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Since it says in the Talmud that Moshiach has to come by the year 6000, so what happens to Judaism if Moshiach doesn't come by the year 6000.

The year 6000 view comes from the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a. The Talmud compares the messianic age to the Sabbath and note that a day to God is like a thousand years. So Sunday (0-1000), Monday (1000-2000), Tuesday (2000-3000), Wednesday (3000-4000), Thursday (4000-5000), Friday (5000-6000), and Shabbat (6000-7000).

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,' (Ps. 92:1) 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' (Ps. 90:4)." 2

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    I don't understand the question. If you believe that the Talmud means this literally, then the question doesn't start, because the messiah will arrive by 6000. Asking what will happen if he doesn't is like asking what happened when the sun didn't rise this morning. And if you think the Talmud is speaking metaphorically then the question doesn't start either. – msh210 Sep 15 '16 at 11:09
  • I understand what you're saying, but this 'Keitz' wasn't set by human beings as far as I am aware. This is part of G-d's arrangement, just like the idea that giving of the Torah had to be when it was. The pressing nature of Matan Torah is emphasized in regard to the subject of descending to the 49th gate of 'tumah', etc. – Yaacov Deane Sep 15 '16 at 13:18
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    related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/67507/759 – Double AA Sep 15 '16 at 14:45
  • @msh210 If you believe that the Talmud means this literally, then the question doesn't start, because the messiah will arrive by 6000 Nope. The Talmud could be literal, but still be wrong. As Rambam teaches us about this in particular and as the general consensus of Jewish sources indicate. – mevaqesh Feb 7 '17 at 5:00
  • Doesn’t that same Gemara say that we don’t have a tradition regarding the days of Mashiach beyond what’s written in Tanach? So if 6000 is wrong, that just means we misread those incredibly dense verses. Also, note how many other dates in that Gemara have passed. Finally, it’s a three-way debate in that Gemara as to what brings Mashiach - Rav holds only good deeds, Shmuel holds only the Keitz, and R’ Yehoshua Ben Levi holds that there is a Keitz but we can cause Mashiach to come early with good deeds. So if Rav is correct then this question is moot. (Con’t) – DonielF Jan 25 '18 at 17:17
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It would mean absolutely nothing. All it would mean is that we (living in what we think is year 6000) either miscounted or (those who wrote the medrash) misinterpreted what was going on. Many people have guessed when the mashiach would arrive and been wrong. Consider the division of the ages of the worls into two thousand year epochs in which the birth of Avraham (1948), Yitzchak (2048) or Yaakov (2108) are considered the end of the first epoch. The dates in such calculations are only approximate.

All we can say is that when someone appears to have met the criteria for mashiach, then we would be willing to accept him. If he fails or dies, then admit that he wasn't and go on. Look at the trouble Shabtai Tzvi and his predecessors for the past several thousand years have caused.

Rambam does not set the time at 6000 years. He says Hashem will send Mashiach when He has determined to. We are guessing about 6000 years. Indeed consider the problem if it actually means 6001 (1 - 1000, 1001 - 2000, ... 5001 - 6000) and people get upset about mashiach not coming in 6000 Or indeed, consider the upset if people are off in when during the year. Chet Haeigel occurred because of a one day miscalculation.

Rambam Hilchos melachim 12:2 says

Regardless of the debate concerning these questions, neither the order of the occurrence of these events or their precise detail are among the fundamental principles of the faith. A person should not occupy himself with the Aggadot and homiletics concerning these and similar matters, nor should he consider them as essentials, for study of them will neither bring fear or love of God.

Similarly, one should not try to determine the appointed time for Mashiach's coming. Our Sages declared: 'May the spirits of those who attempt to determine the time of Mashiach's coming expire!' Rather, one should await and believe in the general conception of the matter as explained.

There is a quip that the prohibition did not stop the Rambam from speculating.

As it says When Will the Mashiach Come?

There is a wide variety of opinions on the subject of when the mashiach will come. Some of the Jews' greatest minds have cursed those who try to predict the time of the mashiach's coming, because errors in such predictions could cause people to lose faith in the messianic idea or in the Torah itself. This actually happened in the 17th century, when Shabbtai Tzvi claimed to be the mashiach; when Tzvi converted to Islam under threat of death, many Jews converted with him. Nevertheless, this "prohibition" has not stopped anybody from speculating about the time when the mashiach will come (including some who themselves spoke harshly of those who engaged in such vain efforts!).

Although some scholars believed that God has set aside a specific date for the coming of the mashiach, most authorities suggest that the conduct of mankind will determine the time of the mashiach's coming. In general, it is believed that the mashiach will come in a time when he is most needed (because the world is so evil), or in a time when he is most deserved (because the world is so good). For example, each of the following has been suggested as the time when the mashiach will come:

  • when all Israel repent a single day
  • when all Israel observe a single sabbath properly
  • when all Israel observe two sabbaths in a row properly
  • in a generation that is totally innocent, or totally guilty
  • in a generation that loses hope
  • in a generation where children are totally disrespectful towards their parents and elders (commonly thought to be "our generation", in every generation!)
  • The discussion you bring from Rambam is talking about setting a time limit within the framework set by Torah, meaning 'it will occur by this date and time within the boundary laid out in the Torah. In other words, early or late, "B'Itah, Achisheina". In merit it is hastened (Achisheina). If not, in its time (B'Itah). The framework of Torah sets the limit (B'Itah) at 6000 years less the time that one is required to take on Shabbat. It doesn't mean there is no boundary or time limit at all. – Yaacov Deane Sep 15 '16 at 13:34
  • @YaacovDeane Rambam does not set the time at 6000 years. He says Hashem will send Mashiach when He has determined to. We are guessing about 6000 years. Indeed consider the problem if it actually means 6001 (1 - 100, 1001 - 2000, ... 5001 - 6000) and people get upset about mashiach not coming in 6000 Or indeed, consider the upset if people are off in when during the year. Chet Haeigel occurred because of a one day miscalculation. – sabbahillel Sep 15 '16 at 13:36
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    @YaacovDeane By definition IF Rambam was aware of the Talmud giving a 6000 year date (which he certainly was) AND is silent on the subject AND subsequently said there is no definite date, THEN the Rambam clearly holds that the 6000 years date is not a literal, absolute date OR is not referencing what we think, which is covered in this answer as well: "All it would mean is that we either miscounted or misinterpreted what was going on." – Isaac Kotlicky Sep 15 '16 at 15:18
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    Note as well that the year 5776 is just a popular convention following one Midrashic opinion. Even assuming Bereishit 1 is strictly literal, we can only know the correct year to +/- a few hundred. – Double AA Sep 15 '16 at 21:15
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    @YaacovDeane Isaac's point is that it is not the case that "there is silence regarding a stated position". Rather Rambam explicitly says there is no definite date. Hence he does't accept 6000 as a fixed limit. – Double AA Feb 7 '17 at 5:00
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It would mean nothing for Judaism. It would just mean that that particular Midrash was wrong. This would be no surprise, since (according to the vast majority of Geonim and Rishonim) the Midrashim are not based on tradition but are at most the personal views of individual scholars. Everyone can be wrong.

In the words of Dr. David Berger:

I am more than a bit disturbed when respected Orthodox organizations disseminate material stating as undeniable fact that the redemption must come before the year 6,000 in the Jewish calendar. Other messianic dates in the Talmud have passed, and Maimonides—in an explicit effort to discourage messianic calculation and obsession—made a point of emphasizing that even Hazal did not have a tradition regarding these matters (Hilkhot Melakhim 12:2). Many years ago, a friend told me how a classmate of his in a traditionalist yeshiva had told him that if he would be alive in the year 6,000 and the Messiah would not have come, he would throw his tefillin on the ground and stomp on them. It is worth reemphasizing the prophet’s declaration: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways, declares the Lord. But as the heavens are high above the earth, so are My ways high above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). [1]


[1] TRADITION 39:2 (2005) p. 77 note 2.

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