Yeshua: The Suffering Servant (Part 1)

Reading through last week’s Daily Dose of Torah, I came across an interesting concept of substitutional atonement that could help explain the sacrificial atonement of Mashiach via traditional Jewish concepts. I have also run across several other sources that help to elucidate the work of Mashiach in his first coming as Mashiach ben Yoseph that (b’ezrat Hashem) I plan to share in the near future as well, so I am entitling this “Part 1” in hopes of continuing to post my findings.

Hashem said to Moses, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know are elders of the people and officials over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting; let them take their position there with you” (Numbers 11:16).

There is a midrash1 on this verse that states “The officers were beaten on account of the people, and yet they did not turn the guilty parties over to the overseers.” Based on this statement, R’ Matisyahu Salomon (Matnas Chaim, Maamarim, p. 141), drawing from R’ Eliyahu Lopian (Lev Eliyahu vol. 1, p.98), tells us that during the time of the Exodus, the Israelites were not worthy of their redemption. However, when the officers of the people were beaten on the behalf of the people without giving sway to coercion and torture, their merit of suffering and self-sacrifice for the sake of the nation became the merits which would bring about redemption.

The way Chazal says it works is as follows:

When someone feels and endures the pain of another as if it were their own, this provides a means for Hashem to do likewise. He is able to more quickly empathize with the sufferings of others and therefore act on their behalf. Therefore by taking the punishment upon themselves, rather than dispersing it among the guilty, the officers of Israel were able to merit redemption on behalf of the entire nation.

If this is the case, how much more so can Hashem empathize and bring about redemption and future resurrection through the death and resurrection of the righteous Mashiach to all those who cling to him and empathize with his selfless obedience unto death on our behalf.

1 The original source of this midrash is uncertain. The source for my knowledge of the midrash is A Daily Dose of Torah, Volume 9 (Weeks of Bamidbar-Shelach), Artscroll, p. 165.

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