The Footsteps of Messiah
“Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: All the prophets prophesied only for the days of Messiah, but as for the world to come, No eye has seen God besides You. [He acts for those who wait for Him] (Isaiah 64:3). But they part ways with Shemu’el, as Shemu’el said: There is no difference between this world and the days of Messiah except subjugation to [foreign] kingdoms, as is said: For the pauper will not cease from the midst of the land (Deuteronomy 15:11)” (BT Berakhot 34b).
“[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).
“Rabbi Naḥman said to Rabbi Yitsḥaq: ‘Have you heard when Bar Nafli will come?’ ‘Who is Bar Nafli?’ he asked. ‘Messiah,’ he replied. ‘Do you call Messiah Bar Nafli?’ [בַּר נַפְלֵי (bar nafli), Stillborn (lit., Son of the Fallen), is numerically equivalent to בֵּן יִשָׁי (ben yishai), Son of Jesse, cf. BT Shabbat, 55a; Zohar 3:215a (RM)].
He said, ‘Even so, as is written, On that day I will raise up הַנֹּפֶלֶת (ha-nofelet), the fallen, shelter of David (Amos 9:11). He replied, ‘Thus Rabbi Yoḥanan said: In the generation when the Son of David will come, disciples of the Sages will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.’
Our Rabbis taught: The seventh [שְׁמִטָה (shemittah), year of release] at the end of which the Son of David comes—in the first year, this verse will be fulfilled: And I rained on one town but on another town did not rain (Amos 4:7); in the second, arrows of hunger will be sent forth; in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, devout men, and men on whose behalf miracles occur, will die, and Torah will be forgotten by her disciples; in the fourth, plenty and no plenty; in the fifth, great plenty, when men will eat, drink and rejoice, and Torah will return to her disciples; in the sixth, קוֹלוֹת (qolot), sounds [either heavenly voices announcing the advent of Messiah, or the blasts of the great shofar, see Isaiah 27:13]; in the seventh, wars; and at the conclusion of the seventh Son of David will come. Rabbi Yosef said: But so many sevenths have passed, yet he has not come! Abbaye said: Were there then sounds in the sixth and wars in the seventh? Moreover, have they transpired in this order?
As Your enemies reviled Your anointed one’s footsteps (Psalms 89:52). It has been taught, Rabbi Yehudah said: In the generation when the Son of David comes, the meeting place [of the Sages] will become a whorehouse, the Galilee will be destroyed, the highland [Bashan] will be desolate, the border people will wander from city to city and none will show them mercy, the wisdom of scribes will stink, sin‑fearing people will be detested, the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, and truth will be missing, as is written, And truth is not to be found, who turns from evil is despoiled (Isaiah 59:15). What is And truth נֶעְדֶּרֶת (ne’edderet), is not to be found? The academy of Rav said: This teaches that it will be like עֳדָרִים (adarim), flocks, and depart. What is who turns from evil מִשְׁתּוֹלֵל (mishtolel), is despoiled? The academy of Rav Shila said: He who turns aside from evil will be מִשְׁתּוֹלֵל (mishtolel), made barefoot, by the people [i.e., deemed insane, cf. Micah 1:8: For this would I lament and would wail, I would go שׁוֹלָל (sholal), naked, and bare. I would raise a lament like the jackals and mourning like the ostriches].
Rava said: At first I would say that there is no truth in the world. Whereupon one of the Rabbis, Rav Tavut is his name—others say, Rav Tavyomei—who, even if he were given all the treasures of the world, would not lie, told me that he once came to a place called קוּשְׁטָא (qushta), Truth, in which no one ever told lies, and where no man ever died before his time. Now, he married one of their women, by whom he had two sons. One day his wife was sitting and washing her hair, when a neighbor came and knocked at the door. Thinking to himself that it would not be proper [to tell the neighbor that his wife was washing herself], he called out, ‘She is not here.’ [As a punishment for this] his two sons died. Then people of that town came to him and questioned him, ‘What is the cause of this?’ So he told them what had happened. They said to him, ‘Leave, pray, this town, and do not incite Death against these men [i.e., us].’
It has been taught: Rabbi Nehorai said: In the generation when Messiah comes, young men will insult the old, and old men will stand before the young; daughters will rise up against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law [see Micah 7:6]. The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, and a son will not be humble before his father.
It has been taught, Rabbi Neḥemiah said: In the generation of Messiah’s coming impudence will increase, and the cost [of living] will corrupt [people, making them thieves], the vine will give its fruit but wine will be costly [or: scarce], and the kingdom will turn to sectarianism, and there will be no rebuke [a prediction of the conversion of Rome to Christianity under Constantine the Great in 313 C.E.]. This supports Rabbi Yitsḥaq, who said: Son of David will not come until the entire kingdom turns to sectarianism. Rava said: What is the verse? If the skin blanch has covered his whole body, he shall declare the affliction clean (Leviticus 13:13) [when all are heretics, it is a sign that the world is about to be made clean by the advent of Messiah].
Our Rabbis taught: Yes, YHWH champions His people, for His servants He shows change of heart when He sees that power is gone, no ruler or helper remains (Deuteronomy 32:36): Son of David will not come until traitors are in abundance [Israel will be at the mercy of traitors]. Another interpretation: Until disciples of the Sages are few. Another interpretation: until the [last] perutah has gone from the purse. Another interpretation: Until the redemption is despaired of, as is written, no ruler or helper remains, as—were it possible [to say so]—Israel had neither Supporter nor Helper. Even as Rabbi Zera, who, whenever he happened upon rabbis engaging [in calculating the time of the Messiah’s coming], would say to them: I beg of you, do not postpone it, for it has been taught: Three come unawares: Messiah, a found article, and a scorpion.
Rav Qattina said: A world is six thousand years, and one is desolate, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day (Isaiah 2:11). Abbaye said: It is desolate two, as is said, He will revive us after two days, on the third day raise us up, that we may live in His presence (Hosea 6:2) [see Rabbi David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid, Sefer Mar’ot Ha-Tsove’ot, 106:13].
It has been taught in accordance with Rav Qattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is a world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on 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: A world is six thousand years: two thousand תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos; two thousand תּוֹרָה (torah), Law; two thousand years the days of Messiah.
Elijah said to Rav Yehudah, the brother of Rav Sala the Devout: ‘The world is not less than eighty-five jubilees, and in the last jubilee the Son of David will come.’ He asked him, ‘At the beginning or at the end?’ He replied, ‘I do not know.’ ‘Shall this [period] be completed or not?’ ‘I do not know,’ he answered. Rav Ashi said: He said this to him, ‘Before that, do not lookout for him; afterwards lookout for him.’
Rav Ḥanan son of Taḥlifa sent [word] to Rabbi Yosef: I once met a man who possessed a scroll written in Hebrew in Assyrian characters. I said to him: ‘How did this come to you?’ He replied, ‘I hired myself as a mercenary in the Roman army, and found it amongst the Roman archives. In it is stated that 4,291 years after Creation the world will be orphaned. [As to the years following,] some of them will be spent in the war of the great sea monsters, and some in the war of Gog and Magog, and the remaining [period] will be the era of Messiah, whilst the blessed Holy One, will renew His world only after seven thousand years.’ Rabbi Abba the son of Rabba said: The statement was after five thousand years.
It has been taught: Rabbi Natan said: This verse pierces and descends to the very abyss: For there is yet a vision for the appointed time and a witness for the end who is not false (Habakkuk 2:3). Not as our Rabbis, who interpreted, for a season, a season, and a half-season (Daniel 7:25) [i.e., two and a half years]; nor as Rabbi Simlai who expounded, You fed them bread of tears and made them drink triple measure of tears (Psalms 80:6); nor as Rabbi Akiva who expounded, Soon I will shake the heavens and the earth [and the sea and the dry land] (Haggai 2:6): but the first dynasty [namely, the Hasmonean] shall last seventy years, the second [the Herodian], fifty two, and the reign of Bar Koziva two and a half years [the verses cited from Daniel, Psalms, and Haggai were interpreted so as to give a definite date for the advent of the Messiah. Rabbi Natan however, on the authority of Habakkuk 2:3, asserts that all such calculations are false. The three verses refer to the Hasmonean, Herodian, and Bar Koziba’s reign, but the advent of Messiah is unknowable (Rashi)].
What is [For there is yet a vision for the appointed time] וְיָפֵחַ (ve-yafe’aḥ), and a witness, for the end who is not false (Habakkuk 2:3)? Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: תִּיפָּח (Tippaḥ), blasted, be the bones of those who calculate the end [cf. Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov in the name of the Gaon of Vilna, Qol ha-Tor 4:2]. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. But [even so], wait for him, as is written, Though he tarries, wait for him (ibid.). Should you say, ‘We await [his coming] but He does not [come]’: therefore Scripture says, And therefore YHWH shall wait to grant you grace, and therefore He shall rise to show you mercy, [for a God of justice is YHWH] (Isaiah 30:18). But since we look forward to it, as does He, what delays [his coming]? The quality of Justice delays it [because we are not yet worthy]. But since the quality of Justice delays it, why do we await it? To be rewarded [for hoping], as is written, Happy all who wait for Him (Isaiah 30:18).
Abbaye said: The world must contain not less than thirty-six righteous men in each generation who receive the Shekhinah’s countenance, as is written, Happy all who wait for Him; לוֹ (lo), for Him, is numerically equivalent to thirty-six. But that is not so, for did not Rava say: The row [of righteous men immediately] before the blessed Holy One consists of eighteen thousand parasangs, as is written, All around it is eighteen thousand [cubits] (Ezekiel 48:35)? That is no difficulty: the former number [of thirty-six] refers to those who see Him through a speculum that shines, the latter to those who contemplate him through a speculum that does not shine [cf. BT Yevamot 49b; Zohar 1:33b, 49b, 183a; 2:23b]. But are there that many? Did not Ḥizkiyyah say in the name of Rabbi Yirmeyah on the authority of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai: I have seen the supernal sons, and they are but few. If there are a thousand, I and my son are included; if a hundred, I and my son are included; and if only two, they are myself and my son?—there is no difficulty: the former number [of thirty-six] refers to those who enter [within to see the Shekhinah] with permission; the latter [uncertain number] to those who may enter without permission.
Rav said: All the ‘ends’ have passed, and the matter depends only on repentance and good deeds. But Shemu’el said: It is enough for a mourner to endure his mourning. As the Tannaim [say]: Rabbi Eli’ezer says: If Israel do repentance, they will be redeemed; and if not, they will not be redeemed. Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to him: If they do not do repentance, will they not be redeemed! Only the blessed Holy One will set up a king over them, whose decrees will be as harsh as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall do repentance, and he will restore them back to better [ways]. Another [baraita] taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer said: If Israel repent, they will be redeemed, as is written, Turn back, rebellious children—I will heal your rebellion (Jeremiah 3:22) [cf. Zohar 1:178a]. Rabbi Yehoshu’a said to him: But is it not written, For nothing were you sold and for no silver shall you be redeemed (Isaiah 52:3)? For nothing were you sold—for idolatry; and for no silver shall you be redeemed—without repentance and good deeds. Rabbi Eli’ezer said to Rabbi Yehoshu’a, But is it not written, Turn back to Me, that I may turn back to you (Malachi 3:7). Rabbi Yehoshu’a said: But is it not written, [Turn back, rebellious sons, said YHWH,] for I have claimed possession of you and have taken you, one from a town and two from a clan, and brought you to Zion (Jeremiah 3:14)? Rabbi Eli’ezer replied, But it is written, In quite and stillness you shall be rescued (Isaiah 30:15). Rabbi Yehoshu’a replied, But is it not written, Thus said YHWH, Israel’s Redeemer, its Holy One, to the despised one, reviled by nations, to the slave of rulers. Kings shall see and rise, princes, and bow down, [for the sake of YHWH, who is faithful, Israel’s Holy One who has chosen you] (ibid. 49:7)? Rabbi Eli’ezer said, But is it not written, If you turn back, Israel, said YHWH, to Me you shall turn back (Jeremiah 4:1)? Rabbi Yehoshu’a answered, But is it not written, [Until when is the wondrous end?] And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was over the water of the river, and he raised his right hand, and his left was toward the heavens, and he swore by the One who lives forever that at the appointed time of times and a half and at the end of the shattering of the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished (Daniel 12:7)? At this Rabbi Eli’ezer remained silent.
Rabbi Abba also said: You have no more explicit [sign of] end than this, as is written, And you, O mountains of Israel, you shall put forth your branches, and bear your fruit for My people Israel, [for soon shall they come] (Ezekiel 36:8). Rabbi El’azar said: Than this too, as is written, For before these days the wages of man was naught and the wages of beast was nothing, and for him coming and going there was no peace from the foe, [and I set each man against his fellow] (Zechariah 8:9) [cf. Psalms 118:5]. What is, and for him coming and going there was no peace from the foe? Rav said: Even for disciples of the Sages, concerning whom peace is written: Great well-being to the lovers of Your teaching (Psalms 119:165), ‘There will be no peace on account of the foe.’ Shemu’el said, ‘Until all הַשַׁעַרִים (ha-sha’arim), prices, are equal [(Rashi), cf. Maharsha who reads and for him coming and going there was no peace… (Zechariah 8:10), with who enters through the northern שַׁעַר (sha’ar), gate, to bow down shall go out through the southern gate… and he shall not go back through the gate by which he entered (Ezekiel 46:9)—until all gates are alike, i.e., all people, whether entering or leaving the Temple—an idiom denoting ‘without exception’—will suffer].’
Rabbi Ḥanina said: Son of David will not come until a fish is sought for an invalid and cannot be procured, as is written, Then will I sink their waters and lead their rivers like oil (Ezekiel 32:14), whilst it is written, On that day I will make a horn sprout for the house of Israel, [and to you I will give freedom to speak in their midst, and they shall know that I am YHWH] (ibid. 29:21).
Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: Son of David will not come until even the הַזָלָה (hazalah), pettiest, kingdom ceases from Israel, as is written, [For before the harvest, when the blossom is gone, and the berry has ripened, becomes the bloom,] He shall cut away הַזַּלְזַלִּים (ha-zalzallim), twigs, with pruning hooks, lop off, take away the slack branches (Isaiah 18:5); and this is followed by, All that time tribute shall be brought to YHWH of Armies from a rangy and smooth-skinned people [from beyond, a gibberish nation, and sowing defeat…] (ibid., 7).
Ze’iri said in Rabbi Ḥanina’s name: Son of David will not come until there are no proud men in Israel, as is written, For then will I remove from your midst those merry with your pride, [and no longer shall you be haughty on My holy mountain] (Zephaniah 3:11), which is followed by, And I will leave in your midst a poor and lonely people, and they shall shelter in YHWH ‘s name (ibid., 12).
Rabbi Simlai said in the name of Rabbi El’azar, son of Rabbi Shim’on: Son of David will not come until all judges and officers are gone from Israel, as is written, And bring My hand back upon you and take away all your dross and bring back your judges as before your councillors as long ago. [Then shall you be called town of righteousness, faithful city] (Isaiah 1:25–26).
‘Ulla said: Jerusalem shall be redeemed only by צְדָקָה (tsedaqah), charity, as is written, Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and those who turn back in her, through tsedaqah, righteousness (ibid., 27).
Rav Papa said: When the haughty cease to exist [in Israel] the magi shall cease [among the Persians]; when the judges cease to exist [in Israel], the royal officers shall likewise cease. ‘When the haughty cease to exist, the magi shall also cease,’ as is written, And bring My hand back upon you and take away all your dross. ‘When the judges cease to exist, the royal officials shall likewise cease,’ as is written, YHWH has set aside your judgments, removed your enemy (Zephaniah 3:15).
Rabbi Yoḥanan said: When you see a generation ever dwindling, lookout for him, as is written, A lowly people You rescue (2 Samuel 22:28). Rabbi Yoḥanan said: When you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, lookout him, as is written, [And they shall fear from the west YHWH’s name, and from the sun’s rising His glory.] For He shall come like a pent-up river, for YHWH’s breath drives it on (Isaiah 59:19); which is followed by, And a redeemer shall come to Zion (ibid., 20).
Rabbi Yoḥanan also said: Son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. ‘In a generation that is altogether righteous,’ as is written, And Your people, all of them righteous, shall forever possess the land, [the shoot I have planted, My handiwork in which to glory] (Isaiah 60:21). ‘Or altogether wicked,’ as is written, And He saw that there was no man, and He was appalled, for none intervened (ibid. 59:16); and it is [elsewhere] written, For My sake, for My sake, I do it, [for how could I be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another] (ibid. 48:11).
Rabbi Alexandri said: Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi pointed out a contradiction. It is written, In his due time (Isaiah 60:22), while it is also written, I will hasten him (ibid.). I will hasten him—if they are worthy: if not, In his due time [cf. Zohar 1:116b ad loc.]. Rabbi Alexandri said: Rabbi Yehoshu’a opposed two verses: It is written, And, look, with the clouds of the heavens one like a human being [was coming] (Daniel 7:13) while [elsewhere] it is written, [Look, your king shall come to you…] a lowly man riding on an ass (Zechariah 9:9)—if they are worthy, [he shall come] with the clouds of the heavens [i.e., swiftly (Rashi)]; if not, a lowly man riding on an ass. King Shapur said to Shemu’el, ‘You say Messiah shall come on an ass: I will rather send him a white horse of mine.’ He replied, ‘Do you have a multi-colored one? [since the ass of King Messiah will be miraculous].’
Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi met Elijah at the opening of the cave of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai. He asked him: ‘Do I have a portion in the world to come?’ He said, ‘If this lord desires.’ Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third [namely, the Shekhinah (Rashi)].’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself,’ he replied. ‘Where is he sitting?’ ‘At the portal of the city [of Rome (Gra)].’ And by what sign may I recognize him?’ ‘He is sitting among the ill, poor, and suffering: everyone of them untie all at once and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, I must not be delayed [by having to bandage a number of sores].’ So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘Peace be upon you, Rabbi and Teacher.’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he replied. He asked, ‘When will you come Master?’ ‘Today,’ he said. On his returning to Elijah, he asked, ‘What did he say to you?’ ‘Peace be upon you son of Levi,’ he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] said, ‘He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the world to come.’ ‘He spoke a lie to me, saying that he would come today, but has not.’ [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, “Today,” if you would only heed His voice!’ (Psalms 95:7).
The disciples of Rabbi Yose son of Qisma asked him, ‘When will Messiah come?’ He answered, ‘I fear lest you demand a sign of me.’ They assured him, ‘We will not demand a sign of you.’ So he answered them, ‘When this gate falls down, is rebuilt, falls again, and is again rebuilt, and then falls a third time, before it can be rebuilt Son of David will come’ [the gate of Caesarea Philippi, the home of Rabbi Yose. Its fall would be a symbol of the destruction of the Roman power by the Parthians]. They said to him, ‘Rabbi, give us a sign.’ He protested, ‘Did you not assure me that you would not demand a sign?’ They replied, ‘Nevertheless.’ He said to them, ‘If so, let the waters of the cave of Paneas turn into blood;’ and they turned into blood. When he lay dying he said to them, ‘Place my coffin deep down, for there is not one palm-tree in Babylon to which a Persian horse will not be tethered, nor one coffin in the land of Israel out of which a Median horse will not eat straw’ [this was a forecast of the future. Babylon and the land of Israel would be overrun with Persians, Medes and Parthians and their horses would dig up the dead, whose coffins would serve as cribs].
Rav said: Son of David will not come until the [Roman] kingdom spreads over Israel for nine months, as is written, Therefore shall He give them over till the time the woman in labor bears her child, and the rest of his brothers shall come back with the Children of Israel (Micah 5:2).
‘Ulla said: Let him come, but let me not see him. Rabbah said likewise: Let him come, but let me not see him. Rav Yosef said: Let him come, and may I be worthy of sitting in the shadow of his donkey’s dung. Abbaye enquired of Rabbah: ‘What is your reason? Shall we say, because of the birth pangs of Messiah? But it has been taught, Rabbi El’azar’s disciples asked him: ‘What must a man do to be spared the pangs of the Messiah?’ ‘Let him engage in Torah and rendering kindness; and you Master do both.’ He replied: ‘Lest an offence cause it, in accordance with [the teaching of] Rabbi Ya’aqov son of Idi, who raised a difficulty: And, look, I am with you and I will guard you wherever you go (Genesis 28:15): but it is written, And Jacob was greatly afraid, and he was distressed (ibid. 32:7)—he was afraid lest an offence might cause [the nullification of the promise]. Even as it was taught, Till Your people crossed over, O YHWH (Exodus 15:16). This refers to the first entry [into the land of Israel]; till the people you made Yours crossed over (ibid.)—their second entry. Hence you may reason: The Children of Israel were as worthy of a miracle being performed for them at the second entry as at the first, but that offence caused it [not to happen].
Rabbi Yoḥanan said likewise: Let him come, and let me not see him. Resh Laqish said to him: Why? Shall we say, because it is written, As a man flees from a lion and a bear blocks his way, and he enters the house and leans his hand on the wall, and a snake bites him (Amos 5:19)? But come, and I will show you its like even in this world. When one goes out into the field and meets a bailiff, it is as though he had met a lion. When he enters the town, and is accosted by a tax-collector, it is as though he had met a bear. On entering his house and finding his sons and daughters in the throes of hunger, it is as though he were bitten by a snake!—but it is because it is written, Ask, pray, and see, if כָל גֶּבֶר (khal gever), a male, is giving birth. Why do I see every man, his hands on his loins like a woman in labor and every face turned sickly green? (Jeremiah 30:6). What is see a male? Rava son of Yitsḥaq said in Rav’s name: It refers to Him whom כֹּל גְּבוּרָה (kol gevurah), all might, belongs. And what is and every face turned sickly green? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The familia on high and the familia below [i.e., Israel,] when the blessed Holy One says, These [the Gentiles] are My handiwork, and so are these [the Jews]; how shall I destroy the former on account of the latter? Rav Papa said: Thus men say, ‘When the ox runs and falls, the horse is put into his stall’ [since the horse is made to replace it, but when the ox recovers, it is difficult to remove the horse. So the Children of Israel, having fallen, were replaced in power by the Gentiles: but on their recovery, it will be difficult to remove the Gentiles from their position without inflicting much suffering].
Rav Giddal said in Rav’s name: The Jews are destined to eat [their fill] in the years of Messiah. Rav Yosef said: Is this not obvious; who else then should eat—Ḥillaq and Billaq? [i.e., shall these years of plenty be enjoyed indiscriminately by anyone?]—this was said in opposition to Rabbi Hillel, who maintained that there will be no Messiah for Israel, since they already אֲכָלוּהוּ (akhaluhu), devoured him, during the reign of Hezekiah.
Rav [Yehudah ha-Nasi, a descendant of David] said: The world was created only on David’s account. Shemu’el [of the tribe of Levi] said: On Moses’ account; Rabbi Yoḥanan said: For the sake of the Messiah. What is his name? The House of Rabbi Shila said: His name is Shiloh, as is written, Until שִׁילֹה (Shiloh) comes (Genesis 49:10). The House of Rabbi Yannai said: His name is Yinnon, as is written, May his name be forever. As long as the sun may his name יִנּוֹן (yinnon), bear seed (Psalms 72:17) [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4; Bahir §61, §86]. The House of Rabbi Ḥaninah said: His name is Ḥaninah, as is written, [And I will cast you from this land to a land you do not know, neither you nor your fathers, and you shall serve there other gods day and night,] as I will show you no חֲנִינָה (ḥaninah), mercy (Jeremiah 16:13). Others say: His name is Menaḥem the son of Ḥizqiyah, as is written, For the מְנַחֵם (menaḥem), consoler, is far from me, the reviver of my failing life (Lamentations 1:16) [cf. Abarbanel, Yeshu’ot Meshiḥo, 2:3: the initial letters of the aforementioned names spell מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah].
The Rabbis said: His name is חִיוְורָא (ḥivvra), White, of the House of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi], as is written, Indeed, he has borne our illness, and our sorrows he has carried. But we had reckoned him plagued, God-stricken and tormented (Isaiah 53:4) [i.e., מְצוֹרָע (metsora), skin blanched one (Rashi), see Leviticus 13:45–6; BT Qiddushin 70a]. Rav Naḥman said: If he is of those living [to day], he might be one like myself, as is written, And his leader shall be from within him (Jeremiah 30:21) [this description fits Rav Naḥman, who, as the son-in-law of the Resh Galuta, enjoyed great power and prestige]. Rav said: If he is of the living, it would be our holy Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]; if of the dead, it would have been Daniel the most beloved man. Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: The blessed Holy One will raise up another David for them, as is written, But they shall serve YHWH their God and David their king whom I will raise up for them (ibid., 9): not הַקִים (haqim), I raised up, but אָקִים (aqim), I will raise up, is said. Rav Papa said to Abbaye: But it is written, And My servant David shall be נָשִׂיא (nasi), prince, over them evermore (Ezekiel 37:25) [and prince is a lower title than king!]—such as caesar and little caesar [i.e., the second David will be king, and the former David will be his viceroy].
Rabbi Simlai expounded: What is Woe, who long for the day of YHWH! Why should you need the day of YHWH? It is darkness and not light (Amos 5:18)? This may be compared to a rooster and a bat who were awaiting the light [of dawn]. The rooster said to the bat, ‘I look forward to the light, because I have sight; but of what use is the light to you?’
And thus a sectarian said to Rabbi Abbahu: ‘When will Messiah come?’ He replied, ‘When darkness covers those people.’ He said, ‘You curse me?’ He replied, ‘It is but a verse: For, look, darkness covers the earth, and thick mist, the peoples, but YHWH shall shine upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you. [But nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your dawning radiance] (Isaiah 60:2).
It has been taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer said: The days of the Messiah will last forty years, as is written, Forty years I loathed a generation (Psalms 95:10). Rabbi El’azar son Azariyah said: Seventy years, as is written, And it shall happen on that day that Tyre shall be forgotten for seventy years, like the the days of a single king (Isaiah 23:15). Now, who is the single king? Messiah, of course. Rabbi said: Three generations; as is written, May they fear You as long as the sun and as long as the moon, generations untold (Psalms 72:5).
Rabbi Hillel [a brother of Yehudah II] said: There shall be no Messiah for Israel, because they already consumed him in the days of Hezekiah. Rav Yosef said: May the Master forgive him! Now, when did Hezekiah flourish? During the First Temple. Yet Zechariah, prophesying in the days of the Second Temple, proclaimed, Greatly exult, Zion’s Daughter, shout for joy, Jerusalem’s daughter. Look, your king shall come to you, victor and triumphant is he, a lowly man riding on an ass, on a donkey, the foal of a she-ass (Zechariah (9:9).
Another [baraita] taught: Rabbi Eli’ezer said: The days of Messiah will be forty years, as is written, And He afflicted you and made you hunger and fed you the manna (Deuteronomy 8:3); and it is written, Give us joy as the days You afflicted us (Psalms 90:15). Rav Dosa said: Four hundred years. It is here written, Enslaved and afflicted four hundred years (Genesis 15:13); and it is written, Give us joy as the days You afflicted us. Rabbi said: Three hundred and sixty-five years, even as the days of the solar year, as is written, For it is vengeance day in My heart and My vindication’s year has come (Isaiah 63:4). What is For it is vengeance day in My heart? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: I have revealed to My heart, I have not revealed to My limbs. Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: I have revealed to My heart, I have not revealed to the ministering angels. Avimi son of Rabbi Abbahu learned: The days of the Messiah for Israel will be seven thousand years, as is written, And a bridegroom’s rejoicing over the bride shall your God rejoice over you (ibid. 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 as Noah’s waters is this to Me, as I vowed (Isaiah 54:9).
Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: All the prophets prophesied [all the good things] only in respect of the days of Messiah; but as for the world that is coming [They never had seen, they never gave ear,] no eye has seen a God besides You. He acts for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:3). Now, he disagrees with Shemu’el, who said: This world differs from the days of Messiah only in servitude to [foreign] kingdoms” (BT Sanhedrin 96b–99a).
“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).
“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).
“Of Israel 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). Of 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. Of 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).