Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hidden in Broad Daylight

The Zohar is one of the great mysteries of Jewish history. The secrets contained in it are beyond the imagination of most. The Zohar, aside from other issues, engages in giving down prophecies related to the End of Days. The fascinating thing is how it conceals itself.

One of the more well-known prophecies/predictions relates to 100 years of Galus for each of the 12 tribes, or 1200 years total. This shows up in multiple places in the Zohar.

The Zohar is written in a way to immediately discredit itself. If there are 1200 years of Galus after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash in the year 3828 (68CE), that brings us to the year 5028 (1268CE). This is approximately the time that the Zohar was revealed. This interpretation of the calculation is brought by many an academic as backing up the claim that the Zohar is of 13th century origin. By itself, it seems like convincing evidence.

However, 1200 is not the only number mentioned in the Zohar.

  • The Zohar Chadash on Mechirat Yosef (The Sale of Joseph by his brothers) says that Yosef was away from his father for 22 years, multiply this by 7 per the verse "seven for your sins" (from Bechukotai), and multiply by 10 for the 10 brothers that sold Yosef, and you end up with 1540 years after the destruction by Esav in the year 68CE. We are now in the year 1608CE. This is mentioned in context with Moshiach ben Yosef.
  • The Zohar part 1 on Parshat VaYera mentions explicitly the year 5600 (1840CE) in a messianic context of when upper and lower wisdom would be bestowed.
  • The Zohar part 1 on Parshat Toldot mentions the year 5408 (1648CE) in a messianic context as well.

It is fairly obvious from adding all these together that the writers of the Zohar did not believe that Moshiach was absolutely going to come in the 13th century, but rather some centuries after that.

Perhaps that is part of the secret of why the Zohar was revealed when it was.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Because He Can

Today, in the USA, the Israeli Prime Minister has announced intentions that mean no less than the division of Eretz Yisrael in general as well as Jerusalem in particular. One item that particularly irked Jews of Galus is brought here:

Olmert is highlighting what I have said before. The support of the Jews of Galus is needed, but it can only truly make a difference here. Not because of halachah, not because of ideology, but because it is the common rule amongst the Jews: numbers. Even if you show Olmert 5 million Jews in the USA that oppose these concessions, he will not listen to them. Why? Because he doesn't have to. He can do what he wants, because here, "we" are not a clear majority. We are an arguable majority. We have polls showing this that and the other, but when it comes down to election day, we do not have a clear voice. And so it continues.

Hashem Yerachem.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Tamid

In the Mishnah of Masechet Taanit we have the following:

(4:6) Five things happened to our fathers on the 17th of Tamuz, and 5 on the 9th of Av. On the 17th of Tamuz:

  • The tablets were broken
  • The Tamid offering was ceased
  • The walls of the city were breached
  • Apastumus burned the Torah
  • And he put up an image in the Heichal

On the 9th of Av:

  • Our fathers were sentenced to not enter the Land
  • The First Beit HaMikdash was destroyed
  • And the Second (Beit HaMikdash was destroyed)
  • Beitar was captured
  • The city (Yerushalayim) was plowed

I would like to examine just the underlined items in blue shown above, regarding the walls of Yerushalayim and the Tamid offering.

The Zohar Chadash says that from the time of the cessation of the Tamid to the destruction, for both of the Batei Mikdash was 22 days. Note that it is 22 days and not 21 days; this is connected to the drash in Mechirat Yosef where this statement is made, where 22 is related to the 22 years that Yosef didn't see Yaacov.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (4:5) comments on both events separately. Regarding the Tamid, it recounts how during the sieges on Yerushalayim, the Jews used to send money out over the city walls in exchange for animals for the korbanot, and then one time the Romans sent up 2 pigs. It then goes on to say from that time, the sins caused the Tamid to cease and the Beit HaMikdash to be destroyed. See there for the entire account, which is also recounted in Yerushalmi Brachot. The next section of the Gemara is already dealing with the breach of the walls. The section regarding the breaching of the walls has to do with the actual dating of the events, because of the difficulty regarding the dates we go by and the dates which appear in the Tanach. The Yerushalmi states that the dates that are recorded in the Tanach are wrong, and were incorrect due to the troubles occuring at the time. See the mefarshim there on the daf for more.

The Bavli (Tannit 28b) is even more terse regarding the Tamid. It has one word: Gemara. Rashi there says "thus we have received from our fathers". I.e. it is a tradition that it occured on this day. On the breach of the walls, the Bavli says that it is not a problem, 17th of Tamuz is only for the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, the other date, namely the 9th of Tamuz, was for the 1st Beit HaMikdash. The Yerushalmi also brings this as a secondary explanation aside from the one I mentioned above.

As we can see from the two Talmuds, there is no explicit saying that the Tamid offering ceased the same year that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed. The closest statement is the line from the Yerushalmi that in that hour, the sins caused the cessation of the Tamid and the Beit HaMikdash to be destroyed. However, just as all that was not in "that hour", so too not necessarily in that year.

The Zohar Chadash on Mechirat Yosef, however, is more of a problem. It says 22 days difference, and it links it to the Tamid, not the breach of the walls. However, I think the important item for this drash is that it is 22 days apart on the calendar, not necessarily that it is the same year. I have reason to believe, because of elsewhere in the Zohar, that this is the case, and that there is no contradiction.

From this we see the source of the different traditions regarding when the cessation of the Tamid offering took place. For some the different possibilities, see Mikraot Gedolot on Daniel. I do not believe, however, that the answer is to be found in the Mikraot Gedolot. HaMevin Yavin.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Different Approaches to Daniel

As a continuation of the last post, I would like to show a couple of different approaches among the Rishonim on Daniel.

Ramban (in Sefer HaGeulah) and Rashi both take the 1290 and 1335 to represent years. Both of them take them to be 2 periods of time with the same starting point related to the cessation of the Tamid offering. In other words, at 1290 years, there will be something which can be called the desolate abomination, and happy is one who makes it 45 years after that.

The years offered by Rashi and Ramban have of course passed already. The math shows that 1335 years passed the time of the last Tamid offering hundreds of years ago. If the wording in Daniel is literal, from the time of the cessation of the Tamid offering in the Beit HaMikdash, we cannot assume that it is two overlapping counts with a 45-year difference in length. Assuming the days are years and the Tamid is referring to something in the Beit HaMikdash, we must look for another way.

Ibn Ezra, on the other hand, takes the days to be literally days. He also takes them to be 2 separate periods of time. He says that the 1290 days is in reference to 3 years leading up to the destruction of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash. He goes on to say that we do not know the starting point of the 1335 days.

The Ramban argues on this idea. According to the Ramban, Daniel did not know the meaning of Moed, Moadim va'Chetzi (A time, times, and a half), and therefore the angel gave extra information to make him understand, being the 1290 and 1335. The Ramban takes from this that he didn't understand before, but at the end, he did understand. If so, the 1335 cannot have an unknown starting point, which by extension argues against the Ibn Ezra's positioning of the 1290 days to the time of the destruction of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash.

די למבין

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Daniel Chapter 12

9. And he said: Go Daniel, for shut and sealed are these things until the time of the Keitz.

10. Many shall be purified, whitened, and refined; the wicked shall do wickedly, and all of the wicked shall not understand, but the wise will understand.

11. And from the time of the ceasing of the eternal, and to giving of the desolate abomination, one thousand, two hundred and ninety days.

12. Happy is the one who waits, and arrives; to days - a thousand, three hundred, and thirty five.

13. And you, go to the Keitz, and rest and rise for your fate, at Keitz HaYamin.

These verses have intrigued over the ages as they seem to point to the final Keitz. So let us ask a few questions:
  • The eternal, this is the word used for the daily offering in the Beit HaMikdash. This may be referring to the cessation of the bringing of the Tamid offering.
  • If so, the first or the second Beit HaMikdash?
  • The Tamid offering, according to certain opinions, did not cease 3 weeks before the destruction on the 17th of Tamuz, but rather some years prior (in the month of Tamuz for both Batei Mikdash). See Rashi on Daniel for example.
  • The second item mentioned, the abominate desolation, is most likely related to the same essence as the Tamid mentioned.
  • There are two numbers given, 1290 and 1335 days. Are these days or years? Ibn Ezra, for example, takes them to be days, whereas Ramban takes them to be years.
  • If days are really years, why didn't the angel just say years?
  • There seem to be 3 options regarding these two numbers:
  1. They are two independent counts. This seems not to be true since the 1290 is given a starting point, 1335 is not.
  2. The 1290 and the 1335 have the same starting point, where there is only 45 days/years extra to achieve the "happy is the one who waits" result.
  3. The 1290 and the 1335 are two consecutive periods of time.

דניאל יב:ג- והמסכלים יזהרו כזהר הרקיע, ומצדיקי הרבים ככוכבים לעולם ועד

So What Happened?

So many of the goals stated in Kol HaTor have been fulfilled on some level, yet most all of them are in a way that is not in line with Torah. How did we get to this state of affairs? The early 19th century showed beginnings in the tasks of Moshiach ben Yosef from the side of kedushah, aliyah for the sake of starting Kibbutz Galuyot, planting in order to start the Keitz Meguleh, living in equal footing in order to fulfill the principle of equality mentioned in Sanhedrin and in chapter 5 of Kol HaTor.

What did this turn in to?

Secular Aliyah to defend ourselves from the nations of the world, violating Jewish law in agriculture, and the Kibbutz movement. Each item is on a "non-religious" level parallel to the tasks of Moshiach ben Yosef, yet each is decidedly not in line with Torah in one way or the other. From a Moshiach ben Yosef perspective, it is the right actions, but with the wrong intention or execution.

There are quite a few different ways to approach this question, many different levels of truth.

Here's one:

History has its schedule, dictated by Hashem. In the early 19th century, with the work of Torah-true Jews towards the Keitz Meguleh, Am Yisrael started the path towards the ultimate Tikkun, little by little. These Jews in Eretz Yisrael sent emissaries to Europe to inspire further Aliyah, but alas, they did not come in numbers, and in the end, the secular Jews took over due to the geopolitical situation in Europe at the time. The Land of Israel was inundated with idealistic Jews with socialist backgrounds. They took over a very holy enterprise and purposefully made it mundane on many levels.

The opportunity to take Am Yisrael's destiny and attach it to the Torah was wasted. For the last few generations, the holy Moshiach ben Yosef has been effectively invisible. The path was already chosen, the path of the Keitz Meguleh, but we failed to step up to the task.

Another approach:

Basing himself on heretical ideas and a prediction recorded in the Zohar, Shabbtai Tzvi (ysh"v) inspired Jews to make the very actions that we look for in this generation. Many Jews were tricked in to abandoning their possessions and starting their trek to Eretz Yisrael. For this is what happens, Moshiach arrives; Jews take the very real-life step of moving to Eretz Yisrael. They did not ask him to do anything for them, they did for themselves. This was balance, used for the Other Side. Real action accompanying the bringing of Moshiach, but only this wasn't Moshiach.

Am Yisrael entered in to an era of despair in the aftermath. The split would only become evident in the generations following between Moshiach Now of the Left and Moshiach Now of the Right, but the crack set in to place. The keepers of the center path shrank in numbers and influence. The attempts were made in the early 19th century, but the lead was taken away by the Left (not in the modern political sense) ever since.

Moshiach ben Yosef is from the Left as well. It is not a coincidence, but rather a consequence of the fight being b'akifin, in a round-about, hidden way.

For generations, the tasks of Moshiach ben Yosef were hijacked and fulfilled in not ideal ways. And at a certain point, for a certain reason, the role of Moshiach ben Yosef was declared enemy from without and from within.

May Hashem help us save Moshiach ben Yosef.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rebbi Akiva and Bar Kokhba

It is becoming increasingly evident to me, via the writings in Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer, that at least some of the Sages of the Mishnah knew when the Final Keitz would be. The chapter of Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer quoted in the latest post on Birkat HaChamah includes within it Rebbi Akiva, famous for, among other things, for being a supporter of Bar Kokhba as Moshiach.

I mentioned before that according to the GR"A, if we are worthy, Moshiach ben Yosef could have come any time after the year 4000 and reigned over us until the appointed time came for the arrival of Moshiach ben David. This is the GR"A's drash on the 2000 years of Moshiach from the Tana D'vei Eliyahu.

For reasons I will not discuss at this time, it is apparent that the count that we use today for years is 163 years behind the physical year count since the events of the Sixth Day when Adam HaRishon was created. If we adjust the year count for the Churban of Bayit Sheini, we receive a year in the 4th millenium, but Bar Kokhba's revolt is squarely in the 5th millenium.

I think from this that Rebbi Akiva believed Bar Kokhba to be Moshiach ben Yosef, who fought against Edom, worked towards the building of Yerushalayim, etc. However, as the Rambam says in the Mishneh Torah, he died due to sins.

That is to say that any Moshiach that comes before the final Keitz in our generation and dies, it is known that we did not have the proper level of zechut, and inversely the sins of the generation (as well as individual sins) caused the death.

From this we can interpret the statement of Rebbi Yochanan in Yerushalmi Taanit (4:5) that grass would grow from Rebbi Akiva's face and still Moshiach ben Dovid will not have arrived. Perhaps Rebbi Akiva agreed, the Final Keitz was indeed far off. Rebbi Akiva thought that the situation was ripe according to the merit of Am Yisrael to move in to the age of Moshiach ben Yosef, but his colleagues disagreed on this point. Every generation, indeed every year, has its own special level of Teshuvah necessary for us to merit the Geulah. Their Teshuvah isn't our Teshuvah. This level of National Teshuvah, whatever it may be at an appointed time, causes Am Yisrael to be successful in actions towards the Geulah. Anything less than this level, and things go according to the last date (for each of Moshiach's Footsteps).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sha'ar Be'er Sheva

The most controversial chapter of Kol HaTor is chapter 5, part 2: Sha'ar Be'er Sheva. It was controversial enough that it was left out (i.e. censored) of the edition printed in HaTekufah HaGedolah. Rav Kasher felt that Kol HaTor was revolutionary enough as is, so he left it out (I'm not sure if he had kavanah to publish it at a later time or not).

The idea is based on our relationship as Jews to the natural sciences, particularly the Seven Wisdoms (translation to be added later).

  1. חכמת החשבון התכונה והמדידה
  2. חכמת היציריה וההרכבה
  3. חכמת הרפואה והצמיחה
  4. חכמת ההגיון הדקדוק והמשפט
  5. חכמת הנגינה והקדושה
  6. חכמת התיקון והשילוב
  7. חכמת הביגו"ר (בין גשם ורוח) וכחות הנפש

As was written by the GR"A's students outside of Kol HaTor, the GR"A had completely mastered all of the Seven Wisdoms, save medicine; the GR"A's father commanded him not to learn beyond the base principles, lest he have to spend all his time saving lives. Different works about the GR"A mention how he was able to solve scientific problems of his day with great swiftness in a way that impressed greatly those who inquired of him.

One of the statements attributed to the GR"A there is that whatever one lacks in understanding in the Seven Wisdoms, one will lack one hundred-fold in Torah understanding.

But the plan, so to speak, is a bit more involved. The goal is Kiddush Hashem.

Kiddush Hashem will occur when the nations of the world realize the wisdom lies with Am Yisrael as guardians of the Torah. The problem is a paradox:

  • The nations of the world can read the Torah, they don't need us for that, so that doesn't make us special in their eyes by itself.
  • We can't teach them the wisdom contained in the Oral Torah, specifically Kabbalah.

The solution starts from an assertion: Kabbalah and Science are intertwined.

What we need, as per Kol HaTor, is Talmidei Chachamim who know Kabbalah to the extent that they are able to achieve great scientific advances based on the unique perspective on the universe that they will have from knowledged of Torah on all levels. It is a give and take relationship: Torah knowledge leads to scientific knowledge and vice versa. Then, when the nations of the world see that our wisdom in physical reality comes from our wisdom in the spiritual realm, they will see that this is a wise and understanding nation.

While what is written in Kol HaTor is mainly an action plan for Talmidei Chachamim who were Mekubalim (and thus it was in a special Beit Midrash for the sciences in the Old Yishuv), it still has halachah l'maaseh for the rest of us in regards to our approach to the modern day Science vs. Torah debates, as if it were one against the other.

This is the GR"A's approach to the desired state of affairs following the year 5600.

Zohar part 1, page 116B:

And in the 600th year of the 6th millenium, the gates of upper wisdom will open, as well as the springs of lower wisdom, and the world will be repaired ahead of the 7th millenium.

The siman for this is from the verse in Breishit 7:11:

In the 600th year of Noach's life, in the second month, on the 17th of the month, on this day, the founds of the great deep broke up, and the windows of heaven opened.

Let us notice that there should be no contradiction between these "waters" in our time. May this harmony soon be evident to all and may Hashem's Name be sanctified in the eyes of all.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Equal to them All

We are rapidly approaching the end of an era: the end of Galus.

Yishuv Haaretz is a mitzvah d'oraita. I think that is fairly clear to anyone who looks at the issue, and weighs the different opinions of the greatest authorities throughout the generations. However, I believe there is a reason that the greatest halachic decisors of our day have not called for all Jews to return home: preservation of free-will.

The fact that the rabbis of today have not told Jews of the Diaspora to come to Israel gives the Jews who have not yet come to Israel a choice which side of the halachic debate to choose. Afterall, there are differing piskei halachah regarding the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz. This (what can be perceived as a) lack of halachic clarity gives room for people to choose which way to go on the issue. Allow me to offer my take.

There are 7 mitzvot that are counted as equal to them all:

  1. Abstaining from Avodah Zarah (Idolatry)
  2. Milah (Circumcision)
  3. Tzitzit ("Fringes" on garments)
  4. Talmud Torah (Learning Torah)
  5. Shabbat (Keeping the Shabbat)
  6. Yishuv HaAretz (Settling in the Land of Israel)
  7. Tsedakah (Charity)

As an aside, I saw on Meah Shearim street a few months ago a book dedicated just to these mitzvot. I believe I saw it at Sifrei Meah Shearim. The source for the saying that the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz is equal to the others is Sifrei on parshat Re'eh.

For our discussion, let us compare Yishuv HaAretz to the mitzvah of Tzitzit. The mitzvah of tzitzit is only in effect on garments with 4 corners. This basically excludes the vast majority of garments worn in Western societies. However, this mitzvah is considered to be as important as the other mitzvot combined, therefore it is written that G-d fearing Jews should go out of their way to wear a 4-cornered garment at all times. Now obviously the intent of Chazal telling us the importance of these mitzvot is not so that we will say "ok, I've done these mitzvot, I'm covered now for all other mitzvot", but rather that the importance of these is all encompassing. Tzitzit is a mitzvah that reminds us of the rest. Yishuv HaAretz, which is one of the base ideas permeating the entire Torah, how much more so?

Keeping Yishuv HaAretz on the side, there are no mitzvot here that require action where it is considered acceptable for a G-d fearing Jew to just do the mitzvah a little. Shabbat requires us to spend money on getting more desirable food, clothing, etc. Talmud Torah, which we fulfill our obligation just by our morning order of prayer (including Korbanot, etc), we still try to learn more every day, the more (both in quality and quantity), the better! Want to give more than 10% to charity? So long as it is below 20%, that is also praiseworthy.

And alas, here is the elevated mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz, with its own levels of fulfillment, which so many not considering it a mitzvah even to be "yotzei y'dei chovah". There are those that make Eretz Yisrael their home a majority of their year, and go back to Galus, those that never leave Eretz Yisrael, there are those that live in Yerushalayim, those that live in cities where they are surrounded by a hostile nation. See the Ramban on the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz (in his hasagot on the Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvot) to fully understand what I mean.

May Hashem speedily and painlessly bring us to a situation where all Am Yisrael can fulfill this mitzvah in the best way possible.