וַיֶּעְתַּר יִצְחָק לַיהֹוָה לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתּוֹ כִּי עֲקָרָה הִוא וַיֵּעָתֶר לוֹ יְהֹוָה וַתַּהַר רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ
Mashiach was born to a virgin. Its an important aspect of Israel’s story and is part of a rhythm first tapped out in the lives and struggles of our matriarchs. The passage above is taken from the beginning of Parashat Toldot. Without the vowelization we could have some trouble translating the text which usually looks something like this:
And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. (ESV)
The Christian translation above rightly relies on the masoretic tradition and the grammar of the passage to come to the conclusion that she was barren. However as it appears in the Torah the text could be read he was barren as you will notice above.
Rabbi Mordechai Gifter comments:
Baal HaTurim emphasizes that it was Rivkah, not Yitzchak, who was unable to bear children. Likewise, Sarah and the other Matriarchs were also barren. Had the Matriarchs inherently been able to reproduce, their children would have been the descendants of the Matriarchs’ evil parents. To prevent this, the Matriarchs were naturally infertile and had to attain fertility through their own merit. Klal Yisroel therefore does not stem from the Matriarchs’ forebears, but from the Matriarchs’ own kedushah.” (Pirkei Torah, p. 52)
Rabbi Gifter argues from the teachings of the rishonim that the people Yisrael are born from the holiness (kedusha) of the matriarchs and not from a usual process of human reproduction. We are not the children of human strength but prayer.
It was vital that the Holy Nation be born from Heaven and be much more than the product of an idolatrous gene pool, however, why would Mashiach need to be born in such an unusual manner? The answer is given by the author of the book of Matthew. The besorah opens with a genealogy containing the names of five women before naming the mother of Mashiach. The list quickly ticks through time as it extends from Avraham to Yeshua. The women mentioned are Tamar who conceived by her father-in-law Yehudah, Rahav who is called the harlot, Ruth a daughter of incest, and finally the mother of Shlomo HaMelech who in this genealogy is not called by name at all but only the wife of Uriah. The point is absolutely intentional and is made crystal clear. As we track the seed of Mashiach through time we are confronted again and again by dubious and scandalous encounters. Not one woman is mentioned who is free from this kind of scandal. The mothers of Mashiach are all nashim tzidkaniyot, and the midrashim argue for this, nevertheless, these five places we see the formation of the seed of Mashiach in Tanakh are highly problematic, not for Christians only but for any Jew who longs for a Mashiach descended from King David.
An unwed and pregnant teenage girl seems problematic as well, however, right there in the midst of the predictable controversy we find the solution. Matthew tells us that like our forbearers Yeshua was born not of the will of flesh but from God alone; she was a virgin. Mashiach was born through the kedushah of his mother only. Mashiach is the product of generations of holiness rooted in God.
Some have had trouble with the idea that Mashiach was born from a virgin knowing that a virgin birth has been something hoped for by the nations and can be found within the mythologies of the world. They have made the mistake that this concept must be set aside if it can be found within non-Jewish religions and tradition, but this is absurd. If we lived like this we would have to shun the story of Noach and the flood based on the simple fact that the tale has been told all over the world and can be found in within the writings of Hindus and the folk legends of Native Americans. Beyond this, we would have to stop serving HaShem because at the time of Moses there were gentiles in the Near East who did the same. Its obvious to any thinking person that these parallels do not discredit our Torah but rather affirm what we have already known. Beyond this; Sanhedrin 98b informs that in the times of Mashiach there will be a Kesar u’falgei Kesar (Caesar and a half-Caesar). David HaMelech will be a half-Caesar and Mashiach himself will be called Caesar. The Gemara is applying the pagan title of Caesar to Mashiach! How can this be? Rabbi Aaron Raskin argued in a talk given in Brooklyn heights that Mashiach is called by the pagan title because the innovation of His rule will be to draw the goyim of the world unto the Light of God, therefore Mashiach comes speaking the languages of the goyim!
It is no wonder at all that Mashiach is the Hope of Yisrael born only from the kedushah of our generations, but long before He was born the King of Yisrael Mashiach was the Hope and needed redeemer of every nation descended from Adam.