Daily Israel Report

Judaism: The Footsteps of the Moshiach

The three generations are the generations of Moshiach ben Yosef, Eliya the prophet, and the royal Moshiach, Moshiach ben David. The task of Eliya the prophet is to connect Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David, by "turning the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers (Malachi 3:24)....
Published: Wednesday, June 01, 2005 8:45 AM

The Footsteps of the Moshiach

The study of the timing of the redemption is an august subject that should be touched only with great trepidation. Many are the sages who know better than the humble writer of this article, and so I write this after great hesitation. For a long time, I did in fact not dare to write about this subject. However, because of its relevance to our pressing times, I feel now compelled to write the following.

Completely invisible to the eyes of the world, the study of Kabbala by saintly Jews is the greatest cause of human progress. Around the Jewish year 5330, world history was fundamentally changed by one of the greatest of Jewish sages - the Arizal. Standing on the shoulders of his teachers, his spiritual accomplishments brought a decisive "tikun" (repair) to the world, which ended the long era of the dark ages, and started the era of "Ikveta DeMeshicha" - the footsteps of the Moshiach.

Three dates serve to characterize the life of the Arizal. He started his study of Kabbala in the year 5310, under the guidance of Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi. In the year 5317, he received a copy of the Zohar. It was likely the most pivotal event in his live and clearly a great impetus to his studies. In the beginning of the year 5331, the Arizal started teaching in the city of Zefat in the Land of Israel.

If the Arizal repaired something, how did it get broken? The world was existentially broken by the destructions of the first and second Temples. After the "tikun" in the time of the Arizal, the world regained as it were the level of spiritual harmony that had been before the destruction of the second Temple.

The destruction of the second Temple was the fulfillment of an old decree, recorded in Daniel 9:27: "After half a week He will cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease." If the 6000 years of world history are divided into 50 "days" of 120 years (see "The Holy Seventh Week), half a "week" is 420 years, which was the time our sages say the second Temple stood.

It is important to realize that the days of the second Temple were only a shadow of the days of the first Temple. Moreover, the period of the second Temple was one of steady spiritual decline. For that reason, as much as was accomplished by the Arizal, much more was to be gained in his footsteps. Hence, parallel to the 420 years of decline during the time of the second Temple, a compensating half "week" of spiritual growth was decreed, to recover the level of spiritual harmony that had been at the time of the completion of the second Temple, the time of the latest prophets. In the beginning of the year 5751, 420 years after the Arizal started revealing his knowledge, this "tikun" was completed.

At this very time, the beginning of the year 5751, a horrendous tragedy happened: Rabbi Meir Kahane was murdered. It was 434 years after the Arizal started his study of the Zohar. Could it be that more words of Daniel were fulfilled in 5751? We read: "And after 62 weeks a Moshiach will be cut off, and none will be left to him (Daniel 9:26)." Seven times 62 equals 434. Could there be a more appropriate description of the rejected prophet Rabbi Meir Kahane than "none will be left to him?"

Yes, I am suggesting that Rabbi Kahane was Moshiach ben Yosef, and I am by no means the first to do so. Many harbor the thought in their hearts, because of the scholar Rabbi Kahane was, because of his unique labor for a truly Jewish state, and because of what happened to him.

In his last shiur in his Yeshiva, Rabbi Kahane taught about Moshiach ben Yosef, the self-sacrificing Moshiach who is not recognized by his brothers, but prepares them for the coming of Moshiach ben David. In his magnificent book Or HaRa'ayon, which Rabbi Kahane was frantically working on in the final months of his life, and which he almost finished, the subject of Moshiach ben Yosef stands out because two independent chapters are devoted to it. He was not given the time to merge the material into one chapter.

After the 62 weeks, seven weeks were decreed until another Moshiach, as it says: "Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Yerushalayim until a royal Moshiach, shall be seven weeks. (Daniel 9:25)."

Perhaps not by chance the number 5751 is one plus a multiple of 50. If indeed the 62 year-weeks ended in 5751, that year was the penultimate Yovel year, and the subsequent seven year-weeks are as seven "Shmita" countings towards the final Yovel year.

Alternatively, the seven final year-weeks are like the seven weeks of the counting of the Omer, a counting towards the final giving of the Torah in the 50th year.

If my thesis is correct, two of the final year-weeks have gone by, and five are yet to come. I would like to propose as a corroboration of my thesis that the remaining five "Shmita" years 5772, 5779, 5786, 5793, and 5800 are all hinted at by two famously intractable verses of the book of Daniel about the very last phase of history:

"It shall be for time (mo'ed), times (mo'adim), and a half, and when the crushing of the power of the holy people shall have been completed, all these things shall be finished." (Daniel 12:7)

"And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken way and the abomination that makes desolate be set up, there shall be 1290 days. Fortunate is he who waits, and reaches 1335 days." (Daniel 12:11-12)

It follows from "Why Do We Live in the Year 5765" that the year 3192 was in a sense year zero of the Jewish counting of the years. The year 5772 is two mo'adim of 1290 years after this year zero. The year 5786 is one mo'ed of 1335 years after the abomination that makes desolate was set up. This abomination is the mosque that was erected in the year 4451 on the place where the Holy Temple should stand. The year 5800 is two mo'adim, one mo'ed of 1290 years and one mo'ed of 1335 years, after the daily sacrifice of the first Temple was taken away in the year 3175.

Concerning the last figure, the Seder Olam brings down that the first Temple was destroyed in the year 3338. Historical sources, however, corroborated by biblical data, quite unanimously and precisely prove that the real year of the destruction was 163 years earlier. It was Rabbi Shimon Schwab who pointed to the book of Daniel for the explanation of the missing 163 years: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end (Daniel 12:4)."

Rabbi Schwab concluded that our sages received a Divine command to corrupt the counting of the years in order to frustrate computations of the end of times. Many could not understand or accept the words of Rabbi Schwab. However, his courageous position is vindicated by the above observation. In addition, Rabbi Schwab's view is independently and crucially strengthened by the findings in "Why Do We Live in the Year 5765": The Jewish year count was first established in the beginning of the second-Temple period.

Returning to the topic of the five remaining "Shmita" years, one can see the verse Daniel 12:7 being fulfilled in the fact that the mo'ed year 5786 is exactly halfway the two mo'adim years 5772 and 5800. Moreover, the intermediate "Shmita" years 5779 and 5793 can be seen as other fulfillments of the same verse: both are exactly halfway a mo'adim year and the mo'ed year.

As a final note about the Arizal, it seems to me that his life relates in yet another way to the book of Daniel. We read: "Seventy weeks are decreed concerning thy people and concerning thy holy city (Daniel 9:24)". The year 5800 is seventy times seven years after the Arizal started learning with Rabbi Ashkenazi, in the year 5310.

The Talmud teaches in Sanhedrin 99 that the "days of Moshiach" (the final period towards the redemption) are three generations. It brings two opinions about the length of this period in years. In one view, the "days of Moshiach" are 40 years; in the other view they are 70 years.

The three generations are the generations of Moshiach ben Yosef, Eliya the prophet, and the royal Moshiach, Moshiach ben David. The task of Eliya the prophet is to connect Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David, by "turning the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers (Malachi 3:24)." Importantly, Eliya will give his Semicha to the new Sanhedrin.

If Israel had merited to be redeemed in a glorious and swift way, the task of Eliya would have been simple. It would have taken him only one day, and the "days of Moshiach" would have been 40 years. But Israel did not merit to be redeemed in a swift way. It will take Eliya many years to accomplish his work, and the "days of Moshiach" will be 70 years. The parallel to the 70 years that were decreed for the Babylonian exile is obvious. Like the 420 years of "Ikveta DeMeshicha" undid the spiritual damage of the second-Temple period, the "days of Moshiach" are to undo the damage of the Babylonian exile.

In this light, if Rabbi Meir Kahane was Moshiach ben Yosef, the days of Moshiach ben Yosef were the twenty years before 5751 and the days of Eliya the prophet and Moshiach ben David are the fifty subsequent years. Therefore, we must now be living in the years of Eliya the prophet. If so, soon prophecy will return, the Sanhedrin will be restored, and the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers.

If my thesis is correct, we are about to enter the third of the last seven year-weeks until the complete redemption. We read about the third week and fourth week of the first counting of the Omer: "They arrived at Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date-palms; they encamped there by the water (Shemot 15:27)." The verse hints at a blessed period of a nation of twelve tribes growing in Torah under the guidance of seventy members of the Sanhedrin.

And see: In the beginning of this year, in the city of Tiberias, we merited witnessing the establishment of a new Sanhedrin, which now convenes in Yerushalayim. The new Sanhedrin did not yet receive widespread public recognition. However, I have little doubt that it was established with great wisdom at the right time, and that the acceptance of its authority is a great Mitzva.