Messiah in the Torah- Parsha Mishpatim

Torah Parsha Mishpatim Ex. 21:1-24:8
Haftorah: Jer. 34:8-22; 33:25-26

I began my life’s work of restoring the ancient sect of Nazarene Judaism over 30 years ago. For those who do not know, the original Jewish followers of Yeshua, were a sect of Judaism known as the “Nazarenes” (as in Acts 24:5). which were mentioned and described by many of the ancient so-called “Church Fathers”.

As many of you may also know, several months ago, I also began an effort to restore that ancient Jewish philosophy of Hebraic Stoicism, which has likewise been lost since ancient times (since the early 2nd Century CE). As part of that effort I began writing a weekly Torah study, based on how the ancient Hebraic Stoics saw the Stoic philosophy in the Torah. That has been a very rewarding process, giving me the opportunity to how these ancient Hebraic Stoics saw their teachings in the Torah itself. If you are interested in reviewing that material, you can find it at the Hebraic Stoicism website.

That process has led me to attempt an experiment, with doing the same thing with the restoration of Nazarene Judaism, writing a weekly Torah study expressing how the ancient Nazarenes might have understood the Torah, and seen Nazarene Judaism and the Messiah in the Torah. In fact my research for this coming week’s Hebraic Stoicism Torah parsha, inspired me to experiment with a Nazarene Judaism weekly Parsha. In this coming week’s parsha, Philo of Alexandria identifies the Angel sent before the Assembly of Israel, of which YHWH says “my name is in him.” (Ex. 23:20-23) as the Logos or “Word”. You can read that blog Being Guided by the Logos here. This inspired me to write a blog about how this same passage was understood by certain Rabbinic authorities, an understanding that surely would have resonated with the ancient Nazarenes. In this weeks parsha we read:

[20] Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
[21] Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
[22] But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
[23] For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.
(Exodus 23:20-23 KJV)

The Talmud has an interesting comment about this phrase “for my name is in him”. The Talmud records a debate between the Rabbis and the Minim in which we read:

R. Nahman said: He who is as skilled in refuting the Minim
as is R. Idith, let him do so; but not otherwise. Once a Min
said to R. Idith: It is written, And unto Moses He said,
Come up to the Lord (Ex. 24:1). But surely it should have
stated, Come up unto me! It was Metatron, he replied,
whose name is similar to that of his Master, for it is written,
For my name is in him (Ex. 23:21). But if so, [he retorted,]
we should worship him! The same passage, however,
— replied R. Idith says: Be not rebellious against him,

i.e., exchange Me not for him. But if so, why is it stated:
He will not pardon your transgression? He answered:
By our troth we would not accept him even as a messenger,
for it is written, And he said unto him, If Thy [personal]
presence go not etc. (Ex. 33:15).
(b.Sanhedrin 38b)

Interestingly the Kaarite author Kirkisani had a different reading in his copy of this Talmud passage. His copy had Rabbi Idith saying “This is Metatron, who is the Lesser YHWH”.

Who were the “minim” being spoken of in this section of Talmud. Many scholars identify them with the ancient Nazarenes based on a statement by the so-called Church Father Jerome in a letter he wrote to Augustine:

“The matter in debate, therefore, or I should rather say your opinion regarding it, is summed up in this: that since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do. If this be true, we fall into the heresy… [of those who] though believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers for this one error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old. …In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minæans, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy. If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches of Christ what they have been accustomed to practice in the synagogues of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become Christians, but they will make us Jews.
(Jerome; Letter 75)

“Minæans” was apparently Latinized from Hebrew MINIM (singular is MIN) a word which in modern Hebrew means “apostates” but was originally an acronym for a Hebrew phrase meaning “Believers in Yeshua the Nazarene”.

Returning to our Torah Parsha, Rashi writes of the phrase “since my name is in him” (Ex. 23:21):

for My Name is within him: [This clause] is connected to the beginning of the verse: Beware of him because My Name is associated with him. Our Sages, however, said: This is [the angel] Metatron, whose name is like the name of his Master (Sanh. 38b). The numerical value of מֵטַטְרוֹן [314] equals that of שַׁדַּי [314]. -[From Tikunei Zohar 66b]

Nachmanides writes of the phrase “I am sending the angel before you” (Ex. 23:20):

…But the True interpretation of the angel whom they are promised here is that he is the “redeeming angel” of Gen. 48:16, who has God’s name “in him” (v. 21)- “For in Yah the LORD you have an everlasting Rock” (Is. 26:4). It was this angel that told Jacob, “I am the God of Beth-el” (Gen. 31:13), for it is the way of the King to swell in His House. though the text calls him an angel because the world is managed entirely under the particular divine aspect that he embodies. Our Sages call him Metatron, the one who shows the way, as I have already explained in my comment to 12:12.

And in his comment to Exodus 12:12 he writes, “…“Metatron” means “one who shows the way,” as in Sifrei, where the finger of God is the metatron that points Moses toward the land of Israel…. “

And Rabbi Bechai wrote in his commentary to this passage:

This Angel is not one of those (created) intelligences, which can sin, of whom it is said (Job 4:18), ‘His Angels He charged with folly,’ and this folly (appeared) when they assumed to themselves the power, that they were destroying Sodom (Gen 19:13) (lit., in the case of Sodom, when they said, ‘We are destroying’). But this Angel is one of the Inherent Ones” (according to the opinion of Tanchum – a high authority).

“For He will not pardon your transgressions.” Because He belongs to that class of Beings which cannot sin, yea, He is Metatron, the Prince of His (God’s) countenance, and therefore it is said: “to keep thee in the way.” The Chaldee Paraphrase translates keeping (משמרת) with guard (מטרת), so that Metatron (מטטרון) signifies a guard (or watchman) which (office) expresses His attribute of justice; thus He says, “before thy face”; as the expression occurs (Hab 3:5), “Before His face went the pestilence, and burning coals (burning death) went forth at His feet.”

And He says, Mine ANGEL; by which He would say, Mine ANGEL, who is my beloved One, through whom I am made known in the world, and concerning whom it is written (Exo 33:14), “My presence (lit., face or express image) shall go with thee.”

When Moses begged of God, saying (v 13), “Show me now Thy way,” he besought from Him something (a revelation of one of His attributes) by which he might know Him, and He replied: “My presence shall go”; (this presence or countenance, an express image) is He of whom it is written, (Isa 63:9), “The Angel of His countenance saved them,” namely, the Angel who is God’s countenance; therefore He said (Exo 23:22), “I will be an adversary to thine adversaries through Him,” and He adds (v 23), “And I will cut them off”; because on account of His attribute of justice are His enemies cut off.

With reference to His being called Angel, you will know that He is not one of those created intelligences, because the world is governed by Him, for He is the very entity of justice.

It is said: “Beware of Him” (lit., beware from before His countenance), for, on account of the justice of God, man ought to watch himself that he be not punished for his sins; thus He mentions with reference to Him (this Angel) “Watching” and “countenance.”* “Obey His voice.” There is a warning that they should not vex the INHERENT ONES in the Godhead, therefore there is immediately added: “Provoke Him not,” which words our Rabbis of blessed memory have explained: “Do not provoke Me in Him,” but let him bear in mind that all are One, and all are the only One God, without being divided.

“For He will not pardon your transgressions.” Although this Angel has power to forgive sins, and the power of pardon is delivered into His hand, yet He will not pardon your sins, if you provoke Him; because whoever provokes Him, provokes my name, that is, provokes God in Him. When David, of blessed memory, said, Psalm 130:4: “But there is forgiveness with thee,” our Rabbis of blessed memory were of opinion, that such power to forgive sin is not delivered to any of the created intelligences.

* The meaning is: Watch thyself not to fall into sin, because this Angel is the express image of God’s countenance; God’s attributes are revealed in Him.

The Zohar identifies Metatron as the Middle Pillar of the Godhead:

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 of the Godhead 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)

The Zohar also says of the Son of YHWH:

The Holy One, blessed be He, has a son, whose glory (tifret)
shines from one end of the world to another. He is a great
and mighty tree, whose head reaches heaven, and whose roots
are set in the holy ground, and his name is “Mispar” and his
place is in the uppermost heaven… as it is written, “The heavens
declare (me-SaPRim) the glory (tifret) of God” (Ps. 19:1).
Were it not for this “Mispar” there would be neither hosts
nor offspring in any of the worlds.
(Zohar 2:105a)

This Zohar passage is intended to recall a passage from the Bahir:

Why are they called Sephirot?
Because it is written (Ps. 19:2),
“The heavens declare (me-SaPRim) the glory of God.”
(Bahir 125)

The Zohar also says concerning the Son of Yah:

“We may also translate “he who withholds blessings
from the Son” (Prov. 11:26), whom the Father and Mother
have CROWNED and blessed with many blessings,
and concerning whom they commanded, “Kiss the SON
lest he be angry” (Ps. 2:12), since he is invested
with judgment (GEVURAH) and with mercy (CHESED)”
(Zohar 3:191b)

According to Philo of Alexandria, this Angel was a manifestation of the Word (Logos):

For God, like a shepherd and a king, governs (as if they were a flock of sheep) the earth, and the water, and the air, and the fire, and all the plants, and living creatures that are in them, whether mortal or divine; and he regulates the nature of the heaven, and the periodical revolutions of the sun and moon, and the variations and harmonious movements of the other stars, ruling them according to law and justice; appointing, as their immediate superintendent, his own right reason (Logos), his first-born son, who is to receive the charge of this sacred company, as the lieutenant of the great king; for it is said somewhere, “Behold, I am he! I will send my messenger before thy face, who shall keep thee in the Road.”(Ex 23:20.) (52) Let therefore all the world, the greatest and most perfect flock of the living God, say “The Lord is my shepherd, and he shall cause me to lack nothing,” (Ps. 23:1) (53) and let every separate individual say the same thing; not with the voice which proceeds from his tongue and his mouth, extending only through a scanty portion of the air, but with the wide spreading voice of the mind, which reaches to the very extremities of this universe; for it is impossible that there should be a deficiency of anything that is necessary, where God presides, who is in the habit of bestowing good things in all fulness and completeness in all living beings.
(On Husbandry 51b-55)

(174) for until a man is made perfect he uses divine reason (Logos) as the guide of his path, for that is the sacred oracle of scripture: “Behold, I send my angel before thy face that he may keep thee in the road, so as to lead thee into the land which I have prepared for thee. Attend thou to him, and listen to him; do not disobey him; for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in Him.” (Ex 23:20-21.) (175) But when he has arrived at the height of perfect knowledge, then, running forward vigorously, he keeps up with the speed of him who was previously leading him in his way; for in this way they will both become attendants of God who is the guide of all things; no one of those who hold erroneous opinions accompanying them any longer, and even Lot himself, who turned on one side the soul, which might have been upright and inflexible, removing and living at a distance.
(Migration of Abraham 174-175)

So we have ancient Jewish traditions, that the “angel” that guided the Assembly of Israel in the wilderness, was in fact, the Son of Yah and the Word!

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