Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Voices In The Sixth, War In The Seventh, Ben David Motza`ai the Seventh?

With the war of Russia against Georgia, naturally those inclined to interpret every event in apocalyptic terms would like to see this event as well as such. The thing is, until now the prediction has been that the President Bush is Gog, and is equal to Rome, while Iran was equal to Persia -- and the predictions centered around this.

Now with this new event, Mystical Paths declares that perhaps they were wrong about the previous messianic scenario. They write:
For several years we have been writing about the possibilities of the Geulah combined with Gog u'Magog. In most of these possibilities, we have been analyzing the United States, and the current president (George Bush) as a likely candidate for Gog. (Further, there are even those who are starting to find gematrias relating to Obama and Gog.)

Yet, this has by no means been clear cut, and the navi (biblical prophet) Ovadiah appears to write about a "friend" of Israel who is only judged in a somewhat minor way for hanging Israel out to dry, rather than being involved in direct actions against Israel.

With the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and the nation of Georgia, and the Israeli connection to Georgia, it could very well be that Russia is Gog. Russia is allied with Iran on many issues, and some have identified Iran as "the Land of Magog" (together with southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan).

Given such a scenario, America would have to become a non-entity, which fits with the holy prophecy of Ovadiah HaNavi...
and so on. It is a mark of intellectual honesty to admit that one might have been wrong about earlier predictions, so Kol haKavod. But the problem is that there is a general tendency to interpret every event in messianic, apocalyptic terms. And I think it is quite possible they are making the same mistake over again.

Meanwhile, Dreaming Of Moshiach interprets this as a fulfillment of prior predictions -- because there was a solar eclipse over central Russia, and because the autistics told Jews to get out of Russia while they could. However, as I understand it, Georgia is not near central Russia, but rather is separate from it, and on its southwest border. (See here.) Perhaps they also saw the eclipse there. But so far, I see no evidence that people in Russia in general are in danger, or that Russia is closing its borders so as not to let the Jews out. And the same autistics warned Jews to leave America as well. It was a general trend to tell Jews in different countries to leave and come to Israel. (Nor is this the fulfillment of the Vilna Gaon's statement that "when Russian weaponry enters Turkey territory, get dressed in Shabbat clothes in honor of the coming Moshiach," because this is not Turkish territory, but rather Georgian territory. If this statement is correct, one should not get dressed in Shabbat clothes in honor of the coming Moshiach until and if they enter Turkish territory, which is on the other side of Georgia, which they show no signs of doing at the moment.)

But then on to the topic which is the title of the post. She cites a gemara (she gets this idea from elsewhere) which states:
Sandhedrin סנהדרין צ"ז
באמר רבא: מתוך שעתידין ליגאל בשביעית, לפיכך קבעוה בשביעית. והרי אמר
בששית קולות, בשביעית מלחמות, במוצאי שביעית בן דוד בא
In the 6th, voices of war -5767
In the 7th, war (Shemita year) 5768
END of 7th, Moshiach Ben David arrives
This will hopefully show the importance of full quotes and reading those quotes in context.

Firstly, I am not sure I would translate the last phrase of "END of 7th, Moshiach Ben David arrives." After all, Rava is talking about why the specific blessing of Geulah was instituted as the seventh blessing of Shemoneh Esrei , and the answer is that they are going to be redeemed in the seventh. But then the gemara asks how this could be, for there is a brayta which says that in the 7th will be wars while the redemption will only come after the seventh, motza`ai sheviit. But, I would point out, if this meant the end part of the 7th, this is no question. The answer the gemara gives is instead that this milchama, war, is the beginning of the redemption. The full text of the gemara is:
אמר רבא מתוך שעתידין ליגאל בשביעית לפיכך קבעוה בשביעית
והאמר מר בששית קולות בשביעית מלחמות במוצאי שביעית בן דוד בא
מלחמה נמי אתחלתא דגאולה היא
As far as I can find, this is specifically found in Megillah daf 17b, rather than in Sanhedrin.

But the gemara is saying Amar Mar, which means it is taking a text from a different gemara and context and applying it to good effect here. And the source brayta, and gemara may indeed be found in Sanhedrin daf 97a:
ת"ר שבוע שבן דוד בא בו שנה ראשונה מתקיים מקרא זה (עמוס ד) והמטרתי על עיר אחת ועל עיר אחת לא אמטיר שניה חיצי רעב משתלחים שלישית רעב גדול ומתים אנשים ונשים וטף חסידים ואנשי מעשה ותורה משתכחת מלומדיה ברביעית שובע ואינו שובע בחמישית שובע גדול ואוכלין ושותין ושמחין ותורה חוזרת ללומדיה בששית קולות בשביעית מלחמות במוצאי שביעית בן דוד בא אמר רב יוסף הא כמה שביעית דהוה כן ולא אתא אמר אביי בששית קולות בשביעית מלחמות מי הוה ועוד כסדרן מי הוה
Or in English (courtesy of Soncino):
Our Rabbis taught: in the seven year cycle at the end of which the son of David will come-
in the first year, this verse will be fulfilled: And I will cause it to rain upon one city and cause it not to rain upon another city;
in the second, the arrows of hunger will be sent forth;
in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, pious men and saints will die, and the Torah will be forgotten by its students;
in the fourth, partial plenty;
in the fifth, great plenty, when men will eat, drink and rejoice, and the Torah will return to its disciples;
in the sixth, [Heavenly] sounds {in a footnote, he explains that this either refers to Heavenly voices predicting the messiah or else the blasts of the great Shofar; cf. Isa. XXVII, 13. This echoes Rashi's peshat.};
in the seventh, wars;
and at the conclusion of the septennate the son of David will come.

R. Joseph demurred: But so many septennates have passed, yet has he not come! —

Abaye retorted: Were there then [Heavenly] sounds in the sixth and wars in the seventh! Moreover, have they [sc. the troubles] been in this order!
By choosing to cite the partial gemera from Megillah instead of the full gemara from Sanhedrin, they either wittingly or unwittingly accomplish some useful goals.

Firstly, by only citing Megillah, they only need to find interpretations for the last few items -- the kolot and the milchamot. (Note BTW that milchamot is plural, and this is just one war. You could point to Iraq and Afganistan, but that was also true in previous years.) Meanwhile, with the full context of Sanhedrin, you would need to find matches, year by year, to each of the seven events, and in a way that is more persuasive than for any other seven year period.

Secondly, by only citing Megillah, we get to omit that Rav Yosef had a good question on the brayta, noting that many sheviits had passed without redemption. (And presumably with many of the intermediate events having happening.) Abaye's response is that there needs to be Heavenly sounds in the sixth and wars in the seventh, and furthermore, there needs to be the aforementioned troubles specifically in that order.

I am not sure what kolot means. Rashi interprets it as voices (perhaps from Heaven) that mashiach is coming, or else shofar blasts. This is different from "voices of war" as given in the translation above from Dreaming Of Moshiach. I am not sure what those voices of war would refer to -- I don't know of rumblings of war between Georgia and Russia. Perhaps one could try to interpret the(pretend) messages from the autistics as these voices from Heaven about the coming of mashiach, or the predictions of some kabbalists. Even so, as Abaye notes, we have to have a map-out of the events of the troubles in the seven years leading up.

For example, "in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, pious men and saints will die, and the Torah will be forgotten by its students." This would be the year 5764, or ~2004 CE. What was this great famine in that year affecting the Jews and causing the Jews all this death from famine. And what Torah was forgotten by its students during this year? And why did I not hear of it?

If you cannot give explanation of this, as well as for all the other troubles, then Abaye is saying that this is not the shemitta year in question.


גילוי said...

Don't forget the Yerushalmi's baraita paralleling Megillah, where the Sanhedrin baraita is not brought at all, Geulah is said to be in the 7th year stam. Brachot 17a

joshwaxman said...

I assume you are referring to this:

אמר רבי אחא מפני מה התקינו גואל ישראל ברכה שביעית ללמדך שאין ישראל נגאלין אלא בשביעית. רבי יונה בשם ר' אחא (תהילים קכו) שיר המעלות בשוב ה' את שיבת ציון שירה שביעית היא להודיעך שאין ישראל נגאלין אלא בשביעית.


I am not sure this should be considered a brayta, but rather a statement from an Amora. I did not cite this because I forgot this source -- and this was not brought down in the post I was responding to. Regardless, this is a source for it occurring in the seventh year. In which case this shemitta is as good a candidate as any -- Rav Yosef would still ask his question, presumably. But with that source, there is no mention of wars in the seventh, just geulah in the seventh. In which case the fight between Russia and Georgia is indicative of absolutely nothing.

Thanks again,

גילוי said...

I find the entire exercise with these statements from the Gemara to be unproductive. The Talmudim are explicit that Kibbutz Galuyot is before Binyan HaMikdash, and in our generation this is obviously in reach. But instead of taking the next step and actually leaving Galut, people prefer to bring svarot as to how to apply the Baraita from Sanhedrin.

joshwaxman said...

Good point.

On the other hand, while the brayta in Sanhedrin is clearly the context of the gemara in Megillah, it is perhaps possible that there are *several* scenarios being entertained in tandem in the gemaras. Abaye does not respond to Rav Yosef's objection that we do not have kibbutz galuyot yet, so the brayta does not yet come into force.

Also, perhaps as per Rambam, it is mashiach who will do the kibbutz galuyot, so this is all after matza`ei the seventh. Or perhaps the partial kibbutz galuyot we have so far is sufficient fulfillment. After all, there was some ingathering of exiles at the founding of the state of Israel, as well as with those who came from Russia. Perhaps this is sufficient.

Also, as I understand it, Nava from DreamingOfMoshiach is doing her part by making aliyah.

Kol Tuv,

גילוי said...

It is difficult to understand the Rambam any other way than he is listing different pegamim that Moshiach will repair. If 100% of the Jews arrive in Eretz Yisrael next year, we will not, G-d forbid, say that Moshiach will never come, but rather this is just one less thing he will need to do.

The quantity of Kibbutz Galuyot is an interesting topic. It seems that we have different levels: 600,000 Jews, 600,000 adult male Jews, a majority of Am Yisrael, all of Am Yisrael. It is brought by Rav Kasher in HaTekufah HaGedolah that Israeli government statistics show that 1948 saw 600,000 Jews, and 1967 saw 600,000 adult male Jews, and we are nearing the next milestone. A majority of world Jewry will most likely be attined within 10 years, though this sort of milestone is nearly impossible to measure, as it requires having accurate population data.

yaak said...

Josh, I'm maskim to your He'ara and Gilui, I'm maskim to your Tochaha.

Akiva said...

In all cases, I freely admit that the siymanim given (whether in the Gemora, navi'im, or other sources such as the Yalkut) are rather vague.

This makes them easily subject to interpretation relative to current events, and indeed we are not the first generation to look at world events and say "Geulah is a mere moment away!" (And such quotes are readily available from gedolim and tzaddikim of many past generations.)

I am sensitive to the idea of Geulah fever. Conversely, it seems only wise to keep a close watch on world events - for world chaos rarely favors the Jewish people as a whole. We can only pray that such events herald the moments before the geulah and the coming of Moshiach, mamosh, now.

Unknown said...

If you don't mind me departing the over focus you are putting on some of Dreaming of Moshiach's words in her blog, I wish to throw out a possible understanding of the events unfolding in front of all of our eyes. The 7 years spoken about in the Gemora Sanhedrin seems to be an important part in the unfolding Geulah. Much has been made about it and so it seems we have to take careful notice of it. We must also combine it with other sources we know about the redemption and see if we can thread all of this together. Step one we know none of these events could have occurred before the modern return of a certain percentage of Jewry. This is because as we know there is (according to the Ramabam) a Heksher (preparation) Mitzvah of Yishuv Haáretz, settling the land. The Titz Eliezer indicates that enough of that was accomplished in 1948 to cause a Halachic obligation for world Jewry to com to Israel. OK so we know we have to be discussing a time frame after which Jews have established some sort of independent ownership over the Land as a collective. OK. We also know according to the misdrashim and the Gemora in Yoma that the last war will be between a Persian King and Edom/Rome. Granted this could have been 1800 years ago, but we had already been scattered by then and we know from the Gemora in Sanhedrin that the redemptive period begins with a regreening of Eretz Yisrael and a return of a portion of Am Yisrael to the Land. This didn't happen 1800 years ago and only began 150 years ago. So the first 7 year period after the return and regreening of Eretz Yisrael that both a Persian king and Edom seem to be on a collision course is...well..come on...do I have to point it out for you? This one. I am not saying the time is written in stone, but it looks pretty close.

joshwaxman said...

R & D:
There is much I could argue with in what you have said above. As just one example, who says America is Edom? And as another, what about Abaye's statement, and the requirement of the third year from the brayta. You don't just get to selectively quote half of one source, discard that which is inconvenient, and combine it with other sources in a way that will give you the result you want.

But aside from all this, you write: "So the first 7 year period after the return and regreening of Eretz Yisrael that both a Persian king and Edom seem to be on a collision course is...well..come on...do I have to point it out for you? This one."

Really? This is the first time Iran and America have clashed? What about in 1979, with the takeover of the American embassy in Iran, under Carter?

Kol Tuv,


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