The Footsteps of Messiah
“[Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai used to say,] ‘If you have a sapling in your hand, and it is said to you, ‘Behold, there is the Messiah’—go on with your planting, and afterward go out and receive him” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 31).
“Rav Qattina said: Six thousand years the world will exist, and one, it shall be desolate, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be exalted in that day (Isaiah 2:11). Abbaye said: it will be desolate two, as it is said, After two days will He revive us: on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight (Hosea 6:2).
It has been taught in accordance with Rav Qattina: 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 is written, And YHWH alone shall be exalted in that day, and it is further said, A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1)—the day that is altogether Sabbath. It is also said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4).
The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world will exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was תֹהוּ (tohu), chaos; two thousand years תוֹרָה (Torah), Law, flourished; two thousand years the days of Messiah” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).
“Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Avina said: When you see the powers fighting each other, look for the footsteps of the King Messiah. The proof is that in the days of Abraham, because these powers fought against each other, greatness came to Abraham” (Bereshit Rabbah 42:4).
“Rabbi Yannai said: If you see one generation after another cursing [those engaged in Torah and mitsvot] and blaspheming [saying ‘Since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come’ (BT Sanhedrin 97b)], look out for the coming of the Messiah, as it says, Your enemies reviled Your anointed one’s עִקְּבוֹת (iqqvot), steps (Psalms 89:52)” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 2:13, 4).
“In the עִקְּבוֹת מְשִׁיחָא (iqqvot meshiḥa), heels of Messiah, impudence [or: brazenness] will increase; prices will rise; grapes will be abundant but wine will be costly; the government will turn into heresy; and there will be no reproach. The meeting place [of scholars] will become a bordello; the Galilee will be destroyed; the highland will lie desolate; the border people will wander from city to city and none will show them compassion; the wisdom of scribes will stink; sin‑fearing people will be detested; truth will be missing; young men will humiliate the elderly; the elderly will stand while the young sit; sons will revile their fathers; daughters will strike their mothers, brides will strike their mothers‑in‑law; and a man’s enemies will take over his house. The face of the generation is like the face of a dog! Sons have no shame in front of their fathers; and on whom can one depend? Only upon our Father in Heaven” (BT Sotah 49b)—like the dead skin of a ticklish heel, so too our generation is insensitive to suffering while the most frivolous matters delight us, cf. BT Shabbat 13b: “The dead flesh in a living person does not feel the scalpel.”
“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai recounts: Rabbi Akiva would expound דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב (darakh kokhav), a star steps forth, out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17): דָּרַךְ בָּר כּוֹכבָא (darakh Bar Kokhva), Bar Kokhba steps forth, out of Jacob. When Akiva would see this בַּר כָּזָב (bar kazav), son of a lie, he would say: ‘This is the King Messiah.’ Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Torta would tell him: ‘Akiva, grass shall grow from your jaws before he will appear’” (JT Ta’anit 4:8, 68d).
“Abimi son of Rabbi Abbahu learned: The days of the Messiah for Israel will be seven thousand years, as is written, As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5) [the bridegroom’s rejoicing is seven days, and God’s day is a thousand years. Cf. Psalms 90:4: For a thousand years in Your eyes as like yesterday gone]. Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: The days of Messiah shall endure as long as from the creation of the world until now, as is written, [So that your days be many, and the days of your sons, on the soil that YHWH swore to your fathers to give them,] as the days of the heavens over the earth (Deuteronomy 11:21). Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: As long as from Noah’s days until our own, as is written, For this is as the waters of Noah unto Me: for as I have sworn [that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you] (Isaiah 54:9)” (BT Sanhedrin 99a).
“About Israel, it is written, And they mingled with the nations and learned their deeds (Psalms 106:35)—until they are trampled under their feet in the exile, they can not be sorted out from them. About them, David of blessed memory said, Why should I fear in evil days, when crime comes round me at עֲקֵבַי (aqevai), my heels? (Psalms 49:6). About them Solomon said, Loveliest of women, if you lose your way, follow in the עִקְבֵי (iqvei), tracks, of the sheep (Song of Songs 1:8)—of יַעֲקֹב (Ya’aqov), Jacob. About him is written concerning the primordial serpent who seduced Eve, He will boot your head and you will bite his עָקֵב (aqev), heel (Genesis 3:15). [But] after leaving exile, they are compared to apples and all matters of fragrance, as when they departed Egypt, as it says, Under the apple tree I awakened you (Song of Songs 8:5)” (Zohar 2:120b, Ra’aya Meheimna Mishpatim).