The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought by Rabbi Itzhak Shapira
The title at first made me chuckle and also wonder what this book was all about. How is it that a traditional Jewish rabbi considers the claims of Yeshua and traces the Messiah from the OT and Jewish literature? In this book, The Return of the Kosher Pig, Rabbi Shapira does that very thing in tracing the line of the Messiah as pointing to Yeshua from many rabbinic and OT passages. What this book does is open us up to the discussion going on about the Messiah in early Judaism and how there was not one central line of argument from the beginning about the identity of the Messiah.
In Part III (Evidence) for the Messiah, Rabbi Shapira dives into the interpretation of Isaiah 52-53 from the ancient rabbis to see if some of the teachers thought that these suffering servant passages referred to the Messiah. “Rabbi Aharon Yaskil comments, “When Messiah the righteous one arrives we will confess: ‘All we like sheep did go astray, we turned everyone to his own way. Rabbi Desler declares in his book A letter from Elijah “….Is it possible to tell the sick (Israel) [Is. 53:5] to go and heal themselves? The only solution is the one who is called the Good Shepherd who will bring us to the world to come. He is the incarnation of Moses who will be revealed again from the seed of David….” (102) Through a full understanding of suffering and servant, Rabbit Shapira brings out the truth that many early Rabbis taught that the Messiah was to be from the line of David and that he would suffer untold cruelty.
Yet, even in their approval of the Messiah and the Messianic interpretation of Psalm 110, some disagreed with this interpretation. “Who is the one to sit at the right side of HaShem? Rabbit Yitzchak Ginzburg, one of the most important rabbis of the 20th century, provides three major possibilities:
Rashi explains that this passage speaks of Avraham.
2. Another theory is that the passage speaks of King David
3. Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno explains that this passage speaks about the Messiah.” (221)
Shapira goes onto acknowledge that these views are of a Jewish interpretation of the Messiah and not providing a Christian doctrine of the Messiah, but the parallels are still significant. In the end, many Jewish faithful still follow Rashi’s explanation of Psalm 110 and Isaiah 52-53, but many are now being convinced of Sforno’s explanation.
Rabbi Shapira goes to great pains to point various Messianic interpretations of passages such as Daniel 7, Psalm 110, and others. His knowledge of ancient Jewish texts is impeccable and his commentary is spot on. I’m not quite sure who his audience was, in part, because adding the Hebrew text to all these pages will either pull readers in (who know Hebrew) or be an eye sore for many who don’t. Overall, I thought this was a good commentary on the Messiah in Jewish thought as well a good look into the various interpretations of the Messiah.
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and Lederer Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.