Thursday, December 20, 2012
When Will The End Come
"I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait each day for his coming." - Prosaic formula of the 13 Principles of Faith set down by Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides/Rambam).
There have been many who have claimed to have either deciphered or had a mystic revelation of the exact date of the end of the world (as we know it) and the coming of the final redemption. There have also been many who have declared themselves to be the Messiah. Given the present state of the world, both physically and spiritually, one can say without much doubt that they were wrong.
As strong as the Jewish belief in the coming of the Messiah may be, trying to calculate the exact date of the final redemption is not high on the list of things to do of most Jewish scholars. Perhaps that is because Jewish law focuses on the here and now (which is the same reason for the unexpectedly vague discussions of the afterlife).
The Talmud states that "Seven things are hidden from humankind....[one of them being] when the Davidic dynasty [the Messiah] will return; and when the wicked kingdom will come to an end" (Pesachim 54b).
Nevertheless, there is some information about the coming of the Messiah. For instance, "Rabbi Kattina said: The world is to last six thousand years, and one thousand it will be desolate (Rosh Hashana 31a).
Now, before one sits down to try to calculate the 6,000 and 1,000 years, it is important to consider the following statement by Rav: "All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds" (Sanhedrin 97b).
As noted earlier, Judaism is fundamentally about the here and now, and the final redemption has always depended on each one of us doing our part to improve who we are.
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