Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why I take great offense at the amateur mystics gleefully predicting the fall of America

I am holding myself back here, so that I do not call people a bunch of names they justly deserve. But I take great offense at the amateur, know-nothing kabbalistic wannabes who hope for the destruction of my country, which is truly a great country.

Yes, that includes those who say that America is Rome, on the basis of nothing. And those who claim that President George Bush is Gog, on the basis of a stupid pun ("Gog Bush"), and on the basis of gematrias which can be used to prove anything. It is not the methodology that bothers me so much, even though it is nonsense, and even Baal HaTurim, renowned for his gematriot, would agree it is nonsense. What bothers me is the underlying desire which causes them to kvetch their interpretations and gematriot in the direction of the fall of America.

America is a wonderful country. Historically, it provided a safe-haven for Jews, it fought Germany in World War II, it is a great supporter of Israel on the world stage and in the United nations. It was founded on great ideas such as democracy and the rights of man. Even today, they send so much help to other countries to aid them in their time of need. America is good.

And George Bush is a good man. He was the leader of this wonderful nation I am proud to be a member of. And he meant well. Even though I do not share his Christian faith, and I might have disagreed with some of his policies. Even so, he most certainly meant well, and was guided by the desire to do good. He was not some evil dictator who was trying to start wars in order to kill innocent people, or bring about the apocalypse. To say he was Gog, in many people's minds, means that he is some evildoer and anti-Christ, leader of the forces of evil. Thus, all sorts of loony conspiracy theories that he was part of the freemasons, and was trying to cause this economic crisis.

The same goes for Barack Hussain Obama. I disagree with him on certain political points, both foreign and domestic, and I may think he is inexperienced. But is he evil? Is he now Gog? How insulting! I believe he is well-meaning, and wants to do good, even if I disagree with him. I do not think he is a closet Muslim who came to power in order to kill all the Jews or arm Iran with nuclear weapons, or who knows what not. To suggest he deliberately flubbed the oath of office, as part of a conspiracy involving the Republican justice Roberts, is the height of lunacy, and treats him like some sort of vampire who needs to avoid the cross and garlic, and whatnot. It is silly and, more importantly, hateful.

And America is not the new Rome. It is not the "wicked empire," the classic enemy of Israel. When I hear this, I am hurt and insulted on behalf of my country, which is a medinah shel chessed.

And when I hear gleeful predictions of the fall of America, I cannot help but think that those doing the predictions are no worse than the Muslim terrorists who hope for America's fall. The Palestinians danced in the streets hearing of the fall of the World Trade Center. And apparently the amateur kabbalists are just as gleeful, because they also think of America as a terrible influence on the world, which will be destroyed in fulfillment of messianic prophecies.

This includes predictions that all the banks in America will fail, followed by hopeful waiting for such false-prophecies to be carried out. Disasters such as Katrina, wildfires, and earthquakes are interpreted as America getting what was coming to it. I would like to tell you where to go, but I won't.

The latest was a prediction of the destruction of the Statue of Liberty, perhaps by an earthquake, based on a misinterpretation of a likely-forged kabbalistic text. Well, let me tell you. I live in New York City. I have family and friends in New York City. And if you look at New York City as a den of iniquity, and hope for its destruction -- and yes, with this prediction in place, you are hoping, because you think it will prove you right and also bring the mashiach -- then I do not think kindly thoughts towards you. In fact, I am pretty angry at you, you foolish jerks.

Here is a long video about the prediction, a video which is way too long:

You can get the gist of it from the excellent summary / transcription of it provided by Shirat Devorah. An excerpt:
After many prayers and fasting, Rachel finally became pregnant and on the Thursday which was Rosh Hashanah, she gave birth to a son who they were to call Nachman.

However, when Nachman was born, instead of a newborn cry, the baby began to speak, disclosing great secrets of the world.


Through all the generations these prophecies were accepted as holy, and the Rabbi of "Shomer Emunim" wrote in his book that they are known to be true and the "holy of holies". It is also known that the Tzemach Tzedek accepted these prophecies.


Recently the meaning of a section was discovered by an American - Yaakov Nathan - in the fourth prophecy, letter Tzadik.

The translation is :

"When the idol of Rhodes will be destroyed, know that the end of the Wicked Kingdom is near"

The "Idol of Rhodes" is the Statue of Liberty.

"When the statue of Liberty is destroyed, we will known that the Moshiach is about to be revealed"
As part of the video, at the 3:40 mark, the author introduces the Statue of Liberty and states that it "symbolizes mostly the western values of freedom and permissiveness of Europe and America." Thus, the "idol" that is the Statue of Liberty is taken to be a monument to decadence.

Listen, fella. You have no idea what freedom means. Even on Pesach, which we are soon to celebrate, we celebrate cherut, freedom. Perhaps you hope to establish a theocracy according to your version of your religion, but the ideal of Liberty is indeed an ideal. See Emma Lazarus' poem, The New Collosus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

You perhaps do not understand the alternative to liberty -- of tyranny, of dictatorships, of religious and political oppression of various groups. In Europe, Jews were barred from certain professions, were exiled from place to place, were killed and generally oppressed. In the United States of America, we have freedom to strive to be what we want to be, to work to support our families without the government stopping us on the basis of our race or our religion. This is not the case in all countries. It is not "permissiveness." And stating that it is tells me just what you think of my country.

And if you think so little of my country and what the Statue of Liberty represents, then I am probably correct in thinking that you are hopeful and gleeful of the process of the statue's destruction, and of "Rome" being taken down a peg or two. That makes you a jerk.

In terms of interpreting this cryptic statement, firstly, here is the cryptic statement. The sefer Nevuat Hayeled together with commentary (which does not mention the statue of Liberty) is available here, at Hebrew Books . org.

The line beginning with tzaddi roughly says "the idol of Rhodes when it is destroyed, Rome will soon be destroyed." It does not say "Wicked Kingdom" as in the translation above.

Now, the idol of Rhodes was the statue called Colossus, and it was one of the seven wonders of the world. It was destroyed in about 280 BCE, and therefore many hundreds of years before the purported date of this prophecy. However, at that point, it merely snapped at the knees. It apparently existed for over 800 years at least, where people still went to see it. And at that So depending on the date of authorship of this prophetic poem, the statue itself may still have existed. Indeed, if we take at face value the authorship in the 5th century, then the Collossus itself still existed, so why assume that it refers to some future "Collossus" that will be built. Indeed, at about the same time, in 476, the Western Roman empire collapsed, and so this could have been referring to contemporary events -- or if written later, as a "prophecy" of the purportedly contemporary events, because people witnessed the dismantling and disappearance of the actual Colossus of Rhodes, and close to that time, the final destruction of the Western Roman empire.

But no, everything must focus on us, and we must take excerpts out of contexts from random kabbalistic seforim and interpret them to apply to the present day, for we know that the ketz is now, and not, say, in 100 years from now. Good for you!

Why should we believe it refers to the Statue of Liberty? Well, the Statue of Liberty was based in part on the Collossus, and Emma Lazarus referred to this in her poem. So it is a good fit. But why now?

And if now, I can propose at least three other interpretations:
  1. Here are a bunch of Mr. Potato Head statues in Rhode Island. Perhaps it was discussing the destruction of those statues, and referring also to the destruction of the actual Rome?

  2. Mark Rhodes was a contestant on Pop Idol, a British equivalent of American Idol. In that second season of Pop Idol, he came in in second place, rather than winning, and so we can consider it his destruction.

  3. Forget the Statue of Liberty. There are plans in the works of reconstructing the original Colossus, in Rhodes. To cite Wikipedia:
    In November 2008, it was announced that the Colossus of Rhodes was to be rebuilt. According to Dr. Dimitris Koutoulas, who is heading the project in Greece, rather than reproducing the original Colossus, the new structure will be a, "highly, highly innovative light sculpture, one that will stand between 60 and 100 metres tall so that people can physically enter it." The project is expected to cost up to €200m which will be provided by international donors and the German artist Gert Hof. The new Colossus will adorn an outer pier in the harbour area of Rhodes, where it will be visible to passing ships. Koutoulas said, "Although we are still at the drawing board stage, Gert Hof's plan is to make it the world's largest light installation, a structure that has never before been seen in any place of the world."
    Perhaps the intent was that this Colossus will be built and then destroyed.
May mashiach come soon. My messianic hopes do not include hopes for the destruction of New York City, though.


DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Yasher koach for this post!

גילוי said...


Two notes:

1. This is not "the latest", this is fact a few years old.

2. The author is a Chabadnik that lives in NYC, and agrees with your assessment that America is a medina shel chesesd.

joshwaxman said...

thanks, to both of you.

1) I know that Dreaming of Mashiach a few years back said the same suggestion of statue of liberty. The reason I was calling it "the latest" is that Shirat Devorah connected it to this article at Vos Iz Neias, "predicting" an earthquake in NYC soon:

2) What do you mean by "author"? Do you mean R' Yaakov Nathan? That is comforting. Or do you mean the author of this video which referred to him, or to the others who are now trumpeting this together with other interpretations predicting the end of Romi?


Anonymous said...

I agree that we shouldn't mumbo jumbo with pseudo-kabbalistic gematriot, but otherwise I also think that USA is a representative of Edom=Romi. The leader of the western world.
It is the USA that is using Roman symbolism: The Eagle, Senate, Capitol e.t.c which means that they identify with it. As for US being a kingdom of chessed, well, I can understand you as being an american citizen as feeling that way, and you should be loyal to your country. I am an Israeli, live in Israel and have no ties whatsoever to the USA, so I am free to state my opinion. America is not Israel's unconditional ally. It is all about US interests in the middle east. Where were the americans in 1948? Until 1967 our closest 'friends' were the french. USA is only using Israel as a means to 'divide and conquer' the middle east, so as to keep controlling the oil production. They sometimes withhold important strategic information from Israel. Interfer in Israeli politics through pressure, blackmail and covertly financing our corrupted politicians. They jeapordize jewish and arab lives through forcing a ridiculous 'peace plan=road map'. They trained palestinian tanzim gunmen. USA pours billions of dollars of weapons into radical islamic countries like saudi arabia. USA has been giving a blind eye to Iran since the seventies, but destroyed Iraq, for very little reason, totally destroying the Middle East Balance. What about pressuring the PA in allowing the Hamas to participate in the elections? You have done terrible damage to the Middle East. If you had not interfered there would have been peace years ago. I believe that Obama is going to make an even bigger mess of things here. This will certainly backfire An america. What about your whole economic system based on debt. We lost alot of pension money invested by our banks into the american economy, which seems to be free falling. What about your welfare system? Medical welfare? No way as good as Israel. Do you have capital punishment in US? We don't. Are there more criminals here?
America is middat sodom: Mine is mine, and yours is yours. Of course I do not want america destroyed, but I too well remember when Bush forced Sharon to not retaliate against terrorism in the last Intifada. So Sharon said that we would not be like czechoslovakia, and Bush got angry. 'Luckily' for Israel and tragic for US 9/11 changed US policy. Sad isn't it.

joshwaxman said...

"I agree that we shouldn't mumbo jumbo with pseudo-kabbalistic gematriot, but otherwise I also think that USA is a representative of Edom=Romi. The leader of the western world."

Precisely because the way to arrive at such an identification is so subjective, I say it is your underlying feelings that is causing you an others to make this particular identification. Otherwise, how does the fact that we do not have socialized medicine (just like many countries in history), and which has proved disastrous in other countries, have to do with identifying America as Rome?!

I did not cover this in this post, because it would take away from my main point, but I have addressed the idea of Edom/Rome/America in previous posts on parshablog. Even Edom = Rome is extremely debatable, as they were a completely different country. See Shadal's take on it.

Now, we are saying Rome becomes the Christian church, and Christian church becomes Western World, and Western World becomes America? Certainly other possibilities are there! E.g. *Italy* or Vatican City.

"I am an Israeli, live in Israel and have no ties whatsoever to the USA, so I am free to state my opinion."
In America, we also have freedom of speech. Many Americans are critical of America. We have more free speech and freedom to state our opinions that in exists Israel, which has horrendous quashing of free speech, under the pretense of "incitement." I say this because I share and appreciate certain American values.

At the same time, the world has a skewed perception of America, in part because of jealously and in part because they do not understand the internal politics and the internal guiding values.

America is not Israel's unconditional ally.
So? They still have been a very big ally, because of shared Western values including the importance of democracy and freedom.

It is all about US interests in the middle east.
That is not entirely true.

They jeapordize jewish and arab lives through forcing a ridiculous 'peace plan=road map'.
And many Israeli politicians do so as well by pursuing the peace process. Even if strongly misguided, is this because they are evil? Or is it because they foolishly believe that this is a noble thing to accomplish? People can do stupid things even with noble intent.

Do you have capital punishment in US? We don't.
And therefore what? Therefore America is Rome? Or therefore America is a terrible country? The Torah is in favor of capital punishment, and the gemara is in favor of ummot haOlam imposing capital punishment where need be. Meanwhile, Israel does not have capital punishment and so jails terrorists with blood on their hands, only to release them later for political or personal purpose later. Is that better?

Is Israeli socialized medicine better? So it is better to have screaming babies ignored for hours in maternity wards? (See here.) I am not arguing for one over another. Rather, each of the points you make have been the subject of heated arguments all over the Internet, many times. You think what you think. Others don't. But that does not suddenly mean that America is the "evil empire." It is your own subjectively formed opinion that is likely influencing you to that conclusion.

"America is middat sodom"
Yes, and that is why Americans donated millions to help tznumi victims in Indonesia, as just one example or the foreign and domestic charity, both private and governmental, out there.

Of course I do not want america destroyed, but I too well remember...Sad isn't it.
And yet you are smug and somewhat happy about American casualties, with that "sad isn't it."


גילוי said...

Yaakov Nathan was the one to whom I was referring. It has been so long since I saw the video, I didn't remember whether or not he produced it personally.

I don't believe in general that the idea of Edom is meant to be taken literally, through DNA tests, though I could be mistaken; is there not a Gemara where the Rabbis pleaded to the Romans calling them brothers (Esav and Yaakov)?

But rather, Esav is a representative of a society rooted in gashmiut gone wrong, and thus is identified as the Klipah of the Left, where the Left is the physical side, and the Klipah obviously means the side of Tumah. Once you get that far, it is not hard to see how Chazal arrived at the identification with Rome, nor throughout the generations with Christian Europe, and in our day there are those that extent it to America.

joshwaxman said...


I'll take your word regarding him. My assumption was that he did not make the video since it referred to him and his discovery in third person.

In terms of literalness, why not? Surely Chazal in the times of the gemara understood Paras literally, and Romi literally. Ovadiah was from Edom and prophesied about Edom, where all his contemporaries knew which country he was referring to. The problem arises when the nations refer to collapse and the prophecy has still (to our minds at least) not been fulfilled. Then one seeks non-literal interpretations.

Your suggestion is certainly a possible one. Though it requires Chazal to know about klipot and other kabbalistic concepts such as sefirot, where it is not clear that they did. There are other explanations possible. For example, as was pointed out to me, a rather late midrash has Remus and Romulus, founders of Rome, as direct descendants of Esav. Shadal thinks it was a transfer of enmity such that they referred to one as the other. I would suggest that it was perhaps initially a result of such transfer of enmity, but became a cultural belief such that they believed it literally, that Rome *was* the descendant of Edom.

With the fall of Rome, and with Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, together with the idea of the three major religions, with Yishmael identified with Islam, it is only logical, from a cultural perspective, that people would equate Christianity and Christiandom with Edom.

Here, by the way, is my earlier post about Edom and Rome and Christianity.


גילוי said...

There is definitely what to argue in either direction. Obviously the fact is that Ovadiah didn't give us a prophecy about a country named America but about a country named Edom, a country that existed then. The point of dispute, I suppose, is whether Chazal's identification, though out the generations, of spiritual descendants, is valid or not.

You would argue, it seems in this case, that you can't pull this out of its pshat.

I would reply by mentioning the midrashim in the Gemara about Moshe seeing halachot that were taught by the Tannaim as halachah l'Moshe miSinai and not knowing what they were talking about.

Just because Ovadiah didn't know necessarily know about Christianity and Western Civilization does not mean that his prophecies are definitely not to be connected to the West.

Kol tuv

Devorah said...

Please see this article by Rabbi Winston:

BTW no-one is "wishing" for the destruction of America/Edom.
But I think all Jews need to be aware that the America they once knew, is different now.

Everything has changed now. Different rules.
Hey - you don't even have a "legal" President .... but that doesn't seem to bother most people.

Seems to me that a lot of American Jews have been blinded by the golus, and can't see - or don't want to see - what's really happening.

joshwaxman said...

Yes, other people have also kvetched questionable sources.

I did not know that you were a constitutional scholar. And even *if* all the conspiracy theories *were* true, he ends up being a democratically elected president (as much as I personally wanted McCain to win). People (sore losers) were saying the same thing about George Bush when Al Gore won the popular vote. In the bitter atmosphere that is politics nowadays, one needs to learn to filter out the bitter nonsense. The same thing with Alan Keyes.

In terms of wishing, when I see statements such as:
"You can be certain that what I am saying is true. Hashem is really bringing this world of lies to an end. It’s no joke, it’s Emes. The Twin Towers was only a warning, it was only the beginning. Hashem hit the heart of the egel hazahav."

after defining "egel hazahav" is improper excessive materialism, then yes, I do see a belief that America is evil and that attacks on my fellow Americans were *righteous* Divine punishment for many of the same things that the terrorists hate about America. And if the evil America deserves it, then I do think that such a person is wishing for America's destruction.

And when I see others take the same beliefs, even if they do not make it so overt, it is possible that they are of like mind.

And when gematriot take people anywhere they want to go (because any result is provable), if the result is somehow repeatedly the evilness of America and its leaders or the destruction of America, then I will assume that these people do not like America very much and wish for it to fail.


Devorah said...

If there is an earthquake and the statue of liberty does fall over or crack.... what will you say?

Will you reason it away in the same manner as you have reasoned away the "banks bankrupt" posting by Nava last year.... even when it is obvious to all that the banks are indeed bankrupt?

As for Obama.... he is an issue all his own. The Master Manipulator... so convincing that he has got honest "searching for the truth" people like you sticking up for him.

Only time will tell... but the way it's all going, it's not looking good, esp for the Jews.

Anonymous said...


You wrote "And many Israeli politicians do so as well by pursuing the peace process. Even if strongly misguided, is this because they are evil? Or is it because they foolishly believe that this is a noble thing to accomplish?"

This all goes back to our argument in regard to R' Schorr - you got to address this issue!!


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

thanks for defending our country and city, rav!

joshwaxman said...

You are correct that this is tangentially related. I do plan to cover it in a post, but I need to first sit down and dedicate some time to it. It is non-trivial.


Bli neder, I'll get back to you. Too much to write, way too little time.


yaak said...


1) I believe, although I'm not certain, that the original author of the video is the author of
I embedded it here and took it from here.
Although, now that I see his wording, I'm having doubts if he created it:
סרטון שהופק בעקבות הנאמר באתר זה ובמקומות אחרים בענייני אחרית הימים, המסכם את הדברים שנאמרו בשנה שעברה בעניין הנבואה על הריסת פסל החירות
Anyways,'s original posting on this is here, which has a date of 5 Kislev, 5766 - over 3 years ago.

2) While I agree that some Geula-oriented people are anxiously awaiting the destruction of America (or עם ריקה, as they would call it), many of us, especially those of us who were born here don't share this same feeling. Just as Moshe Rabbeinu couldn't hit the Nilus as that is what saved him, I cannot gleefully await America's destruction as America is my current home. People who do should also realize that America was a safe-haven for Klal Yisrael at times that Europe and the Middle East were not.

That said, I believe people do have a right to say with a heavy heart that the destruction of America is part of Hashem's Messianic plan. It may not happen, and let's hope it does not, but there are many signs and reasons for it to be so. Then again, Nineveh was saved via Teshuva, so nothing is certain, although, some would say that the destruction has already begun.

joshwaxman said...

Thanks for your comment. I am glad you do not gleefully await America's destruction. For me, it goes beyond Hakarat Hatov to what (from my perspective) is a clarity that America is not the evil entity others make it out to be, even if it has flaws, just like any other country.

In terms of there being "many signs and reasons" for it to be so, I would answer that as we have already discussed and as you admitted to me in one instance, people are kvetching certain sources to mean things that they do not mean. I would add to this that there are thousands of sources that are not being interpreted at all.

Therefore, I allege that if instead the common belief was that Spain was Rome, and that its leader was Gog, people would have found sources to support this belief. The Madrid bombing would have been a sign of the eventual destruction. Local politics would have been a sign. The insider training scandal from today in Spain would be proof. The fact that the dangerous Latin gang Las Maras is on its way to Spain would be taken as proof. Day in and day out, events would be interpreted this way.

But how does this fit in with messianic prophecies? Simple! Instead of the present situation where of the hundreds of thousands of arcane passages from Zohar, Nevuat Hayeled, Nostradamus, etc., passages 5, 9, 24, and 4563 are taken out of context, misinterpreted, and roughly kvetched to fit US current events, our experience would be that passages 3, 18, 57, and 6432 would be taken out of context, misinterpreted, and roughly kvetched to fit Spanish current events.

And everyone would be in awe at how well these particular random sources fit events, and would talk about "many signs and reasons for it to be so." Indeed, in this post you discussed identifying Constantinople as Rome, so as to fit current events of that war in Georgia.

It is all a matter of where we are directing the attention of people with too much time on their hands. If the popular sentiment were that Romi were Italy, people would find proofs for Italy. If the popular sentiment was that it was the Vatican, then people would find hundreds of proofs for the destruction of Vatican City. They would be *different* sources, and kvetched in different ways, but they would most certainly be found.

In many cases, I think people are just following the crowds and the popular sentiment, once the identification has been popularly made. But in the two quotes above, one from the video and one from the folks behind the autistics, I think it reflects a belief that America is evil and therefore deserving of destruction, such that they would indeed by somewhat gleeful each time America gets what (they believe) is coming to it. And others might not be so overt in it.


joshwaxman said...

To further illustrate they idea I am trying to convey:

A man goes to a psychiatrist. To start things off, the psychiatrist suggests they start with a Rorschach test. He holds up the first picture and asks the man what he sees.

“A man and a woman making love in a park,” the man replies. The psychiatrist holds up the second picture and asks the man what he sees. “A man and a woman making love in a boat.” He holds up the third picture. “A man and a woman making love at the beach.”

The psychiatrist says, “It looks like you have a preoccupation with sex.” The man replies, “Well, you’re the one with the dirty pictures.”

These randomly chosen and misinterpreted kabbalistic texts are a Rorschach test, because of the high level of subjectivity which goes into an interpretation. (You might disagree with me on the sketchiness of the methodology.) And so the interpretations one comes up with reveal to me a hostility towards America, rather than anything that is actually encoded in the texts themselves.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your post, except for one item.
If you research the issue with an open mind, there is a legitimate question whether Barack Obama was really born in the USA. The media ignored this question - and didn't even research it appropriately - because they don't care, they just want him to be President.
And the conservative media don't want to be branded as crazy.

See the information quoted in this petition


yaak said...

Kvetching in Peshatim in regards to the Ketz is de rigueur since it's so Hatum VeSatum as it is so a kvetch doesn't bother me. And yes, popular sentiment oftentimes has something to do with it.
Take each peshat with a grain of salt unless you hear it from a great rabbi.
I never say that one particular peshat is Torah Misinai. On the other hand, I don't say it's hevel havalim either.
We will know the truth soon, I'm sure.

Baruch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.


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