Parashat Mishpatim - February 25

משפטים Mishpatim

Exodus 21.1—24.18

Exodus 23.20-21: “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.”

The old prayer book, Hasiddur Hashalem (הסידור השלם), in the New Year prayers in connection with the sounding of the shofar, contains a remarkable prayer which speaks of “Jesus, the Prince of the Countenance.” The prayer reads:

“May it be your will that the blast from this horn should carry to the tabernacle of God by the instrumentality of our delegate Tartiel, whose name Elias -- may his memory be blessed -- has given to him, and through Jesus (ישו"ע), the Prince of the Countenance, and the Prince Metatron, and may grace be our part. Be blessed, Lord of grace.”

We can observe here that the Siddur identifies the “delegate Tartiel,” “Jesus, the Prince of the Countenance,” and “Metatron” with each other. The origin of the name Tartiel is not known, but one conjecture suggests that it is derived from the words tartei El, or “God’s other formin which he reveals himself. (When it is changed into a name the letter tav is changed into a tet.) The strange name “Metatron” comes from the Greek meta thronon, meaning “the one who sits on the throne.” Targum Jonathan, on Genesis 5.24, which says that Enoch walked with God and then “was no more,” says that “He ascended to heaven and God called him by the name Metatron, the Great Scribe.”

Metatron functions primarily as a prayer intercessor. The Talmud says that the angels understand only Hebrew. Only Metatron, the defender of Israel, may approach the throne of God.

This cryptic name has an important point of contact with the “angel of the covenant” and the “angel of the Lord.” In Judges 6 there is an account of how the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon. We read that “the Lord (יהוה) turned to him and said,” identifying the angel with the divine name of God. Gideon exclaims, “Ah, Lord (יהוה) God, I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” (vv 14, 16 and 22). But what, in the opinion of the Rabbis, is so exceptional in this angel of the Lord?

When the most famous Rabbi of the Middle Ages Rashi considered this issue, he referred to the words of Exodus 23.20-21:

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way... Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him... since my name is in him.”

Rashi suggests that the words at the end of the verse, “my name is in him,” mean “He and I have the same name.”

“And our Rabbis have said,” he continues, “that this is Metatron, whose name is the same as the name of the Lord. The numeric value of ‘Metatron’ corresponds to that of ‘shaddai,’ the name of the Almighty.

It was of him Moses was speaking when he said in Exodus 33.15: “If your presence (Heb. ‘face’) does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

The Messiah is God’s “other mode of manifesting himself”; he sits “upon the throne” and acts as our advocate; he is indeed Lord, and God’s “name is in him”; in Messiah we see the face of God. 

[RS]

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Haftarah: Jeremiah 33.25-26; 34.6-22

T: Jeremiah 34.8—35-19

Shabbat Shalom!

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