INTERNET’S WORD FOR THE NEW YEAR
The closer to the New Year we become, the louder is the voice of those many websites “prophesying” the coming of Messiah in 2017. The English sites are full of articles about Rabbi Judah ben Samuel and his prophecy about 2017. A simple Google search can find thousands of webpages dealing with this prophecy; the Hebrew sites, however, are much more moderate and cautious. Let’s try to understand why.
I suppose most of my readers have already seen this text, but in case you are not familiar with it, let’s look at part of it again. The prophecy attributed to Judah Ben Samuel – the “internet prophecy”, as it has already been called – goes like this:
“When the Ottomans conquer Jerusalem they will rule over Jerusalem for eight jubilees. Afterwards Jerusalem will become no-man’s land for one jubilee, and then in the ninth jubilee it will once again come back into the possession of the Jewish nation – which would signify the beginning of the Messianic end time.”
This prophecy appeared for the first time in 2008, in the Christian/Messianic Magazine Israel Today, translated and summarized from the original German by Ludwig Schneider. Since then, it has made its way to thousands of webpages, and Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel has become more famous than he has ever been.
Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel (Hebrew name is Yehudah Hachassid – Judah the Pious), son of the famous Kalonymus family of rabbis and mystics, lived and worked in Germany from the end of the 12th century until the beginning of the 13th century. Rabbi Judah wrote several books, certainly had mystical leanings, and wrote a lot of stories about the supernatural (witches, vampires and other strange creatures). According to his students, he was very passionate about the coming of the Messiah, and this might explain the prophecy about the Messianic age. If this prophecy does indeed belong to him – if this text does come from the 13th century – it would be truly amazing!
The problem is, however, that there is no reference to this “prophecy” in any of the available works of Judah Ben Samuel. The Hebrew sites are acutely aware of this. There have been some Israeli writers and researchers who have tried to contact Ludwig Schneider, requesting information about the source of the prophecy, but to no avail. Therefore, at this point we know for sure about one source of this “prophecy” only: the article in Israel Today magazine (March 2008, page 18) that became the beginning of this surge of interest around Rabbi Judah. I am not saying there was no such a prophecy – all I am saying is that we have no proof that there was.
Having said that, I have to admit that I completely understand these feelings about 2017, and also tend to see it as a year of prophetic significance. We all know that God’s prophetic clock is attached to Israel and Jerusalem. The first official act by a Gentile nation that gave the Jews legal right to the Holy Land, was the Balfour Declaration, and it happened in 1917. Then, 50 years later, in 1967, after the Six-Days War, Jerusalem was recaptured, reunited and declared to be the eternal undivided capital of the State of Israel. 50 years after 1967, entering year 2017 – and entering it from Jerusalem – I can’t help but foretaste the significance of this year for my country and my city, for Israel and for Jerusalem, – and for the whole world.
GOD’S WORD FOR THE NEW YEAR
This means that, as we approach the New Year, we have all the more reason to listen to what God is saying to us! I happen to believe that weekly Torah portions are divinely ordained, and that God speaks to His people – and to each one of us personally – through these Parashot Shavua. So, it was only natural that, a while ago, I checked the Torah portion for the last Shabbat of 2016 (which also happens to be the last day of the year – December 31!) The coming year began to seem even more significant when I realized that the entrance to this year would be marked by Parashat Miketz!
Miketz portion starts from Genesis 41:1 where we read: at the end of two full years Pharaoh dreamed. There is a slight and seemingly insignificant difference when read in Hebrew: MiKetz Shnataim Yamim (מִקֵּץ שְׁנָתַיִם יָמִים ) – at the end of “two years of days”. The word yamim, days, doesn’t occur in any English translations, which speak only about “two years” or “two full years”, while the original text speaks of “two years of days”.
I believe the Hebrew text here conveys a very profound message – a message that is completely lost in translation. For Joseph, these two years of imprisonment consisted of many single days – days full of struggle, and pain, hopes, and disappointments. The word “days” assures us that God saw every single day of these two years: He knew the pain and the anguish of each of these days. He knew that every single day Joseph had to choose to believe and to trust Him anew.
I believe, this is the message for each one of us at this change of the years. Even today, in modern Hebrew, the word “days” is often added when we speak of time: e.g. a week of days, a month of days. שבוע ימים. חודש ימים. . This means that, even though our lives are measured by years (or months or weeks), these years consist of days – days full of challenges and choices, hopes and disappointments – and God also sees and knows the pain and the anguish of each and every one of these days. Every single day we face new challenges; every single day we need to choose to trust Him – oftentimes in spite of our circumstances, in spite of all the pain, the struggles and disappointments. I don’t know what you have been going through these past two, or three, or five years of days, but trust His Word: Not only did God see every one of these days but, at some point, the end of these years of days will inevitably come, – just as it came in Joseph’s life in the Torah portion marking the entrance into 2017.
TO ALL MY READERS, STUDENTS AND FRIENDS: MAY YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES HAVE A WONDERFUL, TRULY BLESSED YEAR! I GREATLY APPRECIATE YOU ALL! HAPPY NEW YEAR !