nest”. This term speaks of the Shekinah which both envelopes His Neshama and flies about the Garden. It is said that from His abode in the bird’s nest He lifts his eyes and sees the patriarchs returning to the ruins of the Beit Hamikdash. The tear streaked face of Rachel Imenu repeatedly flashes before him. Mashiach cries out, and the Garden of Eden is shaken from one end to the other. The voices of all the tzaddikim joining His lament, shakes the heavens beyond the garden until it reaches the highest throne.

Descending From the Nest-
Our sages understood that the redeemer of Israel would be revealed only after this messianic soul made its descent from the Bird’s Nest, coming to rest upon the one whom would be revealed as Mashiach. This is spoken of as the “crowning” of the redeemer and marks the point in his life when he would begin his messianic mission (Igeret Teyman, ch. 4).

Nearly two millennia ago Yeshua traveled from the Galil in Northern Israel to be immersed by Yochanan Hamatbil z”l, a relative who had been instructed by a heavenly decree to immerse the sons of Israel until he saw a “dove” descend upon one of them. This holy Jew was the Mashiach. It is written that when our Mashiach rose from the water the Ruach Elohim was seen descending on him as a dove.

That the identity of Mashiach was revealed through water is significant. The first time the soul of Mashiach was seen interacting with the chaos of this world is found at the beginning of Sefer Bereishit. The Torah relates that while the world was yet formless and void, covered by darkness on the face of the deep, the Ruach Elohim hovered [like a mother bird shielding her young with her wings] upon the face of the waters. This Ruach Elohim is said to be that of Mashiach (Bereshit Rabbah 2:5).

After his crowning with the messianic soul, Yeshua spoke of himself using the language of a bird. While standing upon the Mount of Olives, Mashiach lamented over Jerusalem saying, “Again and again would I have taken your children to myself, as a bird gathers her young ones under her wings, but you would not!” (Lk 13:34) Here Mashiach speaks of his desire to gather the exiles of Israel. He is detained only by our refusal to be redeemed.

Two Birds One Mashiach-
To better understand this process of exile and redemption, as it relates to Mashiach, who is called Tsippor, a bird, we look to the previously mentioned Parshat Metzorah. We learn in this sidra that one who has contracted a certain spiritual disorder called Tzara’at is to be expelled beyond the walls of the city. The complex nature and role of Mashiach as a gatherer of exiles can be understood through the ritual relating to the purification and returning of one who is stricken with this affliction.

Tzara’at is a spiritual disorder generally believed to be brought on by evil speech. It appears as a discoloration on one’s property and person. The Metzorah (one who has contracted Tzara’at) would first notice “something like a plague,” a discoloration upon the walls of his or her home (Lev. 14:35). In a worst case scenario, a Kohen would declare the house unclean— ordering its destruction. The stones of the house would be dismantled and removed. Again, the Metzorah having a discoloration in his or her flesh would be exiled to the wilderness beyond the city walls.

These rituals concerning the Metzorah and his house have been described as relating to the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people. Mashiach prophesied regarding this destruction in relevant terms. He said, “Do you see these immense buildings? Not one of these stones will be left on top of another. Each one will be torn down." This description can be compared to the dismantling of the stone house of the Metzorah.

The law given by Hashem for the cleansing of a Metzorah reveals His redemptive plan for Israel and describes the process through which Mashiach would carry it out; his death and resurrection. Hashem commands the use of שתי צפרים(shetei tsiparim) “two birds” (Lev. 14:49). In his commentary on this subject, Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky notes that the numerical value of צפר (tsippor) is 370 and corresponds to the words זה משיח (zeh mashiach), “this is Mashiach.” He says, “This [passage regarding the ‘two birds’] refers to Mashiach ben Yosef [who will die] and Mashiach ben David [who will rule the Earth].

During the cleansing of the Metzorah, a bird is killed over running water in an earthen vessel and a second bird is dipped along with other elements in its blood. The Metzorah is sprinkled with the blood seven times and the living bird is released into the open field. That the living bird flies away covered in the blood of the slaughtered is significant. This aspect of the ritual creates a connection between the two birds and hints at the notion that Mashiach ben Yosef, the suffering servant, and Mashiach ben David, the reigning king are two natures of one individual. Although this may be a novel idea to some, it is not a new one.

Rabbi Chaim Vital z”l (1543-1620) was the foremost student of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Arizal and is responsible for the transcription of his master’s famous Kabalistic teachings. In an autobiography written by this renowned authority, The Book of Visions (Sefer HaChizyonot), he explains that Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David are only terms reflecting two aspects of a single man (p.106).

In hindsight, it is clear that while the releasing of the living bird by the Kohen foresees the resurrection of Mashiach, its flight into the open field depicts his ascension into heaven. Concerning this Rabbi Chaim Vital z”l again writes, “Mashiach [who will be largely unknown] will thereupon rise up to Heaven just as Moshe ascended to the firmament, and will subsequently return and be revealed completely for all to see. The entire Jewish people will then perceive him and flock towards him” (Arba Mei’ot Shekel Kesef p. 68). Our Mashiach ascended into the clouds in precisely this way. In comparing the event to Moshe Rabeinu’s ascent into the clouds on Sinai’s heights, we are reminded that we must not lose hope of his return.

Sending away the Mother Bird and the Ascension of Mashiach-
Mashiach was born into a generation unprepared for his kingdom. Rather than immediately gathering the tribes back to their land, he desired to suffer, bearing the transgressions of the world upon his shoulders. The Zohar explains the need for Mashiach to give up his life in no uncertain terms, “Because this lower plateau lacks manifestation of G-dliness, this Mashiach must die…He will remain dead until this plateau receives 'life' from the higher plateau, at which point he will rise and come to life...(Balak 203).”
After having risen from the dead, Mashiach spent forty days strengthening his students, clarifying their understanding of his mission. Then, ten days before Shavuot, Yeshua was lifted into Heaven covered in a cloud. We have been awaiting his glorious return ever since. Questions arise,” Why was the complete redemption delayed; why must we suffer further exile; and why did Mashiach have to leave us?” To better understand this, we search out one of the most obscure mitzvot, Shiluach Haken, “Sending Away the Mother Bird.” The Torah obligates, “When one happens upon a mother bird nesting on her young in an un-owned place, one is forbidden to take the un-hatched eggs or the young birds until the mother is sent away.”
The generation that witnessed the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash was saturated with baseless hatred. At this time even the very religious were often plagued by hatred for fellow Jews. A Heavenly judgment was passed and Israel was expelled from her land. Sadly, the remedy for this kind of hatred could only be found in exile. While exile creates difficulties regarding ritual observance, it promotes a true sense of ahavat Israel, love for every Jew. Living in dispersion encourages a longing for peoplehood and a desire to connect. To remove the blemish of hatred from the Holy Nation, Hashem chose to remove the children of Israel from their “nest.” Mashiach, like the mother bird needed to first be sent away before His children were carried off into exile. The Zohar explains that when the mother bird returns to find her nest empty, she flies throughout the forest searching for her young. Mashiach is now searching for his children throughout the world, calling to them, desiring to gather them back to Himself.