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Can a Torah Faithful, Orthodox Jew Believe that Jesus was (or will be) the Messiah of Israel?

by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2013 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.

Note: To all the religious extremists and haters out there. Please leave me out of your debates and diatribes! This essay expresses my thoughts and ideas about how to build bridges between divergent religious communities, for the sake of honoring the name of God, and creating peace on Earth. Do not twist and turn my words and/or use them to create strife and division. I stand for peace and unity. I have expressed these thoughts to try to help enable people understand one another. Work with me (not against me) in this sacred endeavor.

To my Christian readers, what unites us is far greater than that which separates us. In order to properly proclaim the glory of God and to speak His Divine truths, it is incumbent upon us to build bridges over the chasms that presently divide us.
Let me begin by first addressing and putting aside two issues. Number One, Torah law prohibits Jews from accepting that Yeshu (or any other human being) is God or a god, and as such worshiped, or prayed to. The concept of “the word of God becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us” (CB John 1:14) is, (in alternate terminology), actually well known and embraced in Judaism. However, this concept as originally spoken of, and understood in Judaism, is not what is embraced by Christianity today. Further discussion of this issue is outside the scope of our present discussion.
Number Two, Torah law prohibits Jews from abandoning the ritual observance of the Divinely ordained commandments by which Jews live by. Surprisingly, Yeshu taught exactly this, but his original intent has, over many centuries, gotten lost under mountains of Christian theology. These two issues are what divide Christianity from Judaism, not the issue of whether Yeshu was (is, or will be) the Messiah.
Remember this, the concept of a Messiah, as being one who saves one's soul from sin and eternal damnation, is not at all a Jewish concept, and never was. This is an exclusively Christian concept. The Messiah according to Torah, the prophets and Judaism, is a savior in this world, who restorers the lost Kingdom of Israel, physically, in this world. The Torah/prophets/Jewish Mashiah has nothing to do with the spiritual world. The Jewish Mashiah is a political title, not a spiritual one.
With this being said, can a Torah faithful, Orthodox Jew believe that Jesus was (or will be) the Messiah of Israel? Well, it might come as a surprise to both Jew and Christian, but the answer to this question is actually a conditional yes! It all depends upon how what such belief is, and what it means. Let's explain.
First and foremost, I say with assurance that among the many Jewish law codes that outline Torah law, practices and beliefs, none of them include a statement that in any way states that it is out rightly forbidden to believe that the historical Jesus (best to be referred to by his actual historical name Yeshu) was, or will be the Messiah of Israel.
There is no law in Judaism that forbids one to believe that anyone could be the Messiah. The identity of the Messiah is not known, and therefore, the Messiah could end up being anyone who fulfills the messianic prophecies, and has the verified, proper Davidic lineage. The Messiah could thus be you, me, or Yeshu if any of us met the proper Biblical requirements.
Now, with regards to Yeshu, we have a problem. We Jews, unlike our Christian neighbors, believe that Yeshu is long dead, dead and buried. And, with the exception of the Lubavitcher Hasidim, Judaism does not believe that the Messiah can come from the dead. But, let's examine this belief and see, how, from a Jewish point of the view, it could become true.
If the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who is dead, is himself to become the Messiah, then he must be resurrected from the dead. This, in and of itself, would be a miraculous feat, but it still would not substantiate him as being the Messiah. Resurrected or not, he would still have to fulfill the Biblical requirements of being verified from the proper Davidic bloodline, and only then, fulfill all the other Biblical prophecies of rebuilding the physical Temple in Jerusalem, make world peace, and the like. If a resurrected Rebbe can do all this, great, all the more power to him.
Yet, as of today, the Rebbe lies in his grave, and we have no signs of his imminent resurrection. So, how else could he or any one else dead then come to be the Messiah? Without resurrection, there is still one other way, reincarnation.
Now Orthodox Jews believe in reincarnation (except for a fringe extremist element), and Christians used to believe in reincarnation, but do not any more. So, if the dead were reincarnated, then the soul of someone from the past can indeed, be born again as someone new in the future (or present).
But, here we have a minor glitch. You see, the newborn will now have a new identity, and thus technically is no longer the previous person. We can say that such a one is the reincarnation (gilgul) of the past person, but we cannot say that the newborn is actually that same person. This would be true about Yeshu, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, or anyone else.
Now, Christians circumvent the reincarnation issue, and go directly to the resurrection argument. They claim that Yeshu has already been resurrected, and that right now he is in Heaven, alongside God and the angels, which must include the angels Metatron and Sandalphon. Yet, one thing I find interesting, and disturbing, about the Christian record (recorded in the Christian Bible), with regards to Yeshu's ascent into Heaven is that it is strikingly different from other recorded ascents into Heaven. There are definitely certain things missing from the Yeshu account that cast very serious doubt upon its historicity.
In Judaism, we have accounts of two who have ascended to Heaven previous to Yeshu. I speak of Enoch and Elijah. The Bible records Elijah's ascent, whereas Hekhalot (Enochian) literature (prominent in Temple times, and popular in Yeshu's days) records the account of Enoch's ascent. In both of these cases, both men were taken up to Heaven in chariots of fire, and then transformed genetically into creatures very alien to this Earth. Enoch became Metatron, and Elijah became Sandalphon, both creatures of fire, with many wings, and eyes. Essentially, both became angels in Heaven, and therefore, fundamentally, are no longer human.
For Elijah to return to Earth, he must again take on human form, and when he does, he does so only temporarily, and then divests it, to again return to his now permanent form as the angel Sandalphon. Elijah does not reincarnate. He is never born again.
Now, what about Yeshu, how did he ascend into Heaven, and how has he been living there ever since? Did he become an angel too? Some associate Yeshu with Metatron, but this is problematic. For we say that Metatron was Enoch, how then could he be Yeshu?
Granted, Enoch ascended into Heaven, but to suggest then that Enoch/Metatron was later born as Yeshu suggests that a soul once born on Earth, has now been born anew, a second time. One cannot get around it, this would be reincarnation. Is Yeshu the reincarnation of Enoch? If we were to associate him with Metatron, we would have to think so, and this poses a deep theological problem for Christianity that rejects reincarnation!
Also, an angel is no longer human, and thus cannot fulfill the role of being a blood line descendant of House David, such a being is therefore ineligible for the Messianic title.
Can an angelic being be born as a human being? We believe that it can be. However, if Enoch/Metatron was indeed Yeshu, and then he was to be physically born again in modern times, we would again have reincarnation. And, if we were to accept the possibility of this concept, how many charlatans and cult leaders would arise claiming to be the incarnation of Enoch, Metatron or Yeshu? It has happened in the past, why would we think ourselves immune to such deception today?
For a resurrected being to fulfill the role of the Messiah, he would have to remain in the grave, (and thus on Earth), and not have ascended to Heaven. This might work for the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It might also work for Yeshu if, like Jews believe, he is dead and buried. But this cannot work for Christians who believe that Yeshu is in Heaven, and thus cannot possibly be considered human anymore.
When we deal with Biblical prophecies, we have to accept them as they are. The prophecies are clear that the Messiah must be a verified descendant of House David, and if Yeshu was of House David, and if Yeshu did ascend into Heaven resurrected, then he has given up his human identity, and thus cannot legitimately claim it anew.
Then again, there always has been other issues with Yeshu's earthly identity, and claim to the Davidic throne. For Christianity has always proclaimed that Yeshu has no earthly father, be he Jewish, Davidic or otherwise. Anyone familiar with Torah law recognizes that this here creates a serious problem. For God's Law so ordains that a son inherit his father. If Yeshu had no earthly father, then he is not in line to inherit anything here on Earth. He is thus not eligible to claim House David lineage.
Granted, if Joseph, the husband of Yeshu's mother, wished to grant him a financial inheritance, that he could do. But, as not personally being a direct blood line of House David from his father, (who is not Joseph, according to Christianity), Yeshu would, therefore, not be qualified for the Messianic title.
And even if we were to overturn all of Christianity's beliefs about the so-called virgin birth, we are still left in a conundrum, in that there are two genealogies recorded for Yeshu, neither of which can be validated, and both of which seem to include information, that if verified, would disqualify him for the Messianic title. Unfortunately, the Gospel record does not help, or encourage, an authentic Jewish, Messianic claim for Yeshu. But, be this as it may, Jews do not accept the Christian accounts as “gospel truth,” so Jews are not bound by them. Nevertheless, the questions of legitimacy remain.
In his historical lifetime, it is possible, if the genealogy issues were not a question, for Yeshu's followers to have believed that he would, in the future, become the Messiah. Like we said above, there is no Torah law to prohibit one from believing that anyone could be the Messiah. Yet, once Yeshu was dead, the concept of a Messiah from the dead would not have occurred to those in his day. So, for Yeshu's followers to have believed that Yeshu could have been the Messiah, or would have been the Messiah, if he had lived, is not in violation of any Jewish law. But this was then. What about now?
Can a Torah faithful Jew believe today that Yeshu was the Messiah? The answer is no! Once Yeshu died, and did not fulfill all the Biblical prophecies, he can no longer be believed to be the Messiah. If one wants to believe that the Messiah, who is yet to be born, will be the reincarnation of Yeshu, this is a possible belief. But of course, who can prove or disprove any claims about reincarnation?
Yeshu cannot be the Messiah now, because we have no Messiah now, at least not a Messiah in accordance to Torah and Biblical prophecy and law. Therefore, to believe that Yeshu is now the Messiah is unsubstantiated. So, while Yeshu might have had the opportunity to be the Messiah in his day, that opportunity passed with his passing. So, any present consideration about Yeshu is equally disqualified.
All a believer in Yeshu can hope for is the future. Theoretically, it is possible for the Messiah to be a reincarnation of Yeshu, but we have already reviewed the problems with this. And indeed, if Yeshu is dead and buried, like Jews believed, then maybe, like the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he could be resurrected and thus eligible for the Messianic title, if and when we can overcome the huge obstacle of the confusing birthright issue, and conflicting genealogies.
So, there we have it. Technically speaking it is not forbidden to believe that Yeshu will come again some day, and be the Messiah. Yet, as we have learned this can only occur within certain parameters. And under such circumstances the Messiah would technically not be Yeshu, but rather his reincarnation.
As one can see, this issue can get rather confusing. Therefore, it has never been a Jewish concern to try to identify the Messiah prior to his fulfilling all the Biblical prophecies spoken with regards to him. It is really hard to see how Yeshu could ever become the Messiah, and it is definitely impossible to say that he actually was the Messiah in his own lifetime. The historical Yeshu never accomplished anything that the Mashiah of Torah/prophets/Judaism has to accomplish. The concept of Yeshu having a “second coming” is considered a comfortable theological justification to attempt to justify the lack of Yeshu's fulfillment of Biblical prophecies.
Christianity has developed its theology and stand firmly on it, in faith. So be it! Christian faith and beliefs are not a challenge to Judaism. On the contrary, as long as Christianity continues to embrace Jewish teachings, and the Jewish code of morals, indeed Jews applaud this warm embrace.
And what Jewish teachings do Christians embrace? Almost everything that is recorded in the Gospels, spoken by Yeshu, can be seen in the writings of the Rabbis of the period. It is a true shame that most Christians are not familiar with the Jewish origins of much of what Yeshu taught. If they were so educated, Christians would develop a great appreciation and love for Judaism, a love that I say, is long overdue.
If one wishes to believe that the historical Yeshu was a wise, good and kind Rabbi, one is not prohibited from such a belief, even though such a portrayal goes against every recorded Jewish/Torah tradition. Many missionary groups claim a Jewish affiliation with either Yeshu directly, or some pseudo “First Century” pre-Christian Christianity. Yet, while doing all this, they still maintain allegiance and loyalty to traditional Christian doctrine, theology and beliefs, which in and of themselves are later creations, and not the original teachings of Yeshu, and his Jerusalem followers.
In conclusion, I say that one may and indeed should believe as one wishes. One does not need proofs for one's religious beliefs. This is why such a beliefs are called “faith.”
We can continue a two thousand year argument, or we can move forward, and give glory to God, by emphasizing that which unites us, instead of that which divides us. Instead of fighting to the bitter end, let us instead agree to disagree with regards to unprovable theology, and move forward with our common agenda of morality and righteousness.
One day the true Messiah will indeed come. He will fulfill the prophecy in the Book of Zechariah that states on that day, his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. When that day does finally arrive, I pray that both righteous Jew and righteous Christian will jointly welcome the long awaited Messiah.
On that day, I pray that the first words out of our mouths will not be, “solve our argument, and tell us your name.”  Rather, I pray that together we will say, Barukh HaBa B'Shem Adonai, Blessed is he whom comes in the Name of the Lord.
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