The Ultra-Orthodox group Chabad Lubavitch claims that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the Messiah. Ezra Goldstein with The Jerusalem Report states:
Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s Chabad become the first mass movement since 17th century Sabbateanism not only to proclaim the messianic era but to name an actual messiah.
Yossi Klein Halevi, also with The Jerusalem Report, quotes:
I believe the rebbe met every criterion for being the Messiah.
– Jay Litvin
It is self evident that rabbi Schneerson, who died in 1994, does not fit the messianic qualifications laid out in Isaiah 53.
The Jewish people:
Modern rabbinic position says that the Suffering Servant is the nation Israel. The Soncino Bible Commentary states:
The servant is ideal Israel or the faithful remnant. That he is not an individual is the opinion of all Jewish and most modern non-Jewish commentators.
The one argument against this is found in a non-Jewish source, originating in one of the church fathers. Origen made a comment in Contra Selsa and said “I remember on one occasion at a disputation held with certain Jews who were reckoned wise men I quoted these prophecies (Isa. 53). To which my Jewish opponent replied that these predictions were a reference to the whole people, regarded as one individual…”
The Jewish community does not know who this particular rabbi is, they can only refer us to a Gentile source. This idea is a definite minority and an obscure opinion among the rabbis as it is only found in a non-Jewish source.
It has all been fulfilled:
In the Hertz Pentateuch the rabbi recognizes that the passage speaks of a singular individual but he minimizes the fact by taking the position that it has all been fulfilled.
- Hertz Pentateuch:
“The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. For eighteen hundred years Christian theologians have passionately maintained that it is a Prophetic anticipation of the life of the Founder of their Faith. An impartial examination of the chapter, however, shows that the Prophet is speaking of a past historical fact. And is describing one who had already been smitten to death. Consequently, a reference to an event which is said to have happened many centuries later is excluded… Modern scholarship has shattered the arguments from the Scriptures which missionaries have tried, and are still trying, to impose upon ignorant Jews.” (Emphasis mine)
If it has all been fulfilled then the passage is meaningless. Why would Isaiah talk about this past historical fact? What would be his point? Who would the innocent sufferer be prior to Isaiah? When were Gentile kings astonished before Isaiah? How and why did He die for Israel? Where is the justification and spiritual healing that supposedly came about before Isaiah came on the scene?
Please note the distinctive pronouns used in this passage. Look for pronouns like we, us, our, speaking of Isaiah and the Jewish people. Pronouns like he, him, his, refers to someone other than Isaiah and the Jewish people; it refers to the Messiah. Look for the fact that the “Servant of the Lord” is portrayed as a singular human personality rather than a nation. There is no allegory or personification of this servant as the nation of Israel.
In Isaiah 53:4-6 and Isaiah 53:8-9, we see that the servant is innocent but Israel is not. Isaiah 1:4 addresses Israel as “O sinful nation.” We are hardly innocent.
In verse 7, we see that the suffering of the Servant is voluntary, willing and silent. This has not been the case with Israel. We have not suffered for the last 2000 years, willingly, silently, or voluntarily. The rabbis will say, “look what happened during the Holocaust, the Jews just walked into the ovens without protest.” Incredibly, anyone who says that discounts revolts like the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, where the Jews in the ghetto held off the entire might of the German army for quite a while. The point is that the Jews did not walk voluntarily into the ovens. They may be silent, but they did not walk in voluntarily or willingly.
In verse 8, the servant dies for “my people.” Isaiah’s people were the Jews and God’s people were the Jews. The nation is not dying for the nation. To hold that the Suffering Servant is the nation renders verse 8 nonsensical.
The plain reading of the text makes the position that Israel is the Suffering Servant, impossible.
In verses 4-6 and 8, 10 and 12, the servant suffers a vicarious and substitutionary death, but Israel does not suffer on anyone’s behalf. We do not substitute for anyone in our history.
In verses 5 and 11, the suffering of the servant brings justification and spiritual healing to those who accepts it. That is not the case of Israel and the Gentiles. The nation has never brought justification or spiritual healing for the Gentiles of the world.
In verses 8 and 12, the servant dies. The nation of Israel has always survived; we are dispersed all over the world but we have survived. The servant is resurrected, but Israel never dies so there no need for resurrection.