According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97), Mashiach will arrive before the Jewish year 6000. This means the full range of spectacular prophecies and supernatural events associated with the End of Days must occur within the next 228 years.
According to Michah (7:15), our future redemption will resemble the redemption from Egypt. Yalkut Shimoni (2:806) unequivocally states this is what Rabbi Dosa means when he mentions that the period of Mashiach will last 400 years. This corresponds to the Covenant of the Parts, in which Avraham was told his children would be in Egyptian exile for 400 years. According to Maharsha, the correlation of the Egyptian exile and future redemption is that the years of persecution will have the potential to be transformed into times of joy.
Interestingly, 400 years prior to the year 6000 “deadline” was the year 5600, which corresponds to the secular calendar year of 1839-1840. The Zohar (Vayera 1:117a) states: “In the six hundredth year of the sixth millennium [the Hebrew year 5600], a great light will shine forth from the heavens, causing a transformation in the world.”
Indeed, that year heralded a drastic change in the world with the start of the Industrial Revolution. From that time onward, extraordinary advances were made in science and technology.
Particularly fascinating is that another seminal event transpired during that same period. It was in 1840 that the Saudis retook Riyadh and that Wahhabism (a fanatical, terror-driven branch of Islam) came to power. This is stunning in light of the Torah’s wordsconcerning the role of Yishmael in the End of Days.
In the year 2047, Hashem promised Avraham that Yishmael would become a dominant world power. The fulfillment of this prophecy commenced in 622 AD (4383), with the founding of Islam – 2,336 years after the promise!
In its jihad wars, Islam nearly became the dominant power in the world, marching to Vienna in 1683. In fulfillment of Hashem’s prophecy to Avraham, the Arabs were awarded a protracted dominion of Eretz Yisrael lasting from Omar’s rule in 638 until the end of the Ottoman rule in 1916 (with a relatively brief interruption by the Crusaders from 1099 to 1291).
Our mesorah (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer chapters. 28, 32, 36:32; Eitz HaDaat Tov, ch. 124; Daniel 7:4, 25 and Malbim there; Zohar III 32a; Baal HaTurim, Genesis 25:18) teaches that in the Achris Hayomim a sect of fanatical Ishmaelites will arise, executing horrendous attacks around the world. They will first team up with Christian nations (which the Torah refers to as “Edom”) against the Jewish people (as documented in Eurabia:The Euro-Arab Axis (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005), and later go to war against the Christians (Ibn Ezra, Genesis 27:40; Ezekiel 38:3, Malbim and Abarbanel ibid).
Eventually the various wars will develop into a world war centered on Jerusalem.
Over the past several centuries, the Muslims had been virtually powerless. Beginning in 1840, the paradigm shifted. Islam is now the fastest growing religion on earth. One in every four human beings alive today is Muslim.
The enigma that must be solved is the following: The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 13:5), based on the portion of the Book of Daniel (7:2-28) that discusses Daniel’s futuristic dream of four archetypical animals, explains that the animals allude to the nations of Bavel (Babylon), Paras (Persia), Yavan (Greece), and Romi (Rome) – the four powerful nations that will rule the world and subjugate the Jews. It is exceedingly puzzling that Chazal do not include Yishmael as the fifth and final nation to persecute the Jewish people. After all, Chazal stress there will be no nation as brazen and callous in the end of daysas Yishmael.
Nachmanides explains that the nation of Yishmael did not add any new element of exile to the original Roman exile. Ergo, Yishmael does not warrant special classification. Other commentators (Tosafos Rid, Maharal, and others) posit that there is no need for a fifth classification because Yishmael is included in the second listing, the kingdom of Persia. Ultimately ancient Persia will return to power and Yishmael will be incorporated by modern day Persia (Iran). According to this reasoning, the two nations are synonymous and it is superfluous to mention a fifth nation. This is patently clear in our times. As Iran funds proxies (Hamas, Hizbullah, etc.) against Israel and as we confront Iran’s threat of a nuclear Holocaust, we bear witness to prophecies thousands of years old unfolding before our eyes.
It took 2,336 years for Hashem’s blessingto Yishmael to be fulfilled. The Jewish people are waiting more than 3,700 years for our blessingto be fulfilled. It seems the fulfillment of our blessing has never been more palpable. Time is short. We can bring Mashiach and arrest the threat of Iran.
The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 2b) says Iran’s threat is actually a prerequisite for Mashiach. This notion suggests quite strongly that we are the generation of Mashiach. The Yalkut Shimoni (Yeshaya 499) says that as a result of the Iranian threat we will be compelled to turn to Hashem in desperation and prayer and in the merit of our teshuvah we will be saved.
We are living in harrowing times. Eis tzarah hi l’Yaakov – a troubling time for the Jewish people. We need to mobilize and try our very best to be faithful to the Torah and perform acts of chesed. In the merit of our efforts, Iran and all our enemies will dissipate and we will see Mashiach, speedily in our days.
Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer is a popular lecturer and author and the rav of the Brooklyn Jewish eXperience. Some of this material is adapted from his hashkafah book “Search Judaism: Judaism’s Answers to a Changing World” (Targum, 2009), available at www.SearchJudaism.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.