- Rabbi Isaac Roussel
Fair & Unblemished
Throughout his time here on earth, Yeshua repeatedly healed people of various ailments and cast out demons. Last week we read that just as he was doing these things Yochannan’s talmidim came and asked if he was the Messiah. Yeshua’s answer was to tell him what they were seeing; The lame walk, blind see, deaf hear, lepers are healed, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.
When people read this they usually think that Yeshua is merely reflecting God’s love and compassion, which he indeed is, but there is more to it. His response to them is a direct reference to Isaiah’s prophecies of Israel’s restoration. In Isaiah 35.5-6 it says, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped; then the lame man will leap like a deer, and the mute person’s tongue will sing.” And in Isaiah 61.1, “The Spirit of Adonai is upon me, because Adonai has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark''.
These passages are speaking directly to promises of Hashem’s deliverance and restoration of Israel. By both his action and words Yeshua is declaring that he is indeed ushering in the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, which begins with the restoration of Israel. His acts of healing speak to this as well as demonstrate God’s love and compassion. Yochannan proclaimed that the Kingdom was at hand and after his arrest Yeshua also began preaching the same message. When accused of being demon possessed, Yeshua rebutted, “...if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you!”
In church circles it is usually taught that the coming of the Kingdom of God began with Yeshua’s advent. But as Messianic Jews, we understand that the process of redemption begins with Israel and then expands to the nations of the world and ultimately to all of Creation. Yeshua’s appearance on the scene was not some sudden radical change in God’s plan but a progression of what Hashem began with Israel in the Torah. When speaking on this subject, I often tell people that the Messiah’s coming wasn’t a sharp left turn but a radical leap forward in God’s plan. It is not a change in plans, but a quantum leap on the trajectory that salvation history was already on.
There is a midrashic connection to this thought in our parsha this week. The midrash notices that at Har Sinai, everyone said that they “will do and hear”. The midrash concludes that for everyone to hear, speak, and do then everyone at the foot of Sinai were healed; deaf, mute, and lame. This comes from the Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael:
...there were none who were blind among them, as it is stated: "And all the people saw."
... there were none who were mute among them, as it is stated: "And all the people answered together" (Shemot 19:8).
... there were none who were deaf among them, as it is stated: "All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will listen" (Shemot 24:7).
And from where do we know that there were none who were lame among them? As it is stated: "And they stood at the bottom of the mountain" (Shemot 19:17).
...there were no simpletons among them, as it is stated: "To you it was shown, that you might know" (Devarim 4:35).
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai ties this to a verse in Shir Ha-Shirim where it declares, “You are fair my beloved and there is no blemish in you “. Rabbi Shimon states that “fair” refers to Israel’s spiritual purity at the foot of Mt. Sinai; And “no blemish” refers to their physical healing.
Our receiving of Torah at Har Sinai is the beginning of God’s kingdom. He establishes a people as a foothold in the world of sin and darkness. Israel is both the firstfruits of God’s redemption, as Jeremiah declares, and a down payment of more to come to the rest of the world. Likewise, Yeshua as the One-Man-Israel, is the firstfruits of the Resurrection and through him we will all experience that ultimate redemption, when we will truly be fair and without blemish.
We wait for the day for this physical healing; for that day when we will all be perfected in our glorified bodies. Until then our task is described by another commentary on our parsha this week. The Torah states that the people could see the sounds coming forth from Sinai. How can one see words? One commentary states that as God spoke His words literally became visible before their eyes. It was a supernatural sight. But another commentary declares that Hashem’s words continue to radiate out from Mt. Sinai to this very day. Our task is to help those around us gain supernatural sight; for them to truly see the words of God and to declare along with Israel “I shall do and hear”.
Redemption did not begin with Yeshua’s advent. It began at Mt. Sinai. One could argue that it began with Avraham, but certainly at a national level at Sinai. Yeshua’s life, death, and resurrection was a radical leap forward on a trajectory that the world was already on. This is evidenced by people being made whole; shalom, which means whole. And while we look forward to that day when Messiah ushers us into full shalom, may we give sight to the spiritually blind in our midst so that they can join us in anticipation and will also be the beloved who is fair and without blemish in Hashem’s eyes!