- Question: [Monday, 6th Teves 5781]
What is your opinion on all the various doomsday speakers that the Jewish world has merited to have? There are so many Frum speakers today available on the Internet that you can listen to, and some of the speakers tend to include in their speech’s predictions of doomsday scenarios, Armageddon’s, the war of Gog Umagog, inside and secret information, conspiracy theories, backed by Gematrios, Torah codes, and Kabbalistic and Midrashic texts etc. Is there any truth to the content of these speakers and should one be listening to them?
Yes, indeed, there are many speakers of this sort and in my opinion one should beware from them and their like, and not allow them access to deposit baseless and unhealthy information in one’s brain. Certainly, irrelevant of how they define the speeches as [i.e. Shiureiy Torah etc], there is nothing Torahdik about them, and one does not fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah when he listens to them and on the contrary possibly transgresses the prohibition of Bittul Torah, if he is a male and is able to study Torah in the meantime. First and foremost, a Jew whether male or female, needs to invest their time in listening to Shiurim in Jewish law in order to know and be aware of proper behavior according to Torah and not to transgress Halacha. Certainly, one should also listen to motivational speakers and classes of Chassidus and Mussar for the sake of bettering his character and engaging in deeper understanding of God’s greatness, and help him develop a joy and love for God. The above speakers who focus on disseminating doomsday scenarios and conspiracy theories using Gemtarios and Torah codes do not use their precious time and audience for spreading true Torah knowledge of Halacha and Mussar, and often teach their audiences philosophies that are contrary to Torah perspective and halachic rulings. It is likewise unclear as to how their fabulous predictions, and discussion of secret information, will help serve to motivate people to change the character and gain a better understanding of God and love for his Torah. One should not be fooled to think that since they spice their speeches with Gematrias and cool Torah code gymnastics and acrobatics that therefore one is considered to be learning Torah, and rather the speaker is simply using concepts taken from Torah to espouse a personal philosophy that he has, which has no basis in true Torah sources and falls under no realm of true Torah study, not even true Kabbalah. This applies whether the person is doing so for some unknown ulterior motif, such as to gain a following or become famous as a Kabbalist who is aware of the secrets of heaven that no one else knows of, or to be known as a prophet for the sake of profit, or simply because he truthfully believes in it with all his heart. It makes no difference which is the case, as either way one should save himself and his time from exposure to unhealthy and baseless information which takes him away from true Torah study. To capsulize this idea in the Rambam’s words: The Rambam states in Hilchos Melachim 12:2 after discussing the war of Gog and Magog and a brief analysis on the chronological order of events “All of these matters and the like, a person will not know how they will be until they actually occur…. Whatever the case the order of how things will happen, and their details are not a foundation of our religion and therefore a person should never invest considerable time on the subjects of Hagados and he should not lengthen in the Midrashos which speak of this matter and the like, and he should not make them into the main content of his study, as they do not lead neither to fear nor to love of God.” This phenomenon is not new to our generation and was already around in the times of the Alter Rebbe, as documented in the following letter written by the Alter Rebbe regarding a Rebbe who served as a doomsday predictor of his time, which I provide here with free translation from Igeres Hakodesh Admur 49: “One should judge the man favorably and assume that a spirit of insanity has taken over his imagination. As our sage’s state from the day that the temple was destroyed prophecy was given to the insane. And as is well known to everyone that on a number of occasions in the summer days when it was very hot, he became completely insane and seemingly the leftovers of that insanity have remained to turn him into a “prophet.” His state of insanity is especially ignited when he gets angry and filled with wrath on our government, and therefore you should pay no attention to what he says neither for good or for bad as they have no power. And as we know with absolute testimony from his own followers in the surrounding cities such as Minsk and Lunsk that all of his promises to his followers the vast majority never came true and the small minority which came true is simply following the course of nature and is no sign of a wonder or miracle. He loves to extend his mouth and speak of all the tragedies in the world as if it is he who caused them to happen by arousing divine retribution against the victims as he has the power on high to arouse punishment and severities. In truth, punishment and evil do not come from above [i.e. righteous people and the side of holiness] but rather from the chambers of the Sitra Achra…. And people who speak in such a way they do not enter them into the chamber of G-d with whom evil does not dwell. Rather a righteous man speaks of kindness and tries to draw down kindness into the world and this is an eternal answer for those who believe in him. The fact that they are bragging in his name that it is due to him that a certain individual, an enemy of his, passed away, I will go out of my normal way of speech to answer a fool with his foolishness, as it is well known to all those who visited Liozna that the man was terminally ill for many many years [and it is hence no surprise that he died and certainly was not the doing of the false prophet], they should’ve rather paid attention to [a friend of theirs] from Tiberius who was perfectly healthy and died a very strange death due to his sins that he refused to repent for until his death.”
I believe that the above two quotes from the Alter Rebbe and the Rambam are sufficient to solidify the proper stance that you should have on the subject, and that you should stay away from them like fire. There are plenty of amazing speakers out there whose classes are available on the Internet in all realms of true Torah knowledge which focuses on teaching the texts and content of Torah Sefarim in the realms of Talmud, Halacha, Chassidus, and Mussar, to their audience and I advise you to place your effort in listening to these speakers, and not waste your time and energy and your precious healthy brain with the nonsense that these other speakers espouse for their own gain and fame or due to their own philosophical illnesses and diversions. Their motive is not to bring the Torah knowledge found in our holy Sefarim to their audience but rather to bring themselves and their own ideas to their audience, using Torah.
Sources: See Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:9-10; Shach Yoreh Deah 246; Hakdama of Mishneh Berurah; Toras Menachem 13 p. 236; Rambam Melachim 12:2