I'm convinced that we need a Jewish version of Snopes. Snopes, for all those who are unaware, is a website that investigates urban legends and tries to determine the factuality of the legend. Sometimes the legend is verified, sometimes it's proven false and sometimes it is undetermined.
There has been an email going around, purporting to give ten proofs that Moshiach is coming this year. So, as a public service, here are the ten "proofs" and why they are not proofs at all.
1. Bircat HaHamah - The Blessing on the Sun - Once every 28 years
Since creation, there was only two times that the year we say Birkat HaHamah fell out on the 1st Day of Passover.
The first was the year Hashem redeemed Israel form Egypt.
The second was the year of Purim, when Hashem saved the Jews from the evil Haman, who wanted to kill and destroy all Jews.
This year Birkat HaHamah falls out on the 1st Day of Passover. (which will be the 3rd time in history)
When it was told to Hacham Ovadia Yosef, that this year Birkat HaHamah falls out on the 1st Day of Passover, he started crying like a baby.
Obviously the list writer never heard of the idea of putting your best material up front, since of the ten, this "proof" is, by far, the worst. The reason, very simply, is that it is flat out false.
The claim is made that Birkas HaChamah is said this year on the first day of Pesach. If so, then the writer obviously observes a different Pesach than the rest of us. I will be observing the first day of Pesach on a Thursday this year. I will be reciting Birkas HaChamah on the day before, on Wednesday. In fact, in our fixed calendar, Pesach can NEVER start on Wednesday, and so Birkas HaChamah can NEVER be said on the first day of Pesach. I'm sure the reason that Hacham Yosef started crying was because he realized that someone disturbed him about such nonsense without even bothering to check the calendar first.
It is possible, however, that the writer meant to say Erev Pesach. Birkas HaChamah *will* be recited on Erev Pesach this year. However, it is clearly not the first time since the miracle of Purim that this has happened. In fact, Birkas HaChamah was recited on Erev Pesach on April 8, 1925.
Lastly, assuming the traditional dating to be correct (and, assuming that Birkas HaChamah was always recited on a 28-year cycle), Birkas HaChamah was not recited at all in the years that we left Egypt or the year of the Purim miracle. You can verify this fairly easily by continually subtracting 28 from the current year (5769). You'll find that neither 2448 (the year of the Exodus) or 3404 (the year Haman was hung) appear on the list of years.
2. Chofetz Chaim in a Dream to His Student
Recently the Chofetz Chaim came to one of his last living students in a dream several times and said that Mashiach is born. When this was told to Rabbi Elya Svei, he said he knew about this for over ten years.
Many great rabbanim in the past (including some even greater than the Chofetz Chaim) predicted a date for Moshiach's arrival and were proven wrong. In addition, the claim seems to be somewhat contradictory. If the Chofetz Chaim came to a student in a dream recently, how did R. Svei know about it for the last ten years?
3. Rabbi Elya Svei Mashiach 2009, told to him from his Rebbe, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman
In 2004 at a funeral of a Rebbe of Mirrer Yeshiva, Rabbi Elya Svei said that Mashiach is coming in 2009. He said its was told to him and calculated by his Rebbe, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, who was the top student of the Chofetz Chaim. Incidentally Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman wrote books and spoke about that the timing of Maschiach is co mparable to a pregnant lady in her 9th month, which at any moment can give birth. Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman was murdered in the Holocaust, over 70 years ago, so in his times if Mashiach was so close, how much more so in our times more than 70 years later.
This is not a proof for two reasons. Firstly, see above with regard to the prediction made by the Chofetz Chaim. IOW, just because a gadol predicts that Moshiach is going to come does not mean that he actually will. Secondly, does this story mean to imply that R. Svei held no hope whatsoever of Moshiach coming between 2004 and 2009? Somehow, I highly doubt that. Lastly, the last point made (the comparison to a pregnant lady) is still not a proof. After all, one could have made the same claim last year or the year before. Since it did not hold true then, there is no reason to hold it as an ironclad proof for this year as well.
4. The Collapse of the Stock Market, Wall Street, Financial Markets, Housing Markets, Mortgage Markets, Insurance Markets, Real Estate Markets
Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merill Lynch, Wachovia, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Washington Mutual, Goldman Sachs
And surely MORE to come.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 8000 and dropped to a low of 7882
In what way is this a proof that Moshiach is coming in 2009? There have certainly been financial collapses before (including collapses of even greater magnitude) and Moshiach did not arrive then.
5. The Iran dictator (Yemah Shemo) declaring he wants to wipe Israel of the globe and definitely has Nuclear Weapons.
Since Hashem sent us a very good President George Bush, who is a true friend of Israel as well as shown that he want to eradicate terrorists, the Iranian Animal is petrified to start with Israel, but with this years election of a new President, who know what can happen.
Again, hardly a proof. This is hardly the first time that a power wanted to wipe Israel off the map. It's also not the first time that the Jewish State found itself in potentially life-threatening trouble. How does this prove that Moshiach is coming next year?
6. Barak Obama as President
Hes young and inexperienced as well as questionable loyalty and friendship to Israel.
With all that's going on with our economy and global ma rkets, in addition to Obama's liberal viewpoints it seams very dangerous to have him as a commander in chief.
Leaving the political swipes aside, so what? How does this prove Moshiach is coming next year?
7. Iceland & Greenland Ice Packs
Iceland and Greenland is mostly comprised of ice. Scientist discovered that due to Global Warming, the shrinking of the Ozone Layer and the change in weather patterns, the ice packs in these two countries are starting to melt. They predict that in 5 to 10 years it will fully melt and the water (melted ice) would be added to the worlds oceans. This extra water, would increase sea level around the globe by 20 feet.
Basically all homes, buildings etc, that are built on locations that are at sea level (which is a good portion society), will be under water. Hashem promised NEVER to bring a Mabul (flood) again. If this is set in motion to take place, then Mashiach, must come before this happens.
Iceland is mostly composed of ice??!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!
But hey, let's give the person the benefit of the doubt and assume they meant to say Antarctica, and not Iceland. (Hey, it's easy to mix them up, they're only about 12,000 miles for each other, and one is a continent and the other is an island only slightly larger than Ireland.) In any event, even if the unthinkable happened and all the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melted and caused massive flooding, it would still only affect coastal areas. Kansas, for example, would still not be under water.
HKBH promised Noach that He would never cause a global flood that wiped out all life. There were no promises regarding local floods, even massive ones.
Lastly, is there any reason to assume that HKBH's promise is going to be null and void after Moshiach comes? In other words, the writer claims that Moshiach has to come soon because floods that are in violation of HKBH's oath are coming. However, the assumption here is that after Moshiach comes, HKBH's promise is to be rescinded. I'm not aware of any source for this.
8. Brisker Rav
The Brisker Rav said during the Holocaust, that within 70 years Mashiach will come. 2009 is the 70th year.
Actually, it's only the 70th year if you assume the Holocaust only occured in 1939. Many historians date the beginning of the Holocaust differently. In addition, it went on until 1945.
9. Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel said this past Yom Kippur 2008, was the last Yom Kippur. Hes been telling everyone to do Teshuva before Mashiach comes.
Again, not a proof. See above regarding other predictions. In addition, R. Wachtfogel's statement is somewhat ambiguous. It does not clearly and unambiguously mean that Moshiach is coming in 2009.
10. Rav Chaim Kanievsky
Chazon Ish (his Grandfather) and Rav Shach (one of his Rabbi's) came to Rav Chaim Kanievsky in a dream and both told him to tell everyone to do Teshuva in order to get ready for Mashiach, whom is coming very soon.
Its time to do TESHUVA!!!!!
The Chofetz Chaim said that people whom are not worthy won't even realize that Mashiach is here and whats going on.
We MUST ALL to TEHSUVA and come close to Hashem.
Send this to all the Jews you know.
We need Mashiach desperately.
See above. In addition, R. Kanievsky is the nephew, not the grandson of the Chazon Ish.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me make it clear: I hope that Moshiach comes in 2009 (or, heck, even in 2008). I'd love for someone to come to me when we're all living in Israel next year and say to me "Boy, Wolf, you sure blew it with that post..." But from a strictly logical standpoint, these predictions and "proofs" are sorely lacking, and people who create them should realize how foolish they sound.
I believe that if Am Yisrael does tshuva and comes Home to Eretz Yisrael be gathered, then the chances that Mashiach will follow are very high.
However, all of these things might be wonderful signs, or might be completely meaningless. All we can do is prepare ourselves as a nation and as individuals to be a vessel worthy of accepting the geula.
Nowadays, whether it be predictions or chumras or bans, you don't necessarily have to be right or even FACTUAL, as long as you say it loudly, often, and with great conviction.....
Before reading the rest... it happens to be that you're wrong about Birchas HaChama simply because there was no fixed calendar then. Not that it necessarily happened on those days, but it could have.
A fixed vs. non-fixed calendar will only change the calendar date on which Birkas HaChamah is said, not the year in which it is said. Assuming that it followed the same 28 year cycle AND assuming the traditional dating of the Exodus and Purim are correct (qualifications I made in my post), then it could not have been said in those years.
Look, it's apparent to everyone that the Moshiach is at hand. Even the goyim realize this.
1648 is the year!
Applying this type of skepticism to yiddishkeit is very dangerous.
In what way is it dangerous? Please elaborate.
skepticism isn't nearly as dangerous as erroneous mystical beliefs.
(pardon my post from 2 minutes ago. Brain was asleep when I hit publish)
Well if we are peddling predictions my cousin has been saying loudly for years that Moshiach would arrive before he would let one of his kids marry an out of towner and leave NY. The wedding is in December and the couple will be living in the Midwest, so I guess we will be seeing Moshiach before December.
What I mean is that if you get into the habit of applying skeptical thinking to Jewish ideas you don't know where it will end. The people who forward that email around are not at risk of ever losing their emunah...
until Jan 1, 2010, when they realize that this time too, their beliefs have been crushed.
Shouldn't we look at outlandish claims skeptically? If someone touts the idea that the stock market tanking is a sign of Moshiach's imminent arrival, should I just ignore the common sense that tells me that one likely has nothing to do with the other?
When someone suggests that the Chofetz Chaim came to someone in a dream (a claim that is unverifiable), I should simply accept it as proof of Moshiach's immenent arrival without a second thought?
If someone passes around factually incorrect information about Birkas HaChammah, should I just shut my mouth and pretend that it is, in fact, accurate?
In other words, do I have to just accept everything that someone sends in an email simply because to refute it (even where are legitimate grounds to do so) *might* destroy someone's emunah?
Of course you shouldn't accept it, but you should also be aware of what promoting critical thinking can lead to.
There's no good answer. You can't reliably expect people to wield skepticism selectively, not can you expect them to be selectively unskeptical. The frum world clearly chose unskeptical, and that's why frum magazines are full of snake oil fake medicine nonsense, snopes-like email forwards, etc. You can't get people to believe in a talking snake and a splitting sea but not other silly things, but that result was more desirable than not believing any silly things.
I guess we just have a difference of opinion then. I think that critical thinking is a valuable skill. I believe that HKBH gave us brains in order to use them, not to simply shut them off.
Wow. My brain hurts a little from having read that email. Re: #7, I sense a stira--doesn't Obama want to slow down environmental damage? Hmm...
What I mean is that if you get into the habit of applying skeptical thinking to Jewish ideas you don't know where it will end. The people who forward that email around are not at risk of ever losing their emunah..."
For one thing, I'm not sure about that. What if they really believe all these "proofs" and are then horribly let down if mashiach does not come next year? Same for if they take literally statements in the Gemara that are not meant literally and are let down in real life. What about when they give their money to the tzedaka pamphlets (to go unnamed for now) that promise miracles and special protection from God, and then receive none?
In essence, you seem to be defending intellectual dishonesty in the name of securing faith. Personally, I can't really swallow that--isn't God's seal truth? --but even if you do, I think it ends up getting back to you and falling apart.
Well then you're not disagreeing with me. My point isn't that critical thinking is bad, but that in a world where being part of the community requires belief in things that do not stand up to critical thinking, critical thinking is not harmless.
Thanks for the clarification, Anon. But what it still boils down to is that you're saying "for the sake of social acceptance, turn off your brain."
Keep in mind, however, that at no point did I refute the idea that Moshiach is coming. Indeed, I made the point that not only do I believe he is coming, I even hope he comes now and proves me wrong -- but the idea that Moshiach *is* coming isn't what I argued against - I simply argued against shoddy reasoning.
I actually did something a few years ago here with regard to various "proofs" that the Torah is true. To make a long story short, I found every single proof in that post to be lacking. That doesn't mean that I don't believe the Torah is Divinely given. It simply means that the factuality of the Torah's divinity does not rest of fall on flawed proofs. Even if I show the proof to be false, that doesn't affect the underlying claim. It simply affects the proof itself.
IMHO, there is nothing wrong with calling out a flawed "proof" of anything. If someone believes that Moshiach is going to come because Birkas HaChamah is going to be recited on the first day of Pesach, then they are simply being foolish, especially when the proof is very easily demonstrated to be false.
Assuming that they have basic common sense, their emunah shouldn't be destroyed because someone pointed out a flaw in a "proof."
Anonymous, I think you missed my point completely.
In 1648, the Jewish world (and for that matter, the Christian world) was convinced that the Messiah was at hand.
For the Jews, that widespread belief led to Sabbatai Tzvi.
Wolf - what I think they are saying by flood prediction, is that coming of Mashiach will stop global warming and ice melting.
What do you think about end-of-world in 2012? There are scientists with comet, Incas, Lubaviche Rebbe and a few other sources which predict EOW2012. There are whole books written on the subject. How do you think masses will react when clock strikes 2013 and nothing happened?
Chazal say that moshiach will come the year after shemita. Of course it doesnt have to be this particular year after shemita. Another reason is that next year is 5770. 770, get it?
"HKBH promised Noach that He would never cause a global flood that wiped out all life. There were no promises regarding local floods, even massive ones."
So was the mabul global then. :)
The first proof was the best. But you proved it wrong real well.
also I have written a post about how a Obama and moshich go hand in hand. I dont believe it.
"Shouldn't we look at outlandish claims skeptically?"
Might that be a problem for Bircas Hachama?
the only real question is whether the mashiach will come before the telephone repair man?
This whole thing is ridiculous, because Moshiach HIMSELF came to me in a dream and said he wouldn't come until all the loonies stop making demands of him!
before reading the post...I got that e-mail too, and that's funny about the idea of a Jewish Snopes. Great idea.
There are people in Chicago who believe that Moshiach will come in the year the Cubs win the world series. It may be a long wait, but this belief seems as vlid as any other and perhaps just as foolish.
There is a Jewish version of Snopes, though in my opinion it isn't that good:
I just want to know why how so many frum people got a heter to use the internet that they now have frum forwards.
Sorry, thought you said day, not year. This is the risk of skimming :P
Wow. Great post. I'm fortunate in that I don't get e-mails like these, since I'm not frum enough. Though beyond the awful logic, I find it hard to take any e-mail seriously if it is full of spelling and grammar errors. (Actually, this goes for pretty much anything written.)
Maybe you should be the one to start a Jewish Snopes.
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