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Risto Santala: Isaiah 53 in Jewish prayer literature

Isaiah 53 has been totally omitted from the annual reading of the prophets, so called haphtaroth. In Yalkut Makhiri also there is a note in brackets relating to Isaiah 53 that “here is missing a little of the matter”.However, on the Great Day of Atonement the Jew feels that his sins must be forgiven before God. On that day Isaiah 53 is sometimes mentioned in the Jewish prayers. A separate prayerbook for the feast days, the Mahzor Rabbah, contains a remarkable literary prayer by Rabbi Eleazar Qalir which may be from the sixth century AD. It is often heard in the Synagogue.

The prayer begins poetically: “At that time, before the creation, he already set up the oasis and the Yinnon” – the word ‘oasis’ refers to the Temple, and ‘Yinnon’ to the Branch, the Messiah (Psalm 72:17 in Hebrew). The main body of the prayer reads as follows: “Then, before the creation, he already set up the Temple and the Messiah (the Rabbis’ interpretation) – the Messiah our Righteousness has turned away from us, we are shaken, and can find no-one who can justify us. The yoke of our sins and our transgressions is a burden to us; and he was wounded for our transgressions, he suffered on his shoulders our iniquities; there is forgiveness for our sins. In his wounds we are healed; it is time to create for ever a new creation. Send him back from the circles, bring him back from Seir, so that we might hear him in Lebanon a second time through Yinnon. He is our God, our Father, our King, he is our Savior and he will liberate and redeem us for a second time and let us hear of his grace a second time in everyone’s sight, as it is said: ‘I will save you at the end as at the beginning so that I will be your God.”

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