Faith in the Messiah is 1 of Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith.
Maimonides codified belief in the Moshiach as one of the essential principles of Jewish faith. At the beginning of his Mishne Torah, he writes that “one who does not believe in him, or who does not await his coming, denies not only the prophets but also the Torah and Moses our Teacher.”
We also see this belief and expectation in the Amida ( The Standing Prayer) also called the Shemoneh Esrei (the 18th prayer). It is written there:
אֶת צֶמַח דָּוִד עַבְדְּךָ מְהֵרָה תַצְמִיחַ. וְקַרְנו תָּרוּם בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ. כִּי לִישׁוּעָתְךָ קִוִּינוּ כָּל הַיּום. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, מַצְמִיחַ קֶרֶן יְשׁוּעָה
Et tze-mach Da-vid av-d’cha m’hei-rah tatz-mi-ach, v’kar-no ta-rum bi-shu-a-te-cha, ki li-shu-a-t’cha ki-vi-nu kol ha-yom. Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, matz-mi-ach ke-ren y’shu-ah.
The sprout of David, Your servant, speedily cause to flourish and exalt his power with Your deliverance, for Your deliverance we hope all day, and watch for Your deliverance. Blessed are You Hashem, Who causes to sprout the power of salvation.
Why doesn’t the text ” simply” speaks of the Messiah, why does the text call him “sprout” in this verse?
We also see the word Tsemach – Sprout – in Jeremiah 23:5
הִנֵּ֨ה יָמִ֤ים בָּאִים֙ נְאֻם־ה’ וַהֲקִמֹתִ֥י לְדָוִ֖ד צֶ֣מַח צַדִּ֑יק וּמָ֤לַךְ מֶ֙לֶךְ֙ וְהִשְׂכִּ֔יל וְעָשָׂ֛ה מִשְׁפָּ֥ט וּצְדָקָ֖ה בָּאָֽרֶץ׃
See, a time is coming—declares G-d—when I will raise up a true branch of David’s line. He shall reign as king and shall prosper, and he shall do what is just and right in the land.
The verse in Jeremiah is clearly speaking about the Messiah. Metzudat David is teaching us that the Sprout will reign successfully as king over the land of Israel and be successfully and do justice and righteousness.*
A sprout is the sprouting of seedlings. A beautiful text in which these two words are both used is Isaiah 61:11
כִּ֤י כָאָ֙רֶץ֙ תּוֹצִ֣יא צִמְחָ֔הּ וּכְגַנָּ֖ה זֵרוּעֶ֣יהָ תַצְמִ֑יחַ
For as the earth sends forth its growth, and as a garden sprouts its seedlings…
In the word זֵרוּעֶ֣יהָ we see זרע. We see these three root letters in the word תַזְרִ֔יעַwhich is the name of a Parsha: Parshat Tazria
This Parsha deals largely with the condition of ritual uncleanness and people with the disease tzara’ath. A disease in which the walls of a house, a person’s clothes, or the person himself can develop a white rash.
The succeeding parsha is Parshat Metzorah (the two parshot are often read together). This Parsha also elaborates on tzara’ath and the cleansing process for the person who has the illness.
That brings us to the person with tzara’ath, called Metzorah, which brings us to the Messiah, also called Metzorah. This can be learned from Isaiah 53:4. and the commentary about this verse in the Talmud Sanhedrin 98b
אָכֵ֤ן חֳלָיֵ֙נוּ֙ ה֣וּא נָשָׂ֔א וּמַכְאֹבֵ֖ינוּ סְבָלָ֑ם וַאֲנַ֣חְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻ֔הוּ נָג֛וּעַ מֻכֵּ֥ה אֱ-לֹקים וּמְעֻנֶּֽה׃
Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing,
Our suffering that he endured.
We accounted him plagued,
Smitten and afflicted by G-d;
We know from the process of tzara’ath that it was a gradual process. First the house, then the clothes then the person. It was a process in which man was given every opportunity to improve himself.
With a sprout, you see exactly the same thing, a slow development process.
We see in (the continuation of) Isaiah 61:11 that it says
כן | אֲ-דֹנָ֣י ה’ יַצְמִ֤יחַ צְדָקָה֙ וּתְהִלָּ֔ה נֶ֖גֶד כׇּל־הַגּוֹיִֽם׃
… so will G-d cause righteousness and praise to sprout in the presence of all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:11)
King Messiah will bring justice, peace, and knowledge of G-d. But all this will not happen overnight as some people think. It does not come out of the blue. It is a gradual process. A process that will begin in Israel – in de house – and slowly spread from there to the rest of the world – the clothing – and eventually it will take root in the hearts of all people – the skinn.
By Angelique Sijbolts
Thanks to Rabbi W. van Dijk for the inspiring question.