Does the book of Daniel

speak of the days after October 7, 2023?

Dear Rabbi & Susan,

A number of Bible scholars recently have been commenting on the book of Daniel and particularly Daniel 11:40 – Daniel 12:13 and have been making connections to it and this month’s (Oct 2023) crisis in Israel and believe we have taken a step further towards the times of the end. I was wondering if there was any Ancient Jewish Wisdom either of you have come across regarding that section of scripture?

Eric E.

Dear Eric,

As you can imagine, we have a special affinity for the prophet Daniel. (We are quite excited that our friends at Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA are performing Daniel starting in March 2024). Notwithstanding that, we do not teach about end of time issues in Daniel any more than we do about those in the book of Ezekiel.

The reason for this is that while we know that there is an afterlife and we believe in the coming of the Mashiach (Messiah), these are not areas that we are meant to understand or even to probe. The Torah is focused on how we should live in this real, tangible world in which we have been placed. Certainly, our actions should be such that they contribute to the Mashiach’s arrival sooner rather than later and without great tribulation, but when he will arrive is not meant for us to know in advance.

Although only an analogy, while I [RDL] enthusiastically seek knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, and other fields, I won’t spend even 30 seconds on cosmology because for the most part, all it does is speculate on origins of the universe and questions like what lies beyond the farthest star. Not only all speculative but of no practical use at all. Similarly, there is little to be found in ancient Jewish wisdom about details of the afterlife or the end of times.

This has led to the common error that Judaism doesn’t posit an afterlife. Those who speak this way arrive at this mistaken view by noting that nowhere in the Five Books of Moses is there any mention of what our existence after death will be like. However, as we specifically teach in Scrolling Through Scripture, the opening of Genesis focuses on the two parallel worlds we inhabit–the physical and the spiritual. That we come to an end physically is just as clear as that spiritually, we are eternal.


That said, your contemplating whether the events of this past October bring us closer to the end times, is very valid. And the answer is: Absolutely. Every day brings us closer to a future event and we know that God’s salvation can come ‘beheref ayin’ – in the blink of an eye. We both anticipate that Great Day with immediacy at the same time as we act as if it might be a long time away —for example, by raising families, planting crops, and building businesses.

Jewish history has a number of cases where after times of great suffering false Messiahs took advantage of Jewish pain and the accompanying yearning for better times to capture people’s imaginations. One famous example is a man called Shabbatai Tzvi, who acted after the horrendous pogroms and massacres of the mid-1600s in Europe. Jews sold their homes and pinned their hopes on this charlatan, only to have them shattered when he converted under pressure to Islam.

There are deep secrets hidden in the verses of the prophets, yet they are mostly indecipherable other than to a very few holy sages, who would never speak of what they know. They would also never yield to the temptation to use them to predict the future. Our focus should be on our actions, in the way we treat each other and relate to God, we can hasten the coming of better days. Exactly when they will arrive is not for us to know.

Keep studying,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

This Ask the Rabbi is dedicated in memory of Yonatan and Tamar, 35, Kedem-Siman Tov, Yonatan’s mother Carol Siman Tov, daughters Shahar and Arbel, and son Omer, age 4, murdered in their home on October 7, 2023.

And with prayers for the safe return of all the hostages and among them, Fernando Marman, age 60, an immigrant from Argentina who was visiting Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7, 2023, when he was abducted.


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