The Suffering Servant in the Zohar

The Suffering Servant in the Zohar
James Scott Trimm

Isaiah the prophet writes:

Behold, My servant shall prosper:
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
(Isaiah 52:13)

These are the opening words of the Servant portion of Isaiah 52-53.  The identity of this servant figure has been hotly contested for centuries.  The anti-missionaries argue that this figure only represents Israel.  On the other hand believers in Yeshua as the Messiah have long argued that the servant is the Messiah. 

Of course I have written in the past about the interpretation of these verses as they appear in the Targums, Midrashim, Talmuds etc. but today I want to examine in depth, the understanding of this servant in the Zohar. 

In the Zohar we read of this verse:

R. Simeon further discoursed on the text: Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (Is. 52:13). ‘Happy is the portion of the righteous’, he said, ‘to whom the Holy One reveals the ways of the Torah that they may walk in them. This verse contains an esoteric meaning. When God created the world, He made the moon, and made her small, for she possesses no light of her own, but because she accepted her diminution she receives reflected light from the sun and from the other superior luminaries.
(Zohar 1:181a)

Now to fully understand Rabbi Simeon’s meaning here, we must look to another passage in the Zohar:

It is strange that the Messiah should be called “poor” [in Zech. 9:9]. R. Simeon explained that it is because he has nothing of his own, and he is compared to the holy moon above, which has no light save from the sun. This Messiah will have dominion and will be established in his place. Below he is “poor”, because he is of the side of the moon, and above he is poor, being a “mirror which does not radiate”, “the bread of poverty”. Yet withal he “rides upon an ass and upon a colt”, to overthrow the strength of the Gentiles; and God will keep him firm.
(Zohar 1:238a)

So we can see plainly that Rabbi Simeon in the Zohar is identifying the servant of Isaiah 52:13 as the Messiah. 

Now as we continue to read our initial passage of the Zohar (1:181a) the passage immediately continues with:

Now, as long as the Temple existed, Israel were assiduous in bringing offerings, which together with all the other services performed by the priests, Levites, and Israelites had for their object to weave bonds of union and to cause luminaries to radiate.
(Zohar 1:181a)

This brings us to another passage in which the Zohar alludes to the “servant” of Isaiah 52 and 53 saying:

In the Garden of Eden there is a hall that is called the
“hall of  the afflicted.” Now it is into this hall that
the Messiah goes and summons all the afflictions and pains
and sufferings of Israel to come upon him.  And so they all
come upon him. And had he not eased the children of Israel
of their sorrow, and taken their burden upon himself, there
would be none who could endure the suffering of Israel
in penalty of neglecting the Torah. Thus it is written:
“Surely our diseases he did bear and our pains he carried.”
(Is. 53:5) As long as the children of Israel dwelt in the
Holy Land, they averted all afflictions and sufferings from
the world by the service of the sanctuary and by sacrifice.
But now it is the Messiah who is averting them from the
habitants of the world.
(Zohar 2:212a)

Our initial passage of Zohar (1:181a-b) continues:

But after the Temple was destroyed there was a darkening of the lights, the moon ceased to receive light from the sun, the latter having withdrawn himself from her, so that not a day passes but is full of grievous distress and afflictions. The time, however, will come for the moon to resume her primordial light, and in allusion to this it is written: “Behold, my servant will prosper.” That is to say, there will be a stirring in the upper realms as of one who catches a sweet odour and stands alert. “He shall be exalted”, from the side of the most exalted luminaries; “and lifted up”, from the side of Abraham; “and shall be high”, from the side of Isaac; “very”, from the side of Jacob. At that time, then, the Holy One will cause a stirring on high with the object of enabling the moon to shine with her full splendour, as we read: “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days” (Ibid. XXX, 26). There will thus be added to the moon an exalted spirit whereby all the dead that are in the dust will be awakened. This is the esoteric meaning of “my servant”, viz. the one that has in his hand the key of his Master.
(Zohar 1:181a-181b)

The Zohar tells us that the revealing of Messiah is like the revealing of the moon.  Initially the moon cannot be seen, however in time the moon is gradually restored to its full light.  So it is with Messiah,  and when the Messiah is fully revealed, the resurrection will take place. 

We read in Matthew:

38 Behold, your house is forsaken; to you desolate.
39 And I tell you, that you will not see Me here after,
until you say,
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of YHWH!
(Matt. 23:38-39)

Of course this is quoting Ps. 118:26:

“Blessed be he that comes in the Name of YHWH; we bless you out of the House of YHWH.” (Ps. 118:26).

Above this is the phrase “the stone the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone” (Ps. 118:22)

Now we read in the Zohar concerning the stone that the builders rejected:

David, indeed, was king in this world and will be king in the time to come; hence “the stone the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone”. For, when the sun turns away his face from the moon, and does not shine upon her, she has no light whatever and so does not shine, but is poverty-stricken and dark on all sides; but when the sun turns towards her and radiates his light upon her, then her face is illumined and she adorns herself for him as a woman for a man. She thus is then invested with the dominion of the world. So David adorned himself after this very manner. Now he would appear poor and dejected, but then again he would be revelling in riches. Hence David’s declaration, “I am small and despised, yet have I not forgotten thy precepts.” It behoves, indeed, every man to follow this example and to humble himself in every respect so as to become a vessel in which the Holy One, blessed be He, may find delight. This lesson has also been expounded in connection with the phrase, “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit’ (Isa. LVII, 15).’
(Zohar 2:232b)

The Zohar says that when this stone is rejected “the sun turns away his face from the moon, and does not shine upon her.”

Earlier the Zohar says:

So it says: AND HIS HAND HAD HOLD ON ESAU’S HEEL , i.e he put his hand on Esau’s heel in order thereby to force him down. According to another explanation, the words “and his hand had hold” imply that he could not escape him entirely, but his hand was still clinging to his brother’s heel. Esoterically speaking, the moon was obscured through the heel of Esau; hence it was necessary to deal with him cunningly, so as to thrust him downwards and make him adhere to the region assigned to him.’
(Zohar 1:138a)

The moon is obscured “through the heel of Esau”, and therefore the stone is rejected “through the heel of Esau” because the sun “turns away his face”.

So what does this mean?

It points us to Gen. 25:26 which reads:

And after that, came forth his brother. And his hand had hold on Esav’s heel, and his
name was called Ya’akov. And Yitz’chak was threescore years old when she bore them.

If we take the first letter of each word (a process called Notarikon) starting with the name Ya’akov (Jacob) and ending with Esav (Esau) going backwards we spell the name YESHUA, and if we continue through the next two words we read “Yeshua comes.”

So the moon is obscured in shining the light of Messiah by the heal of Esau.

Now the last letter in YESHUA in the Hebrew is an AYIN and that is the initial letter of the name ESAU in “Esau’s heel”. So if the heal of “Esau” is taken from YESHUA we have “YESHU”.

“Yeshu” is a name used in Rabbinic Judaism which refers to the anathema Rabbinic Judaism associates with Yeshua.

For Rabbinic Jews is is a acronym for a curse on the name of Yeshua meaning “may the name be blotted out forever”.

But Yeshua said:

38 Behold, your house is forsaken; to you desolate.
39 And I tell you, that you will not see Me here after,
until you say,
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of YHWH!
(Matt. 23:38-39)

They will say “Blessed is He that comes in the Name of YHWH!” (Ps. 118:26) when they accept the “stone that the builder rejected” (Ps. 118:22). This happens when the AYIN is restored to the name YESHUA, the reversal of the anathema, thus the Messiah, the Sun of Righteousness, will shine his light on the moon, which was obscured by the “heel of Esau”. And when the “heel of Esau” no longer obscures the “Sun of Righteousness” and YESHU is restored to YESHUA, then we can clearly see that “Yeshua comes”!

Our original Zohar passage continues:

So, too, in the verse: “And Abraham said unto his servant, etc.” (Gen. 24:2), the servant is an allusion to the moon as already explained. Also, the servant is identical with Metatron, who is the servant and messenger of his Master, and who was, as we read further, the elder of his house, the same who is alluded to in the text: “I have been young, and now am old” (Ps. 37:25). “That ruled over all that he had”; this applies to the same Metatron by reason of his displaying the three colours, green, white, and red. “Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh”; this is symbolic of the foundation of the world, for this servant was destined to bring to life again the dwellers in the dust, and to be made the messenger by the spirit from on high to restore the spirits and souls to their places, to the bodies that were decomposed underneath the dust.
(Zohar 1:181b)

The Zohar also identifies the Metatron as the “Middle Pillar”

The Middle Pillar [of the Godhead] is Metatron,
Who has accomplished peace above,
according to the glorious state there.
(Zohar 3:227)

And according to the Zohar the Middle Pillar is the Son of Yah:

Better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother far off.
This neighbor is the Middle Pillar in the Godhead,
which is the Son of Yah.
(Zohar 2:115)

And what is the Middle Pillar?  The Zohar says:

Concerning this, too, it is written: “Let there be light, and there was light” (Gen. I, 3). Why, it may be asked, was it necessary to repeat the word “light” in this verse? The answer is that the first “light” refers to the primordial light which is of the Right Hand, and is destined for the “end of days”; while the second “light” refers to the Left Hand, which issues from the Right. The next words, “And God saw the light that it was good” (Gen. 1:4), refer to the pillar which, standing midway between them, unites both sides, and therefore when the unity of the three, right, left, and middle, was complete, “it was good”, since there could be no completion until the third had appeared to remove the strife between Right and Left, as it is written, “And Elohim separated between the light and between the darkness” (Ibid.).
(Zohar 2:167a) And:
This is the Middle Pillar: Ki Tov (that it was good) threw light above and below and on all other sides, in virtue of YHWH, the name which embraces all sides.
(Zohar 1:16b)

More on Messiah as the only begotten light of the Middle Pillar coming son.

In this passage of Zohar (1:181a-181b) we see not only that the servant of Isaiah 52-53 is the Messiah, but that the identity of Messiah is initially obscured form Israel but gradually revealed to Israel.  The Zohar also tells us that this same figure is the Son of Yah and the Middle Pillar of the Godhead.

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