Cedars of Lebanon: The Time We Waited for the Messiah
“The Messiah will come in the year 5666 ”—that was the idea afloat among the Jews in the small town of Leczyna in Russian Poland. It took hold of men and women alike, child and adult. First of all, the sufferings that must precede the advent of the Messiah were clearly evident in the pogroms, in the revolution, and in the war. Second, people had seen omens: red spots in the evening skies, which could signify only the coming of the Messiah. Third, it was figured out, as simple as two and two are four, that the war between Russia and Japan was in reality the war between Gog and Magog, who must do battle before the Messiah comes. Fourth, every chapter and verse of the Bible, every passage in the Gemara and other holy writings, indicated that 5666 would be the year of redemption.
My father, the rabbi of Leczyna, was most proficient in finding these proofs. No matter what holy book he opened, the Bible, the Gemara, the Zohar and other Cabalistic writings, he always discovered some text which would demonstrate, by computation of the numerical value of the letters, that the Messiah would come in 5666. My father, the perennial enthusiast and believer, would glow with joy telling my mother about his new proofs. My mother, a daughter of mitnagdim [rabbinic opponents of the Hasidim], did not try to refute him, but her piercing large gray eyes cooled my father’s ardor. He would then escape to the bet hamidrash, the house of study, and tell about his new findings.
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