’OTOT OF R. ŠIM‘ŌN BEN YŌAI
Translated from a Genizah manuscript published by Arthur Marmorstein, “Les signes du Messie,” REJ 52 (1906): 176-86. Another Genizah manuscript was published by Michael Higger, Halakhot va-aggadot (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1933), 115-23. See Yehudah Even-Shmuel, Midreshey ge’ullah (2d ed.; Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954), 311-14 and his textual notes on pp. 422-24.
ōn b. YōÐai (may his memory be for a blessing!) which will transpire in the world when the Messiah’s advent is near—may he be revealed soon!
Ten signs were revealed to R. Šim‘
The first sign: three fiery columns will descend from heaven, and they will remain upright extending from the earth up to the sky for three days and three nights. Due to the mighty power which they are beholding, all of the gentile nations will arise and grasp hold of Israel, saying to them: ‘Make fringe on the edge of our garments for us!’ Israel will make fringe for them, as scripture attests: ‘for ten individuals from every gentile group will grasp and take strong hold of the shirttail of every Jew, saying “Let us come with you, for we have heard that God is with you!”’ (Zech 8:23). The Holy One, blessed be He, will place portents in the sky and on the earth, as scripture states: ‘I will place portents in the heavens and on earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke’ (Joel 3:3). And why does the (portent of) blood precede that of the fire? Because the same sequence was followed in Egypt.
The second sign: three individuals will come forth. One of them will stand on the grave and resurrect the dead; one will restore sight to the eyes of the blind; and one will cure the lame by using incantations. Eighty thousand Israelites will go astray by following them, but they are in fact not authentic Israelites; rather, they are the descendants of the Gibeonites and the assorted riff-raff who mixed themselves with Israel (in the past). The Holy One, blessed be He, will purge them all (from Israel), as scripture states: ‘I will purge them (of dross) as one purges silver’ (Zech 13:9).
The third sign: the Holy One, blessed be He, will cause three rainbows to appear in the sky, and they will remain (visible) in the sky for three days and three nights. Their lengths will span the entire world. All of the gentile peoples will be overcome with great fear, and they will say: ‘Is the Holy One, blessed be He, intending to bring a flood upon the world?’ But He has already sworn an oath not to bring a flood upon the world, as scripture confirms: ‘for this is (like) the waters of Noah to Me, which I swore I would never bring again …’ (Isa 54:9). In the same way that He swore that He would not bring a flood, He also swore that He would not express anger, as scripture states: ‘thus I have sworn not to be angry with you or to rebuke you’ (Isa 54:9). The Holy One, blessed be He, will wrap Israel in strength on that day, as scripture says: ‘the bows of the mighty ones are broken; those who stumble are wrapped in strength’ (1 Sam 2:4). And who are ‘those who stumble’? They are Israel, for thus scripture says: ‘You have wrapped me in strength to do battle’ (2 Sam 22:40).
The fourth sign: a rain will fall from the sky for three days and three nights, a rain consisting not of water but of blood. The eighty thousand who had previously gone astray after the apostles of the Lie will drink from that fluid and die. Every man and woman who has followed them will drink and die.
The fifth sign: the Holy One, blessed be He, will cause a dew to fall from the sky for three days and three nights, and it will nullify the deadly effects of that blood which had previously fallen upon the earth. It will make the grain sprout. All the gentile peoples and nations will think that it is rain, but actually it will be only dew, as scripture promises: ‘I will be like dew for Israel: he will bloom like a lily and extend his roots like Lebanon. His shoots will spread, and his beauty will be like that of an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell in his shade will return and sprout (like) grain’ (Hos 14:6-8).
The sixth sign: all the gentile peoples will experience darkness for three days and three nights, but Israel will have light, as scripture states: ‘for behold, darkness will cover the earth and thick darkness (will cover) the nations, but the Lord will shine upon you’ (Isa 60:2). All of the gentile peoples will be overcome with great fear, and they will come and bow down before Israel, saying: ‘“Let us come with you, for we have heard that God is with you!”’ (Zech 8:23).
The seventh sign: the king of Edom (i.e., Rome) will come forth and enter Jerusalem. All of the Ishmaelites will flee from him and go to Tēman. They will assemble a mighty army, and there shall go forth with them a man whose name is ōìer. He will become king, and all of them will go to Boêra. The king of Edom will hear (about this) and come after them. These two will fight a battle, as is said in scripture: ‘for the Lord will have a sacrifice in Boêra, a great slaughter in the land of Edom’ (Isa 34:6). Scripture also states: ‘those who eat the flesh of swine and the detestable thing and mice will perish together—utterance of the Lord’ (Isa 66:17). ōìer will kill many of the Edomites, and the king of Edom will flee from him. But ōìer will die, and the king of Edom will return to Jerusalem a second time. He will enter the sanctuary, take the golden crown off his head, and place it on the foundation-stone. He will then say: ‘Master of the Universe! I have now returned what my ancestors removed ….’ There will be trouble during his time.
The eighth sign: the Holy One, blessed be He, will ‘suddenly’ bring forth Nehemiah b. Hushiel, who is the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph. ‘Suddenly’ accords with what scripture says: ‘suddenly the Lord whom you seek will enter His Temple’ (Mal 3:1). He will do battle with the king of Edom and kill him, and will then put on the crown which the king of Edom had returned to Jerusalem. The fame of Nehemiah will become widespread in the world.
The ninth sign: a man will come forth from the city of Rome whose name is Armilos b. Satan, spawned from a stone statue located in Rome. The statue is that of a woman, and Satan will come and have sexual intercourse with it, and it will give birth to this man. On the day when he is spawned he will be as if he is one hundred years old. He will come and wage war at Alexandria and destroy the entire sea-coast. Woe to the one (unlucky enough) to be seized by his hand! He will come to Gaza by himself and establish his throne there. [These are his signs]: he will be ten cubits tall …. He will sit there upon his throne and utter profanities and blasphemies. He will say to the gentile nations: ‘I am God! Bring me my Torah which I gave to you!’ They will bring him the images of their idols, and he will respond: ‘this is indeed the Torah which I gave you!’ He will then say to the children of Israel: ‘Bring your Torah!’ Thirty people from the leadership of Israel will enter along with Nehemiah b. Hushiel, and they will bring him a Torah scroll. He will say: ‘I do not believe in this Torah!’ They will answer (him): ‘If you do not believe in this Torah, then you are not God but Satan! “May the Lord rebuke you, O Satan!”’ At that time he will seize those thirty Israelites who came with Nehemiah, and he will burn them together with the Torah. Then he will say to Nehemiah, ‘Now do you not believe in me?’ He will answer him: ‘I put my faith in no one but the God of Israel, the God of heaven who gave His Torah through the agency of Moses our teacher! He is the One in Whom I believe!’ He (Armilos) will issue an order to execute him (Nehemiah) in the Temple of his God, for he had immediately set his foot within the sanctuary. So they will kill Nehemiah in Jerusalem, and his corpse will be discarded in Jerusalem. Israel will mourn for him, as scripture states: ‘and the land will mourn, every family separately’ (Zech 12:12). At that time Israel will experience great distress:* some will hide themselves in pits, and some of them will flee into the wilderness, where they will remain for forty days. Others will follow after them, and they will (all) cry out due to their distress. ‘At that time Michael, the great prince who watches over the sons of Your people, will arise’ and say before Him: ‘Master of the Universe! Remember the oath which You swore to their ancestors, as well as what You promised them; (namely), “I will pardon those whom I let remain” (Jer 50:20)!’ And He will hearken to the prayer of Michael, the prince of all Israel.
The tenth sign: the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring forth the Messiah of the lineage of David, the one who has been incarcerated in prison, and by his actions all Israel will be delivered.
*Another recension expands these final two ‘signs’ as follows:
Israel will experience great distress. They will hide themselves in caves and pits, and the rest of them will flee into the wilderness of ‘Ammon and Moab, as scripture states: ‘Let my dispersed ones sojourn among you, O Moab’ (Isa 16:4). They will wander about there for forty days, nourishing themselves with broom and salt-plant, for scripture says: ‘they pluck salt-plant (and) leaves of shrubbery and the root(s) of broom for their food’ (Job 30:4). Armilos b. Satan will come to the wilderness of Moab: this is the Armilos spawned from a stone of whom scripture speaks: ‘and he produced the wicked one with the stone’ (Zech 4:7). At that time the children of Israel will piteously cry out unto heaven, and Michael, the prince of the Throne of Glory, will be filled with mercy for them. He will stand in prayer before the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written: ‘At that time Michael, the great prince who watches over the sons of Your people, will arise’ (Dan 12:1)—the expression ‘standing’ (‘amidah) explicitly signifies that it will be a ‘prayer’—and he will say before Him, ‘Master of All Existence! Remember what You swore to their ancestors and to them, and what You said to Your servant Moses; (namely), “I will pardon in accordance with your words” (Num 14:20), and also “I will pardon those whom I let remain” (Jer 50:20)! Moreover, You Yourself called them “saints,” as scripture attests: “You are My saints” (Lev 20:26), and You have set them apart for the sake of Your Name!’ The Holy One, blessed be He, hearkened to the prayer of Michael regarding Israel at that time.
Tenth sign: He will produce Menahem b. ‘Amiel, the Messiah of the lineage of David, from the place of imprisonment, as scripture states: ‘for one came out of prison in order to reign’ (Qoh 4:14), and He will transport him upon a cloud, as scripture says: ‘and behold (one resembling a human being came) accompanied by the clouds of the sky’ (Dan 7:13). The distinguishing mark(s) of the royal Messiah: of high stature and his neck is thick; his face (shining) like the solar disk; his eyes flashing; the soles of his feet are thick … and he will exercise authority over all lands, and sovereignty, honor, and high rank will be granted him. Armilos will arise, and together with him will be assembled the seventy language-groups (i.e., gentile nations), as scripture states: ‘the rulers of the earth stand together’ (Ps 2:2), and all who stand before him will join him. But the Messiah of the lineage of David will put them to death, as scripture says: ‘he will slay the wicked with the breath of his mouth’ (Isa 11:4), and he will kill Armilos, the spawn of the stone, and he will deliver Israel. Then his fame will spread from one end of the world to the other.
So the All-Merciful promises. May He bring that hour near and that appointed time to pass during our lifetime and the lifetime of all Israel, amen and amen!
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