Date of Moshiach's Coming
The actual date of the Messianic redemption is a guarded mystery unknown to man.69 It will happen “in its time” (Isaiah 60:22), predetermined from the beginning of creation. This ultimate ketz (time for the ‘end’) is unconditional: it does not depend on Israel’s merit, as it is said, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it..” (Isaiah 48:11); “I wrought for My Name’s sake that it should not be profaned in the eyes of the nations.” (Ezekiel 20:9)70
Even so, the wording of Isaiah 60:22 seems to display a contradiction by stating “in its time I will hasten it”: “in its time” means a set date; “I will hasten it” means that it may occur earlier, before “its time.” The contradiction is resolved as follows: “If they are worthy — ‘I will hasten it;’ if not — ‘in its time.’ ”71
The implication is clear: Moshiach can come any day, even before the predetermined date: “This day — if you will listen to His voice!” (Psalms 95:7)72 Every generation has a special ketz of its own, for, as stated, Moshiach is alive and present in every generation, albeit concealed.73 He is ready to be revealed at a moment’s notice.74 In the course of history prior to “its time” there are especially auspicious times when it is easier to effect his coming. To take advantage of these, to hasten the redemption, that depends completely on us.75
69. See above, note 29.
70. Zohar Chadash, Tikunim, 95b. Cf. Shemot Rabba 25:12 (cited below, note 81).
71. Sanhedrin 98a. Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 1:1.
72. Cf. Zohar Chadash, Tikunim 95b, that every generation has its own special ketz, subject to Israel’s merit (cf. Even Shelemah 11:9). Abarbanel notes that the history of the world is divisible into three periods of premature, contingent, and mature: the first stage is premature for the redemption; the second is one of continuous potential for the redemption, subject to Israel’s merits; while the third and final stage is the one of the final ketz, the definite date of the actual redemption. Yeshu’ot Meshicho, Part I, p. 11b; and ibid., Iyun Harishon, ch. 1, end of p. 18b. Cf. Sanhedrin 97b, “Before that do not expect him; afterwards you may await him;” and cf. below, note 122. This serves also as one explanation why the redemption did not yet occur, in spite of the infinitely greater piety and saintliness of our ancestors; see Chida, Petach Einayim on Sanhedrin 98a; and below, ch. VIII.
73. See above, ch. IV-B.
74. See Sanhedrin 98a “he unties and rebandages each bandage separately, saying, ‘Should I be wanted, I must not be delayed;’ ” Rashi: he does not treat two sores together, thinking ‘if I need to go and redeem Israel, I will not delay because of bandaging two sores.
5. This may explain why many sages calculated specific dates for the Messianic redemption. They did so in spite of the Talmudic disapproval of such practice lest disillusionment lead to despair: people may say, “since the calculated time has arrived but Moshiach has not come, he will never come.” (Sanhedrin 97b; and see Or Hatorah-Na”ch, vol. I, p. 183f.) Yet those who calculated dates for the ketz included the greatest sages and saints throughout the ages, like R. Saadiah Gaon, Rashi, Ba’alei Tossafot, Ramban, Abarbanel, R. Isaac Luria etc. (see Mayanei Hayeshu’ah I:ch. 1-2; and R. Reuven Margolius’ glosses on Teshuvot Min Hashamayim, sect. 72, pp. 80-83). Rambam, after citing the Talmudic injunction in his code and elaborating on it in his Igeret Teyman, himself offers in the latter (ch. 3) a date passed on to him by his ancestors! Ramban confronts the problem by stating that the Talmudic prohibition was but for a limited time only and no longer applies to the present era of ikvot Meshicha. (See his Sefer Hage’ulah, ed. Chavel, p. 289f., and see there also pp. 262 and 263). Cf. below, note 122. Various sources explain that all these were in fact true predictions, reflecting especially auspicious times. Mystics state that these dates were in fact actualized, though so far, unfortunately, only in spiritual dimensions not perceived on the manifest level of our reality. (Kuntres Perush Hamilot, ch. 27 (p. 15b). See also Maamarei Admur Hazaken — Haketzarim, p. 212; Bnei Yisas’char, Sivan V:19; Ateret Tzvi on Zohar II:10a. Cf. Bet Elokim, Sha’ar Hatefilah, ch. 17.)