The Jewish timeline has a beginning and an end. Generation after generation we walk this line not to create a future, but rather to explore and discover that which already lies before us. The sages of the Talmud have taught us that the world in which we live will last 6,000 years. (We are now in the year 5760.) During this 6,000 years, the world will develop. The first 2,000 will see the development of civilization itself. During those two millenia we traveled from Adam and Eve to 70 nations with different languages, cultures and geographical locations. The second 2,000 years are the years of Torah, illumination and enlightenment. In fact in the year 2,000 Abraham began his campaign to teach the pagan nations of the world about G-d. Those 2,000 years ended with the redaction of the Mishna by Rabbi Judah the Prince. Thus a new era began. The last 2,000 years are referred to by our sages as the days of redemption.
From the moment the final trimester began, false Messiahs appeared in all corners of the world, each claiming that he was to deliver the redemption the Prophets spoke about. While many have proclaimed, bemoaned and even celebrated the "end of days," we Jews patiently waited. It took 2,000 years for civilization to mature and a second 2,000 years of analysis, debate and struggle to evolve from the teachings of Abraham to the extremely sophisticated interpretations of the Talmud. The period of redemption is a 2,000-year period. Today, we are nearing the end of that period. It's completion will bring G-d's 6,000-year project to fullfillment. If we perfect it a bit sooner, say the prophets, we may not even need to wait the full 2,000 years.
Where do we stand on the timeline of history? Do we create history, or is history just something that happens to us? If the road, the distance and the destination are all laid out, what is our part in shaping the future? The sources quoted in this Pardes discuss the past, present and future. Nobody knows what will happen when we reach the end of time. If, as Jews have always believed, the end of days is pre-destined, then how do we give meaning to our choices?
How Would You Respond?
Picture yourself in 1919. Pundits are asserting that, in 20 years, a dictator will rise to power in Eastern Europe and orchestrate the murder of more than six million Jews. How would you respond?
The year is 1940. Middle East experts say that in just over 25 years there will be a State of Israel that will wage its most dramatic war - fending off millions of Arab troops, resulting in the largest territorial gains of any war previously fought - in only six days. How would you respond?
It's the summer of '49. Scientists declare that a man will walk on the moon in exactly 20 years. How would you respond?
It is 1960. A wall street analyst predicts that within 35 years, almost every home will have a personal computer and people will be able to send instant electronic letters to anyone in the world - with just a push of a button. How would you respond?
Fast forward to today. Media hype for the Year 2000 has reached a fevered pitch. Meanwhile, rabbis are talking about the "End of Days." They cite biblical, rabbinic and kabbalistic sources that indicate that all of the "historical" events of the last 5,000-plus years foretell the imminent arrival of the messiah - possibly within your children's lifetime - or even your own. How do you respond?
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