Calculating the End

One hundred percent of all the people who have ever predicted the time for the coming of the Messiah have been wrong one hundred percent of the time.

Watercolor painting of the coming of the Messiah. (Image: Bigstock)

Portion Summary & Scripture Reading

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Behar (בְּהַר | On the mountain)
  • Torah: Leviticus 25:1-26:2
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 32:6-27
  • Gospel: Luke 4:14-22

The above audio readings are for the regular weekly Torah portions, but are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. We only provide the regular audio readings when these interruptions occur. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule or the curent year's readings for variations.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 25:1 | The Sabbatical Year
    • Leviticus 25:8 | The Year of Jubilee
    • Leviticus 26:1 | Rewards for Obedience
  • Prophets
    • Jer 32:1 | Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege
    • Jer 32:16 | Jeremiah Prays for Understanding
    • Jer 32:26 | God's Assurance of the People's Return

Portion Summary

The thirty-second reading from the Torah and second-to-last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Behar, which means "On the Mountain." The name comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which could be literally translated to read, "The LORD then spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai" (Leviticus 25:1). This portion from the Torah introduces the laws of the sabbatical years, the jubilee and laws concerning redemption. In most years, synagogues read Behar together with the following portion, Bechukotai.

In the Torah, the year of Jubilee is the set time for redemption. Therefore it can be compared to the coming of the Messiah. Unlike the Jubilee, however, we cannot count down the years until Messiah. No one knows the day and hour, and every man who has ever calculated His arrival has been proven wrong.

It might seem tempting to try to determine the time of Messiah’s arrival. Calculators of the end times often point to the Jubilee cycle to draw inferences regarding the timing of the redemption. Daniel’s prophecy of seventy weeks has also been used by both Jewish and Christian eschatologists to calculate the time of Messiah’s advent. Throughout history, sages and Bible scholars have been searching the Scriptures for clues and furiously scribbling math equations to calculate years and dates regarding the coming of Messiah.

The conclusions of these end-time calculators are almost always the same. Messiah will definitely be arriving within the next five to thirty years; that is to say, within the lifetime of the person making the calculations. For more than two thousand years, Messiah has been due to arrive within the next few years. He is always coming but never arriving.

The Talmud harshly censures those who attempt to calculate and set a date for the redemption:

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonaton, “May the bones of those who calculate the end be blasted away. People will say, ‘Since the fixed time for his coming has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come.’ But we must wait for him, as it is written [in Habakkuk 2:3], ‘Though he tarries, wait for him; [for he will certainly come, he will not delay].’” (b.Sanhedrin 97b)

Those who set dates actually rob us of the joy of anticipating Messiah’s arrival. By setting dates, the eschatologists disappoint their adherents again and again. When we have set our hopes on a certain date and that date passes by without Messiah’s coming, we find it harder and harder to believe that Messiah is coming at all.

When you see a person prophesying about the Messiah, you should know that he is either engaged in witchcraft, or has dealings with demons … and demons come and teach him calculations and secrets, to his shame and the shame of those who believe in his words … for no man knows about the coming of the Messiah. (Sefer Chasidism)

Perhaps the witchcraft allegation is a little strong, but given the devastating effects that setting dates can have upon people, their lives and their faiths, one might rightly conclude that demons are well pleased with the work of those who set dates for Messiah’s coming. The medieval Torah giant Maimonides wrote, “One must not fix a time for [Messiah’s coming], nor interpret biblical passages so as to derive from them the time of his coming.” Yet even given this stern warning, Maimonides himself could not resist the temptation, and in a letter to Yemenite Jews, he calculated the date of Messiah’s coming to be just a few years off: 1210 CE.

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Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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