Sunday, August 30, 2009

An astonishing messianic proof

The following silly story from good old Dreaming of Moshiach:
The Rav's students also said that in recent shiurim the Rav gave, he said astounding things. The Rav opened the ancient Sefer Chesed Le'Avraham and showed them that the author, Kadosh Tzaddik Rav Avraham Azulai, zs'kl, wrote that the Moshiach will arrive in the year - 5760 The Rav explained, "The meaning of תש"ס is שנת סוף end year," said the Rav, "but it's preferable that the end will be סוף טוב good end, and therefore, it is necessary to clarify that he meant this year תשס"ט - תהא שנת סוף טוב - 5769 Will Be Year of Good End."
The obvious problem with this story is that the Rav, meaning Rav David Abuchatzeira, uses as his prooftext a messianic prediction that failed. The original prediction was for 9 years ago, based on the roshei teivos. He "reinterpreted" it, now that 5760 has passed, simply by adding another word, and thus letter, to the end of it. And thus he does not need to cross out any specific letter, and can call his new prediction what Rav Avraham Azulai "meant".

Of course, if it becomes 5770, they will just claim that it was an eis ratzon (either 5760 or 5769), and either something important developed, or else we missed this particular boat. There is no way to lose here, and thus no discouragement from people saying silly things and raising false hopes.

And of course, this story is second-hand. It is quite possible, and easy, to take a messianic hope and turn it into a messianic promise. And then it becomes something "astounding". For example, here at HebrewBooks, we have the following signature:
ראש חדש חשון שנת תהא שנת סוף גלותינו
תחילה וראש לפדיון נפשנו
שלמה בו לאאמו"ר הרה"ג יצחק סאלם ועפראני שליט"א

Tehei means it should be, and that it is thus a hope. And this was written in Cheshvan, 5769. One can use Rav Azulai's text as a basis for expressing this messianic hope. Or perhaps it was accurately told over, and he really thought his reinterpretation was true. And indeed, maybe one can argue it. Since sof can be an absolute noun or an adjective in the construct state, one can posit that Rav Azulai really meant any year in the 576_ range, where one could fill in the digit if one wished with any letter which began aleph through tet. And I haven't seen Rav Azulai's prediction inside. But I tend to doubt it, knowing in general how people stretch these sources.


frumheretic said...

And this was written in Cheshvan, 5769.

"Cheshvan"? What's that?

joshwaxman said...

what some people insist on calling Merach shevan, or marcheshvan, but which the author signed as cheshvan, and what has now become the popular name through common usage.

much as it was acceptable in certain dialects to refer to Shabba as the absolute form of the construct Shabbat, via back formation.


Yosef Greenberg said...

merach sheshvan? What's THAT?

By the way, moshiach is DEFINITELY coming in 5769, 5770, 5771, 5772, 5773. That should have me covered for another five years.

If he (hopefully) does come, I'll always point to this comment to say 'I told you so'.

joshwaxman said...

iirc, from yerach shevan (8th month) cognate of verach shevan, to (swapping v and m, and sometimes happens phonologically, merach shevan, to revocalizing it as mar cheshvan, to chopping off the mar.

and :)



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