Muffti has a theological question that you people seem eminently qualified to answer. Let him begin with an analogy.

Terminator 3 has roughly the following conflict set up: A terminator named T-800 (played by California’s Governor) comes back in time to protect John Connor, a young (possibly schizophrenic) man who later leads the resistance. A separate terminator (T-X) is sent back in time to kill Connor, and she’s very very tough (and very very hot). Anyhow, there is a great deal of shooting at John Connor causing him a great deal of angst, fear and concern. Not to mention ducking and covering.

One might, however, wonder at the last bit. If he trusts T-800, Connor comes to know something about the future: namely, that he will survive and lead the resistance. Doing so is incompatible with being killed by the very very hot T-X. So, had he reasoned it through carefully, he may well have come to the conclusion that whatever she did, no matter how many bullets went flying, he shouldn’t worry much because what he knows entails that none of those bullets will hit him: the future seems to make him invulnerable in the past. (This is related to an old paradox regarding time travel: you can’t go back in time and (permanently) kill your grandfather since if you did, you wouldn’t be born to do the actual time traveling. So, in a sense, your grandfather is protected by the laws of logic.)

Now, one plausible line of response in the case of Terminator is that Connor didn’t know, or at least wasn’t fully confident, that he would survive. After all, the terminator could be lying. Or perhaps it was all an illusion. As the bullets came closer and closer, Connor might well have started to doubt that he would survive until the future and that would explain his ducking and covering etc. (Of course, he in fact does survive, but that doesn’t mean that he knows that he will.) So, we can explain Connor’s apparent irrationality: despite having evidence about the future, he had counter-evidence at the present time suggesting (misleadingly) that he will die soon unless he ducks and covers.

OK, enough analogy. If you are still with Muffti, consider the following. Rambam requires that we can honestly, truly say:

I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach.

If we truly believe this, then we have some information about the future. Namely, there will be a time at which the Moshiach comes and does all the Moshiachy things. But this means that no matter what happens in the world, our faith dictates the coming of a Messiah.

This puts us in a John Connor like situation: as far as redemption goes, there can be no real crisis in Judaism since whatever crisis occurs will not destroy us at all. After all, our destruction is similar to John Connor’s immanent death: both are incompatible with how the future will go. So, Muffti wants to know, given that the Moshiach is inevitable, why do we worry at all about so called ‘crises’ in Judaism: intermarriage, secularization, even atheism. None of them can possibly block the coming of Moshiach: at best they can prolong it.

The interesting thing, for Muffti, is that we can’t resort to the explanation that helped in the case of Terminator 3. John Connor had the luxury of letting his subjective probability drop that the future would turn out as the Terminator says it would: he was allowed moments of skepticism. But we presumably aren’t: it’s downright incompatible with our faith to let our belief in Moshiach wax and wane (well, at least, wane). In fact, if we stopped believing in Moshiach, we’d be violating one of the 13 basic axioms of faith. We would then have excellent evidence that in doing so, we were perpetuating the crises.

So, one might ask, how can there be a big deal? If the coming of Moshiach is inevitable, there can be no fatal crises when it comes to Judaism.

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54 Comments

  • Nobody ever says dont marry out because it wont bring the moshiach, these our still crisis which concern the neshama of the person. Just because their will be a time when everything is lovelyduvly does not mean that we should ignore the crisis in Sudan now or poverty etc. We have now for a reason, we only have free will (and the opportunity to earn mitzvot) before moshiach comes. So thats why we care, and thats why its relevant.

    I agree numbers dont matter so much. But thats not the main concern we think of when those crisis arise (and if it is it shouldn’t be!). Like i said its for the individuals neshama too.

    Theirs alot of things i have to say on this..not enough time..and im not explaining myself well..

    Or maybe i wanna say…fatal- not really, but crisis nonetheless.

  • Hmmm… I think the crises have to be dealt with because despite the fact that moshiach WILL come, we can hasten his arrival by doing mitzvot and stuff. So no, no fatal crises per se, but long ass waits for him, which suck!

  • Complacency, to the Dark Side will it lead you. Rambam’s principles of faith are widely held, but are no Ten Commandments–I view them as more aspirational. I’d like to believe in perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. But I can’t sit back and wait for mashiach or life to happen. Gotta move, gotta go, gotta do. Lo somchim al ha-ness–you can’t depend on miracles, but that doesn’t mean you don’t believe in them.

  • The way I see things is that we have free will, but everything has been decided already. Free will is the difference between doing mitzvahs and not. If you don’t, then have a nice life. If you do choose mitzvahs, then you are working on getting blessed, and to a cool afterlife among other things. BUT, even though ‘everything’ has already been decided, individuals can still change hashem’s mind through extraordinary awesome efforts.

    Now, w/r to mashiach, there are two important terms: achisena and be’ita. Achisena is the preferred one. It means the jewish nation was good and we deserved to bring mashiach earlier on our good merits. Be’ita is less good and perhaps even ‘bad’. Be’ita literally means ‘in its own time’ that we didn’t bump up the ‘coming of’, and that a)hashem had already decided when the arrival would be and nothing can change that time, or b) the arrival of mashiach has been postponed to the last possible date when all hell break loose.

    Another aspect of be’ita is ‘brit avot’. Hashem promised to redeem us, and even though we are still sinners each to his own extent, his promise to ‘our fathers’ (Abraham, yitzhak and Yaakov) is binding.

    Some think that the end of achisena and begining of ‘be’ita’ happened in 1905, others think that mashiach can now come only between 2005 and 2040 since the Zohar says that the beginning of the resurrection of the dead will occur no later than 210 years before the year 6000.

    With regard to fatal crisis,
    there’s a catch. The bible/zohar are full of bad tidings, usually as a result of am yisrael doing bad deeds (not doing mitzvahs). Tidings like: Israel will be conquered by foreign nations for nine months only after which mashiach will come, that 66-90% of all Jews will die in a war/apocolypse, that Israel will not be hurt by ‘natural’ disasters but Jews in the diaspora will be virtually abandonned,etc…

    On the other hand,
    prophets are confirmed because the good things they foretold occured (and will occur), not all the bad things need to occur. If am yisrael ‘repents’, then the decrees are dismissed. Now, some kabbalists claim that: am yisrael has already suffered enough punishments for being ‘bad’, and that we are in the ‘on deck circle’ right now waiting for the time to be right, that the decree of apocolypse has been dismissed, and a few other goodies too.

    Now, either we can ‘wait’ for mashiach to come, or we can actively pursue it and get ready for it. That’s the choice.

    That little autistic girl Galia foresaw our redemption, but she also predicted a time when people would be afraid to step out of their homes. Now if someone doesn’t realize that the past 4.5 years of Oslo war is a crisis, and that having Gush Katif on the chopping block as over 8000 Jews are pulled out of their homes by other Jews no less and synagogues and yeshivot are destroyed, than I suppose that everything is hunky-dory right now and we can all go to the beach.

    Nonetheless, some people have total faith that mashiach is coming. These people live totally serene lives. Though they go through hardships, they have total faith that ‘everything’s gonna be alright’.

  • Personally, I am of the persuasion that everything that happens, happens because of humans doing their mitzvot, doing their part for tikkun olam. My certainty about the coming perfection of messianic time comes from my belief that we will never stop working on it. It’s not going to be done for us but we are sure as sunrise tomorrow going to do it for ourselves.

    If you or I give up and decide not to do our part, two things occur, we descend into meaninglessness and, our contribution to the good times doesn’t happen. That may delay the good days or not. It’s not up to us to worry about it. It’s up to us to work on our mitzvot and make a meaningful contribution to the ultimate goal every day.

    The Connor-like contradiction only occurs if you consider the idea that you somehow have a option of not to doing your jewish duty. If you think that’s a plausible alternative, then the idea of perfect confidence in the arrival of the Moshiach is impossible. If you believe your duty to the mitzvot is inevitable, then so is the arrival of the Moshiach.

  • First, a little quibble with your time-travel metaphor. The kill-your-own grandfather paradox is something that’s been debated quite a bit. There are brances of quantum mechanics that (theoretically, anyway) allow for the existence of time travel, insofar as it might explain the particular behavior of some subatomic particles.
    However, quantum mechanics (again, some branches and some interpretations) also allow for what’s called the Multiple-Worlds theory, which helps explain, again, certain behavior of subatomic particles. Multiple Worlds basically says that there exists an infinite number of parallel universes in which things happen differently than they did here. You might have had toast for breakfast, but in another universe, your counterpart enjoyed a delicious bowl of Count Chocula.

    How does this all tie into Moshiach and the Terminator? Multiple Worlds says that even if you did manage to kill your own grandfather, the effects wouldn’t be seen in your own universe. So it’s certainly possible to kill your grandfather / be killed by the T-X, but you wouldn’t notice a difference. Unless you were dead.

    Anyway. You make a mistake, I think, in conflating “belief” and “information.” Belief tends to occur irrespective of knowledge. To believe in the authenticity of the Torah requires that archeological findings in Sinai make no difference to you. Faith and empiricism rarely mix well, and when you try to combine them, you usually wind up with some twisted Jack-Chick-Creationism hybrid.

    “Information,” on the other hand, is predicated on facts and the inferences therof. It can therefore be either “true” or “false.” The war in Iraq, to choose an uncontroversial example, was based on “false” information, since the facts behind it — the existence of WMDs — were baseless. But I digress. The Torah can’t be proved “wrong,” because it doesn’t contain within it a standard of counterfactuality. Neither does the coming of the Moshiach, since his arrival is predicated on faith and belief. Belief and knowledge, being incompatible, mean that your suggestion that “there can be no real crisis in Judaism” is one that can *only* be predicated on faith.

    So.

    Rambam, I think, wants us to subsume knowledge before our belief. Given our assessment of the situation, it may be entirely reasonable to assume that a)a crisis exists, and b) real and lasting harm to the Jewish people may result from it. But belief with complete faith implies belief in God, to whom to notions of cause and effect are meaningless.

    Since we’re not God (some of us, at least), we’re entirely justified in acting according to our nature and worrying about the state of the Jewish people. And as a result, being creatures of limitted foreknowledge, we’re required to act and react the problems. God may work everything out in the end, but as far as we’re able to tell, that end isn’t coming anytime soon. Assimilation is, though, and while God and Moshiach have the luxury of taking Their own sweet time, we don’t.

  • Muffti,

    I think that you are conflating the concepts of belief and knowledge. Knowledge, such as the kind John Connor was privy to, is being used here as a statement of fact: “I will survive this attack, because I just received a call from myself in the future.” Hence, there are no real conditions on that future. Sure, Mr. Connor could be forgiven for going with his instincts and ducking, but he absolutely would not have needed to do so. Belief in a future event, on the other hand, may have such conditions.

    While not inherent in Rambam’s formulation, there is certainly some sense that the coming of Moshiach has contingencies in Jewish literature and theology. If we act such-and-such way, the messianic era will come sooner. If we act another way, however, it might be delayed indefinitely. Since we would all like to see the whole world peace thing sooner rather than later, it is incumbent on us to act in the manner which will not delay Moshiach.

    I think that you are missing another subtlety, here. The statement “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah.” can be viewed as one way of saying that you believe that God will keep His word and uphold His end of a bargain made long ago. So, you might ask: “Would it be possible for all Jews in the world to commit suicide?” After all, even if every one of us jumped off a mountain, doesn’t someone _have_ to survive in order for the Messianic era to occur? But with regards to the above statement of belief, this question is irrelevant. I may believe completely that God will uphold His end of the bargain while still admitting that we can fail to uphold ours and screw the whole deal. And that is why we have to behave in a certain way. If one truly believes that God will do His part, far from relieving us of our duty, we are then bound to do our own part.

    (Just to relate this back to Terminator. Sure, the fembot couldn’t kill John because then he wouldn’t exist to send blah, blah, blah… But, I would maintain that that doesn’t stop John from killing himself. It may change the future in the same way, but it doesn’t result in a paradox.)

  • Well, 1.5 got close with that distinction between knowledge and belief.

    The real difference is that Connor’s knowledge is personal, and leads directly to certainty of Connor’s personal survival. The Jewish certainty of the Messiah’s arrival is general, communal, unbounded by time – and therefore not a “proof” against individual experience or free will. This allowed many Jews to sing “Ani Ma’amin” even as the gentiles were stoking the bonfires.

    josh – I suggest you read Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler’s discussions of free will and merit of the forefathers. They will clarify things for you. In particular: We do not “change G-d’s mind” with our actions here. G-d is perfect and His awareness is perfect in a way unfathomable to us – He does not err, nothing is hidden from Him, and therefore he does not change His mind.

    This world is an arena for humans to exercise their free will – hopefully coming to love G-d and serve Him of their own choice. There are various opinions about the level of detail in G-d’s conduct of the world – but even the actions of the most wicked person cannot derail G-d’s plan, they are folded into the plan. Our free will is basically to choose how we plug ourselves in – as loving children/servants or rebellious children. As the sages say: G-d determines whether one will be rich or poor, at peace or troubled – but not whether one is righteous or wicked. The script always affords us opportunities for moral choice.

    Read Rabbi Dessler.

  • Ben-David,

    Not having known that there was a “correct” answer to Muffti’s quandary, I was surprised that you said I “got close” to it. Your distinction between general communal knowledge and personal knowledge does not solve any problems of free will. Again, I would ask whether it is possible for the entire world Jewish community to commit mass suicide Masada-style. That is, could every single Jew, of his or her own free will, commit suicide in unison? What would become of HaShem’s covenant with Avraham then? Instead, I maintain that HaShem’s promise (or perhaps, pact) with Avraham was not unconditional. God would give Avraham’s, through his descendents, this teaching and land, and Avraham’s descendents would uphold the pact by walking in God’s path. I still maintain that you can assert that HaShem will faithfully do all that his has said…on condition that we do our part. Again, we KNOW that HaShem will bring Moshiach, if we play our role. Otherwise, the contract has been broken by us.

    In a weird way, this answers the above mass suicide question. How could such a death of the entire Jewish nation be possible? Wouldn’t that deny the convenant? I would say no. In yielding to suicide and refusing to uphold HaShem’s law on this earth, we ourselves would have rendered the convenant null and void. To Muffti, I would say, we musn’t do that.

  • Thanks for the interesting responses. However, there are a few things that confuse Muffti.

    a) The distinction between belief and knowledge doesn’t really seem to matter here. The point is, given that you BELIEVE that there is a future state P that has certain properties, it is incompatible for YOU to believe that anything can happen that makes P impossible. Obviously, qua atheist, Muffti isn’t very convinced that there is any inevitable future state. But given that you believe that, it seems incumbent of you NOT to believe that there can be any real crises (in the sense that there can be a crises that would make future messiah states of the world impossible). Anyhow, the point is that if Muffti got a call from himself in the future, if he believed it was him fully (i.e. had no doubt left) then he would be stupid not to play a game of Russian roulette for 1,000,000$ since he would know he would survive. So there are conditions the future places on the past: the past can’t be inconsistent with the future given that the future is settled.

    b) This was not meant as an attack on free will at all. Muffti thinks we all have free will (sort of), but that doesn’t change anything. The argument wasn’t meant to negate free will at all. Well, at least not personal free will. (There is some subtelty here…the question about jews commiting suicide points out something interesting: the group can never be such that all its members can commit suicide. However, that doesn’t entail anything in particular about the individual members. This is typical however, that group’s have deterministic properties even though their members don’t.)

    c) Of course John Connor can’t kill himself, unless we equivocate on the word ‘can’. His survival into the future will be the result of free choices, but it is guaranteed in advance that he will not choose suicide. There is no physical law preventing his suicide but there is certainly conceptual incoherence between his suicide (assuming he doesn’t get reicarnated somehow) and his survival. So, 1.5, you’re wrong unless you want to get really clear on relevant senses of ‘can’. Connor can do what he likes, but the story is contradictory unless he fails at every suicide attempt he tries.

    d) Muffti didn’t say we shouldn’t do anything. But we shouldn’t both believe the Moshiach will come and believe that there are any crises that could possibly take down the Jewish people. So, everytime someone posts about the dissapearance of the Jews we should write them off as heretics.

    e) Muffti agrees that if the promise is really just an end of a bargain, then we should worry more. But he sees no reason to believe that the promise isn’t unconditional.

  • 1.5, let me be a little clearer. Given that you believe there will be a moshiach, you should be sure that even if the Jewish people all can commit suicide, you should be absolutely certain that they won’t.

  • Hmmm… not a single chabadnick here. At least, none who have identified themselves as such. Does anyone else find this surprising, given the nature of this discussion?

  • John Connor can’t kill himself, unless we equivocate on the word ‘can’. His survival into the future will be the result of free choices, but it is guaranteed in advance that he will not choose suicide.

    Not quite. Again, Connor can die, but his death will have ripple effects only in his own universe. There’s no guarantee that since the future’s already happened, he won’t bleed if you prick him.

    Please see Reply

  • Not surprising at all, Cordelia, we attract other streams of Judaism.

    Where is our Aish guy?

  • Muffti, I like your post and the questions it raises, and I am always entertained when people use movies to prove philosophical or religious points. But for comparison, lets take another example from the annals of filmic truths; Back to the Future.

    (Forgive me in advance if i get details wrong, i haven’t seen it since I was 13) In that idea of the future, when Marty Mcfly went back in time and started getting involved with his own mother (Oedipus anyone?) he himself began to cease existing because he had changed the circumstances by which his parents got together. So even if he could have called himself from the future in Act II, proving that he did exist in the future, by act III things in the past were changing and so the future as he knew to be truth was no longer so certain. Proving, filmicly, the danger inherent in time travel.

    Following that example, one could say that TX could have indeed killed Connor and changed the future, even if at some point that future did exist and would have continued to exist barring some radical change to present or past circumstances. Hence the whole plot line.
    How that relates to Moshiach, i don’t know. I went to film school, not yeshiva. If I think of something, I’ll get back to you.

  • Laya, last time I tried to prove a time travel point with Back to the Future, Muffti reprimanded me. Just because he’s jealous he doesn’t have his very own flux capacitor.

  • Ah Muffti, it’s fun to argue with logical people.

    In my analysis, you are wrong that John Connor is incapable of committing suicide. You are correct in that he cannot kill himself due to, say, despair over the future knowledge that he has been made privy to. But, if he decided to kill himself over a failed relationship that he might have entered into independent of Arnold showing up, then the possibility still exists. As long as the situation in which he kills himself is not specifically predicated by his future knowledge or robot pals and does not specifically depend on them as factors, he CAN kill himself. It would be difficult to tease out such a situation, but I don’t think that we should spend too much time on Mr. Connors predicament.

    Still, you seem to be missing my point with regards to the specifics of the moshiach belief. Much of Jewish belief and practice is based around the idea that if we just do certain things that we are supposed to do, God will, in fact, do that which He has promised us. You assume that the statement of full belief in the coming of Moshiach is unconditional…that is, whatever we do, it has to still happen. I am qualifying it (not unreasonably, I think) to be an expression of God’s faithfulness. I _fully_ believe that God has not left us out to dry, thinking that we will get redeemed, when He’s actually off shooting hoops with Moses somewhere. Still, that does not imply that He _has_ to bring Moshiach even if we are all being jerks, simply that I have full faith that Moshiach will come if we’re not all jerks.

    Here’s an analogy, just because we all love analogies. Let’s say I set out to sail my ship around the world. I have been told, by good sources, that the earth is round and I will end up back where I started. I have, in fact, full faith that if I sail around the world, I will end up back where I started. The fact that I decide to bail out in the South Pacific and live on an island paradise does not mean that my sources were wrong about the world being round. It simply means that I didn’t stick with the plan. The promise of the world being round is, like God’s promise of Moshiach, immutable. A can have full faith in both. But either one requires behavior on our part, whether that condition is explicitly stated in the belief or not.

  • right, I don’t think the worry about “crises” is really to do with utter destruction. In your example, even if connor survives, that doesn’t neccessarily mean he will survive with all his faculities intact. TX could still take out an arm, or injure him in such a way that causes him constant pain fromthe shrapnel in his back. Or he could suffer such psychological tramua from the whole affair that rather than an honorable revolutionary he makes it to the future alive but a total nut job.
    I guess what I’m saying is survival alone, be it Conner or the Jewish people, isn’t really the goal.

  • heheh…it is true that there are theories of time travel on which branching happens (thanks to Laya and Kenny for pointing this out). It’s also true that Back to the Future is, by all reckonings, completely and totally incoherent. Fortunately, the dangers of time travel that are raised by BTTF are completely chimerical in nature 🙂

    Notice quickly that while there are branching theories of time travel, allowing ‘crossing the branches’ leads directly to contradiction. Which, except for a handful of Australian logicians, seems bad. Here’s how it goes.

    Say Marty calls himself from the future in act II. Then it is true in Marty’s past that he will live into the future. But then say he alters the future so that there is no Marty in the future. Then it is true that he won’t live into the future. But that means that the following is true (where ‘PAST’ means ‘in the past of now’):
    PAST (Marty survives until the future date D and not: Marty survives until the future date D).

    Meaning that it was both true at a time in the past and false at a time in the past that Marty would survive. (There are ways out of this but as far as Muffti can tell, they lead to further contradictions.)

  • 1.5:

    a) Muffti admits that you are right that if you think of the axiom of faith as a conditional promise, then it follows that the coming of the Messiah is contingent on us. In which case, the crises are potentially real. So, Muffti is assuming the traditional view that the moshiach is an unconditional promise. (Kenny assures Muffti furthermore, that there is an explicit promise in the OT that God will never let the Jews die out, and that that is unconditional.)

    b) Well, like Muffti said, we can debate about the relevant sense of ‘can’. John Connor is one sense can kill himself, but it seems absolutely determinate that he won’t before the time in the future when he sends T-800 back to save him. The reason he kills himself, and his foreknowledge, are totally irrelevant. All that is relevant is that he (on his timeline perhaps) lives to send back T-800.

    Think of it this way. Suppose you had the power of prophecy and found out that tommorow Muffti was going to sleep in (which is usually a safe bet anwyays) and then wake up and eat eggs. Then imagine that you saw him holding a gun to his head because he was massively depressed. Muffti takes it that, given that you are certain of your prophecy, you’d be willing to bet a lot of money that Muffti wouldn’t actually go through with it (or that the guy would misfire, or…whatever, so long as the outcome isn’t Muffti’s death that evening). But this has nothing to do with what Muffti knows, or whether the future reason has anything to do with his decision. It only has to do with the inconsistency of Muffti both being alive tommorow and his dying tonight. If Muffti came to know he’d eat eggs tommorow (alive) and also got depressed coz of a failed relationship, he’d bet any amount of money he could that he wouldn’t die before the next day no matter what he did to himself. But maybe Muffti is missing your point.

  • and Esther, just coz Muffti hasn’t SHOWN you his flux capacitatore don’t mean he doesn’t have one…it’s the DeLorean that he really needs…

  • I don’t want to belabor this point, but seeing as I already have, what the hell. My point, in the John Connor argument, involves a quick look at the timeline of his life. Obviously, the time points after he first meets an Austrian robot who tells him his future are dramatically different than those before. Nonetheless, there are some aspects of John’s pre-revelation life which continue post-revelation. If something stemming from one of those things (say, the traumatic death of a childhood friend) bothers him enough to commit suicide post-revelation, he can do so. True, it will erase some part of his history, but he still ends up dead. The problem with erasing history is when it results in the opposite conclusion (i.e. John kills himself now but lives to the future) not when it results in the same (i.e. John was going to kill himself, met a robot, and didn’t change his mind). Of course, it sounds weird, but that’s why most of us physicists discount time travel (in the backwards direction, at least).

  • Muffti,

    You are asking twisty questions of logic, theology, and philosophy at levels on which the Torah and Talmud don’t usually bother dealing. So, sure, the HaShem promises not to _let_ the Jews die out. Maybe that’s true. Maybe that’s why after being beaten and bruised and killed and converted and…we’re still around. But, tradition also claims that HaShem gave us free will, including the ability to kill ourselves, or for that matter, intermarry, assimilate, and be ignorant. You could hardly claim that if we all did those things until we faded away to nothing that HaShem LET us die out. He would only have let us kill ourselves. I don’t remember Him ever making a promise not to do that.

  • 1.5, you can’t erase history. That’s why he can’t kill himself. The cause doesn’t matter: it is totally irrlevant why he tries to commit suicide. All that matters is that the thing which causes the terminator to be sent back (John Connor’s future decision) has to survive in order for the effect to happen (T-800 goin gback in time). If Connor doesn’t survive, he can’t send the T-800 back. If he doesn’t, then the T-800 doesn’t get sent back by John Connor.

    You’re right, belaboured enough. For what it’s worth, Muffti hears that ol Black Hole guy himself endorses time travel these days.

  • Well, again, we can argue over the semantics of ‘let us die out’. Muffti was supposing the promise meant that there is no future state during which there are no surviving Jews. That is incompatible with all the Jews killing themselves. Muffti supposes we should look at the hebrew if you want to get technical.

  • Eh, he’s a theoretical physicist. I once saw the following definition, which is somewhat accurate:

    theoretical physicist: a physicist whose existence is postulated to satisfy conservation laws, but who is never actually observed in the laboratory.

    On has to be a physicist, I think, to enjoy the many puns in that definition. Point being, just because something looks possible from the equations, that doesn’t make it so.

    Reverse time travel is, by definition, rewriting history, Muffti. Yesterday, no time traveler showed up at my house. If one decides to do so at some point, history will have been erased, and in fact, a time traveler will have showed up at my house yesterday. History changed. If time travel to the past were possible, you could change the future AND change the past, as long as the changes did not counteract each other. John Connor killing himself because of Arnold would involve him changing the future and the past in contradictory ways. John Connor killing himself because his high school sweetheart ran off with another man would change the future and the past in non-contradictory ways.

    Anyway, that is why most physicists would believe logic and not just equations.

  • hehehe…yeah, that is a pretty dorky, but funny definition.

    Time travel need not rewrite history though. Say tommorow someone shows up at your door and says that they are from the year 4000 and show you an edition of Playboy from that year featuring your great-great-great….grand-daughter. There is no ‘rewriting history’: history simply contains a time traveller showing up. It’s part of history. No re-writing needs to talk place. what we now know about the future, given that no one showed up yesterday, is that the future contains no time travel back to yesterday at your house.

  • Wrong. Every day between now and the year 4000 has a history which in no way involves this person having shown up at my door (or, chas v’shalom, my great-great-great…grand-daughter posing for Playboy, or, im yirtzeh HaShem, her being considered so attractive to have been asked to…) Our time traveler would be rewriting 1,995 years of history in which he hadn’t shown up at my door and replacing it with a history in which he had. The essence of going back in time is placing yourself in history where you previously you were not. i.e. changing history.

  • You wanted a Chabadnik, you got one.

    Ok, first of all Moshiach is not gauranteed to arrive at any specific time, which leads to a fear that you will not live to see Moshiach, given that although Moshiach will come in the future, that future is infinite. Not so with Connor. Notice it is not promised he will come swiftly in our days…we just say that because we’re optimistic. Chabad is not of the belief that Moshiach will come at such-and-such a time, and as we see those people who do predict that get their asses kicked by nature (see seventh-day-adventists)

    And also “Do not rely on miracles” is a big one…even though we are gauranteed survival, it is still incumbent upon us to actively strive for it, even though we have the promise of Hashem.

    And lastly I don’t think thye Rebbe zt”l was Moshiach. He’s dead, and that’s that. So would everyone stop saying Chabad is a messianic cult? Please?

  • 1.5:

    Muffti thinks you are missing the point. Let’s say tommorow someone shows up at your door and says ‘I am from the year 4000 and this is what happens in the future’. There need be no re-writing of the history between tommorow and 4000 (i.e. in 2 days, part of the non-rewritten history will be that some guy showed up from the year 4000). All that time travel requires is that at some point in history, a person shows up at an early time and that his showing up was caused by a later time. That’s not rewriting: that’s just someone showing up and being part of history, even though earlier stages of his life are contained in the future. That’s all that’s needed.

    Reb N: The Connor analogy is easily repaired. Say that Connor is told by the T-800 that the T-800 is sent by a future Connor from some unspecified time in the future. So, that would keep the analogy since Connor wouldn’t know when the he sent the T-800 back. But let muffti ask: since we are guaranteed survival, why should we worry about not surviving? Taking the possibility of not surviving seriously entails not being fully confident that the guarantee is true.

  • Rambam is not the sole Jewish authority on the topic of eschatology and messianism. While today Maimonidies is indeed a respected halachist and theologian, in his day, he was quite possibly the biggest Kofer on the block. With that said, your suggestion that we can do whatever the heck we want because Moshiach is coming anyway only holds true if Rambam (who happens to contradict himself many times throughout Moreh Nevuchim) is correct in his assumptions about what constitutes the nature of the coming of the messiah. What happens if Rambam (Hashem yishmor aleinu!) is wrong? Perhaps it is worth looking into the works of other prominent Jewish thinkers (Abravanel, Ramban, Leibowitz, etc) who hold alternative views with regards to the advent of Moshiach.

  • One thing about Hashem’s promise that the Jewish people will never be completely destroyed, that the covenant will never be annulled, and that the geulah will indeed occur is that these are not promises to individual Jews, they are promises to the Jewish people as a corporate body. It does not say that specific Jewish people will survive, it says that the Jewish people will survive.

    Let us just assume, for the sake of argument, that everything that has happened to us is for the reasons that are put forth in the Torah: we blew it, we got punished, end of story. If we accept that, then we must certainly accept the other part of the promise: that as much as we are punished, Hashem will never abandon us completely.

    I know a rabbi who says his faith is strengthened by the Shoah, not diminished. Why? Because he sees it as the fulfillment of prophecy, and just as we were punished, so will we be redeemed. (BTW, this is an American in his 30s; I think that it is pretty safe to assume that he might feel just a tiny bit different if he had lived through the Shoah. But that’s another question.)

    This sounds utterly perverse, does it not? However, it is completely consistent. And look what happened: out of the ashes Israel came into beng. If people actually believe that Hashem has a hand in everything that happens, regardless of what people might or might not to, then there is only one conclusion: the creation and continued existence of Israel must be part of the geulah.

    Anyway, the whole thing about Moshiach, as others have posted, is that when and how he comes does indeed depend on what the Jews do.

    So, ducking and covering while still believing seems like the prudent course. After all, even if you are certain that the Jewish people as a whole will be around when Moshiach comes, it makes sense for each individual Jew to do his best make sure that he and his descendents are around to see it.

  • Mufti so we meet again 😉
    http://www.jewschool.com/2005/05/holocaust-good-for-jews.php

    I was going to post a response since the answer is simple – but Ephraim beat me to it.

    Ephraim is correct and Josh above when he spoke about how moshiach can come in one of two ways: painless or painful, was also on the road to the same answer.

    Its refreshing to see a good answer without having to always feel that if I don’t answer nobody will know the answer.

  • heh…yes, JS, Muffti supposes we do. Glad you don’t feel like the only smart guy in the room anymore.

    Ephraim, Muffti didn’t mean to suggest that each jew is guaranteed survival. What he meant was that people go on and on about crises facing judaism that threaten its obliteration. And you rightly say that there is a promise that htere will be a jewish people no matter what. Of course that doesn’t mean that thejewish people as constituted now will be there. What Muffti found interesting was that the motivation to act now simply to ensure the continued existence of the people seems like a null motivation.

    Thanks so far for the responses. They have been interesting and educational for Muffti (and hopefully others).

  • That was some great thought Muftty!
    However, let me suggest something. In the case of T3, why wouldnt it be plausible to say that the very future depended in Connor knowing about it in the past? Meaning, what brought to his salvation and what brought up the future itself (including the sending of T-800) depended on he believing in that future AND acting upon it!
    Anyways, regarding the Ramba”m, I don’t think the main concern that drives our lives is whether the Jewish people will ultimately survive or not. We know we will. There are other factors to be taken into consideration, such as, lets say, personal growth…
    In conclusion, Mashiach WILL come. Our behavior will not change this cuz G-d doesn’t retreat from positive promisses. Nevertheless, we shouldnt live our lives by the thought of “Oh, well. My deeds will not bring to the doom of the Jewish people since Mashiach is eventually coming… So, lets have a cheeseburger.”
    Perhaps this is why rabbies always disencouraged the obsession with the Messianic era. They cursed those who are “Mechasheve Kitzin” (those who dedicate themselves to calculate the end). They just required to believe it will happen. Not how. Not when. And especially, not why.

  • I can’t see the time paradox issue being seperate from the concept of what is the hands of Hashem and the hands of Man. From what I learned, please, if anybody can find the source let us know, that Hashem Yitboraych has the key to 3 things. I remember learning this, but the source eludes me for now. If I find this Makor – source I will post it if I can G-d willing.

    #1, when a person is born

    #2, Rain, in hebrew- Geshem, which in hebrew and conceptually is the root for all physical substance and Money etc….

    #3, when a person dies,Hashem, Yishmor…

    Science is always connected to fiction in some way. Scientific theory is a form of extrapolation: If something has happened before in some kind of frequency of repetitive way, we can be sure it will happen again. That “sureness” is a kind of leap of faith.

  • Hey Jacob,

    The future most certainly did depend on Connor’s actions. So, Connor was sort of destined to do what he did (i.e. we know that at no point could Connor succesfully choose not to send the T-800 back in time to save him). It’s just a question of rationality really: was Connor irrational in doing what he did? And Muffti claims he wasn’t if his subjective probability dropped in the appropriate way.

    Anyhow, Muffti wasn’t saying that we should not do anything, or even that we should eat cheeseburgers (though they are delicious). Muffti was saying that every time he hears of a crises that threatens to annihilate the Jewish people, believing that it actually might looks tantamount to not really believing in God’s promised moshiach. That was supposed to be the point:nothing about atheism, free will or jewish action was in question.

  • Ok, I’ll throw in a comment to clean up where I left off yesterday…

    I will grant that traditional sources don’t treat the promise of moshiach as conditional. It is usually worded as an absolute. Nonetheless, I maintain that it is, and must be conditional. The
    Torah speaks of covenants and contracts, not outright promises of Divine gifts. HaShem had Avraham carry out convenantal ceremonies…the equivalent of a Divine-human handshake on a deal. It is quite clear that these covenants are two-sided. HaShem promises A, if we do B. The entire basis of our chosenness is such a two-sided covenant with Avraham. When entering into any contract, one must have “faith” that the other party is honest and will keep his or her word. Our statements of faith, including those about Moshiach, are just that–expressions of our belief that HaShem will absolutely keep His half of the deal. That is not a small statement. It is that intense belief that our actions will lead to Divine results that has kept us going. It is the antithesis of the attitude that you, Muffti, are suggesting…that our actions cannot change what must happen.

  • Muffti,

    You are insisting on looking at history as linear and immutable after you clearly have made it non-linear with our time travel device. You cannot look at the world only from the perspective of right now and say that history cannot change. You need to also look from the perspective of the person traveling back from the future, who is doing nothing but changing history.

    Right now, if you had a history of the past day written in full detail, it would not include us meeting yesterday in person. We did not meet. That’s history. If today, I gave you a time travel device, you could go back to yesterday and set out to meet me. The moment you do, it is absolutely true that I met you yesterday, and today’s history is very different.

  • Reminds me of the young Woody Allen who said in Annie Hall, “What’s the point, the universe is expanding!”

  • 1.5:

    Well, this is all very complicated I think we can all admit. So I guess it depends what kind of time travel you have in mind. There are certainly types of time travel that would change history; what I had in mind was something more coherent. So, like in the terminator story, the past is never ‘re-written’. The past (seen from the perspective of John Connor) simply contains a cyborg that appears in the earlier year and helps out John Connor. That doesn’t necessitate a change in history per se. What I think you are imagining is that all time travel happens at a point in the future where the past doesn’t contain a guy just showing up claiming to be from the future. The picture I have is that if there is time travel, it doesn’t change the past (as if there is a past and then soething comes and makes it different): it simply becomes part of the past. So here is a coherent model of time travel without ‘altering’ time: at 2006 some guy shows up claiming to be from the future (say the year 4000). At no time in the future is it true that a guy didn’t show up from the future at 2006. So it’s not like the world went forth time travellerless until 4006: the past always did and always will contain a guy from 4000 who just shows up in 2006 and becomes part of the linear history. In other words, time travel doesn’t require non-linearlity.

    Now, there are some time travel stories that would require such linearality. The one you tell is precisely such a story. But the terminator stories don’t require that. They just require backwards causation with a linear model.

    So, Muffti thinks we are both kinda right but had different models in mind. As for your claim about the conditional nature of the promises, fair enough. Muffti was assuming all along an unconditional promise. But if it isn’t an unconditional promise, the air of paradox quickly dissapears.

  • From what I understand, the zohar describes history as finite. In fact, there is no hebrew word for history. Whenever we talk about ‘jewish history’, we talk about zikaron/our memory. So the zohar doesn’t describe an end to history, but rather the end of the world and life on it as we know it. Something about growing wings too.

    (Sorry I can’t relate to T3 cuz I haven’t see it, but I did see Bill & Ted’s first movie, is that the same idea?)

  • Muffti, it has been my experience that the people who panic about this or that threat to Jewish continuity are the very ones who don’t seem to understand whay they really need to do to keep the Jewish people going: live Jewish, marry Jewish, teach/learn Jewish, have lots of Jewish kids.

    Nobody at our shul goes around panicking about whether the Jews are going to be here tomorrow. This seems to be primarily a preoccupation of the assimiltaed/secular community. And their proposed solutions are almost always institutional in nature: if we could just come up with the right educational program/public awareness campaign, we could turn this thing around.

    Not gonna happen. As you rightly point out, “the motivation to act now simply to ensure the continued existence of the people seems like a null motivation”.

    You’re right. For an assimilated Jew, who has no understanding of Yiddishkeit, a reasonable response to a panicky parent/teacher telling him “we have to ensure the continued existence of the Jewish people!” is “Why? What’s so special?”

    My family is an excellent example. Out of about 18-20 siblings/cousins, my sister and I are the only ones who are raising Jewish kids, and mine are the only Shomer Shabbat ones out of the bunch. Many of my neices/nephews are not even Jews, and even the ones that are probably don’t even know it.

    For a Jew who has a certain amount of faith, the idea that the continued existence of the Jewish people is of no particular importance simply never crosses the mind. We believe in our specialness. That is the key thing. For people like Edgar Bronfman, for example, the matter-of-fact assertion of our uniqueness as a people is a racist scandal. Once this kind of spiritual rot sets in, not only will the people infected with this virus not do what they need to do to ensure the continued existence of a unique people, they will unconsciously seek to undermine it.

  • good point ephraim, on it being a secualar preoccupation about the jewish people dying out. I think the better concern is quality of continued jewish life.

    But anyway, I think you guys are really arguing about the nature of time, because id its all happening right now in this moment past present and future (like my parents acid trips led them to believe) then yes, the fact that no one showed up at whoever’s door yesterday means that no will WILL ever show up yesterday. but if time is linear then there was once a time that no one showed up yesterday, but that may change sometime in the future, i think.

  • Rambam rocks my world in general, and not just because he ate rice on Pesach, but I’m not comfortable that his views have been elevated by many in Orthodoxy as a litmus test of “real Jewish faith”. Giving his opinons the force of law seems a little too close to avoda zara to me. My shul’s rabbi makes a point that Rambam in one of his works implies that the messianic era might be defined simply by Jews obtaining political self-rule, which was quite a “pie in the sky” thought at the time.

    I see Rambam, for better and for worse, as the prototype Modern Orthodox dude: smart enough and learned enough to try to utilize external systems of thought to better understand his faith, but also a little too dogmatic in his desperate need to prove rabbinic history as “truth”. I think he was a torn man in many ways. But damn, the man could write up a storm, putting most bloggers to shame given that he had no access to any of this modern cut-n-paste sissy stuff.

  • I’ve learnt alot of Rambam and I don’t see in his words his being torn or being unreasonably dogmatic.

    Can you supply some examples?

  • Ephraim, good point. At least, well, Muffti never knew much about how people at your synagogue treat this or that crises. Muffti thinks that real faith requires thinking that no crises is really going to be fatal. Though, it 1.5 is right, you should worry a bit because continuation isn’t promised.

    Josh, also interesting,..Muffti’s knowledge of the zohar is even smaller than his knowledge of the torah, which is small. He didn’t realize that the zohar had views about the duration of the universe.

    Icegrrl…Ummn, Muffi thinks we agree.

    One guy that got ignored but said interesting stuff was Aaron Wenner. The points about branching worlds was intresting, but muffti’s point doesn’t seem to depend on it. Muffti wa presuming that if it is the case that Moshiach will come, he must come at some point on all branches (branches only branch when there are two or more possibilities. But surely God’s guarantee that there is a moshiach comes to more than there being A branch amongst infinite others, or some, where Moshiach comes). God’s promises are supposed to actually constrain possibilities: his promise that P ought to make not P impossible Muffti takes it.

    But he might have misunderstood what seemed like a subtle point. Appolgies if that’s true.

  • CRISIS AND THE MOSHIACH ARE CONECTED LIKE IT IS CONECTED THE CRISIS AND THE BIRTH OF A CHILD.
    WHEN THE FRUITS OF THE FIG TREE ARE READY , THE FARMER GO AND COLECT THEM IN TIME.THE TIME TO DO THAT ISS NOW. THE FRUITS OF THE FIG TREE ARE DONE.

  • I have seen the light. I think I need to either get to a shul right now or get my favorite fig harvesting gloves. Mmmm…figs…

  • I think Rambam was torn on the issue of resurrection. The idea that we will someday walk out of our graves has always seemed silly to me, and I don’t consider myself any less of a Jew for not believing it.

    My opinion is that if there ever will be a Moshiach, he will be just another tyrant leading to the division and destruction of our people. Just like that meshuggah 2000 years ago.

  • Yo, what’s up with jews? Please stop talking a load of absolute shite and help me get my cash. I’m on the dole and you guys never gave me the cash for the Ali G thing. No-one cares about bleedin’ shuls and Ramjam (although Black Betty was a classic track). Moshiach is broke and you fuckers didn’t give him his money. I asked for 5 million and all the heebs did was throw fuckin tom cruise and fuckin bono at the cunt. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

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