Speculation about what will be this coming year 5773 is rampant. Everyone is taking about it, from the evangelists to the Torah-code breaking rabbis. The frequent and furious natural disasters worldwide coupled with global financial crises Arab civil wars, drought and political confusion and uncertainty around the world are the Gemara’s own signs that Moshiach will soon be here.
Everybody seems to be writing about Moshiach these days and everyone seems to be talking about him. Tamar Yonah (Israel's Oprah, but a lot more talented) asked for my opinion during one of my appearances on her weekend Israel National Radio show broadcast. My answer was a cold sponge on the enthusiasm of the Messianic double-guessers: The Gemara curses those who second-guess the coming of the Messiah and says,"May they drop dead!" (tractate Sanhedrin, 97B). Those are pretty stiff words to come out of the holy mouths of our Talmudic sages.
Stiff words? The Rambam actually codified the curse against the Messianic speculators into religious law (see Hilchot Melachim 12:2). In his classic "Thirteen Principles of Faith" (see Rambam's commentary on the Mishna, tractate Sanhedrin, 10:1, principle number 12), he writes that we must believe in the coming of the Messiah with complete faith, and although he may tarry, we must await his arrival whenever he comes. According to both the Lithuanian tradition (disciples of the Vilna Gaon) and the Chassidic tradition (disciples of of the Baal Shem Tov), we must patiently wait for Moshiach with simple and pure faith. Torah, prayer, and good deeds are what the soul needs, not Messianic speculation.
Throughout Jewish history, whenever a false messiah or an expected "moshiach" arrival date became a disappointment, many people lost heart, lost patience, and ultimately lost their faith completely.
I once heard a very sharp joke that the big tobacco companies finance the messianic movements, because whenever a messianic movement is proved wrong - either when the messianic candidate fails to save the world or when the speculated due date expires - then many of the movement's members, former Sabbath observers, begin smoking on the Sabbath, and tobacco sales increase.
The Melitzer Rebbe shlit"a, told me the following story: In 1860, rumors spread like wildfire that the Messiah will be coming that very year (1860 in the Jewish calendar is 5620, and 620 is the numerical equivalent of keter, which means "crown", an allusion to Moshiach and the kingdom of David). In the prayer house of the great Chassidic master Rebbe Yechezkel of Shinova, the son of the renown Rebbe Chaim of Tsanz, the chassidim were all whispering Moshiach conjectures during a prayer service. Rebbe Yechezkel banged on the podium with his fist - bringing the services to an abrupt halt - and roared, "I promise you - Moshiach will not come this year!"He too growled like a grizzly bear to stop the speculation, especially during prayer services.
Maybe speculation about the coming of the Messiah would make interesting betting in Las Vegas, but it adds nothing to a person's love of G-d, fear of G-d, Torah scholarship, soul development, spiritual awareness or emuna. So what do you gain? Why speculate? Why give yourself a broken heart by being disappointed when your expected Moshiach due date becomes just another day?
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches us that the only way to safely make it through these times is with simple and innocent faith. I strongly suggest that we all follow his advice.
Again, my apologies for the damp sponge, but one must extinguish a fire when it burns in the wrong place. A candle-light of simple faith is always better than the fire of messianic conjecture; the latter - unfortunately, destroys everything in its path.
With all the talk about 5773 (2012-2013), we must remind ourselves that we must pray for the Redemption and Moshiach, and eagerly anticipate both whenever they come. Yet, that's a far cry from double -guessing dates, something that our sages completely forbid.
Here’s the good news (we save the goodies for dessert): my beloved rabbi and spiritual guide, Rabbi Shalom Arush, may Hashem bless him always, told me that although the speculation about Moshiach’s arrival is forbidden, the illumination of Moshiach is already here for everyone to enjoy. How?
Moshiach will be teaching everyone emuna, particularly, how to connect with Hashem, speak to Him, and thank Him. For these lessons that will give us the very illumination of Moshiach’s light, there’s no need to wait. It’s here already in the form of The Garden of Emuna, In Forest Fields, The Garden of Wisdom and The Garden of Gratitude. So even so we must avoid speculating about Moshiach’s arrival, we can bask in the glitter of his dazzling illumination this very moment. Why wait?
And, if we really want to hasten Moshiach’s arrival, let's do our utmost to strengthen our emuna and spread it far and wide. We look forward to seeing you during our upcoming USA speaking tour during the first three weeks of November, 2012, G-d willing. Blessings for a healthy winter!
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