The Root of Jesse
Haftarah for the Eighth Day of Pesach, Isaiah 10:32–12:6
by Michael Hillel, Netanya, Israel
Shake thyself from the dust, arise, put on the garments of thy glory, O my people!
Through the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite, draw Thou nigh unto my soul, redeem it.
Come, my Beloved, to meet the bride; let us welcome the presence of the Sabbath.
These words are translated from the fourth verse of Lecha Dodi, “Come my Beloved,” a song sung in homes and synagogues around the world every Erev Shabbat as a way of welcoming the Shabbat. You might be asking, “Why is he introducing the haftarah for the eighth day of Pesach with a verse from a 16th century liturgical poem sung in the regular Friday evening Shabbat service?” The answer is simple: This song not only welcomes in Shabbat each week, but in essence also acknowledges the coming of Messiah.
The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “Then a shoot will come forth out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch will bear fruit out of His roots” (Isa 11:1 TLV). As we weekly sing the words, “Through the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite, draw Thou nigh unto my soul, redeem it,” we are seeking the messianic redemption promised by the prophet, which is provided by a descendant of Jesse’s son David, even our Lord Yeshua.
For seven days we celebrate Passover/Unleavened Bread in our homes and, hopefully, in our hearts, remembering our redemption from Egyptian oppression and bondage. On the eighth day we shift our eyes from the past to the future as we look forward to the redemption of the Messianic Age. As Yeshua-believers, we recognize that this redemption began with the resurrection of Yeshua in the early first century CE, but the Messianic Age has not yet been completed.
According to Jewish tradition, the Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, 1700–1760 CE, who is regarded as the founder of the Chasidic movement) instituted a festival meal on the last day of Pesach, the Feast of Messiah or Seudat Moshiach, to commemorate the final redemption. The last day of Pesach is the conclusion of the redemption that began on the first night of Pesach, which commemorates our redemption from Egypt. Therefore, it is fitting that the last day looks forward to our future redemption. Interestingly, it only took about 1700 years for the Chasidim to catch on to what the early Yeshua-believers had been doing since the first century. Today, aside from the traditional ways in which Christianity celebrates the “Lord’s Supper”, some followers of Yeshua have chosen to incorporate elements of the Seudat HaAdon (the covenant meal of the Brit HaChadasha) into the traditional Seder. Others have chosen to follow the example of the Baal Shem Tov and celebrate a Seder-type festival meal on the eighth day of Pesach that acknowledges not only Yeshua’s death and resurrection but his future return as well.
Whether one acknowledges Yeshua during the Pesach Seder or at the end of the Week of Unleavened Bread or simply in the traditional manner of the “Lord’s Supper” is not of primary importance here. What is important is that we actually remember Yeshua’s finished work as well as his anticipated, future return. As Rav Shaul wrote to the believers in Corinth,
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you—that the Lord Yeshua, on the night He was betrayed, took matzah; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in memory of Me.” In the same way, He also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in memory of Me.” (1 Cor 11:23–25)
Like the yearly memorial of the Exodus through the Pesach celebration, Seudat HaAdon is a continual sign of the delivering power of the God of Israel. As we celebrate it, in whatever manner that we do, we show forth another prophetic principle stated in this week’s haftarah: “The root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will seek for Him, and His resting place will be glorious” (Isa 11:10).
There is a time coming when all the nations will seek Yeshua, the root of Jesse. We see this assurance in the haftarah (Isa. 11:10), as well as in Zechariah 8:20–22 and 14:16. However, this messianic hope is not an isolated concept reserved for some Chasidim and for Yeshua-believers. It is one of the primary tenets of Judaism as a whole. In the daily Amidah we recite,
May the offshoot of Your servant David soon flower, and may his pride be raised high by Your salvation, for we wait for Your salvation all day. Blessed are You, LORD, who makes the glory of salvation flourish. (Koren Siddur)
Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) articulated his understanding of the messianic hope in the twelfth of his thirteen principles of faith: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. No matter how long it takes, I will await his coming every day.”
So, it is not the expectation of the coming Messiah that separated Yeshua-believers from traditional Judaism, it is our fervent claim and belief that it was and is Yeshua who satisfies the messianic prophecies and expectations, even if his full manifestation is delayed for a season. As we live our lives in fervent expectation of Yeshua’s return and as we celebrate and lift high the banner of the root of Jesse, we provide evidence for the world to see the hope that is within us, the hope that is the risen Lord, Yeshua our Messiah.
All Scripture references are from the Tree of Life Version (TLV).