Saturday 21st May 2022 35th Day of Omer 20th Iyyar 5782
PARASHAT BEHAR - בְּהַר | On the mountain FFOZ
Torah: Leviticus 25:1-26:2; Haftarah: Jeremiah 32:6-27; Gospel: Luke 4:14-22
Calculating the End
In the Torah, the year of Jubilee is the set time for redemption. Therefore it can be compared to the coming of the Messiah. Unlike the Jubilee, however, we cannot count down the years until Messiah. No one knows the day and hour, and every man who has ever calculated His arrival has been proven wrong. It might seem tempting to try to determine the time of Messiah’s arrival. Calculators of the end times often point to the Jubilee cycle to draw inferences regarding the timing of the redemption. Daniel’s prophecy of seventy weeks has also been used by both Jewish and Christian eschatologists to calculate the time of Messiah’s advent. Throughout history, sages and Bible scholars have been searching the Scriptures for clues and furiously scribbling math equations to calculate years and dates regarding the coming of Messiah. The conclusions of these end-time calculators are almost always the same. Messiah will definitely be arriving within the next five to thirty years; that is to say, within the lifetime of the person making the calculations. For more than two thousand years, Messiah has been due to arrive within the next few years. He is always coming but never arriving. The Talmud harshly censures those who attempt to calculate and set a date for the redemption:
Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonaton, “May the bones of those who calculate the end be blasted away. People will say, ‘Since the fixed time for his coming has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come.’ But we must wait for him, as it is written [in Habakkuk 2:3], ‘Though he tarries, wait for him; [for he will certainly come, he will not delay].’” (b.Sanhedrin 97b)
Those who set dates actually rob us of the joy of anticipating Messiah’s arrival. By setting dates, the eschatologists disappoint their adherents again and again. When we have set our hopes on a certain date and that date passes by without Messiah’s coming, we find it harder and harder to believe that Messiah is coming at all.
When you see a person prophesying about the Messiah, you should know that he is either engaged in witchcraft, or has dealings with demons … and demons come and teach him calculations and secrets, to his shame and the shame of those who believe in his words … for no man knows about the coming of the Messiah. (Sefer Chasidism)
Perhaps the witchcraft allegation is a little strong, but given the devastating effects that setting dates can have upon people, their lives and their faiths, one might rightly conclude that demons are well pleased with the work of those who set dates for Messiah’s coming.
The medieval Torah giant Maimonides wrote, “One must not fix a time for [Messiah’s coming], nor interpret biblical passages so as to derive from them the time of his coming.” Yet even given this stern warning, Maimonides himself could not resist the temptation, and in a letter to Yemenite Jews, he calculated the date of Messiah’s coming to be just a few years off: 1210 CE.