By Rav Yitzchok Fingerer
Iran’s supreme religious leader announced that today, February 11, it will “deliver a punch that will leave the world stunned”. Is this mere rhetoric? Is Iran building nuclear arsenals to nuke Eretz Yisrael and the West? Is there any hint as to when Moshiach will come? Are we running out of time? What do the Torah and Chazal say? Is there anything we can do?
According to Chazal (Sanhedrin 97), Moshiach will arrive before the seventh millennium (the year 6000). According to many Rishonim this means that the full-range of spectacular prophecies and super-natural events associated with Achris Hayomim and Yemos Moshiach (which will encompass several Doros, generations-see Sanhedrin 99 and Ben Ish Chai), must occur within the next 230 years.
The Navi (Michah 7:15) says that our future redemption will be like the Geulah from Egypt. According to Yalkut Shimoni (2:806) this is precisely what Rabbi Dosa (and according to Peskita Rabbasi, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Elazar) refers to when he says that the period of Moshiach will last 400 years. The four hundred years correspond to the period that Avrohom was told that we would be in the Egyptian exile. According to Maharsha, those years of persecution will have the potential to be transformed into years of joy.
Interestingly, 400 years prior to the year 6000 “deadline” is the year 5600, which corresponds to the secular calendar year of 1839-1840. What was special about this time period? The Zohar (Vayera, 1:117a) states: “In the six hundredth year of the sixth millennium (the Hebrew year 5600), a great light will shine forth from the heavens, causing a transformation in the world.” Indeed, that year heralded a drastic change in the world. This era was the start of the Industrial Revolution. From that time onwards, extraordinary advances were made in science and technology. We will soon see that coinciding with this same time period a national power began brewing in the Middle East that would serve as a harbinger for Yemos Moshiach.
Imagine a person living in the thirteenth century. If this fellow could propel himself five hundred years into the future-into the eighteenth century-he would look around and, aside for changes in fashion, find himself in his familiar world. Now, if a fellow living in 1839 propelled himself a mere one hundred years into the future, the world would be unrecognizable to him: steam engines, trains, automobiles, telephones, electricity – wonder after wonder would confound him. The world during that century became totally transformed. And the rate of change has only accelerated since then. What happened?
The Industrial Revolution and subsequent scientific development seem to be a prelude to the Nevua concerning the epoch of Moshiach. Genetic engineering is ushering in an existence where food will be available in an infinitesimal amount of time. Biotechnology, sequencing the human genome, adult stem cells, and cloning has fostered the ability to halt disease and, potentially, prepare indigenous replacement organs that will guarantee longevity. Researchers are even grappling with thwarting apoptosis (programmed cell death), thus conquering the natural aging process. The Navi indicates that in Yemos HaMoshiach women will have the ability to bear sextuplets; with fertility advances today, multiple births are a common occurrence. Transportation and technology are also making great strides in the realization of prophecies that travel to Israel will be speedy and efficient. This entire theory concurs with Rambam’s view that the age of Moshiach will be dependent on the natural progression of knowledge and discovery.
Wahabism and Moshiach
Particularly fascinating is that another seminal event transpired during this same period. It was in 1840 that the Saudis retook Riyadh and that Wahabism (an ultra-fanatical, terror-driven branch of Islam) came firmly seated at the centre of power. This is stunning in light of the Torah’s Nevua concerning the role of Yishmael in Acharis Hayomim.
First some background:
In the year 2047, Hashem promised Avraham that Yishmael would become a dominant world power. The fulfillment of this prophecy commenced in the secular calendar year 622 (the year 4383), with the founding of Islam-2,336 years after the promise! In their jihad wars, Islam almost became the dominant power in the world, as they attempted to conquer Western Europe, marching to Vienna (in 1683). In fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned to Avraham, the Arabs were awarded a protracted dominion of Eretz Yisrael lasting from Omar’s rule in 638 until the end of the Ottoman rule in 1916 (with a relatively brief interruption by the Crusaders from 1099 to 1291). However, despite this, over the last several centuries, the Muslims have been in a state of dormancy, barely wielding power.
Our Mesorah (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer chapters. 28, 32, 36:32; Eitz HaDaat Tov, ch. 124; Daniel 7:4, 25 and Malbim there; Zohar III 32a; Baal HaTurim, Genesis 25:18) teaches us that in Achris Hayomim a sect of fanatical Ishmaelites will arise and act subhuman, executing horrendous and unimaginable attacks upon people around the world. They will first team up with Christian nations (which the Torah refers to as “Edom”) against the Jewish people [recently documented in Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005], and later go out to war against the Christians (Ibn Ezra, Genesis 27:40; Ezekiel 38:3, Malbim and Abarbanel ibid). Yishmael will be all-pervasive, enmeshed in every part of their enemies’ lands. They will wield tremendous power and be ruled by super-wealthy princes. Eventually the various wars will develop into a world war centered on Yerushalayim.
As mentioned earlier, over the last several centuries, the Muslims have been in a state of dormancy, barely wielding power. Beginning in 1840, the paradigm shifted. We are all familiar with the barbarism and heinous violence perpetrated by Wahabism and its followers. In fulfillment of the prophecy of the “resurrection” of Islam, it is interesting to note that according to National Geographic, Islam is now the fastest growing religion on earth. One in every four human beings alive today is Muslim.
Iran: the definite prelude
The enigma that must be solved is the following: The Medrash (Vayikra Rabah 13:5), based on Sefer Doniel (7:2-28), which discusses Doniel’s futuristic dream of four archetypical animals, explains that the animals allude to the nations of Bavel (Babylon), Paras (Persia), Yavan (Greece), and Romi (Rome)- the four powerful nations that will rule the world and subjugate the Jews. Many meforshim find it exceedingly puzzling that the Chachamim do not include Yishmael as the fifth and final nation to persecute Klal Yisrael. After all, Chazal stress that there will be no nation as brazen and callous in Achris Hayomim as Yishmael.
Some Rishonim posit the following answer: It was the Romans who exiled the Jews. The nation of Yishmael did not add any new element of exile. Ergo, Yishmael does not warrant special classification (Ramban). Tosafos Rid, Maharal, and others, say differently. They explain that there is no need for a fifth classification because Yishmael is included in the second listing, the kingdom of Persia. Ultimately ancient Persia will return to power and Yishmael will be incorporated by modern day Persia (Iran). According to this reasoning, the two nations are synonymous and it is superfluous to mention a fifth nation. This is patently clear in our times. As the Iran fund proxies (Hamas, Hezbollah, etc…) against Eretz Yisrael and as we confront Iran’s threat of a nuclear Holocaust, we bear witness to prophesies thousands of years old unfolding before our eyes.
As was cited in a previous article published by this author on The Yeshiva World (please refer to Torah’s View on Iran, Eretz Yisroel, America & Moshiach; October 19, 2009) the Talmud (Avodah Zara 2b) and meforshim say that Iran’s threat is a prerequisite for Moshiach. This notion suggests quite strongly that we are the generation of Moshiach.
The Yalkut Shimoni (Yeshaya, 499) says that as a result of the Iranian threat we will be compelled to turn to Hashem in desperation and prayer. Chazal tell us that in the zechus of our teshuvah we will be saved.
How can we beat Iran?
It took 2,336 years for Hashem’s beracha to Yishmael to be fulfilled. We, Bnei Yisrael, are waiting over 3700 years for our beracha to be fulfilled. It seems that the fulfillment of our beracha has never been more palpable. Time is short. We can bring Moshiach and arrest the threat of Iran. How?
The Arizal (Etz Hadaas Tov on Tehillim 124) says that Yishmael’s major merit in Achris Hayomim is zechus avos-that he is the son of Avraham. The challenge for us is to counteract this mitigating zechus. How can we do this?
Only one individual in the entire Torah is described by Hashem in the most intimate and endearing terms, as “my beloved.” In Yeshaya (41:8), Hashem calls Avraham Avinu, “Avraham Ohavi-Avraham my beloved”. Why does Avraham deserve this unique appellation? Chazal explain that Avraham made every sacrifice to cause Hashem to be beloved to others, thus he merited to be called the beloved of Hashem. Perhaps this is something that we can aspire to in our resolve to vanquish the threat from Iran. Let us make Hashem beloved to others.
I have three suggestions on how to accomplish this:
1. Project holiness. We project holiness by treating other human beings as holy, as Tzelem Elokim. Greet people with happiness and respect. When we ignore another person and don’t even nod a hello, we cause Hashem to be less beloved. Rav Yisrael Salanter said “Al yehudi asur ledaber, el Yehudi mitzvah ledaber-one is forbidden to speak ABOUT a Jew, but TO a Jew it’s a mitzvah to speak.
2. Think about an act of chesed that you can do. Persia is Paras in Lashon Hakodesh, meaning reward. Their motivation is reward. Ours should be nobler. Don’t do chesed looking for honor and homage; rather perform chesed lSheim Shamayim, in order to make Hashem more beloved in the world.
3. Learn Torah, al menas lilmod vlaasos, in order to teach it and implement what you’ve learned. There’s no greater method to make Hashem more beloved than by learning Torah, teaching what you’ve learned to others, and integrating what you’ve learned into your psyche.
We hope and pray to Hashem that in the zechus of our efforts, Iran and all our enemies will dissipate and we will be zocheh to Moshiach, speedily in our days.
Some of this material is based on the Hashkafah book, Search Judaism: Judaism’s Answers to a Changing World by Rav Yitzchok Fingerer.