(Torah Portion Bamidbar) Predictions

By now, the infamous radio host who had predicted the world would end last Saturday, has a lot of explaining to do to his followers why his forecast of apocalypse did not arrive.

Do we believe in a time or an event that will bring the world to an end?

My sense is that no one appreciates predictions of doom. However, as we will soon see, the Talmud, our Oral Law, does make such a prediction. Bear in mind that this event will occur after the world has attained spiritual perfection after the coming of the Messiah and the Resurrection of the Dead. Its cessation will be a stage in the eternity of spiritual souls and G-d’s spiritual design.

The Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin relates that Rav Katina said: The world will exist for six thousand years, and for one thousand years it will be destroyed. The Talmud explains this as follows: Just as the Sabbatical year causes cessation of work one year out of seven, so too, the world will cease one millennium out of seven.

This means that world history from creation will last for six millennia, after which the world as we know it will be destroyed. This destruction will follow the Messianic era and the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Great Day of Judgment. The period of destruction will last for one thousand years, after which the world will be reconstructed on a much higher spiritual level.

The Academy of Eliyahu (the Prophet) taught the following: Of the six thousand years that the world is destined to exist, the first two thousand years were of nothingness – the world was devoid of Torah. The second two thousand years were of Torah – when Torah flourished. Starting from when Avraham was fifty-two years old (the 2000th year from creation), he began to spread the message of Torah and to influence people to follow its ways. During this period G-d gave us the Torah at Mount Sinai, and it continued all through the first and second Temple periods until Rebbe Yehuda Hanasi transcribed the Oral Law – Mishna. The third – two thousand years are the days when the Messiah is destined to come.

The Medrash that is attributed to Rebbe Akiva states that one reason the Torah begins with the letter Bais, the second letter of the Alef-Bais, is to allude to the fact that the cessation of the world will happen twice, once during the great flood of Noach and again in the year 6093. According to this, the 6000 year prediction stated in the Talmud is rounded off to a whole number.

In this week’s Parsha, G-d instructs Moshe to take a census of each tribe of the nation. The total count of males ranging from the ages of 20 to 60 years came to 603,550.

It is interesting that the final tally of each of the tribes always comes to an even 100, except for the tribe of Gad which ends with 50.

Commentators point out that the last digits were rounded off to the nearest hundred. However, in the case of the tribe of Gad, the last digits were exactly 50, therefore the even number 50 remained.

The Rosh points out that often the Torah rounds off to the nearest whole number when in reality the number is less. For example, the Torah instructs us to count 50 days from Pesach to Shavuos, when in reality we count seven weeks which is 49 days.

When Yaacov traveled to Egypt with his family, the Torah tells us there were 70 people, when in reality there were 69.

The Torah tells us that one who is sentenced to receive lashes, the maximum amount is 40, while in reality, the maximum is 39.

How should this 6000+ year prediction affect us in our current year of 5771?

We should take the message that our lives and the physical existence of the world are finite. However, by using Torah as our guide we can uplift ourselves to exceptional levels of holiness, piety, and devoutness which in turn will nourish our infinite souls and our spiritual destiny.

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks