Thursday, December 11, 2008

Did the Zohar predict Mumbai, and the Redemption on the eighth day of Chanukka?

What happened in Mumbai, to both Jews and non-Jews, was a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families.

In the wake of such tragedies, one coping mechanism is to try to find meaning to the deaths. Thus, a close friend of some of the victims came up with a tenuous devar Torah involving gematrias, connecting their deaths to geulah. (See here at the Yeshiva World.)

And more recently, there is a claim that the Zohar predicted this attack in Mumbai, and that 32 days from the attack, which comes out to the 8th day of Chanukkah, Moshiach will come. (And connecting specific Yamim Tovim to the redemption is also trendy.) The relevant Zohar is here:

זוהר חדש כרך א (תורה) פרשת בלק דף צב עמוד א

. כיון דינדעון אבהן דפקיד הקב"ה לאיילתיה ולעמיה כמה חידו על חידו בהאי יומא. בארעא דצפון מלכותא דתימן כמה עאקו על עאקו יתערון בהאי יומא על עמא דישראל ותתקבל צלותהון ברעווא. ובפנייא דהאי יומא תהדר שכינתא לגו ביתא ומשיח לאתריה ואבהן לגו מערתא דילהון שכינתא תהך ותהדר לגבי משה שבעין יומין. לסוף שבעין יומין סליק נאקו דישראל לקמי מלכא קדישא דיהון מעיקין לון בכל סטרין דעלמא וכנישתא חדא לצד דרומא יתאביד ויתחריב. וחמשה זכאי קשוט יתקטלון בינייהו. כדין לסוף תלתין ותרין יומין דיקטלון לכנישתא ההיא ילבש קב"ה קנאה לההוא שופר זעירא. וההוא משיח בריה דאפרים יפרוש פרישא כחד (טור) [תור] דקרנוי סלקין כקרנוי דראם
וההוא שופר זעירא יתקע תרועה תקיעה ותרועה תלת זמנין בריש טורא כמלקדמין כדין נטלין דההוא משיח ויפול רעשא על עלמא באינון קלין דשופרא וכל אינון בני עלמא ישמעון ויחמון כמד"א [ישעיה יח] כל יושבי תבל ושוכני ארץ כנשוא נס הרים תראו וכתקוע שופר תשמעו. וכדין יתבערון גלולין מן ארעא קדישא. ותלת קרבין יעבדון בני ישמעאל בהדי משיח דא ואינון ייתין ויסגדון למארי עלמא בטורא דקודשא בירושלים ואילין קרבין יהון באלף שתיתאה [בשיתסר יומין לירחא שביעאה לזמן חמשין ותשע שנין לאלף שתיתאה. הרנ"ש]ש

And a writeup is available at Dreaming Of Moshiach (see here).
The Divine Spirit will go and return to Moshe (Rabenu, zs'kl) for 70 days. At the end of the 70 days, the pain of Am Israel will ascend to the Holy King. One Synagogue in the South will be destroyed and lost and five true Tzaddikim will be amongst the dead.
At the end of the 32 days since the murder of the people in that Synagogue, HKB'H will put on a garment of outrage to the little Shofar (the Kingdom) and Moshiach ben Efraim will spread, like a ram whose horns go upwards.
A bit later, she mentions how 70 days previous was the attack on the US embassy in Yemen, and where the stock market plunged 449 points. This is presumably to explain what the 70 days means, and what connection there is to Teiman (namely, it must refer to Yemen). But the stock market, a few days earlier, plunged more that 500 points. Why choose that specific day, of 449 points, and why is that particular plunge in the middle of a series of plunges significant? And the attack was on the US embassy, not on Israel or Jews, while the Zohar says בארעא דצפון מלכותא דתימן כמה עאקו על עאקו יתערון בהאי יומא על עמא דישראל ותתקבל צלותהון ברעווא.

Let me explain why I do not think this is significant in any way.

1) The indications are that the deaths in the Nariman house were on Thursday, November 27th, not Wednesday, December 26th. Still, 32 days later would be December 29th, which would be the 8th day of Chanukkah. So OK.

2) There were six people who died in the Nariman House, so the number 5 is wrong:
Name Age
Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg 29
Rebbetzin Rivka Holtzberg 28
Bentzion Kruman 26
Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum 37
Yoheved Orpaz 62
Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich 50

Which of the six murdered kedoshim will we refuse to consider a tzaddik, in order to arrive at the 5 needed to make this Zohar "work"?

3) Was the Nariman House a synagogue? It included a synagogue, but was also a Jewish center and hostel. It was a Chabad house. OK, this is not too much of a kvetch.

4) Does the Zohar actually say that one synagogue will be destroyed? It states וכנישתא חדא לצד דרומא יתאביד ויתחריב. What is the meaning of kenishta? The word typically means "assembly," or עדה. But it could actually mean synagogue. This would often be written as bei kenishta, a house of assembly, a bet kenesset, but sometimes just the word kenishta is used. E.g. Yerushalmi Moed Katan has קומי חדא כנישתא. So which of the two is meant? The gathering/assembly, or the synagogue/Esnoga?

Well, if it means a bet kenesset, was the actual structure destroyed and demolished? Not that I heard of. Yet Zohar states וכנישתא חדא לצד דרומא יתאביד.

Furthermore, the Zohar states later that וחמשה זכאי קשוט יתקטלון בינייהו. The key word here is beinayhu, which means "amongst them." Amongst who? The obvious referent is the kenishta. And it does not have the equivalent of betocha, within it, but rather amongst them. The idea is that a large congregation of people -- the context indicates that it is a large congregation of Jews, but let us leave that alone for a moment -- will be destroyed, and amongst that large congregation/assembly will be 5 truly righteous people.

So let us assume that this means the many non-Jewish assembly in Mumbai, to try to save this peshat. If so, there is no mention of a synagogue at all. And the Zohar got the number of people wrong.

5) The context is also that the Jews will be attacked all over the world. Thus,
דיהון מעיקין לון בכל סטרין דעלמא
וכנישתא חדא לצד דרומא יתאביד ויתחריב
While what happened in Mumbai was a tremendous tragedy, it was not part of a global campaign against the Jews that was being conducted at that time, that from all sides of the world, Jews were being attacked. So the context is a different context from what existed in the world at that time.

6) The Zohar says a lot of things, and has a lot of predictions. Such that any situation can be kvetched to match something stated in Zohar or elsewhere. Need I remind you of the failed kvetch of a Zohar (which turned out to be a Ramchal) to be that President Gog Bush was going to cancel the US elections?

7) There is nothing to indicate that this event will take place in this year, as opposed to any other. The particular prediction in Zohar had a lot of details, and the two details that matched were the number of victims (five) and the location (synagogue), but as we saw, even those details do not match. And how many other instances were there of destructions of assemblies, in which five people could be stated to be tzaddikim? And how many synagogues were destroyed over the years, with how many victims? For example, in Tunisia in 2002, a synagogue was bombed and there were also 6 Tunisian victims (and 14 German victims), though they were all (IIRC) non-Jews. How do we know which destruction of a synagogue was meant, even if a synagogue was meant? In 1980, a Paris synagogue was bombed, with 4 victims (also one off from 5).

8) See the gloss there which connects this specifically to the 7th month, and thus Pesach, rather than to Chanukkah.

9) Finally, if the Zohar was not written by Rashbi, but was a late forgery of Rabbi Moshe de Leon, or by Avraham Abulafia, then I would not expect its predictive qualities to be worth anything.

10) I did not note that it states in the verb דיקטלון לכנישתא ההיא. A synagogue is not killed. An assembly can be killed.

See the comment section, for a possible alternate interpretation by Gilui, and his webpage, where he translates the whole section there.

Update 2: As Yaak of Yeranen Yaakov points out in the comment section, in the commentary of R' Ashlag, the Sulam (see picture to the right), he translates kenishta as bet kenesset.

I am no expert on kabbalah or Zohar, so I am no bar plugta of R' Ashlag in this field. But it does seem to be a mere matter of a dispute in the havana of the words of passage, rather than in kabbalistic concepts. How does he deal with the issue of בינייהו and of דיקטלון לכנישתא ההיא?

I understand why he would say bet haknesset -- it makes sense given the words יתאביד ויתחריב. Or more precisely, ויתחריב. (But the word יתאביד is perhaps slightly awkward.) And since kenishta could mean either assembly or shul, he chooses the latter. But it could apply quite well to a specific assembly -- they can be lost (in battle, of the ten tribes fighting in all corners of the world) and thus destroyed.

In terms of בינייהו, he indeed translates it ביניהם. But there is the problem of the missing referent. Amongst whom? There must be more than five killed, and the implication is much more. And this was not mentioned earlier, if you render it as shul instead of assembly.

He translates דיקטלון לכנישתא ההיא by inserting לאנשי in there, because a synagogue cannot be killed.

I still believe that there is some awkwardness in it.

But even if Rav Ashlag is correct, we still are missing everything else. The number of victims is wrong, and Jews worldwide were not being oppressed 70 days previous, and the synagogue was not destroyed, such that there is no reason to assume that it was the Zohar was referring to.

Update: I did not read the perush carefully enough. I just fixed the above update with a stealth edit, based on "yaak"'s correction. (Thanks!) But as I note, I still believe that there is some extreme awkwardness in it.

Update: And to further clarify and reiterate, when it comes to a matter of perush hamilim, based on context, as opposed to kabbalistic concepts, I will indeed consider myself a valid bar plugta of Rav Ashlag. And in context, I think it is extremely difficult and awkward to translate it as Bet Knesset.

Does Rav Ashlag know that knishta can mean either knesset or bet knesset, that is community or synagogue? If he does not realize that the word can take either meaning, then he might feel coerced into the more difficult peshat. We should see how he translates in every place in Zohar that the word kenishta appears. For example, in Zohar Chadash on parshat Noach, he does the same thing, I think leading to an awkward peshat, IMHO. Here is the Zohar:

The discussion starts in kuf-mem-gimel, but the relevant words appear in kuf-mem-heh, with reishei kenishta and then chada kenishta.

Rabbi Eliezer says that for all the exiles, Hashem has set a time for redemption for Knesset Yisrael, except the last, but it is rather dependent upon repentance. The question, by Rabbi Akiva is how the redemption will happen. How will all communities across the globe simultaneously do teshuva.

Rabbi Eliezer's reply is that we just need one community, one kenishta, or else the heads of that one community, to do teshuva, and then the entire Diaspora will be redeemed.

This is the simple meaning of the passage, selecting community from the set of {community, shul}.

But Rav Ashlag translates it as the heads of a bet haknesset, or one synagogue doing teshuva {presumably the people in one synagogue, because a shul structure is incapable of doing teshuva}. This is awkward, because the logical {IMHO} and straightforward division of the entirety of the Diaspora is one community in one location, one knesset within the whole of knesset yisrael. And it is even more awkward (IMHO) in parshat Balak, as discussed above. So the question is, is this a deliberate choice -- does Rav Ashlag ever translate knishta as community? (I do not know the answer to this question -- I just searched for kenishta and looked up the first instance and translation I encountered.)

On the other hand, perhaps I am wrong. Rav Ashlag seems to be joined in his understanding of this Zohar by the Arvei Nachal (elsewhere on the Web attributed to Zohar, as if Zohar had itself used these words -- please point out where it exists in Zohar, if it does, but a Bar Ilan search only has it in Arvei Nachal):
אפילו אי בי כנישתא חדא יתובון בתיובתא שלימא או אפילו בר נש חד יתוב אזי יוכל לזכות את כל בני דורו.

I would still maintain I am correct. Kenishta occurs (based on a Bar Ilan search) 29 times in Zohar. Except in 4 locations, it is always Bei Kenishta, and so this is what Zohar uses when it wants to say "shul." We have seen two instances above, where I argued that context strongly suggests it means community.

The other two times are when in construct form with Yisrael:
זוהר כרך ב (שמות) פרשת שמות
והוא נסיב לחולקיה כנישתא דישראל הדא הוא


זוהר כרך ג (במדבר) פרשת בלק
רבי אבא פתח (שיר א) אם לא תדעי לך היפה בנשים צאי לך בעקבי הצאן, כנישתא דישראל אמרת לגבי מלכא עלאה, כנישתא דישראל מהו כנישתא דא איהו עצרת כנישו כמה דאת אמר (במדבר י) מאסף לכל המחנות, מאן דכניש לכל משריין עלאין לגביה, ומגו דלזמנין נוקבא אקרי כנישתא

this latter example shows that sometimes women are called kenishta, and it obviously does not mean synagogue.

Interestingly, in English both Synagogue and Church can refer to either the building of to the assembly.

Regardless, I will still maintain that it means community in both these instances. And that even if it means synagogue, the rest of the details in the Zohar do not match Mumbai as discussed.


גילוי said...

I translated this ma'amar from the Zohar Chadash months ago. It appears that this ma'amar has a calculation for the Six Day War, as it gives a calculation for 5727 towards the beginning, and relates this to before year 60 of the Zohar's Pekidah.

Notice that the part in parenthesis is not standard (and not in the defus that I have), but I do think it might be genuine nonetheless.

Regarding the calculation there for 5727, I mention that in chapter 5 of my post here:

D. said...

First of all most major rabbis hold that the Zohar is not a forgery. Sorry to inform you, but throwing that out there is a little ridiculous. Second we know that the Zohar is a mystical sefer and it could be that the couple can be recorded as one person. I know you will not like this, but it doesn't bother me. Also I will agree that picking the stock market crash 70 days before doesn't work well so I checked and the night of Sept. 17th is Chai Elul. Now I know you don;t like these sorts of things, but that happens to be a pretty serious spiritual day. SO the numbers in terms of dates do match up. If the eighth night of Hannukah passes and nothing well I won't fall off my rocker, but I believe we live in wild time so I am not putting anything past. In terms of Bush canceling the elections, don;t worry Obama has not inaugurated yet, so don't start bashing.

joshwaxman said...

1. It would ridiculous not to throw it out there, as a point, if I believe that there is a strong likelihood it is so.

2. Most major rabbis do not determine historical reality. This is not something one can pasken. And there is a reason most major rabbis hold this, which has nothing to do with in-depth knowledge of the pertinent facts.

But of course, this is off topic.

3. It is a mystical sefer, so we can kvetch it? (And the wife was pregnant, so let us count it as three!) Sure, but realize that there is *absolutely nothing* to connect Mumbai to the Zohar on the surface level. The number is "wrong" and the reference to "kenishta" was to an assembly, not a synagogue. So there absolutely is no connection to start out with. Why try to rescue the connection to this Zohar, as opposed to the thousands of others we can kvetch.

4. The misinterpretation of Ramchal was similar to this, in that there were quite liberal kvetches applied. This is not the way learning of nigleh or nistar is supposed to be.

5. Big deal that 18 Elul was 70 days earlier. I'm not chassidish, and it is of no greater significance for me than the birthdays of many other tzaddikim, which fall out on every other day of the year. And the question was not whether 70 days earlier was the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov and the Baal HaTanya. The question was whether we can apply the Zohar to the sitaution -- the Zohar which said

"In the northern land, kingdom of Teiman, there will be trouble upon troubles on that day for Am Yisrael, and their prayers will be gladly accepted."

If we cannot pin some event which is trouble for the Jews 70 days earlier, on Chai Elul, then the Zohar must be talking about some other time when a "kenishta" will be attacked.

This all reminds me of the bad joke:
What's purple, hangs on the wall, and sounds like a guitar?
A salmon!
OK, so it isn't purple. OK, so it doesn't hang on the wall. OK, so it doesn't sound like a guitar. But it is still a salmon.


yaak said...

Josh, the Sulam translates it as "ובית כנסת אחת".

yaak said...

er... I mean "אחד"

joshwaxman said...

thanks. i still don't see it, given the context of בינייהו and דיקטלון לכנישתא ההיא, as said above. How does R' Ashlag translate these two words? (Naturally, R' Ashlag isn't here to respond, and I am no expert of Zohar and its language to be a bar plugta, but it seems here to be a simple matter of havana of the words in context.)

Even with that, the "synagogue" was not destroyed, the number is wrong, and nothing happened 70 days previous to the Jews which would match what was described. Which would tell me that the Zohar was describing a different event.


yaak said...

He does not bother translating דיקטלון לכנישתא ההיא, so we do not know how he would handle a shul being killed.

Actually, he does translate it, but adds in the word "לאנשי":

אז לסוף ל"ב ימים אחר שיהרגו לאנשי בית הכנסת ההוא

joshwaxman said...

you're right. I'll correct it.


Spencer Shaw said...

1 day to go to mashiach?

leah said...

Does anyone think the har nof pegua fits??

joshwaxman said...

I don't think it fits because the Zohar is NOT talking about a shul.

But any attack on a shul, someone will try to kvetch it to match this Zohar. Here is where Rabbi Fish tries such a kvetch, making the Druze policeman into the fifth. See how it doesn't fit other details in the Zohar (namely Shavuot) and how, naturally, he kvetches it to make it match, by adding an extra (unauthorized) 70 days.

yaak said...

See the latest on this here.

BTW, the Zohar Hadash in No'ah that talks about Mashiah coming even if כנישתא חדא does Teshuva also refers to a בית כנסת so to say it's not talking about a shul is bogus. Anyone discussing that zohar says it refers to a shul.

joshwaxman said...

Who is anyone?

joshwaxman said...

Indeed, that btw about zohar Chadash on Noach was already discussed above in the post. It is not something newly discovered. I argued that it means community and that shul is forced, based on context.

yaak said...

And yet we see even Bereishit Rabba says כנישתא and it means a synagogue.

I happened to be learning this Midrash on Vayera:

אמר רבי חייא בר אבא עבר הוית קמי כנישתא דצפרין

and the Matenot Kehuna translates:

עובר הייתי לפני בית הכנסת של ציפורי

You already (incredibly) said you consider yourself a Bar Plugta of Rav Ashlag. Do you also consider yourself a Bar Plugta of the Matenot Kehuna?

joshwaxman said...

Without even bothering to look at that Bereishis Rabba to see the context, I'll just point out that the Aramaic language of the Zohar is not the same as the Aramaic language of Bereishis Rabba, something universally recognized by scholars.

One is Galilean Aramaic. The other is Zoharic Aramaic.

To find out how a word is used in the Zohar, look across all instances in the Zohar.

But yes, I would consider myself a plugta of the Matenot Kehuna about peshat in a midrash, and have argued with Matenot Kehuna in the past about the meaning of a midrash or the mechanism of a derasha. See here for one example:

However, I haven't had a chance to look at this particular midrash to see what the context suggests, or how the word is used in Galilean Aramaic.

joshwaxman said...

looking now at the context, I would say that there, it obviously means synagogue. a child was reading in the kenishta.

however, as I noted before, one needs to be aware of how hords are used in different dialects of Aramaic. Bereishis Rabba is the midrash of the Amoraim of Eretz Yisrael, same language as Yerushalmi.

Please do a search for kenishta vs. bei kenishta at (exact match, and then as בבי and לבי ) and see how often it is used in Bavli vs Yerushalmi.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin