INTRODUCTION

There are probably two basic questions Jews have recycled and asked for literally centuries: Is it good for the Jews? And, when (and under what circumstances) is Mashiach coming?

In this scarcely known text by the Gaon of Vilna's grand-nephew and disciple, Rabbi Hillel Shklover, probably the best and most detailed answer extant to the second question is given. And yes, of course, the implication is that it will be good for the Jews though the passage to Mashichut and Geulah requires difficult preliminary steps, including great battles (both metaphysical and physical) and extraordinary deeds and Mitzvot.

Based on the Gaon's teachings and named "The Voice of the Turtledove" (from Shir HaShirim), the text by Rabbi Hillel was written in the late 18th century when the Gaon was still alive. Among other things, it describes and analyzes the footsteps of Mashiach (999 in total). Throughout, one sees this Gaon's incredible mastery of the entire Tanach and Talmud and his kabbalistic insights and chidushim, especially his original gematrias.

Subsequently, and for the next 150 years, this text was used by the biggest darshanim (preachers) in Lithuania and adjacent lands.

A leading idea in the book is that atchalta d'geula (the beginning of The Redemption) had already begun in the year stated in the Zohar. From that year on, the world has been in the preparatory stage for atchalta d'geula. The latter will ultimately occur in a natural, preordained way, indeed with the assent of significant "rulers of the day," much as was the case when Koresh (Cyrus of Persia, 6th century B.C.E.) declared that any Jew was free to return to his homeland and rebuild the Temple.

Throughout the text we see the Gaon's theme that we have to make a distinction between Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. Similarly, he refers to two types of Geulah. The first started at a time during which we are witnesses to the conquest of the land of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the removal of the spirit of tumah and impurity from the land and people, the large scale cultivation of the land, etc.

As one takes a look at what has happened in Israel this past century, one can say that many, though certainly not all, of the Gaon's requirements have been fulfilled.

As for the second Geulah (in the time of Mashiach ben David), the Gaon, along with other master m'kubalim, asserted that there will be great wars on both in the physical and metaphysical planes between the Jews and other nations, as well as internally between Jews and "Jews" who are part of the Erev Rav (the "Mixed multitude").

Besides revealing the Vilna Gaon's kabbalistic brilliance, his own deep faith in the coming of Mashiach AND the Gaon's own special role in that Coming, Kol HaTor is timely for at least three other reasons:

1. The universal search today for non-materialistic, non-hedonistic meaning in life, for spirituality, for God. Among Jews, one major stream of such seekers is represented by the ba'al teshuvah (or chozer b'teshuvah) movement. For all such searchers, Kol HaTor may well resonate.

2. The evidence of a growing compatibility, indeed confluence between Science and Kabbalah, particularly between post-Newtonian Einsteinian Physics and Torah as explicated by a diversity of profound, if non-mainstream, thinkers like the Holy Ari, Rav Kook and Rabbi Weissmandl (originator of the Torah codes).

3. The strong sense worldwide that things are getting better, yet getting worse, and certainly more confusing: technological breakthroughs and primitive hatreds, millennial thinking of Apocalypse Now and "We want Mashiach Now," the world as a global village but a world terribly out of whack, the end of the Cold War but the rise of a new axis of evil. And Israel and Jerusalem! at the center of the quickening, crazy spiral.

Remarkably, combining all three of these reasons is the new-old Kabbalistic view, founded on Genesis 7: 11, which states that "in the 600th year of Noah's life, all the wellsprings of the great deep burst forth and the floodgates were opened." Various kabbalists have seen this statement as an beacon pointing to the fact that after the 600th year of the 6th millennium (the Jewish calendar year of 5600, i.e., the mid-19th century), the Gates of Wisdom Above (Kabbalah) and the Wellsprings of Wisdom Below (Science) would and did increasingly open.

In fact, by this reckoning, we are moving away from the 6 millennia of rectification, and closer and closer to the 7th millennium the Great Sabbath, coextensive with Geulah and Mashichut scheduled to arrive in what is a cosmic blink of the eye, namely two and a half centuries hence (some say 2240 C.E.).

But, will Geula arrive easily or amidst great travail? Peacefully or with terrible wars? And while travail and great wars are assumed and predicted by the Gaon and others, are they inevitable? Further, is the Coming of Mashiach on an unchangeable schedule, or will it be postponed, or contrarily, might it dawn early? And if Heaven, the macrocosm, influences us, the microcosm, how can we, Jews especially, influence Heaven?

If one returns to the Gaon of Vilna who it should be remembered was a leading exponent of the idea of Science and Religion coming together prior to Mashiach one will be in a better position to understand, and perhaps answer, these questions.

It is appropriate here to draw the reader's attention to two people responsible for bringing this book to the light of day for the English-speaking public. Rabbi Yechlel Bar Lev of Petach Tikva was the principal translator and inspiring force behind this work. Rabbi Bar Lev is one of Torah Judaism's outstanding experts on Kabbalah. He is the author and translator/editor of major works widely used in Israel and the Diaspora, namely, The Song of the Soul (a detailed explanation of the Sefirot)

and Commentaries (in Hebrew) on the Zohar (14 volumes) the Siddur, Shabbat and Holiday Tefilah called Yedid Nefesh. He also recently completed the stupendous job of translating into Hebrew from Aramaic, and with his own commentary, the entire Talmud Yerushalmi (14 volumes). Rabbi Bar Lev's website is www.yedidnefesh.com

Yoav Baram of Brookline, MA. and Safed Israel, was the other force behind this pubilcation. A ba'al teshuvah since 1990, when he was an overseas student at Tel Aviv University (where the total secularism and indifference to God and Judaism were painful to behold), Yoav has been inspired to share his love of Kabbalah and faith in the Geulah with other baalei teshuvah. He used his own limited funds and raised money to produce the translation of this book from Hebrew to English; and he hopes to do the same with respect to the Vilna Gaon's commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah, also the Ari z?l?s Shaar HaGilgulim and selected works of the Abir Yaakov (Abuehatzeira). As Yoav?s father and partner, I am happy to assist in these truly noble endeavors.

Pinchas Baram

Unless otherwise noted, everything written in this book, including chapter and section division, is from the pen of Rabbi Hillel Shaklover.

 

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