The Tzaddik at the Center

The concept of keeping Yeshua central in our lives is a thoroughly Jewish idea.

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There’s a concept in Judaism known as the Tzaddik. The most straightforward translation of Tzaddik is “righteous person.” But this translation does not do justice to the full idea behind what a Tzaddik is.

In some sects of Judaism the Tzaddik plays a central role in the life of his followers. His role can be anything from feeding the poor, acting as a councelor, and teaching Torah to his students, to acting as an intimate connection to God, what is sometimes called a “mini-Temple.”

For this article, I would like to briefly show how the Jewish idea of keeping the Tzaddik central in our lives finds solace with the teachings of our own Tzaddik, Yeshua. To keep this as brief as possible I will simply quote from two books that have had an impact on me as a young believer entitled A Tzaddik and His Students: The Rebbe-Chassid Relationship, by Rabbi Shloma Majeski, and Love and the Messianic Age, by Paul Philip Levertoff.

A Tzaddik and His Students deals with keeping the Tzaddik central in our lives while he is still alive:

Recognizing that God and the Tzaddik share a oneness of spirit means that one’s faith in a Tzaddik is an expression of one’s faith in God; love for a Tzaddik is an expression of one’s love for God; and fear or awe of the Tzaddik is an expression of one’s fear or awe for God. This is what makes one’s spiritual connection to a Tzaddik such an undeniable imperative: the connection brings out a person’s faith, love and awe for God in much greater measure than could otherwise exist. (93)

The above quote should encourage us as disciples of Yeshua and has a definite Johannine coloring to it. Just as the student’s love and trust of a Tzaddik is an expression of his love and devotion to God, likewise our relationship with Yeshua is a reflection of our relationship with God (John 14:1; 14:9).

Paul Philip Levertoff, in his work Love and The Messianic Age, shows that our love for the Messiah is actually love for God. Indeed, his words have an undeniable Chasidic tone:

Jesus, by His love, expects to awaken in men love for Himself and for each other. “If God were your father you would love me” (John 8:42). “If ye love Me” (John 14:15). The whole messianic consciousness of Jesus is expressed in this expectation of love. He seeks not His own glory (John 7:18), but through awakening faith in Himself he awakens faith in God. Thus God Himself is either loved or hated in Him (John 15:23). The world hates Jesus because He reveals its sin. He convinces of Sin. The consequence is that those who come in contact with Him either hate Him or themselves. He whose works are wrought in God, his love Jesus wins; “He cometh to the light” (John 3:21). (77-78)

Here, Levertoff tells us elegantly that our love for God is rooted in our love for the Messiah. Likewise, if we hate the Messiah then, by extension, we hate God. Alternatively, he also shows us how, when Yeshua awakens in us a love for himself, he is really awakening love of God within us.

The above passages from these books show us how important it is to love and to connect to our Tzaddik. Hence, for the believer, our love and devotion to the Messiah is love and devotion to God. The more we love, look to, study from, adore, and adhere to the Messiah, the more we love, serve, and adhere to God.

In summary, we have briefly looked at how important it is to keep the Tzaddik central in our lives. For us, this means keeping our Master Yeshua central in all that we do. We should conform our lives so much to his image that we become what C.S. Lewis called in his book Mere Christianity, “A Little Christ.” Becoming more like the Messiah will draw us closer to God and bring us into deeper relationship with our Father in heaven.

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About the Author: Jeremiah Michael is pursuing a degree in rabbinic literature from at a university in Israel. His desire is to bring a greater understanding of Jewish literature to Messianic Judaism. Jeremiah lives in Israel with his wife and daughter. More articles by Jeremiah Michael

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