"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21
Question: 

I had spent six years in the messianic movement until my family asked me to study your tape series with an open mind.  I did and as a result, I have returned to Judaism.  I have been a religious Jew for more than a year.  Ever since I left, however, a Christian friend of mine who knew me when I was a believer has been trying to prove to me that I was wrong for leaving.  I keep telling him that I have no doubts about my faith as a Jew, yet he still hasn’t given up.

Recently, he told me and then showed me in this book of his, that Rashi, the most important Jewish commentary on the Bible, says in Isaiah 7:14 that the word alma means “virgin.”  Is this true?  How do I respond to him?  Thank you rabbi for all you have done for me.

Answer:

It is wonderful to hear about your return to the Jewish faith, and it does my heart good to know that our tape series, Let’s Get Biblical, helped you on your journey back to your God and your people.  Over the years, this tape series has helped so many individuals return to their Jewish faith.  There is nothing that gives me more joy than to welcome a Jew back from the church.  Welcome home.

As to your question regarding Rashi’s commentary on Isaiah 7:14, it is a common practice for missionaries to selectively use rabbinic literature when it suits their purposes, yet to reject the words of the rabbis when it is in conflict with them.  This misuse of rabbinic literature becomes particularly disturbing when missionaries quote rabbinic statements that simply do not exist.

One of the most stunning examples of this sort of missionary corruption of rabbinic literature is of Rashi’s commentary on Isaiah 7:14.  In an effort to rescue their indefensible position that the Hebrew word ha’almah1 means a virgin, missionaries brazenly insist that Rashi, the most famous medieval Jewish commentator on the Bible, says that the mother of the child was a virgin.  This is a stunning assertion considering that no such statement like this exists in Rashi’s commentary on this verse.  In fact, the word virgin never appears anywhere in Rashi’s commentary on Isaiah 7:14.  What missionaries have done here is misquote the words of this medieval commentator in order to buttress Matthew’s untenable translation of Isaiah 7:14.

One of the most well known missionary books to flagrantly misquote Rashi in this manner is David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary.  On pages six and seven of his book, Stern writes:

“The most famous medieval Jewish Bible commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (“Rashi,” 1040-1105), who determinedly opposed christological interpretation of the Tanakh, nevertheless wrote on Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the `almah shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanu’el.‘ This means that our Creator will be with us.  This is the sign: The one who will conceive is a girl (na’arah) who never in her life has had intercourse with any man.  Upon this one shall the Holy Spirit have power.”  (Mikra’ot G’dolot, ad loc.)

The fact is Stern’s quote of Rashi simply does not exist.  What Stern has done is deliberately change the words of Rashi in order to provide his readers with a completely distorted, christological version of Rashi’s commentary.  In essence, these missionaries are walking in the path of Matthew who tampered with the text of Isaiah 7:14 in order to present his readers with a christological rendition of the prophet’s words.

Here is what Rashi actually says on this verse.

Immanuel . . . Meaning, that our Rock will be with us, and this is the sign: She is a young girl and has never prophesied (nitneviet), yet in this instance, Divine inspiration shall rest upon her .  .  .  .

Missionaries have mistranslated the Hebrew word nitneviet in Rashi’s commentary to mean “sex” or “intercourse.”  This is a preposterous translation.  This Hebrew word means “prophesied,” not “intercourse.”  The Hebrew word nitneviet is a common word in the Hebrew language.  It is related to the Hebrew word navie which means “a prophet,” a word with which most students of the Bible are familiar.

It is unfortunate, yet predictable, that missionaries do to the words of Rashi what Matthew did to the words of Isaiah.

Once again, welcome home to the Jewish faith, and may the Merciful One continue to guide you.

Best wishes for a happy Chanukkah.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Singer

Footnote:

Click on the footnote to return to the article

1The Hebrew word ha’almah means “the young woman,” with no implications of virginity.

 

Want to share or print this? Choose how below:
  • Print
  • email
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: