Friday, March 30, 2007


Not-So-Random Notes on Redemption for the Eve of Pesach

In The Jewish State, the great Zionist leader and thinker Theodor Herzl made two qualified predictions that have proven utterly incorrect.

Regarding the Jewish Diaspora, he wrote, "[The] absorption of Jews by means of their prosperity is unlikely to occur."

Sadly, assimilation seems to be very advanced in the United States, where Jews are, as a group, arguably the most prosperous they have ever been. More than 50% of American Jews marry out of the faith community and the vast majority of their subsequent generations are lost to the Jewish people.

Regarding the Jewish State he envisioned, Herzl wrote, "The Jews, once settled in their own state, would probably have no more enemies."

No comment necessary.

On the other hand, a foundational book of the Kabbalah, the Zohar, makes certain redemption-era predictions, as well. Unlike the predictions of Herzl, written down about 600 years later, the Zohar appears to me to be spot-on.

The Zohar says that the descendants of Ishmael receive a Divine reward for having preserved the rite of circumcision as taught to them by our common forefather, Abraham. As will be recalled, the Torah records Ishmael's circumcision at the age of 13, a tradition the Arabs, descendants of Ishmael - and all those influenced by the Ishmaelite religion of Islam - have preserved until today.

In the merit of this mitzvah, the Zohar explains, "The sons of Ishmael will rule a long time over the Holy Land, while it is empty of everything.... And they will delay the return of the sons of Israel to their place, until this merit of the sons of Ishmael will be completed."

And how long will that be? Well, from the conquest of Judea by the Arabs until the declaration of the State of Israel is 1400 years. However, 1936-1939 were the years of the first Arab Intifada, which became known as the "Arab Revolt." This "revolt" included organized and well-financed attacks on Jews throughout the Land of Israel. Might one perhaps say that the Arab Revolt was the opening shot in the children of Ishmael's war to hold onto their reward after 13 centuries; i.e., one century for each year of their forefather's age at the time of his circumcision?

Or perhaps, by 1938, the Jewish communities and farms in Israel were sufficiently productive and reinvigorating of the land that it could no longer be considered "empty of everything," in the terminology of the Zohar.

It is also interesting to note that 1938 was the year of Kristalnacht in Germany, when Jews were given a blunt reminder of what it meant to remain in Galut.

And regarding the period after the return of the children of Israel to their land, at the conclusion of the Ishmaelite merit, the Zohar says, "The sons of Ishmael will cause great wars in the world, and the sons of Edom will be gathered to them and cause war against them."

Again, no comment necessary, except to note that, in Jewish commentaries, "Edom" often refers to the Western world - Europe and its cultural spin-offs such as America.

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