Last week Sunday, as part of the never-ending silliness, was supposed to be the apocalypse. As Geulah Perspectives writes:
When I was in the United States recently, I was in Philadelphia, and I had the opportunity to daven in the Philadelphia Yeshiva and speak to its Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky. I asked him about the seventy year period that Rav Elya Svei spoke of in the name of Reb Elchanan Wasserman. He told me that Rav Elya had heard it directly from Rav Wasserman's mouth. Rav Kaminetsky told me, as his eyes crinkled into a smile, that he is also waiting. He also added that the seventy years corresponds to the seventy words in the chapter of Tehillim "למנצח... יענך ה' ביום צרה" which I was not aware of.If we calculate seventy years from the beginning of World War II, we find ourselves on this coming Sunday, September 6th.As I always say, I do not like to predict anything, because one looks foolish when nothing happens. But, these may be interesting dates to look out for, so keep your eyes and ears open.May we merit a speedy and painless redemption, Amen.
And indeed, mashiach did not arrive last week. Now, I am certain that people will still attempt to harness this prediction for other dates, by starting the 70 year count at other initial starting points. Indeed, people already were doing this in the comment section.
Yet here we have a ketz from Rav Elchonan Wasserman, where Rabbi Yochanan in the gemara said "Let the bones be blasted of those who calculate the end of days!"
This is not so surprising, since there is precedent for such disregarding of this Talmudic injunction. While Rambam cites it lehalacha and lehashkafah, in his Iggeret Teiman (3rd perek) he cites a tradition that the ketz was 1212 CE, a date which has long passed. And Ramban gave a teretz for why one can do this, namely that the injunction was only when mashiach was not so close (it seems because people would become disheartened), but now that it is so close, it is permissible. Of course, that was more than 700 years ago, so they were wrong about just how close the ketz was. And everyone who mispredicts the ketz -- and there have been many -- thinks that the end is nigh.
So perhaps Rav Elchonon Wasserman has ample precedent on what to rely upon. I still think it is extremely misguiding and dangerous to predict the keitz in this way, and there is potential for disaster. And it is awful when Rav Amnon Yitzchak did it, proclaiming to a large audience that mashiach will absolutely arrive this year, 5769!
Yet there is a difference, which is why, to my mind, we should not fault Rav Elchonan Wasserman.
We cannot even begin to understand the horrors of the Holocaust. When someone (or a group of people) encounters such a terrible tragedy, it can be a great blow to one's emunah in Hashem's direction of the world or of Hashem's righteousness. One way of coping with tzaddik veRa lo to such an extreme is to understand that it is all part of a master plan. And the chevlei mashiach accounts for such terrible tragedy admirably. To cope with this himself, and to allow others to cope, it helps to see oneself as playing a part in a greater master plan, in which redemption eventually occurs.
And what callous person would deny him, and others suffering similarly, this comfort? Forget the potential negative consequences. There is this immediate emotional need, and the potential theological danger is far off.
Indeed, Rav Wasserman did not say that mashiach would arrive the next year. He gave it a 70 year count from the start of the war. He was born in 1874, and WWII broke out in September 1, 1939, when he was 65. In another 70 years, he would be 135 years old, and so he did not really hope to live this long. It was not an immediate, apocalyptic messianic belief, which would change the way one lived from day to day. It was a coping mechanism, and a way of trying to explain Divine Justice in a way humans could comprehend.
The same with the Iggeres Teiman of the Rambam. He wrote it in 1172, if I understand correctly. The Jews in Yemen at the time were undergoing tremendous troubles at the time: oppression by a fanatical Muslim ruler; efforts to convert them to Islam, in which many converted; and a false mashiach.
The Rambam was faced with the difficult task of encouraging the Jews of Teiman in their Judaism, and not to be swayed by, or discouraged by the failure of, the false mashiach. And while he indeed held that one should not calculate the ketz, there is a concept of עת לעשת להשם הפירו תורתך, and the idea of horaat shaah. Not necessarily should one stubbornly hold onto one's true principles. And here, the damage done would be worse than potential damage of his repetition of a ketz.
Indeed, in Iggeret Teiman, he encouraged them by explaining how their suffering was part of the general Divine Plan preceding mashiach, which gave them comfort. And by giving a ketz, he undermined the present false mashiach as one who came before the time; and if and when that mashiach failed, they had to look forward to a ketz in the future. And 1212 was a good forty years in the future, which would hopefully be after this crisis had passed. And indeed, it was successful. He did not predict a ketz for the very next day, and encourage apocalyptic beliefs and practices.
What about Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky? As far as I can tell, he just nodded politely to Geulah Perspectives, confirmed that Rav Elchanan Wasserman indeed said this, and said he was watching it. But he did not shout from the rooftops that mashiach was coming, and that everyone should leave Philadelphia for Eretz Yisrael, because an atomic bomb would explode on that day. He put stock in the prediction, though he did not innovate it himself, enough to watch it. But he did not encourage frantic apocalyptic madness, which is how some other Jews who are always anticipating the next ketz live their lives.
I wonder if he knows of the broader context, or a new ketz every few weeks, and people moving to Eretz Yisrael without thinking or planning, like chickens without heads? If so, he might have had a very different response.
So no, there is a vast difference between different people nowadays, in their approach to ketz, and I don't think we should "fault" any of the above.