Friday, May 20, 2011

The world ends tomorrow, the day before Lag BaOmer

Well, according to these folks, at least. For more information, see this post on Mystical Paths.

This leads to a serious question about counting the Omer with a bracha. If we know the world will end before we complete the count, is that a lack of temimus? If so, how can we count with a bracha?! Even if we say that this means that mashiach will come, such that we can continue counting, this count is a count up to Shavuos. And according to the Midrash on Mishlei, in the future, when mashiach arrives, all festivals will be abolished save Purim. If we won't celebrate Shavuos, will we still count up to it?

OK, enough leitzanus. Apparently, the latest keitz is out, and it is the day before Lag BaOmer. From Reb Akiva and Rabbi Nati's post:
As we stated in Part 1 of this FREAKING OUT article series, a (small) number of tzadikim in Jerusalem have given a warning that it’s best for Jews to be in Israel by the 17th of Iyar this year.
[ When is the 17th of Iyar?  May 21, 2011, which is a Shabbat and the day before Lag b’Omer. ]
We were asked “What's the source that says to get out of chutz la'aretz by 17 Iyar? I'd like to show it to my rav who is close to …the mekubalim in Geulah”.  We responded and got this response from this questioner, “I spoke to my Rav. My Rav confirmed what you said know as per the same mekubalim.”
We’ll also note that well known blogger rabbi Lazer Brody has been hinting at the same thing in these two articles, note the last sentences.
Though read the end of the post for some important caveats. Can we get a name to associate with this latest ketz prediction? Yes, we have the following 'startling request' from Rabbi Yaakovson from Kiryat Sefer, relayed by someone who spoke with him:
To my DEAR Family and Friends, 
I don't want to be writing this,It feels terrifying to me. 
It is with a very heavy heart and a huge knot of anxiety in my stomache that I pass on this message. 
A Rabbi in Israel,who I have called frequently over the past 3-4 years to ask questions and ask for tehillim/psalms to say for various situations, gave me this message to pass on.  
He did something he has never done in all the time I have consulted with him-he stopped me after my first enquiry and volunteered information before inviting me to continue with my questions.  
He said: 
LIsten carefully, after Pesach there will be terrible things happen in Europe, huge destruction
It will begin in WESTERN EUROPE then move to Eastern Europe. The Jews must sell all they can and get to Israel as quickly as possible and buy property otherwise will lose everything
THere wont be much time to get out! 
Shortly thereafter it will happen in AMERICA around Lag B'Omer time approx a month from Begin Pesach. 
The Jews in America must sell all,get to israel ASAP and buy property 
He said all this will affect South Africa, but we will have more time in SOUTH AFRICA-mUST BE OUT BEFORE ROSH HASHANA
(which actually is not that much time either) 
I told him that people wont believe me! He said that is what happened before the Holocaust and when people see the destruction in Europe-they will believe -that will be the 1st sign! 
I dont think this is farfetched in light of recent current worldwide events.these are clearly messianic times!ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE 
I URGE you not to ignore this warning-at least make a list of priorities/a CLEAR PLAN in the event of having to ESCAPE URGENTLY! 
Ensure passports in order and put in safe accessible place with ketubahs and other necessary documents and valuables. 
I personally would advise Siddur, Tehillim,TEFILLIN+mezuzot for protection 
Before sending this email, I opened my inbox to find the emails that follow-I went cold. I had deliberated and avoided writing this email in the hope it would all go away-(what if it's a false alarm) 
I agree with this person's suggestion to have passports at the ready, renewed. It never hurts to be prepared for the worst.

Yet, I would not put much stock in this prediction, even if this is unprecedented from this particular rabbi. There have been too many such failed ketz-predictions in the recent past, all with the agenda of convincing Jews to move to Israel NOW because the end is near. For one such example, see Rav Amnon Yitzchak's prediction. He had a similar statement to the one above, that Jews from abroad must immediately move to Israel and buy property, or else. See the Tzaddik Nistar, who hoodwinked Nava of Dreaming of Moshiach.

Immediate, frantic aliyah is likely NOT a good idea for a good many Jewish people. Consult your local religious guide, whom you trust and who knows your specific situation, to see whether you could / should carefully craft a plan for making a successful aliya.

Regarding the picture above, of the non-Jews with the same date, they explain:
d. What’s with that picture?  There is an Xian end-of-world movement that has selected the same date, May 21 of this year, on the basis of a number of Xian calculations, and they’re going around letting everyone in on the good news!
An explanation of their calculation:

Noah's great flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C., 'exactly' 7000 years ago.
At the time, God said to Noah he had seven days before the flood would begin...the church reasoned that seven 'days' equals 7000 human years from the time of the flood,making 2011 the year of the apocalypse.
In its second 'proof' the exact date is revealed by working forward from the exact date of the of the crucifixion - April 1, 33 AD.... there are exactly 722,500 days from April 1, 33 A.D. until May 21, 2011 - the alleged day of judgement.
This number can be represented as follows: 5 x 10 x 17 x 5 x 10 x 17 = 722,500...  numbers in the bible have special meanings, with the number 5 signifying atonement or redemption, the number 10 signifying 'completeness' and the number 17 equalling [sic] heaven.
In other words, something utterly irrelevant to us Jews. The date of the crucifixion is of no concern to us; plus their calculation of the date of Noach's flood is not the same as our calculation. A bunch of fools yelling that the end is nigh.

Except, it is somewhat useful, in that it is easier to see in others what we cannot see in ourselves. The anonymous "mekubalim in Geulah" have not been as forthcoming as to the basis of this latest ketz prediction.

{Update: Or rather, they have. Here is the basis:
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.

And perhaps like these anonymous mekubalim, this is not the first ketz prediction this fellow has made:

Despite his conviction, Camping has predicted the world would end before - on September 4 1994.

That, he says, was a mistake, a misreading of the biblical codes used to decipher the exact date of the 'rapture'. 

In order to get the warning out in time he fudged his calculations, a mistake he maintains he did not make this time.
Of course, church members claim that he did not make a mistake. Unfortunately, that website no longer easily shows all of the comments, but there was a member of the group who contested that Camping had fudged his calculations due to haste. Rather, some important event had occurred on September 4, 1994, which was an important step towards the eventual return.

This sounds remarkably similar to the claim put forth in Jewish circles, after each and every failed ketz prediction, that it was nevertheless an important step in the progression toward the redemption. For example, in this post at Israel Rising about the Churva synagogue being rebuilt, yet mashiach not arriving, or indeed, in the same Mystical Paths post:
c. BUT.  These hints and pronouncements DO usually prelude big events.  Steps towards the geulah.  Warnings Jews should pay attention to.  We live in a time of chaotic world events, both man made and natural.  The wise prepare.
Maybe so. Or maybe there is a whole lot happening in the world every day, or every other day, and thus it is easy to latch on to some event on that day. That would have been what happened had the prediction been the same day Osama Bin Laden was killed; or the day of the Japanese tsunami, or the day Mubarak stepped down. That these meshugenas latch on to it reveals that it is a useful rationalization tactic for people who want to stay firm in their delusional beliefs.

Related: This gallery of 21 Doomsday Prophecies that Fizzled.


S. said...

I remember reading somewhere that R. Joseph Breuer was so ill one year that he was convinced he would not make it to Shavuos, and for that reason he chose not to count with a beracha that year. If the story is true, the addendum is that he *did* live.

If anyone can correct, clarify or verify this story, I'd appreciate.

Mike S. said...

There is a reason Chazal said "Tipach rucham (or Atzmotam) shel m'chash'vei kitzim."

I recall reading an article (that I can't seem to find with google) about a fellow in Boston who made his fortune doing some sort of work for a successful 'end-of-the-world' sect for no fee other than a clear title to their building beginning the day after they said the world would end.

David said...

Coincidentally, the Globe and Mail had an article on this minister today:

yaak said...

There's another opinion that says failed predictions by tzadikim are not just failed - they always end in tragedy. (See what I wrote here.)

The author doesn't say this, but perhaps, that's BeDavka the way to bring us closer to the date - through Yissurim. I hope the Yissurim are over and the Geula can come Berahamim.

The more recent predictions are fundamentally different than the ones in the time of the Rishonim and those of the Aharonim. On the one hand, we are likely not on the level to even generate a major effect on a date by making the prediction. On the other hand, due to the lateness of the year in the millenium, our predictions are more likely to be accurate. Then again, if we predict it year after year, eventually, we can't go wrong! :-)

Regarding the permission to predict, even as early as the Ramban, it was said that Tipah Ruhan Shel Mehashvei Kitzin is obsolete.

joshwaxman said...

in terms of Ramban, yes, he said that, but his relative contemporary, Rambam, maintained that it was not obsolete.

the ramban's reason for saying it was obsolete, iirc, was that predictions of dates would dishearten people, because it was so far off. but now that it is so close, people would not be disheartened. of course, he was wrong about how just how close it was.

btw, i am not sure how this ramban works out with the relevant gemara in Sanhedrin, 97b:
R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Blasted be18 the bones of those who calculate the end.19 For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come.

The idea is that people would see the failed prediction (rather than a date extremely in the future), still maintain the date as the fixed date, and not recalculate. I am not sure how Ramban would read this gemara, then. perhaps be'ito vs. shelo be'ito? Do you know where I can find the Ramban's assertion of this inside?


yaak said...

In the middle of the page, he talks about the length argument (which, BTW, is a קל וחומר to our generation).

He specifically quotes the gemara on the bottom of the page (continue to the next page) and says that the generation of the gemara is a different generation than his days so there is no harm. Look inside to see why.

joshwaxman said...

i'll check it out.


joshwaxman said...

oh, and i disagree about the kal vachomer to our days. yes, one can say it, but the obvious pircha is that even in his days it was in reality rather far off, and so people in general estimate these things incorrectly, and we should not be so positive about it either.


yaak said...

I don't understand your pircha.

He thought it *wasn't* far off, and he still made the prediction. We, who *know* from all empirical evidence that it's not far off, lo kol shekein?

Makes perfect sense to me.

joshwaxman said...

are you really comparing Ramban's belief (and labeling it 'thought') to our belief (and labeling it 'know')? why not label Ramban's belief as knowledge as well? because we are really really really sure? there was plenty of "empirical evidence" in the 1100s and 1200s that it was not far off. they were called 'the crusades'.

what you see as 'clear empirical evidence' is (or may well be) in large part simply the effect of Google, bringing all sorts of news to our attention that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. had Google news existed in any century from the time of Nimrod until today, you would find similar clear empirical evidence.

kol tuv,

yaak said...

Google has absolutely nothing to do with this.

This has to do with what virtually all the Gedolim have been saying the past 70 years - that we're Be'ikveta Dimshiha.

During the Ramban's time, I doubt the belief was as widespread. This is why I label it "thought".

The evidence nowadays is the opinion of the gedolim. That's enough evidence for me. All the other stuff is לרווחא דמילתא.

Therefore, I believe the קל וחומר stands.

joshwaxman said...

"This has to do with what virtually all the Gedolim have been saying the past 70 years - that we're Be'ikveta Dimshiha."

and when they have been saying it for the past 250 years, it will be even more convincing!

it is one or two influential Gedolim, whom the other ones are echoing, not that they are each privy to these secrets on high.

the ramban writes that he was in agreement with other 'Rishonim' who interpreted Daniel to arrive at a similar date. and the RambaM gave a date of around that time (in his letter to Yemen). and the Zohar had a number of failed predicted dates for around that time. i'll see if i can research it, but i DO in fact think that the belief was as widespread back then.


yaak said...

But what you fail to realize is the significance of what happened 70 years ago and the fact that it was 70 years ago. See here. We're still within 70 years from what happened then.

The חפץ חיים and Rav Elchanan Wasserman were influential enough, but they were far from the only people saying it. Many in the religious-zionist camp were definitely saying it for different reasons. The reasons all come together to mesh beautifully.

In the Ramban's time, yes, the Rambam had his prediction in Iggeret Teiman, but these predictions were all over the place. And the proofs were one-dimensional.

The past 70 years, on the other hand, provide a relatively small window where it's clear as day that we're in Ikveta DimShiha, based on more proofs than you can count on your fingers and toes, but most of all, because the full spectrum of Gedolim said so.

joshwaxman said...

interesting. so rav elya svei gave an end possible time of 2009, because of when wwii began? wwii ended 1n 1945, which is how i presume you are extending it. so come 2015, the argument would fall apart?

many, many, many Gedolim endorsed Shabsai Tzvi, at least before he converted to Islam. and many, many Gedolim endorsed the Brazilian dybbuk, who has since admitted that it was a hoax. i don't find overwhelming haskama in these matters so convincing. i see it as groupthink, with clear sociological causes. Just as the Spanish expulsion in 1492 in all likelihood was the spark for widespread Jewish messianic expectations.

time will tell, i suppose.


yaak said...

What you said in the first paragraph is exactly my thinking. But that's only one argument.

No, this is not groupthink. It's coming from all different streams that normally have nothing to do with each other. Litvaks, RZs, Chabad, Sepharadim, other Hasidim, etc. That's what makes it special now.

Yes, time will tell.

joshwaxman said...

i would observe that many people who in the past would not have done so are saying parshas hamon, based on R' Menachem Mendel miRimanov. and make shlissel challah. and go to roshei yeshiva for berachos as if they were rebbes. there is a bleeding of cultures and groups which happened after WWII as well.

btw, stay tuned for my follow-up post, based in large part on the last paragraph of this page. note that that was written eight years ago.

good shabbos,

joshwaxman said...

looking over the ramban, i have a bigger question on the kal vachomer. the ramban himself gives the reason it is OK as that he is only saying this as something uncertain, but the gemara was prohibiting saying that the prediction was certain.

thus, saying He thought it *wasn't* far off, and he still made the prediction. We, who *know* from all empirical evidence that it's not far off, lo kol shekein? is in fact the very opposite of what he says earlier. if we are all the more certain such that we "know" it, that it is likely that Ramban would forbid such predictions.

kol tuv,

yaak said...

Sorry for responding so late. I had to crawl out of my apocalypse bunker which I entered at 5:59 Shabbat afternoon... :-)

Anyways, I'm maskim that I should not have used the word "know" as it implies certainty. Please replace the word "know" with "think".

The Kal Vahomer still stands though. Nowadays, we are 1) closer to the end of the millenium, 2) at a point of history where almost a majority of Jews live in E"Y, 3) have Jews ruling E"Y, 4) went through the Yissurim of the Holocaust , and 5)have the wide spectrum of Gedolim saying it's close.

These (and #5 AFAIK) were not applicable during the time of the Ramban. This is why I contend that the K"V still stands.

joshwaxman said...


perhaps i'll respond more in a bit. but i'll point out, in terms of (1), that Rashi's predicted end time was 1210. That is, 4970-4971. That is 20 years closer to the end of the millennium than we are.

layla tov,

yaak said...

That's interesting, but I was referring Bedavka to the sixth millennium - not any old millennium.

Kol Tuv

joshwaxman said...

i guessed that; but in the time of the Zohar, they thought they were speaking about a different meaningful millennium as well. anyone standing in any millennium can make an interesting claim. for example, according to R' Abba bar Rava, in Sanhedrin 97, 5000 is the end. See here. And this is the same as given in the Yerushalmi, and by the Rambam.

and there were other reasons for dates being meaningful, such as half the world timespan passing until Bilaam and then an identical timespan passing, and so on and so forth. (again, see there.) and certainly, major events and horrific events were happening in that time as well. that you can muster similar proofs for our particular time might pale a bit, considering that.

kol tuv,


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