101 Names of The Messiah

by Tsvi Sadan




The name Deer (Tsvi) for the Messiah is learned from the Song of Songs, the only book in the Bible that should be interpreted allegorically. In fact, the Talmud says the only reason that the Song of Songs is in the Bible is because it is an allegorical and not a literal text. Rather than understanding it as a love song between a man and a woman, it must be interpreted as a love song between God or the Messiah (the beloved) and Israel (the Shulamite). The Church adopted this idea, but interpreted the book as a love song between the Messiah and the Church.

Although the "beloved" is normally considered to be God in the book, the term dod (beloved) can also refer to the Messiah. Therefore, Midrash Shir Hashirim says on the verse, "My beloved is like a deer [tsvi] or a young stag" (Song of Songs 2:9): "What is this deer like, that he is seen and hidden, seen and hidden again? So the first redeemer was seen and was hidden and returned to be seen again" (Cant. Rabbah 2:3).

The sages aptly captured the image of a seen and unseen deer running through the bush and compared it to Moses – the first redeemer. Moses' "first coming" occurred when he killed the Egyptian and was rejected by the two Hebrews fighting each other (Exodus 2:12-14). His "second coming" occurred when he returned after hiding out for 40 years in the desert.

The sages correctly understood that, in many aspects, Moses' autobiography foretells the coming of the "last redeemer". So, for example, just as Israel suffered horribly at the hands of the Egyptians after Moses' "first coming", so it will suffer terribly between the first and the second coming of the Messiah. While not using the Christian terminology of two "advents", Rabenu Bahaye (14th century) explains that, "In our future redemption, when the last redeemer is going to be revealed, hate will awaken between Israel and the idol worshippers... And the redeemer will be seen and hidden in order to deceive the idol worshippers and to harden their hearts, since this is what we learn from the redemption from Egypt" (Rabenu Bahaye on Exodus 5:22).

The deer's beauty also gave rise to the meaning of tsvi as "glory". In a previous article, we learned that the Messiah is also called "Glory". Thus the words in Isaiah 24:16 – "From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: 'Glory [tsvi] to the righteous!'" – receive a distinctively messianic meaning.

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