Talking About the End of Days

PDF Version
By: Pinchas Winston
Length: 356 pages


Some people have no problem talking about the “End-of-Days.”
Others avoid the topic.
Some even think it is forbidden.
Not only is it permissible to speak about End-Days, it is wise to, and this book will make that very clear.


 

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THE CONCEPT OF Moshiach is both a simple and complicated one.

The term itself is a Hebrew word meaning “anointed one,” since kings descending from the tribe
of Yehudah were initiated by being anointed with special olive oil.

Outside of the Jewish world, the word over time changed forms in different languages,
and in English it is “messiah,” which is used to refer to a “redeemer.”

In his short but classic work, The Thirteen Principles of Faith, Maimonides,
the Rambam, wrote:

I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach, and even though he may tarry,
nevertheless, I will wait for him every day, that he will come.

The understanding of this twelfth principle of faith is clear:
Jews have an obligation to believe that Moshiach could arrive any day, at any time.

One would think, based upon this directive,
that believing Jews would live lives that take this idea into account.

When something important in life is imminent,
it usually occupies much of the daily discussion and plays a role in one’s decision-making process.

However, for many Jews over the centuries, this has not necessarily been the case,

and the following address to a small audience by Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein,
the mashgiach of the famed Mir Yeshivah in Poland (before World War II),

and the Mir Yeshivah of Jerusalem and Ponovez (after the war),
could easily have been addressed to much of the Jewish world:

The Sefer Mitzvos HaKatan wrote in his explanation of the positive mitzvah of, “

I am God, your God, Who took you out of Egypt” (Shemos 20:2),

that it means, one must know that He Who created Heaven and Earth alone controls [the world] above and below.

He added, “This [mitzvah] is the basis for what the rabbis teach:

‘At the time of a person’s judgment after death they ask him, ‘Did you anticipate redemption?’ ” (Shabbos 31a).

Where is this mitzvah written?
Actually, it comes from this [same verse], and  just as, “I am God, your God, Who took you out of Egypt,”
means that we are expected to believe that God redeemed us from Egypt, it also means “. . .

I also want you to believe that I, God your God,
will gather you in and redeem you in mercy a second time.”

According to this, belief in the future redemption is . . .

included in the first of the Ten Commandments.

If we check ourselves,
it seems we are very far from having faith in the future redemption . . .

When it comes to the arrival of Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead we are silent,
as if embarrassed to speak about them, as if we have given up them altogether.

The words of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatan should cause our hearts to tremble . . .
and anyone who is not involved with these matters is far from having any true faith . . .

(Ohr Yechezkel, Emunas HaGeulah, 1960; p. 287)

Indeed, the situation is quite backwards.

For, even though the concept of a messianic redeemer originates in Judaism,
it is others who picked up on this idea, who speak of the concept continuously,
although they have created their own version of who messiah is.

And, in truth, this is one of the reasons why traditional Judaism has dropped the subject for the time being.

The many distortions and abuse of the concept have left a bad taste in the mouths of Jews throughout the centuries,
especially since for almost 2000 years the catholic and derivative churches tried to impose their concept of
messiah at pain of death and torture.

However, there were also internal disturbances that created severe resistance
to the concept of Moshiach and the End-of-Days.

There was the Shabtai Tzvi debacle in Europe around the year 1650.

Claiming to be THE Moshiach of the

Jewish people, he successfully convinced masses of downtrodden Jews that the Final Redemption was close at hand.

People sold their homes in distant lands and made travel arrangements to Eretz Yisroel, and even threatened hostile gentiles with revenge.

One cannot begin to imagine the psychological and political fallout that resulted when Shabtai Tzvi,
given a choice of conversion to Islam or death by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, chose the former and converted.

The ripple effects of this spiritual crisis for the Jewish people reach even until this day,
and resulted in all kinds of resolutions to avoid such fiascoes in the future.

The Haskalah Movement, or so-called “Jewish Enlightenment,”
which came on the heels of the Shabtai Tzvi catastrophe,
only served to further bury the concept of Jewish messianism.

Its motto being, “Be a cosmopolitan man in the street and a Jew in your home,”
the Haskalah dramatically moved away from Torah consciousness with the desire
of embracing modern Western culture.

However, more recently, other familiar reasons have interfered with the Jewish
connection to the concept of Moshiach and redemption.

The general rule is, when Jews prosper materialistically in exile,
the need for redemption and Moshiach dwindles.

Indeed, the thought that Moshiach could come at any moment and signal the end of this
fourth and final exile sends a chill up and down the back of many believing Jews.

There is even a joke to this effect:

Ya’akov was a simple but devoted Jew who never had time to learn much Torah, though he longed to.

The best he could do while plying a meager living was listen attentively to the rabbi’s
dvar Torah each Shabbos morning after services.

Then, he would return home to his wife and lovingly repeat the rabbi’s wise words at Shabbos lunch.

However, one Shabbos, Ya’akov returned home white in the face and somewhat hysterical,
and his wife was terribly concerned.

“Ya’akov!” she cried, “What is the matter?
What has happened to you?! You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

But, poor Ya’akov could only repeat over and over again,
“The rabbi . . . the rabbi . . .  the rabbi . . .”

“The rabbi what?”
his wife tried to understand, “Did something terrible happen to the rabbi,
God forbid?”

Ya’akov, finally calming down somewhat, answered his wife. “No,” he began.
“It is what the rabbi said today.”

“What could he have said that could shake you up like this?” she asked.

“He said . . . he said . . . that this Moshiach fellow is going to come soon,
and we’ll have to sell our houses and belongings and  . . .  and . . .”

“And WHAT?” his wife said, raising her voice in concern.

“AND MOVE TO ISRAEL!” Ya’akov blurted out as he put his face in his hands and cried,
“Oy, what will be!”

“Ya’akov,” she said in a calming tone of voice.

“Ya’akov, calm down.
It will be okay.
You have to have faith! For, just like God saved our people from the Crusades and the Holocaust,
He’ll save us from Moshiach too!”

If there were not a strong element of truth to the joke,
it might be funny.

However, instead of laughing, we have reason for grave concern.

That so many Jews not only do not look for Moshiach daily,
but rather fear that his coming will interfere with life as they know it,
is the motivation for this book.

It is a compilation of sources and ideas that show us how crucial the concept and
reality of Moshiach is to our lives and our very survival as Jewish individuals
and as the Jewish nation in our given role as the “light unto nations.”

THE CONCEPT OF Moshiach is both a simple and complicated one.

The term itself is a Hebrew word meaning “anointed one,”
since kings descending from the tribe of Yehudah were initiated by being anointed
with special olive oil.

Outside of the Jewish world,
the word over time changed forms in different languages,
and in English it is “messiah,” which is used to refer to a “redeemer.”

In his short but classic work,
The Thirteen Principles of Faith, Maimonides, the Rambam, wrote:

I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach,
and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I will wait for him every day,
that he will come.

The understanding of this twelfth principle of faith is clear:

Jews have an obligation to believe that Moshiach could arrive any day, at any time.

One would think, based upon this directive,
that believing Jews would live lives that take this idea into account.

When something important in life is imminent,
it usually occupies much of the daily discussion and plays a role in one’s decision-making process.

However, for many Jews over the centuries,
this has not necessarily been the case, and the following address to a small audience by Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein,
the mashgiach of the famed Mir Yeshivah in Poland (before World War II),
and the Mir Yeshivah of Jerusalem and Ponovez (after the war),
could easily have been addressed to much of the Jewish world:

The Sefer Mitzvos HaKatan wrote in his explanation of the positive mitzvah of,

“I am God, your God, Who took you out of Egypt” (Shemos 20:2)

, that it means, one must know that He Who created Heaven and Earth alone controls [the world] above and below.

He added, “This [mitzvah] is the basis for what the rabbis teach:

‘At the time of a person’s judgment after death they ask him, ‘Did you anticipate redemption?’ ” (Shabbos 31a).

Where is this mitzvah written?

Actually, it comes from this [same verse],
and just as, “I am God, your God, Who took you out of Egypt,”
means that we are expected to believe that God redeemed us from Egypt, it also means “. . .

I also want you to believe that I,
God your God, will gather you in and redeem you in mercy a second time.”

According to this, belief in the future redemption is . . .

included in the first of the Ten Commandments.

If we check ourselves, it seems we are very far from having faith in the future redemption . . .

When it comes to the arrival of Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead we are silent,
as if embarrassed to speak about them, as if we have given up them altogether.

The words of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatan should cause our hearts to tremble . . .

and anyone who is not involved with these matters is far from having any true faith . . .

(Ohr Yechezkel, Emunas HaGeulah, 1960; p. 287)

Indeed, the situation is quite backwards.

For, even though the concept of a messianic redeemer originates in Judaism,
it is others who picked up on this idea, who speak of the concept continuously,
although they have created their own version of who messiah is.

And, in truth,
this is one of the reasons why traditional Judaism has dropped the subject for the time being.

The many distortions and abuse of the concept have left a bad taste in the mouths of
Jews throughout the centuries,
especially since for almost 2000 years the catholic and derivative churches tried to
impose their concept of messiah at pain of death and torture.

However, there were also internal disturbances that created severe resistance to the
concept of Moshiach and the End-of-Days.

There was the Shabtai Tzvi debacle in Europe around the year 1650.

Claiming to be THE Moshiach of the Jewish people,
he successfully convinced masses of downtrodden Jews that the Final Redemption was close at hand.

People sold their homes in distant lands and made travel arrangements to Eretz Yisroel,
and even threatened hostile gentiles with revenge.

One cannot begin to imagine the psychological and political fallout that resulted when Shabtai Tzvi,
given a choice of conversion to Islam or death by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire,
chose the former and converted.

The ripple effects of this spiritual crisis for the Jewish people reach even until this day,
and resulted in all kinds of resolutions to avoid such fiascoes in the future.

The Haskalah Movement, or so-called “Jewish Enlightenment,”
which came on the heels of the Shabtai Tzvi catastrophe,
only served to further bury the concept of Jewish messianism.

Its motto being, “Be a cosmopolitan man in the street and a Jew in your home,”
the Haskalah dramatically moved away from Torah consciousness with the desire of
embracing modern Western culture.

However, more recently,
other familiar reasons have interfered with the Jewish connection to the
concept of Moshiach and redemption.

The general rule is, when Jews prosper materialistically in exile,
the need for redemption and Moshiach dwindles. Indeed,
the thought that Moshiach could come at any moment and signal the end of this fourth and final
exile sends a chill up and down the back of many believing Jews.

There is even a joke to this effect:

Ya’akov was a simple but devoted Jew who never had time to learn much Torah, though he longed to.

The best he could do while plying a meager living was listen attentively to the
rabbi’s dvar Torah each Shabbos morning after services.

Then, he would return home to his wife and lovingly repeat the
rabbi’s wise words at Shabbos lunch.

However, one Shabbos, Ya’akov returned home white in the face and somewhat hysterical,
and his wife was terribly concerned.

“Ya’akov!” she cried, “What is the matter?

What has happened to you?!

You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

But, poor Ya’akov could only repeat over and over again,
“The rabbi . . . the rabbi . . . the rabbi . . .”
“The rabbi what?”

his wife tried to understand,

“Did something terrible happen to the rabbi, God forbid?”
Ya’akov, finally calming down somewhat, answered his wife.

“No,” he began. “It is what the rabbi said today.”
“What could he have said that could shake you up like this?” she asked.
“He said . . . he said . . .

that this Moshiach fellow is going to come soon,
and we’ll have to sell our houses and belongings and . . . and . . .”
“And WHAT?”

his wife said, raising her voice in concern.

“AND MOVE TO ISRAEL!”
Ya’akov blurted out as he put his face in his hands and cried,
“Oy, what will be!”
“Ya’akov,” she said in a calming tone of voice.

“Ya’akov, calm down. It will be okay. You have to have faith!

For, just like God saved our people from the Crusades and the Holocaust,
He’ll save us from Moshiach too!”

If there were not a strong element of truth to the joke,
it might be funny.

However, instead of laughing, we have reason for grave concern.

That so many Jews not only do not look for Moshiach daily,
but rather fear that his coming will interfere with life as they know it,
is the motivation for this book.

It is a compilation of sources and ideas that show us how crucial the concept and
reality of Moshiach is to our lives and our very survival as Jewish individuals and as
the Jewish nation in our given role as the “light unto nations.”

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