Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Does Rashi predict moshiach in 2011?

Summary: No. He cites Rav Saadia Gaon who predicts it in 1405, or rather, 1399. Of course, if you want to kvetch it, you can make Rashi or any sources say anything you want it to. But this shows only your own creativity and ability to distort Jewish sources. Also, a nice tie-in to this week's parasha, Vaychi.

Post: In the midst of Vaychi, we read this pasuk and Rashi:

1. Jacob called for his sons and said, "Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days.א. וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר הֵאָסְפוּ וְאַגִּידָה לָכֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא אֶתְכֶם בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים:
and I will tell you, etc.: He attempted to reveal the End, but the Shechinah withdrew from him. So he began to say other things. — [from Pesachim 56a, Gen. Rabbah 89:5]ואגידה לכם: בקש לגלות את הקץ ונסתלקה שכינה ממנו והתחיל אומר דברים אחרים:

Rav Yeshya du Trani gives more details:
R' Yishayah of Tirani z"l (Italy; 13th century) asks: Why did Yaakov think that his sons were worthy of knowing about the End of Days? Because they were free of sin, i.e., among the names of the twelve sons of Yaakov, there is no letter "chet" or "tet." Thus, there was no "chet" / "sin" among them.
Hashem responded: There also is no letter "tzadi" or "kuf" among the names of Yaakov's twelve sons. Thus, there is no "kaitz" that can be revealed to them.
One should note that the spelling of chet in Italy was indeed without the aleph, just as it is in Talmud Yerushalmi.

Perhaps the eponymous Rabbi David Katz felt that he does have these letters in his name, such that the "keitz" could be revealed to him. Though Katz is presumably spelled with a kaf, rather then a kuf, for it is short for Kohen Tzedek.

His interpretation of Rashi is at about the 30 minute mark of this audio.

Yeranen Yaakov gives a summary of Rabbi Katz's position, as regards Rashi:

עד עידן ועידנין ופלג עידן - קץ סתום הוא זה כאשר נאמר לדנייאל סתום הדברים וחתום ודרשוהו הראשונים איש לפי דעתו וכלו הקצים ויש לנו לפותרו עוד כאשר ראיתי כתוב בשם רב סעדיה הם אלף וג' מאות ול"ה שנים האמור בסוף הספר אשרי המחכה וגו' ופי' המועד עד עת שני עתים וחצי עת ואמר שהעתים הם ד' מאות ופ' שמיום צאתם ממצרים עד שנבנה הבית, וד' מאות ועשר ימי מקדש ראשון הרי תת"ץ ועוד חצי העת הזה תמ"ה הרי אל"ף של"ה את אלה חשוב מעת הוסר התמיד עד שוב זבח התמיד אל מקומו והוא הוסר שש שנים לפני החורבן ויש קצת ראיה בספר זה, ועוד יש מביאין ראיה לחשבון זה הסתר אסתיר פני הסתר אסתיר בגי' אלף ושל"ה

Rabbi Katz says that לפני החורבן means at the Hurban, you are looking ahead of you.  He also says that בספר should be read Bisfar (i.e. in the number).  He further says that the underlined word שש equals 600 in gematria  + ויש קצת means take the literal word שש which is smaller to mean 6.  So, 3830 + 1335 + 606 = 5771.


Now, all this is a stretch as I said - it is definitely not the literal meaning of these sefarim.  Rabbi Katz will likely say that the words were purposely coded to not allow their meaning to be revealed until it is close to the Geula.  Whatever it is, it is a nice Drush on their holy words.  Whether it is Emet or not, time will tell.
I agree that it is a kvetch. And as a kvetch, this should not really excite anyone. Because by clever misinterpretation of words, application of gematria, and the like, you can get to any target date. And this is what we have seen, year after year. A proof to 2009, to 2010, to 2011, to 2012, and so on and so forth. If any date can be predicted via this mechanism, then no predicted date is meaningful.

What is the peshat in Rashi? Well, consider the pasuk in Daniel 7:25. It reads:
25. And he will speak words against the Most High, and he will oppress the high holy ones, and he will think to change the times and the law, and they will be delivered into his hand until a time, two times, and half a time.

Rashi interprets this as:
until a time, two times, and half a time: This is an obscure end, as was said to Daniel (12:4): “And you, Daniel, close up the words and seal,” and the early commentators expounded on it, each one according to his view, and the ends have passed. We can still interpret it as I saw written in the name of Rav Saadia Gaon, that they are the 1,335 years stated at the end of the Book (12:12): “Fortunate is he who waits [and reaches the days one thousand three hundred and thirty-five],” and he explains the appointed time as until the time of two times and a half time, and he [Rav Saadia Gaon] said that the times are 480 [years], which is the time from the Exodus from Egypt until the Temple was built, and 410 [years], [which are] the days of the First Temple, totaling 890, and another half of this time, 445, totaling 1,335. Figure these from the time the daily sacrifice was discontinued until the daily sacrifice will be restored to its place; it was discontinued six years prior to the destruction, and there is somewhat of a proof in this Book. [See Rashi to 8:14.] Others bring further proof to this computation, namely that (Deut. 31: 18): “And I, will hide My face” [the words] הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר add up in gematria to 1,335.
This is the peshat translation of the text of Rashi given above. Rashi writes that the 1335 is חשוב מעת הוסר התמיד עד שוב זבח התמיד אל מקומו. That means that the zevach returns to its place at that point. You cannot say that this is still 600 years before it is returned, because then this is not the timespan from when it is removed until it is returned.

What does והוא הוסר שש שנים לפני החורבן mean? He is explaining when the korbanot were removed, that it was 6 years before the churban. Thus, when is the start point for counting? -- 6 years before 70 CE.

And, Rashi continues, ויש קצת ראיה בספר זה, there is a slight proof to this 6 year before the churban in this sefer. Where is this slight, but not absolute proof? In the ninth perek. To understand how, we need to see Rashi on Daniel 8:14:
14. And he said to me, "Until evening and morning, two thousand and three hundred, and the holy ones shall be exonerated."

Rashi writes there, in part:
The daily sacrifice was removed six years before the destruction of the Second Temple, and an image was set up in the Heichal. Now that was the seventeenth day of Tammuz, when Apostomos burned the Torah, put an end to the daily sacrifice, and set up an image in the Heichal, as we learned in Tractate Ta’anith (26b), but for the six years that I mentioned, I have no explicit proof, but there is proof that the daily sacrifice was abolished less than a complete shemittah cycle before the destruction, for so did Daniel prophesy about Titus (9:27): “… and half the week of years [shemittah cycle] he will curtail sacrifice and meal-offering,” meaning that a part of the week of years before the destruction, sacrifices will be abolished. So it is explained below in this section.
This is, then, Rashi's slight proof in "this sefer".

Yeranen Yaakov is much more charitable than me. He assumes that Rabbi Katz knows this is derush, that there is a clear peshat, but would assert that Rashi is being deliberately cryptic.

I am not so sure of this. After all, he says, in arguing his case in the audio, in translation of ויש קצת ראיה בספר זה -
"who out there knows? there is a small proof in this book -- that makes no sense"
But if you know how to read Rashi here and elsewhere in sefer Daniel, then it absolutely makes sense. And if he does know that there is a straightforward peshat, then I believe that he owes it to his listeners to explain this straightforward peshat first.

I dislike this ketz-ism, of "proving" over and over again that Mashiach is coming tomorrow. I think it is psychologically and theologically dangerous. And I dislike how people distort Jewish sources to do it, and don't make clear to the audience that this is a kvetch, at least. Because by misreading words and using gematria, you can get anywhere.

But based on peshat in Rashi, 1335 + 70 CE, the time of the churban, makes 1405 CE. And if it starts 6 years earlier, then 1399 CE.

Rashi himself did not try to distort earlier predictions. Indeed, he starts his comment by saying:
This is an obscure end, as was said to Daniel (12:4): “And you, Daniel, close up the words and seal,” and the early commentators expounded on it, each one according to his view, and the ends have passed. We can still interpret it as I saw written in the name of Rav Saadia Gaon
He does not try to kvetch all the early commentators so that they are saying a different date than the one they have given.

I will close with the following thought from Rav Saadia Gaon, on this very pasuk, because after all this explanation is attributed to Rav Saadia Gaon:

עד עידן ועידנין ופלג עידן -- And they will be placed in servitude under his hand until the time, times and half a time -- the Scripture speaks in the language of man. And every scholar, person of logical thought, and understander of the meaningof the Torah, their ways have been hidden and their counsel has been destroyed, such that they are not able to comprehend the meaning of this calculation, and no one knows it except for God, as is written (in Yeshaya 63:4כִּי יוֹם נָקָם, בְּלִבִּי; וּשְׁנַת גְּאוּלַי, בָּאָה -- For the day of vengeance that was in My heart, and My year of redemption are come. -- the heart does not inform the mouth, and the mouth, how will it inform the angel ... {unsure of word}...? And it is for us to wait and to hope until He has mercy upon His nation and His city, Amen.
This is indeed how Rabbi Yochanan appears to interpret that pasuk, amidst calculations by others, in Sanhedrin daf 99:
What is meant by 'the day of vengeance is in mine heart'? — R. Johanan said: I have [so to speak] revealed it to my heart, but not to my [outer] limbs.14 
May we merit mashiach's arrival soon. But if it does, it won't be in accordance with Rashi's prediction. I wish people would stop distorting sources, while believing they are performing a great mitzvah in doing so.

Update: See Shirat Devorah's coverage of this as well. She further got Rabbi Dovid Katz's response to (what I would consider) Yeranen Yaakov's muted skepticism. See in the comment section there, how he considers it drush, but one prompted by a difficulty in learning peshat in Rashi. I maintain my evaluation above. As he writes:
My issues with Rashi were: vyesh kzat rayah besefer zeh...what does that mean?
I think one should first consult the various meforshei Rashi to understand him, before going towards radical reinterpretation. I used the translation from Judaica Press, which made Rashi extremely straightforward to understand, such that we know that the slight proof in this sefer is the proof to the six years preceding the churban, which is hinted at in perek 9, as Rashi writes explicitly in perek 8.

Nor do I think the Vilna Gaon would have been thrilled with his drush explanation of this Rashi, either.

1 comment:

Mike S. said...

The gemara Sanhedrin also brings down the passuk from Daniel is perek Cheilek (97 or 98) where, following Rashi's commentary to the gemara, the Mashiach should have come either 1400 or 1610 years after the Churban. Although a great many of our Sages were unable to resist the temptation, we should all follow the advice of the Rambam at the end of Hilchot Melachim U'Milchimoteihem, based on another stitch of Gemara from the section in Cheilek and refrain from speculating on these matters.


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