Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In the Footsteps of the Messiah

In my postings, I have often alluded to a remarkable Mishna at the end of Tractate Sotah (9, 15). The text describes the trials and depravities that will mark the era prior to the coming of the Messiah.

Now, I have long been (and remain) of the opinion that the arrival of the Messiah is wholly in God's hands. I hold fast to the principle, proclaimed by Hazal and codified by the Rambam, that we should have no truck with those who attempt to predict his imminent arrival (Sanhedrin 97b and Rambam, Hil. Melakhim 12, 2). To act otherwise would be impertinent (in extremis).

At the same time, this passage from Sotah is eerily accurate in its description of the current state of the Jewish People, at home and abroad. I present it here, in full, with the intent to gradually comment upon each strophe separately. It is not my purpose to argue that the relevance of the passage indicate an imminent messianic advent (though, that would be nice).

Rather, I cite it in order to highlight just how frighteningly decrepit we have become. I have no idea, and do not wish one, whether things will get worse before we are redeemed. However, I find myself frequently thinking of the reaction of the Talmudic sages, Ulla and Rabbah, to this (and similar) predictions (Sanhedrin 98b): ''Let him come, but let me not see him' (ייתי
ולא איחמיניה ).

Herewith, the passage in question:

בעקבות משיחא חוצפא יסגא ויוקר יאמיר הגפן תתן פריה והיין ביוקר והמלכות תהפך למינות ואין תוכחה בית ועד יהיה לזנות והגליל יחרב והגבלן ישום ואנשי הגבול יסובבו מעיר לעיר ולא יחוננו וחכמת סופרים תסרח ויראי חטא ימאסו והאמת תהא נעדרת נערים פני זקנים ילבינו זקנים יעמדו מפני קטנים (מיכה ז') בן מנוול אב בת קמה באמה כלה בחמותה אויבי איש אנשי ביתו פני הדור כפני הכלב הבן אינו מתבייש מאביו ועל מי יש לנו להשען על אבינו שבשמים

In the era of the footsteps of the Messiah, insolence will increase and personal dignity will dwindle. The vine will yield its fruit, but wine will be expensive.The government will turn to heresy and there will be none to reprove them. The Sanhedrin's home will become a brothel. The Galilee will be destroyed, Gablan Desolated, and the fronteir dwellers will go around begging, from place to place, and noone will have compassion upon them. The wisdom of the Rabbis will degenerate. Those who fear sin will be despised. The Truth will be absent.
Youths will shame their elders. Elders will rise in the presence of the young. A son will revile his father. A daughter will rise up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will come from the members of his own household. The demeanor of the generation will be like that of a dog. A son will feel no shame before his father.

So, upon whom may we rely? Only upon our Heavenly Father.


psael said...

That seems to describe every generation, at least in the eyes of the generation that preceded it. If you think it applies now, that's a sign you're getting old :)

Moshe said...


The part at the beginning:
הגפן תתן פריה והיין ביוקר
seems awfully true - there is no shortage of food, yet the prices are sky-high. Chazal must have known about commodity market speculators!


Gil Student said...

Reb Itzeleh Volozhiner was attending a rabbinic conference in which a particularly difficult communal problem was being addressed. No one could find a solution and the group had given up. Reb Itzeleh quoted these Mishnayos and said that the saying of "ve-al mi yesh lanu le-hisha'en..." is part of the bad things that will be going on in the pre-messianic days. Our leaders will give up and say that all we can do is rely on God. That, he said, is the wrong approach and a sign of declining times.

Jeffrey said...

Nice story, but beside the point. Noone advocated passivity. However, as the Rav used to say, when events become absurd, it's a sign that Divine Providence is working in history.

Ben Bayit said...

when events become absurd its a sign that things are absurd and need to be fixed.

The Temple was destroyed because Rome destroyed it not because of Kamtza/Bar Kamtza and Titus dies of a brain hemmorage and not because of a gnat in his ear. Yes, we have to understand what chazal was saying to us, but we can't let it become a pathological type of thinking. Read Ruth Wisse's "Jews and Power". You can get the short version on Azure's website) Sure its apikorsut - but its a healthy blast of fresh air apikorsut that perhaps believing Jews can use a whiff of.

Anonymous said...

"Gil Student said...

Reb Itzeleh Volozhiner was attending a rabbinic conference...."

I think tha idea is in the חידושי אגדות of the מהרש"א