101 Names of The Messiah

by Tsvi Sadan




It is said in the letter to the Hebrews that the Messiah is holy, innocent and pure (Hebrew tahor), or undefiled (Hebrew 7:26). In context, these are the attributes of the High Priest who cannot perform his annual duty to forgive Israel's sins unless he is holy, innocent and pure. Purity, therefore, was a prerequisite if forgiveness was to be achieved by the acts of the High Priest (Leviticus 8-9). There is ample evidence that the sages as well as the biblical authors saw the High Priest as a messianic figure, of which the author of Hebrews is intimately familiar with. However, the Messiah, who is the king of Israel, and the High Priest were two distinct personalities and, indeed, there was no scriptural demand from the king to be pure, that is, to be able to forgive Israel's sins.

Nevertheless, David, whose Son is the Messiah, set up a precedent that would have constituted a grave offense by anyone else. On the celebration for the moving of the Arc back to Jerusalem, it is said, "And David is girded with a linen ephod" (2 Samuel 6:14). This act, the sages concluded, had great significance. For in doing so, the King had become the Priest. That David saw himself as a high priest was demonstrated by his own prayer: "You, O LORD, will keep them" (Psalm 12:7), a prayer reminiscent of the High Priest blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 (Leviticus Raba on chapter 21:1).

Yet the word pure, which would make him eligible to be a priest, is still missing from David's résumé, unless one turns to the unusual description of David's appearance. Though Samuel was at first unimpressed, the ruddy lad with beautiful eyes was chosen by God to be the anointed king (1 Samuel 16:12). This curious physical description led the sages to conclude that "beautiful eyes" must mean a person of pure qualities. Concerning this, a modern interpretation says the following: "Our sages of blessed memory understood [the term] beautiful eye to mean goodness and pure attributes... accordingly we should understand the text from Tanhuma that says: 'as for the pure, this is David as it is said, ruddy with beautiful eyes'. Though it does not specifically speak of purity, according to the above, beautiful eyes mean pure attributes" (Torah Temima on Numbers 15:24).

And since David is a pre-figure of the Messiah, there is little wonder that we find in another place that Messiah is also called Ruddy with Beautiful Eyes (Pesiqta Zutarta on Genesis 36:43). This seemingly negligible detail is what makes the Messiah worthy to be the High Priest or the forgiver of Israel's sins.

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