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Johanan ben Torta

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johanan ben Torta (Hebrew: יוחנן בן תורתא‎, read as Yochanan ben Torta) was a Jewish rabbi of the early 2nd century (third generation of tannaim).

He was one of the main opponents of the Bar Kokhba revolt:

Shimon bar Yochai recounts: Rabbi Akiva would elucidate, "A star has came forth out of Jacob"[1] [as] '[Bar] Kozba' [2] has came forth out of Jacob'. When Akiva would see 'Bar Kokhba', he would say: 'This is the King Messiah'. [And then] R. Johanan ben Torta would tell him: "Akiva, Grass shall grow from your cheeks and yet the son of David shall not appear."[3]

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  • ✪ Dr Maurice Mizrahi - The Jewish Messiah (Balak)
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Dr Maurice M. Mizrahi B”H D’var Torah on Balak The Jewish Messiah In this week’s Torah portion, Balak, we hear the first reference to the expected Jewish Messiah: And Balaam [the Gentile prophet] said... [I] heard the words of God, and know the knowledge of the most High, [and] saw the vision of the Almighty... A star shall shoot forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel… A ruler shall come out of Jacob... [Numbers 24:12-19] This passage is understood by all commentators to refer to the future Messiah. The prophet Isaiah elaborated: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government is upon his shoulder. His name shall be “Wonderful Counselor of the Mighty God, of the Everlasting Father, of the Prince of Peace”. [His mission shall be] to increase government, establish unending peace upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, and uphold it through justice and righteousness from that time forth and forevermore. [Isaiah 9:5-6] Later, Isaiah adds: And there shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow from his roots; and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord... And he shall not judge by what his eyes see, nor decide by what his ears hear, but he shall judge with righteousness... and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked... And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb And the leopard shall lie down with the kid And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together And a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed. Their young ones shall lie down together. And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp. And the weaned child shall put his hand in the vipers' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. -And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse... To which the nations shall seek... And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again, the second time, to recover the remnant of his people... and He shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth... Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. [Isaiah 11:1-13] So we Jews are waiting for the Messiah. The Hebrew word is (Mashiach, מָשִׁיחַ). It means “The Anointed One”, because kings were anointed with oil when they began their reign. Many contenders arose over the centuries, but the rabbis disqualified them all. Why? What, exactly, are the job requirements? What are we expecting? What will happen after he arrives? Maybe YOU qualify! From the above quotes, we conclude that the Messiah will: 1. Be a human being. (It says: “For a child is born to us -- ki yeled yullad lanu”.) 2. Be a Jew descended from King David. (It says: “A rod from the stem of Jesse -- choter migeza' Yishai”.) 3. Deliver Israel from its enemies. (It says: “With the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked”.) 4. Lead the exiles back into the Land of Israel. (It says: “And in that day... the Lord shall... gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”) 5. Rule and judge fairly. (It says: “With righteousness shall he judge”.) 6. Bring universal peace. (It says: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb -- vegar ze-ev 'im keves venamer 'im gedi”.) People will stop bickering and envying one another. [It says: “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.”] 7. Cause God to be recognized by all mankind. (It says: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord -- mal'a haaretz de'ah et HaShem”.) The Temple will also be rebuilt (since it was standing in the days of Isaiah), but sacrifices and prayers will be limited to thanksgiving, because there will be no need for sin or guilt offerings, or for petitionary prayers. Indeed, the Midrash says: In the Time to Come all sacrifices will be abolished, except for the thanksgiving offering, and all prayers will be annulled, except those for Thanksgiving. [Leviticus R. 9:7] The Jewish liturgy is filled with references to the future Messiah. In the Amidah, which we recite three times a day, we pray for all promised messianic accomplishments: Blessing 10 refers to the ingathering of the exiles, Blessing 11 refers to the restoration of justice, Blessing 12 refers to the end of enemy oppression, Blessing 13 refers to the reward given to the righteous, Blessing 14 refers to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, Blessing 15 refers to the coming of the Messiah, Blessing 17 refers to the restoration of the Temple, and Blessing 19 refers to universal peace. The Messiah will have a forerunner in his lifetime. The Talmud says: Mashiach ben Yosef (the Messiah son of Joseph) will appear before Mashiach ben David (the Messiah son of David), and announce his coming, prepare the ground, and be killed in war. [Sukkah 52a] Also, the prophet Elijah will return first. The prophet Malachi relates what God told him: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers… [Malachi 4:5–6] During Havdalah, concluding Shabbat, we sing a song asking for Elijah to come and bring the Messiah with him: Eliahu hanavi... Bimhera beyamenu yavo elenu, ‘im Mashiach ben David. Elijah the Prophet… May he come to us soon, in our day, with the Messiah, the son of David. In the Birkat HaMazon, the Grace after Meals, we also ask for Elijah: הָרַחֲמָן, הוּא יִשְׁלַח לָֽנוּ אֶת אֵלִיָּֽהוּ הַנָּבִיא זָכוּר לַטּוֹב, וִיבַשֶּׂר לָֽנוּ בְּשׂוֹרוֹת טוֹבוֹת יְשׁוּעוֹת וְנֶחָמוֹת Harachaman hu yish'lach lanu et Eliyahu Hanavi, zachur latov, Vivasser lanu b’sorot tovot yeshu'ot venechamot. May the All-Merciful One send us Elijah the Prophet, may he be remembered for good, and may he annouce to us news of goodness, salvation, and comfort. King Cyrus of Persia, who allowed Israel to return from Babylonian captivity and rebuild the Temple, is also referred to as “mashiach”: Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus [le-meshicho, le-Khoresh] … [Isaiah 45:1] A few Jewish groups, such as the Satmar Hasidim or Neturei Karta, believe that only the Messiah will gather the exiles, and so reject the State of Israel on those grounds. On the other end of the spectrum, many secular Jews view David ben Gurion, the main founder of the State of Israel, as a secular Jewish Messiah, and the state itself as “reshit tz’michat ge’ullatenu – the beginning of the flowering of our redemption.” Note that a divine being who sacrifices himself to atone for our sins is not a Jewish concept. Maimonides explains the true purpose of the Messiah concept: The sages and the prophets did not crave the era of Mashiach in order to rule over the world... or to eat, drink and rejoice, but only so that they be free for Torah and its wisdom and be rid of any oppressor and disrupter... [Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 11-12] One of his thirteen principles of faith is to believe in the coming of the Messiah: אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה בְּבִיאַת הַמָּשִֽׁיחַ, וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיִּתְמַהְמֵֽהַּ, עִם כָּל זֶה אֲחַכֶּה לּוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם שֶׁיָּבוֹא Ani ma'amin be-emuna shelema, beviat ha-mashiach Veaf al pi sheyit-mahmeha im kol zeh, Achake loh bechol yom she-yavo I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah And, even though he may tarry, still will I wait for him When will the Messiah come? In general, Jewish tradition says that he will come either when he is most needed or when he is most deserved. Here are some possibilities: First, the Messiah will come when Israel repents. The Talmud says: Rav said: [The arrival of the Messiah] depends only on repentance and good deeds… Rabbi Eliezer said: If Israel repent, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: If they do not repent… the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman's, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and he will thus bring them back to the right path. [Sanhedrin 97b] Second, the Messiah will come when Israel observes two Shabbatot in a row properly. The Talmud says: Rav Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on bar Yochai: If Israel were to keep two Shabbatot according to the laws [of Shabbat], they would be redeemed immediately. [Shabbat 118b] Third, the Messiah will come at the time God has already decided, but may come sooner if Israel observes even one Shabbat properly. The Midrash says: Rabbi Levi said: If Israel kept Shabbat properly even for one day, the son of David would come… Rabbi Yochanan said: The Holy One, blessed be He, told Israel: Although I have set a definite term for the millennium which will come at the appointed time whether Israel returns to Me in penitence or not, still, if they repent even for one day, I will bring it before its appointed time… Just as we find that the son of David will come as a reward for the observance of all commandments, so also will he come for the observance of Shabbat, because Shabbat is equivalent to all commandments… [Ex. R. 25:12] The Jerusalem Talmud confirms this teaching: Though I have set a limit to “the end [of days],” that it will happen in its time regardless of whether they will repent or not… the son of David (the Messiah) will come if they keep just one Shabbat, because Shabbat is equivalent to all the the mitzvot. [Ta’anit Y 1:10] There is one problem here: What is “all Israel”? There are many people today who have an ancestress up the matrilineal line who converted out of Judaism. This makes them fully Jewish according to Jewish law, but they don’t know they are Jewish. They may even constitute the majority of the Jews today! Fourth, the Messiah will come when Israel is united. When Jacob was on his deathbed, he told his sons: Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what will befall you in the end of days. Gather yourselves together, and hear… [Gen. 49:1-2] This is interpreted to mean: Though it is not known when the Day of Judgment will be, I tell you that the hour you gather and assemble together, you shall be redeemed. [Aggadat Bereishit 82] Indeed, God likes Jewish unity. The Midrash tells us: [In Ex. 19:2], it says: “And Israel encamped there.” [It does not say:] “the children of Israel”, [but “Israel”], meaning they were united. [Upon seeing this,] the Holy One Blessed Be He said: “This is the time I will give the Torah to My children!” [Lev. R. 9:9] Fifth, the Messiah will come when the Jews are in trouble. The Talmud teaches: Rabbi Yochanan said: When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for [the Messiah]… When you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, wait for [the Messiah]. [Sanhedrin 98a] Sixth, the Messiah will come when the current generation is totally wicked. 19th-century Hassidic master Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin writes: The redemption will emerge precisely from a place of lust and sin, by means of repentance (teshuvah). The Talmud says, in Sanhedrin 98a, “The son of David [i.e., the Messiah] will come only in a generation that is entirely wicked.” David is the archetype for the messianic soul because he showed how to make repentance into a life principle… And just that is the realization of ultimate fulfillment, that the root of evil will be transformed to good… At that time, the lowest will become the highest. [Zadok HaKohen of Lublin in Tzidkat Ha-Tzaddik] But would this not encourage people to lapse into bad behavior for the express purpose of bringing the Messiah? It *has* happened in the past, as with pseudo-Messiah Jacob Frank. Seventh, the Messiah will come when the current generation is totally righteous. The Talmud says: Rabbi Yochanan also said: The son of David will come only in a generation that is entirely wicked or entirely righteous. [Sanhedrin 98a] The Talmud also teaches that the Messiah will be born on Tish’a b’Av, the day when we commemorate the destruction of the Temple. [Ber. Y 2:4] Some say the Messiah was born in the Middle East in 1949. Tish’a b’Av in 1949 was on August 4th. I was born in Egypt on September 4th, 1949! So I missed being a candidate Messiah by a month!  Looking for dates for the arrival of the Messiah has been a continuous pastime since the Middle Ages. Many predicted dates coincided with terrible persecutions of the Jews: The Crusades in 1096, the Black Death in Europe in 1346, the Expulsion from Spain in 1492, the Chmielnicki massacres in Poland and Ukraine in 1648, etc. All were referred to as “the birth pangs of the Messiah” (hevlei Mashiach). The rabbis never liked the practice of trying to predict the time of the Messiah's coming, because they feared mistakes would cause people to lose faith in the messianic idea, or even in Judaism. We read in Sefer Hasidim, written in 12th-century Germany: If you see that a man has prophesied the advent of the Messiah, know that he is engaged either in sorcery or in dealings with devils; or that he uses the power of the Divine Name... One must say to such a man: “Do not talk in this manner...” [Sefer Hasidim 212] Interestingly, the Messiah seems to have an ancestry that results from activities strongly disapproved by the Torah. The Bible tells us that his descendance is as follows. Lot sleeps with his daughter and fathers Moab, ancestor of Ruth. Judah, married to a Canaanite woman, sleeps with his daughter-in-law Tamar, who disguised herself as a prostitute, and fathers Peretz, ancestor of Boaz. Boaz marries Ruth and fathers Obed, ancestor of King David. King David marries Bathsheba, after sending her husband Uriah on a suicide mission, and fathers Solomon. Solomon is the ancestor of the future Messiah. So the Messiah will be the product of incest, marriage with idolaters, visiting prostitutes, deception, adultery, and abuse of power bordering on murder. One wonders what the lesson here is. Perhaps that some good can always come out of evil? Throughout Jewish history, many pretenders have claimed to be the Messiah. Most are unknown or little known. Many Jews, especially Hassidim, believe there is someone in each generation who could be the Messiah. They call him Tzaddik Ha-Dor – the Tzaddik of the Generation. Let us review some better-known claimants. Judah Maccabee led a successful revolt against the Seleucid empire of Antiochus Epiphanes. Many saw him as the Messiah because he freed the Jews from foreign domination, and events in his life paralleled prophecies found in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 8. He died in 160 BCE. Jesus of Nazareth, born in 4 BCE and died in 30 CE, is the best-known and most influential candidate. His 2.5 billion followers in the world today believe he was the Messiah. However, belief in him was not strong in the Land of Israel, and had to be exported to take root, at the hand of Paul. Toledot Yeshu, an unflattering Jewish account of the origins of Christianity, claims that Paul was acting on orders of the Sanhedrin, to separate believers in Jesus from other Jews, by creating a new religion distinct from Judaism. Bar Kochba, who died in 135 CE, led the second revolt against Rome and was accepted by many as the Messiah, including influential Rabbi Akiva. The Midrash says: When Rabbi Akiva beheld Bar [Kochba], he exclaimed, “This is the king Messiah!” Rabbi Yochanan bar Torta retorted: “Akiva, grass will grow in your cheeks and [the Messiah] will still not have come!” [Lam. R. 2:4] In 448, a Jew claiming to be Moses told the Jews of Crete he would bring them to Judea without ships. He ordered them to jump in the sea and many drowned. [Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiae, 12:33]. In 16th-century Europe, David Reubeni said he was the brother of the King of Khaibar, a town in Arabia where the tribes of Reuben and Gad were said to dwell; and that he was sent to Europe to secure arms and alliances to fight the Muslims. He joined forces with Solomon Molcho, a converso and mystic, got excellent reception from Christian authorities, and many Jews accepted him as the Messiah. However, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, forced him to convert to Christianity, then jailed him and burned Molcho at the stake in 1532. In 17th century Europe, the Chmielnicki massacres, which killed 300,000 Jews, led to Messianism, then to Hassidism. A man named Shabbetai Tzvi thought he was the Messiah in 1665, spurred by Nathan of Gaza. Prominent rabbis accepted him. Millions set out for Jerusalem. The Muslim Sultan put a stop to it and forced him to convert to Islam. Many followers, called Sabbateans, did the same, believing one must sink very low before the redemption arrives. Many Sabbateans also claimed to be the Messiah after Tzvi’s death: Mordecai Mokia, Jacob Querido and his son Berokia, Miguel Cardoso (of Marrano heritage), Löbele Prossnitz, and Isaiah Hasid. In 18th-century Europe, Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov, founded Hassidism around mysticism, simple faith, joy and fervor in worship, veneration of leadership, and distinctive dress. An early de-emphasis of study and legalities was later reversed. Jacob Frank, the son of a Sabbatean, claimed to be the reincarnation of Shabbetai Tzvi. In 1759, he and followers converted to Christianity and created new religion, Frankism, which mixed Christianity and Judaism. His daughter Eve Frank claimed to be the incarnation of the Shechinah, the female aspect of God; as well as the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, and had her own following. In 19th-century Yemen, Shukr Kuhayl claimed to be the Messiah and almost all Yemenite Jews believed in him. [Jacob Saphir, in Even Sappir]. The ruler viewed him as a threat and ordered him killed in 1865. Three years later, Yehudah ben Shalom claimed to be his reincarnation and led a powerful messianic movement that also attracted Arabs. Hugely popular at first, he then lost followers and died a pauper in 1878. In the 20th century, many Lubavitch Hassidim believed their rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was the Messiah. He often said the Messiah’s coming is imminent, and urged everybody to pray and hasten the day with acts of kindness. He himself never said he was the Messiah, and rejected claims by others that he was. After his death, some still believed he was the Messiah, but Chabad leaders have muted such Messianic opinions. Generally, Hassidim frequently believe their Rebbe is the Messiah. Let us conclude with the words of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai in the Talmud: If you are holding a sapling in your hand and someone tells you, “Come quickly, the Messiah is here!”, first finish planting the tree, then go greet the Messiah. [Avot de Rabbi Nathan 2:31, 31b] In other words: Restrain your enthusiasm, do not neglect your work, and beware of false pretenders. Shabbat shalom.

Name

His name translates to "Johanan, son of the cow", and he is associated with the story of the "cow which kept Shabbat", in which a Jewish-owned cow was accustomed not to work on Shabbat (see Exodus 20:9). Upon being sold to a non-Jew, the cow refused to work on Shabbat, until the non-Jew complained about the defective animal he was sold. The Jew instructed the cow to work on Shabbat since it was no longer Jewish-owned, and the cow began to work. The non-Jew was so impressed by this that he decided to convert to Judaism. In different versions of the story, Johanan ben Torta was either the Jew who sold the cow, or the non-Jew who converted.[4]

References

  1. ^ Numbers 24:17
  2. ^ 'Kozba' ("lie") instead of Simon bar Kokhba, an emphasis of the author siding with Torta's commentary
  3. ^ Yerushalmi Ta'anit 4:8 68d; Eichah Rabbah 2:4
  4. ^ The Cow That Kept Shabbat
This page was last edited on 31 March 2019, at 15:12
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