|The Cosmic Clock?|
Post: A little while back -- I wrote most of this post back on June 14th -- some Jewish mystics were in line with Harold Camping's first (or rather, second) predicted apocalypse date of May 21, 2011. Thus:
According to the Gra, the Vilna Gaon, one of the ways he taught (or rather wrote down, it wasn’t really to be shared) to calculate the ketz on it being “before it’s time in it’s time” gives an “early” date of the 17th of Iyar, 5771 and a “late” date of Rosh Chodesh Av, 5771.I've read that they really just said 'spring', and people then latched on to the strange Christian sect's date as the prediction spread like wildfire. What about Rosh Chodesh Av of 5771?
Well, the recent -- now fairly old -- post at Yeranen Yaakov makes it a bit clearer how this date came to be. Let me make absolutely clear at the outset that this is NOT yaak speaking. Rather, he is presenting the interpretations of Rabbi Yekusiel Fish.
We found in the Zohar (Va'et'hanan 270a):And naturally, if the last date is the end of Tammuz, then it must come at the very, very latest, on the next day, Rosh Chodesh Av!
"אוֹי לָנוּ כִּי פָנָה הַיּוֹם כִּי יִנָּטוּ צִלְלֵי עָרֶב", יוֹם וְצֵל הוּא סוֹף גָּלוּתָא, וְשִׁיעוּרָא דְּהַאי צֵל שִׁית קְמָצִין וּפַלְגָּא.
Similar to this, we also found the Zohar (Vayikra 16a):
וְדָא בְּגָלוּתָא בַּתְרָאָה הוּא כְּהַאי אֶרֶז דְּאֶתְעַכֵּב לְסַלְּקָאָה, וּמִשַּׁעְתָּא דִּסְלִיק עַד דְּקָאִים בְּקִיּוּמֵיהּ הוּא יוֹמָא וְשִׁירוּתָא יוֹמָא אַחֲרִינָא עַד דְּעָבִיד צֵל בִּנְהוֹרָא דִּימָמָא.
The Gr"a explains there, "It means to say that 1000 years of the Galut and another half of the day until one half hour after Hatzot because then, the sun starts to set." And similarly explained the Matok Midevash, "שית קמצין ופלגא means 6½ hours on the 6th day, since then, it is recognizable that the shadow bent toward the West. And if we divide the sixth millennium into 24 hours, and multiply by 18.5, we get to the end of Tammuz, 5771, upon which the Zohar says in 2 places is the end of the exile.
See the Zohar on Vayikra here -- the capital letters as explanatory interpolations into the text:
Note that in the presentation at Yerenen Yaakov, all that is attributed to the Gra is:
"It means to say that 1000 years of the Galut and another half of the day until one half hour after Hatzot because then, the sun starts to set."The rest is from Matok Midvash, a different author, I think Rabbi Daniel Frisch. Though that is formed from a collection of earlier, well-known commentators.
The reason that it is important to note that is that part of this commentary is the part I will now bold and mark in red:
"שית קמצין ופלגא means 6½ hours on the 6th day, since then, it is recognizable that the shadow bent toward the West. And if we divide the sixth millennium into 24 hours, and multiply by 18.5, we get to the end of Tammuz, 5771, upon which the Zohar says in 2 places is the end of the exile.The Gra never said it was speaking of the 6th millennium. This assumes a start date of the beginning of the millennium. But we are talking about the length of the exile. The Gra may very well assume a start date of the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash. Indeed, he does, and I will try to prove this to you.
Let us perform the same calculations as above. 1000 years + [(1000/24) * 18.5] = 1770.833.
So, if we start at the beginning of the fifth millennium, 4000, then 4000 + 1770.833 = 5770.833. And add a year because we start with the year 1, not 0. Thus, we get to the appropriate date in Tammuz.
As to why we should start specifically in the fifth millennium, even though the Zohar is talking about the length of the entire exile, I am sure someone has a ready teretz.
However, we know that the Gra and his talmidim expected mashiach to arrive in 1840. They went to Eretz Yisrael. And there was a great churban in 1840 when mashiach did not arrive, with many people converting to Christianity.
1840 - 1770.833 = 69.166
Did anything happen in 69 or 70 CE? How about the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Bet HaMikdash? Does this strike you as a good candidate for the length of the exile? It certainly does to me.
So what it seems is that the Gra's calculation failed -- miserably, and with horrific results. But people are rescuing it and reinterpreting it, and attributing their recalculations to the Gra. And even if you say it was not a failure, per se, but rather an important step along the way, it should be fairly clear that this was the Gra's calculated ketz; if both interpretations (length of the galut vs. counting from a random millennium) were equally likely, it does not seem to be coincidence that using the Gra's calculated number of years, it brings us from the Churban directly to the most well-known ketz of the Gra. The metzius supports me.
Now, one can make a counterargument in favor of a millennial interpretation. For instance, yaak wrote me (in a private correspondence):
The six "days" correspond to the six thousand years. It obviously starts from the beginning of the millennium as that's when the "day" starts - not at the Hurban.I pointed out that it is not at all obvious. First, (a) because of the metzius that the Gra's talmidim believed in a 1840 ketz. But secondly, and more importantly, (b) nthe plain sense of the words of the Zohar, וּמִשַּׁעְתָּא דִּסְלִיק עַד דְּקָאִים בְּקִיּוּמֵיהּ -- from the time that it leaves, meaning the Churban; and this as a measure of וְדָא בְּגָלוּתָא בַּתְרָאָה הוּא כְּהַאי אֶרֶז דְּאֶתְעַכֵּב לְסַלְּקָאָה; and (c) that if it were just a certain number of years into the millennium, why mention the first thousand?! Either say five days plus shade, or say simply shade. The day of day + shade 'obviously' accounts for something, not just a random millennial start.
(d) Yes, one can posit that this is the start of the 'two millennia of mashiach'. But that is not what the Gra explicitly says:
וְרוֹצֶה לוֹמַר אֶלֶף שָׁנָהOr, in English:
שֶׁל הַגָּלוּת, וְעוֹד חֲצִי הַיּוֹם עַד חֲצִי
שָׁעָה אַחַר חֲצוֹת, שֶׁאָז מַתְחִיל
"It means to say that 1000 years of the Galut and another half of the day until one half hour after Hatzot because then, the sun starts to set."
Not 1000 years of the sixth millennium, but 1000 years of the Galut. It seems that he is counting from the Churban.
Now, despite this, the first-mentioned Zohar, in Vaeschanan, might be taken to imply that the calculation is from the beginning of the millenium, rather than the time of the Churban. It reads -- the capital letters as explanatory interpolations into the text (from the folks at the cultish Kabbalah Center):
188. Once a shadow started to form at the beginning of the other day AFTER THE FIFTH MILLENNIUM, as during the time when the Temple was destroyed when the shadow was about to be gathered, THAT IS, JUST LIKE DURING THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE WAS WHEN THE SHADOW BEGAN TO BE GATHERED, SO WILL REDEMPTION COME WHEN THE SHADOW WILL BEGIN TO EMERGE. WHEN THERE WILL BE day and shadow, it will be the end of exile. The measure of that shadow is six thumbs long for the height of a man among men, NAMELY, AN AVERAGE PERSON. This secret is remembered among the friends through the verse, "for we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow" (Iyov 8:9). "for we are but of yesterday," namely in exile; "and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow," which means the Holy One, blessed be He, wants the shadow and day to rest upon the earth.
Thus, ומדשארי צל למעבד בשירותא דיומא אחרא can be rendered as "once the shadow starts to form at the beginning of the last/other day", meaning that it is the last 'day' or millennium of the world's existence.
But one is not at all compelled to render it in this manner. אחרא means 'latter'. They knew of two days. The first 'day', or thousand years, of exile since the Churban already passed. And now we are into the second 'day', or thousand years, of exile.
And indeed, the very next phrase is:
כמה בזמנה דאתחריב מקדשה הוה
Thus, the very continuation of the phrase brings in the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash.
Now, 1840 has already passed. Doesn't that mean that this could NOT be the correct interpretation of the Zohar? Absolutely not. We see from the gemara that various Tannaim and Amoraim predicted the ketz, and they were wrong. Why should Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, another Tannai, be any different? Not that he must be wrong, but he could be wrong. And further, this is not the only ketz prediction in the Zohar. There are actually a whole bunch of them, which have already passed. And if you want to say that something meaningful happened in 1840, since the Gra's talmidim began the process of modern settlement of Israel, and thus the beginning of the Geulah, you can say that. And you can also say the gemara in Sanhedrin 97b has already said:
Rav said: All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds.
And the Lubavitcher Rebbe popularized this as well, adding that
"For so many years have passed since all the predestined times have passed,"If so, it is not the end of the world (pun intended) that this is one of the predestined times which have passed. We don't need to re-manufacture one of the predestined times which have already passed.
And if we do -- believing this is the correct meaning of the Zohar -- we should not falsely and erroneously attribute this view to the Vilna Gaon!