Daniel's Call to Us
The prophet, Daniel, is one of the most beautiful and significant figures in the Tenach. Described as without blemish and profoundly intelligent, Daniel reminds us of Josef. Both of them were favorites in the royal court, and both of them were masters at interpreting dreams.
While most of the dreams presented to Josef and his interpretations of them were private in nature, the dreams in Daniel's life concerned world history. Josef dreamed about his own life, his relationship to brothers and parents, and the future of private individuals, such as the baker and the butler. And when he was called in to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, his interpretation related to that one king and his immediate future.
The scriptures describe similarly in both the stories of Josef and Daniel how a dream can upset a person, "Va'tipaem rucho (Genesis 41:8)" ("And Pharaoh's spirit tolled like a bell.")) has a parallel in Daniel. "Vatitpaem rucho (Daniel 2:1))" ("And Nebuchadnetsar's spirit tolled like a bell."). But that is where the similarity ends. The dreams in Daniel's life concerned entire kingdoms and the future of the world until the end of days.
Daniel's life poses as a model for some of our most popular and frequently used practices. It is from him that we learn to turn to Jerusalem in prayer and to pray three times a day. Many entire passages of our prayers, including the "Amidah" and the "Tachnun," are lifted out of the Book of Daniel.
Daniel lived through incidents that were unique in our entire history. He was thrown into a lion's den and escaped unharmed. At Beltshazar's feast, the "writing on the wall" appeared -- which remains a figure of speech in the entire world's vocabulary. Only Daniel could read it, perhaps because it was written in ancient Hebrew script, not the "Assyrian" script, which was in use in the Persian empire, and which Jews themselves had adopted during the Babylonian exile. The text was ominous and spelled the end of the king and his Babylonian rule and heralded the beginning of Persian rule by Cyrus.
After a long and dramatic life, Daniel ends his book with messages that seem to have been written especially for our own generation. Daniel warns against the ruler who through peacefulness poses great danger: "Be'shalva yashchit rabbim (Daniel 8:25)"("In peacefulness he will kill many."). Rashi comments on this verse, "In cunning and divisiveness he kills many after concluding a covenant of peace." While we recognize a dangerous enemy in war, who throughout his military violence poses a threat for all to see, there are times when the enemy poses as a peacemaker -- yet his aim is the same, to kill us. It requires little imagination to see that Daniel is speaking of our current situation.
The PLO always recognized in the past as war and violence mongers -- embarked on a course of murder and killings -- has suddenly switched. It gives the impression that it has adopted peace as its strategy. The PLO has concluded a peace covenant, claiming that from now on it only wants peace. This is a more dangerous situation than before, because Arafat's murderous intentions are camouflaged in the deception of peace. "The many" who have been murdered since "peace" was concluded are "many," unfortunately ... but Daniel has a right to expect us to follow his warning: do not mistake the "peacefulness" of your enemy -- it is a change in tactic, not in ultimate aims. His aim remains to murder and destroy as many of us as possible.
The same prediction is found in Daniel 11:21, where he predicts that a deceptive and treacherous ruler will attack us, not through war, but through peace: "There shall stand up a vile person to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom, but he shall come in peace, and obtain the kingdom by flattery". Again the emphasis is on the danger of an enemy who once was detested and hated, but who has laid aside the external trappings of war and comes in "peacefully, though flattery" and conquers a kingdom. Do we not recognize the deception that the detested PLO has perpetrated on the Rabin-Peres government by pretending to have laid aside open warfare and by deceptively flattering the Jews, with the aim of ultimately destroying our kingdom, our Land?
One of the most important commentaries on the Book of Daniel is by Don Josef ibn Yahchya. I own his commentary printed in Bologna in 1528. I found an amazing prophecy in his commentary on Daniel's oracles, and I must quote it word-for-word so the full meaning reaches us:
"The angel who spoke to Daniel did not speak of the time immediately following him, because the sufferings under Antiochus were of limited duration, since the Maccabees delivered us from him after a short time. Instead, the angel speaks of the end of days...At the end of 5,700 years after the creation of the world (1940) -- a little before or a little after -- will come the end of our Exile, and the Jews will live in tranquility on their own land for 3000 years until the year 6000 (2240). These 300 years will convince the world that we have been given peace in body and spirit -- not by accident, but by divine design, because three centuries constitute "chazakah" or legal title to our land, forever. After the 6,000 years comes the 7th millennium, in which the world returns to the state of void as in the beginning of creation (but the Jews will enjoy Gan Eden after the Resurrection of the Dead). The fate of the Jewish people will have certified the vanity of pagan worship and will reinforce the notion that only the Jewish religion is the truth"
In other words, Ibn Yahchya predicted accurately over 400 years ago that shortly after 19400 the Jews will return to their land. This happened in full in 1948 when Israel was given independence, but the road to the re-establishment of the Jewish State began, of course, some years before. I am proud to have found this important prediction.
Don Joseph ben David ibn Yahchya, who made this amazingly accurate prediction based on Daniel's prophecy, was born 1494 in Florence, Italy. During the ferocious Christian persecution of Portuguese Jews, his parents fled there from Portugal. Don Yahchya studied in the yeshiva of R. Judah Mintz in Padua. Only two of his works have been preserved, one of which is his commentary on ketuvim (marriage contracts) -- which I own -- printed in Bologna in 1538. He died in 1534, but asked that he be buried in Eretz Yisrael. R. Josef Cairo, author of the Shulchan Aruch fulfilled this wish 1 years after his death and had Don Yahchya buried in Safed, the city of the Kabalists.
Daniel, whose predictions of the length of the Exile are so accurate, can also be trusted in predicting that our repossessions of our land will last until the end of the millennium, whereafter we will inherit Gan Eden, forever.
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