’AGGADAT R. ISHMAEL

 

Translated from H. M. Horowitz, Bet ‘eqed ha-’aggadot (2 vols.; Frankfurt am Main: E. Slovotski, 1881), 1:59-61, based on Munich Ms. 56 (dated 1233 CE); reproduced in turn with variants by Yehudah Even-Shmuel, Midreshey Ge’ullah (2d ed.; Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954), 148-52, 399-400; Hekhalot Rabbati in New York (JTS) Ms. 8128 apud Peter Schäfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur (TSAJ 2; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1981), §§130-38.  §§133-38 of this manuscript are translated separately at the end.

 

R. Ishmael said: I had devoted my mind to seeking out and to exploring through wisdom and to calculating the seasons and the times, the moments and the appointed periods, ‘a time and two times,’ and ‘a set time, times.’ I directed myself to the Most High Holy One using prayer, supplications, fasting, the wearing of sackcloth, and mourning rituals. Thus did I pray and say: ‘O Lord, God of Hosts, God of Israel! How long must we be abandoned, broken, (and) made an object of scorn and derision among the nations? All who see us ridicule us and say, These are the people of the Lord?!? Why did He smite them? Why has He cast them from His presence? On account of the magnitude of their iniquity and the gravity of their sin! He loathes them and abhors them and so has removed them from His presence, and He is never going to restore them again ….

R. Ishmael said: Thus did Akatriel Yah, the Lord God of Israel, say to me: ‘My beloved Ishmael! You know very well that I have granted to all the nations (the power) to subject Israel for only one day in this world! This is because they forsook Me, corruptly served other gods, installed an image in My sanctuary, and drove My presence away from it, (the place) where I swore to settle My Name forever. They provoked Me and embittered Me, they along with their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets. They have been divided from Me for seven hundred years, and I have sworn that I will subdue them beneath iron and clay (Dan 2:33): they will kill their officials, destroy their rulers, render their young men childless, shred their young, lay their heavy yoke upon their elders, and they will live in fear of them until they are completely consumed by their sins and the sins of their ancestors, or they return in repentance to Me, or the appointed time (for the End) is fulfilled. Therefore I sent to them through the agency of My servants the prophets that I was going to punish them for the days of the Baalim when they sacrificed to them.

Recension A

And in the same way that they provoked Me for seven hundred years, so too I will provoke them and irritate them with a villainous nation and with a nation to whom I did not apportion out an empire at the time I assigned all the peoples by lot, because and because (Lev 26:43; cf. Ezek 36:3).

R. Ishmael said: When I heard (the phrase) ‘because and because,’ my hands grew weak and I collapsed my full length face downward. I was terrified, and I no longer had power in me to speak or to respond. Then Metatron, the Prince of the Presence, addressed me and said to me: ‘My Beloved! Arise, stand up, and strengthen yourself! Consider and pay attention to the words which will be spoken to you!’ Then I heard a voice issuing forth from between the two cherubim, and it said: ‘Ishmael, My beloved! Do not be afraid! I will not exact retribution measure for measure, for I realize they do not have the strength to endure (that requital). Instead I will act for the sake of My name, and I will set a dispute and great enmity among the nations so that they will wage war with each other, and (hence) they will not annihilate My people Israel.’

Recension B

And in the same way that they deserted Me for seven hundred years and worshiped the Baalim, so too I will desert them, also I, and I will allow them to fall under the power of brutal ones for seven hundred years. They will have no one to deliver them—no priest or guide, no prophet or king, no leader or prince—until they turn back in repentance and with prayer and supplications, and they actively seek My presence. Then I will once again make Myself available for them, and I will return them to their land.’

R. Ishmael said: I replied to Heaven and I said: ‘If they do not make repentance, will they never be redeemed?’ He said to me: ‘I will set over them a ruler whose decrees will be more harsh than (those of) Haman, and reluctantly, unwillingly, they will return to Me. He is the king strong of face and decipherer of riddles” (Dan 8:23), and he will speak words against the Most High and wear out the Most High Holy Ones and plan to alter times and laws, and they will be under his control for a time, two times, and half a time (Dan 7:25).

R. Ishmael said: I sat down and calculated using the computation which He gave to me the first time. I calculated seventy years for Babylon, fifty-two for Media, and one hundred and eighty for Greece. But I could not determine a figure for Edom (i.e., Rome) until I persisted in that prayer and that fast with which I was initially engaged for an equivalent number of days. Then I heard a bat qol come forth and say: ‘Seven hundred years is the fixed period for the completion [of Edom’s rule; its point of reckoning begins during the era] of the structure built by the kings of Persia. All of them (i.e., the Romans) on the surface of the entire earth will suffer destruction.’

I responded to the one speaking with me, and I said: ‘I cannot discover this fixed period for the evil empire [in scripture]!?!’ [And I heard a bat qol come forth and say: ‘Consider this statement!’]. So I examined the books which Daniel had closed and sealed, and I discovered the verse ‘seventy sabbatical periods have been determined for your people and for your holy city to bring rebellion to an end and to exhaust sin and to atone for iniquity and to introduce eternal righteousness and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint the Holy of Holies’ (Dan 9:24).

Recension A

And it (i.e., the verse) means: Seven hundred years are determined and decreed for your people and the holy city. When they are fulfilled, the rebels will perish, the sinners will be destroyed, atonement will be made for the iniquity of a few people, and the Eternal Righteous One will bring the messiah, the one who was hidden and sealed by all the prophets, and he will dedicate the Holy of Holies.

Recension B

‘Seventy sabbatical periods’ is a cipher for seven hundred years. And when they are over, they will end ‘at the time of evening/(the) Arab,’ and then the light will come, as scripture has promised: ‘and at the time of evening light will shine’ (Zech 14:7).

 

*New York Ms. 8128 (ed. Schäfer §§133-138):

R. Ishmael said: I replied with regard to the remark, ‘So do you say that if they do not make repentance, they will never be redeemed?’ He answered me: ‘It is possible that they will be consumed by their iniquity or that the appointed time (for the End) will terminate.’

R. Ishmael said: I replied with regard to the remark, and I said, ‘No one can take pride in the fixed period (granted) to this evil empire!’ I heard a voice coming forth and saying: ‘My beloved Ishmael! The fixed period for the completion of the structure built by the kings of Persia is seven hundred years. Everything will perish, and they will perish from upon all the surface of the earth, and it will be empty of iniquities. In the same way that they deserted Me for seven hundred years and worshiped the Baalim, so too I will desert them, also I, and I will allow them to fall under the power of strong ones for seven hundred years. They will have no one to deliver them—no guiding priest, no prophet, no king, no leader, or no prince—until they turn and make repentance with prayer and supplications. If they actively seek My presence, then I will once again make Myself available for them, and I will return them to their land.’ End of the seventh chapter.

R. Ishmael said: I replied with regard to the remark, and I said, ‘If they do not make repentance, will they never be redeemed?’ He answered me: ‘I will set over them a ruler whose decrees will be harsh, like those of Haman, and reluctantly, unwillingly, they will return <to Me>. He is the king strong of face and decipherer of riddles” (Dan 8:23), and he will speak words against the Most High and wear out the Most High Holy Ones and plan to alter times and laws, and they will be under his control for a time, two times, and half a time (Dan 7:25).’

R. Ishamel said: I was calculating the sum for fulfillment. Seventy years for Babylon, fifty-two for Media, and for Edom in accordance with what came out to me for the completion of the destruction of the Second Temple, (namely) seven hundred years. I examined the books which Daniel had closed and sealed, and I discovered written <in Daniel> (that) seven hundred years are determined and decreed for your people and the holy city. When they are fulfilled, the rebels and sinners will perish and be destroyed, atonement will be made for the iniquity of a few people, and the Eternal Righteous One will bring the messiah, the one who was hidden and sealed by all <the prophets>, and he will dedicate the Holy of Holies.

R. Ishmael said: And how should Daniel be interpreted? I found it written ‘seventy sabbatical periods have been determined for your people and for your holy city to bring rebellion to an end and to exhaust sin and to atone for iniquity and to introduce eternal righteousness and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint the Holy of Holies’ (Dan 9:24). These ‘seventy sabbatical periods’ are a cipher for seven hundred years. And when they are over, they will end ‘at the time of <evening>’, and then the light will come, as scripture has promised: ‘and at the time of evening light will shine’ (Zech 14:7).

R. Ishmael said: Why was the fixed time for the End revealed to me? It was because I had devoted my mind to seeking out and to interpreting through wisdom and to calculating the seasons and the times, the moments and the appointed periods, ‘a time and two times,’ and ‘a set time, times.’ I directed myself to the Most High Holy One using prayer, supplications, fasting, the wearing of sackcloth, and mourning rituals. Thus did I pray and say: ‘O Lord, God of Hosts, God of Israel! How long must Israel <be abandoned>, broken, (and) made an object of scorn and derision among the nations? All who see us ridicule us and say, These are the people of the Lord?!? Why did He get angry? Why has He cast them from His presence? And they answer, He abhors them on account of the magnitude of their iniquity and the gravity of their sin! [He has removed them] from their land, and He is never going to restore them again ….’ It was on account of this prayer that Akatriel Yah, the Lord God of Hosts, spoke to me.

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