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I have heard in various discussions that we have an idea that mashiach will come at the latest by year 6000.

Is this a normative belief? Furthermore, is this a belief that is understood literally by any sections of Judaism? If so, what sources view it literally?

Because if it is, then it being 5776, plus the ~164 missing years, we are really getting quite close...

  • It would be perhaps relevant to note that the 2300 prophetic days of Daniel 8:14 will come to a completion around 2370 CE, or about AM 6130. – Lucian Sep 27 '18 at 23:03
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The phrase "1,000 years is but a day" allows people to connect the existence of the world to the seven days of creation. Thus, each millenium in the existence of the world is the equivalent of a "day" of creation, with the seventh millennium (6001 - 7000) being the equivalent Shabbat. Since the year 6000 is the last year of "Erve Shabbat", the mashiach would have to come then for the "spiritual" millennium to begin. An example of this is found at What is the significance of the year 6000 in the Jewish calendar? Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashana 31a and Sanhedrin 97a

The Talmud tells us that this world, as we know it, will last for six thousand years, with the seventh millennium ushering in the cosmic Shabbat, the Messianic Era. Six days a week we work, and on the Shabbat we rest and enjoy the fruits of our labor; the same is true with millenniums.

There are people (who are recognized as "normative") who seem to take this literally.

For example the Vilna Gaon is supposed to have taken this literally and made this claim (I do not have a trustworthy link for this).

Moshiach and the World Today by Rabbi Peter Winston appears to take this literally.

The first thing to know is that history will last only 6,000 years (Talmud - Sanhedrin 97a). This is because the six millennia are based upon the six days of creation, as hinted to in the following verse:

For one thousand years in Your [God's] eyes are but a day that has passed. (Psalms 90:4)

Rebbetzin Jungreis: By the Year 6,000, Mashiach Has to be Here has also appeared to take this literally.

"Listen carefully, friends, to what I'm telling you. Hashem, Elokei Yisrael, created this world that we are living in today in six days. Every day was a thousand years. This world, as we know it today, cannot last beyond 6,000 years. Right now, we are in the year 5769, which means it's Erev Shabbos of the world. By the year 6,000, Mashiach has to be here. He could come much earlier. But by the year 6,000, he has to be here. … the Vilna Gaon said that the last war, Milchemet Gog uMagog, is going to last only 12 minutes because they are going to have such weapons…. We know that the final redemption, the final Geula, it's going to be like when you left Egypt – only one-fifth of our people left Egypt. Four-fifths perished… during the plague of darkness.

"So I'm appealing to every Jew. Every negative prophecy can be changed. We can bring Mashiach today. Right now, we are living in a period called Erev Shabbat. It's Erev Shabbat, because when Mashiach will come, it will be the day that will be all Shabbat, the seventh day….Let's bring Shabbos early, and let us to bring Shabbos with menucha [ease], with shalom [peace], with simchah [happiness] – Is it possible? Absolutely?! Every negative prophecy can be changed."

While it can be treated literally, we do not know for sure exactly what will happen, but we should act as if our actions can cause the Mashiach to "come earlier" (like lighting candles earlier Friday afternoon) or to delay it. Consider that by miscounting one day at Sinai, the Bnai Yisrael caused the sin of the Golden Calf. We should not be like those who expected the mashiach on a particular day and then dropped everything as an over-reaction to having been wrong.

We should also be careful as to what we expect to happen when the mashiach actually comes (bimheira beyameinu).

  • While a good summary of the issues it doesn't really answer my question of "IS it literal/ is it normative to treat it literally." I may not have been clear enough ---I'll edit my question. – andrewmh20 Jan 20 '16 at 21:06
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    Shabbat can only be accepted at Plag HaMincha on Friday which would be in the year 5948 in your analogy. – Double AA Jan 20 '16 at 21:07
  • @DoubleAA That is only the analogy. However, we see that others have expected the Mashiach even earlier. 5900 would be the year 2140 (by the current count) so 5948 would be 2188. – sabbahillel Jan 20 '16 at 21:14
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    Mincha Gedola was in 2010=5770. Mincha Ketana is in 5895, Plag HaMincha is in 5948. – Double AA Jan 20 '16 at 22:30
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    Then there's the 164 missing years during the interregnum between Temples. If they were intentionally hidden: (1) the year is really 5940, and (2) we could add Anshei Keneses haGedolah to Chazal to the list of people whose proclamations we are defying by playing this game. – Micha Berger Jan 21 '16 at 11:34
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It is fairly widespread, but not normative in the sense that is an objective teaching of Judaism that is incumbent on all faithful to believe. There's also some evidence that one should not believe it.

What is meant by 'but at the end it shall speak and not lie?' — R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. Sanhedrin 97b

H"w, in the event that Moshiah doesn't come within the next 400ish years, that would be the end of Judaism. Another point, the Rambam writes what he considers to be an exhaustive account of the laws and prophecies of Moshiah in Hilkhoth Melakhim u'Milkhamoth, and no time frame is offered. To the best of my knowledge, none of the kadmonim bring a definite time frame or deadline.

The source of the 6000 years teaching occurs in the gemara just prior to the above cited admonition:

R. Kattina said: Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one [thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate, as it is written, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. Abaye said: it will be desolate two [thousand], as it is said, After two days will he revive us: in the third day, he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

It has been taught in accordance with R. Kattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as it is written, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day,' and it is further said, A Psalm and song for the Sabbath day, meaning the day that is altogether Sabbath — and it is also said, For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past. Sanhedrin 97a

It should be noted that this only one of a few theories given in the same part of the Talmud, but this seems to be the one most widely believed. Note the strong parallels between the Jewish conception of the week and the Jewish conception of Time. Six days of secular preparation for shabboth, and then a day of perfection and holiness vs. six thousand years of secular preparation for a thousand years of perfection and holiness. In my experience, most people read this allegorically in this obvious sense. That the week cycle is there to teach us that the universe has a similar teleology. That holiness and perfection arise out of mundane toil.

  • Do you know of any more-modern sources that discuss explicitly the validity of such calculations? – andrewmh20 Jan 20 '16 at 21:19
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    @andrewmh20 nothing within the last couple hundred years leaps to mind. Calculating the coming of moshiah was never really a Jewish endeavor precisely because chazal were so explicit about not doing so. – ShamanSTK Jan 20 '16 at 21:24
  • @andrewmh20 I added quotes from modern sources that treat this literally – sabbahillel Jan 20 '16 at 21:32
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    "In the event that Moshiah doesn't come within the next 400ish years, that would be the end of Judaism." I don't see why this should necessarily be so. – Mike Jan 21 '16 at 2:22
  • @Mike 1) Either the Moshiah comes within the next 400ish years, or Moshiah never comes. 2) Ikkar 12 of the Rambam is the belief that Moshiah will come. 3) Following 2, if the Moshiah doesn't come, Judaism is false. Therefore, necessarily, if Moshiah doesn't come in the next 400 years, he never comes, therefore a fundamental belief of Judaism is false. – ShamanSTK Jan 21 '16 at 2:40
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I know that there are two mashiachs(literally - anointed ones) . Priestly mashiach is Aaron from the tribe of Levi who has 4 sons(Shemot 30:30). King mashiach is David from the tribe of Judah(Bereshit 49:10). Torah does not explicitly specifies the timeline, but many think we are close because of the traditional 6000 years timeline.

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    Is this (by year 6000) a normative belief? Furthermore, is this a belief that is understood literally by any sections of Judaism? If so, what sources view it literally? – Monica Cellio Jan 24 '16 at 2:59
  • @ShamanSTK, just to add: We are holding in The 6th millenium which , as u explained refers to the 6th day of creat. There is a mishnaic text , I believe in Avos, "Mi SheTarach ( works and is busy ) biErev Shabbos , will eat on Shabbos. Maybe we could say that ,now, in Ikvisa DiMashicha( the _6th century !) how much more so is this text applicable now !:) – sye81397 Jan 26 '16 at 4:56

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