[BLOG] The Fault in Predicting the Messiah’s Arrival

May 24, 2016

3 min read

“Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end. For they would say, ‘since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come’” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b).

There are a wide variety of opinions on the subject of when the Messiah will come. The messianic idea is an ancient and essential part of Judaism. Maimonedes in his 13 Principles of Faith stated: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Mashiach, and though he may tarry, still I await him every day.” All the prophets of the Old Testament prophesied for the days of the Messiah.

For two and a half millennia, various Biblical scholars have tried to resolve the mystery of the Messiah’s coming, predicting the exact timing (day, month, and year) of his appearance.

This trend was especially evident in 2015 in connection with the Shmittah (Jubilee) year, the recent tetrad of blood moons, Russia’s military involvement in Syria, ISIS’s terrorism, Turkey’s animosity with Russia, and so on.

bin blog for usSome rabbis declared that “the Messiah would come at the end of the Shmittah year” on September 13th. The others made a ruling, demanding that God “must bring the Messiah today.” They do not want to wait any longer, “We want Moshiach now! We don’t want to wait!”

One international expert on the Bible Code calculated that the Messiah will come on Sukkot in the Hebrew year 5776 (2015 CE), which was a sabbatical year that began at sundown on Sunday, September 13. The date came and went, yet nothing happened. Then he went on to suggest other dates: Hanukkah, which fell out on December 6, 2015, or Purim, which took place in March 2016. He ensured the readers that “Something great and joyful is going to happen on Purim; there are encouraging signs that 2016 will yet be the year in which the entire world will greet the Messiah.” Again, dates passed, but nothing of this kind happened.

Despite this, certain Biblical authorities have expressed their belief that we are now “in the middle of the Messianic era.” This begs the question: how can this be true without the Messiah’s arrival?!

Our sages condemn prophecies of this kind in the strongest terms: “Any person who announces the Messianic time based on calculation, forfeits his own share in the future.” (R. Jose, in Derek Erez Rabbah xi).

Don’t those rabbis know that speculations, rumors, signs, and calculations of the exact timing of the Messiah’s coming are strongly forbidden in Judaism? With their false prophecies, they bring much harm to Judaism. If the Almighty had wished to reveal the day of the Messiah’s arrival, He would have done so. No one but God knows the day. He chooses to keep secret this matter, and a few others, until the appropriate time, when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

Rabbi Mordechai Blumenfeld said: “One is not to assign the Messiah a specific time of arrival, nor should one use Scripture to deduce when he is coming. For the Sages have said, ‘The souls of those who calculate the end will be shattered.’”

As Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel writes, “Historically, all human efforts to predict the arrival of the son of David are ultimately doomed to failure. Despite numerous predictions made about his ‘alleged arrival’—he has yet to appear and finish the job assigned to him by the prophets.”

Maimonides also objected to predicting the Messiah’s coming and Messianic time. He advised against going in-depth in the study of events leading to the coming of the Messiah. “Knowledge of these matters,” he teaches, “leads neither to fear nor to love of God” (Hilchos Melochim 12:2).

Why were the sages of the Talmud against those who tried to calculate the time of the Messiah and Messianic Age? Because they had learned the tragic lessons of the past; they knew that errors in calculation could lead to grave consequences and damage faith in the Messiah and in Judaism itself.

In Jewish history, there are many examples of appearances of false messiahs, which caused our nation a great deal of slaughter, slavery, exiles, pogroms, holocausts, and unspeakable sufferings. I will name only a few: Simon bar Kokhba, Sabbtai Tzvi, Judah of Galilee, or Menahem ben Judah.

In order not to repeat the fatal mistakes of the past, Rabbi Samuel speaks to our leaders, to “mystical rabbis,” and “prophecy experts” who publicly make predictions and give dates concerning Messiah matters. Here is his powerful warning:

“Talmudic wisdom learned some hard lessons from Jewish history. These lessons may have been directed at all future spiritual and religious leaders who might attempt to force the hand of God in forcing the Divine to produce the Messiah.”

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