Immortality by 2077

Immortality by 2077

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. -Woody Allen

Modern scientists have reached a stage of technological development where they can start to dream of extending man’s life indefinitely. While immortality still remains in the realm of science-fiction, multiple solutions are being worked on that should there be a breakthrough in any one of them, would signify a serious change in man’s longevity. The search for eternal life has often been connected with Messianic dreams.

It has long been taboo in Judaism to predict when the long-awaited Messiah may finally arrive. Maimonides declared it a fundamental principle of Judaism that we need simple belief and faith that the Messiah can arrive any day and to await him expectantly. Not that this has stopped countless Rabbis throughout the generations from giving dates and deadlines (all the past ones clearly erroneous so far) as to when the personification of our redemption will show himself.

Rabbeinu Bechaye does something a little different. In his commentary on Genesis 11:10 he predicts when the Messianic age will end. Back when he wrote his commentary, around the year 1290, he predicted that the Messianic age would end by 2077. And it would end with eternal life, for some.

When the Torah provides the list of generations and descendents of Shem son of Noah, it doesn’t mention their deaths, as opposed to the similar list of descendents of Adam until Noah. Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that the reason may be because Shem was the ancestor of the Davidic monarchy and the Messiah son of David will not die, but rather will live forever.

He states that after the year 2077 (really, 5837 in the Hebrew calendar) we will enter the seventh millennium which is the Sabbath of the world, and eternal life. He further implies that only those who cleave onto God will merit that eternal life.

For the younger ones among us, they may very well live to test Rabbeinu Bechaye’s prediction 60 years from now. The rest of us need to work on our life extending strategies. All of us need to work on cleaving to God.

May the Messiah show up rapidly in our own days.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the staff and volunteers of IsraAID who consistently provide life-saving help in disaster scenes around the world.

The Creation of Hell

The Creation of Hell

So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the burning marl. Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is – other people! -Jean-Paul Sartre

                                                                  Chart of Hell, Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485.

According to ancient Jewish sources, Hell was created on the second day of creation. The plain text narrates how on the second day of creation, God creates the firmament which separates between the upper waters and the lower waters. Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 1:4 wonders why the second day of creation doesn’t end with the characteristic phrase “and it was good,” which other days mention. He quotes the creation of Hell as a reason; however, he adds that something else was created on that same unfortunate day: quarrelling.

The term for second in Hebrew, “Sheni,” already hints at the unlucky nature of the number two. “Sheni” is related to the word “Shinui” which means difference or change. There is something negative and even dangerous when there are unwarranted differences between things and people or even to just being the second and being compared to what came before. It sets the stage for quarrelling. Even nature itself seems to quarrel with God from the second day and onwards. None of God’s further commands to the inanimate world were correctly implemented. For example, on the third day, God commanded that the earth produce fruit trees, meaning trees whose bark would be savory and could be eaten, however, the land decided to produce only fruit-bearing trees, with inedible bark.

The concern with the number two was serious enough that even the Talmud mentions a superstition about bad luck in eating pairs of a food or drinking pairs of drinks. Nonetheless, Rabbeinu Bechaye’s main point is that whoever instigates a quarrel will be judged in Hell. There is a direct correlation between creating anguish, controversy and clashes between people, and experiencing Hell.

However, we also know that arguments for the sake of Heaven, which are handled with sensitivity, intelligence and respect, will eventually be settled well.

May we avoid unnecessary quarrels and stick to Heavenly arguments.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the beginning of a new year of commentary. May it lead us on peaceful ways.