A Look Into The Future
It is the month of Adar, 1911, exactly 100 years ago.
A family is sitting at the Shabbat table cast with shadows of yellow light. There is an oil lamp on one side of the room, and Shabbat candles on the other. The family has recited Kiddush and is eating chicken soup, with the added delicacy of chicken feet for flavour. The challah is freshly roasted, and the air outside of the house is very still and quiet.
Tonight they have an unusual guest by the name of Eliyahu. He wants to tell his hosts about the future.
The first thing he tells them is that in three years time a world war will erupt. Some nine million soldiers and five million civilians will be slaughtered in a bloodbath of a scale that humanity has yet to experience. The map of Europe will change, and new political forces will rise.
The war would end with a German surrender in 1918. A technological and industrial revolution would sweep around the world, with electricity, telecommunications, and infrastructure being built on an unprecedented scale. The movement of modern Zionism, established in 1896 with a strong secular orientation, would gain traction during this period, boosted significantly by the Balfour declaration.
Liberalism would capture the imagination of the modern world, and traditional Judaism would become threatened and abandoned by an intellectual and academic wave of reform. Yet, as the history of millennia has proven time and time again, Jewish communal attempts to integrate and assimilate into general society would be ultimately rejected. In 1933 a dictator by the name of Hitler would manipulate the precept of democracy to assume power, on the basis of a published manifesto of genocide. A churban would follow, with one third of the global Jewish population (more than two thirds of European Jewry), succumbing to a manufactured supply chain of murder.
The unassailable guilt of nations would linger. The Jewish nation of Israel would be declared in the wake of a United Nations resolution, to be under siege from the moment of its establishment. Wars would follow in 1956, and in 1967 where the survival of the State was under real threat. Attacked on all borders Israel would achieve a miraculous victory, reunify Jerusalem and claim new territories. A treaty of peace with Egypt would see territory ceded. War would strike again in 1972, the Jewish nation attacked on Yom Kippur with its defences immediately mobilised. War would also follow in 1981, 1991, and an unrelenting campaign of terror and ideological warfare would continue.
The iron curtain will fall, and the Jews of Russia will be redeemed. The Jews of Ethiopia will be repatriated with their nation. Nearly a million Jews from Arab nations will be absorbed into the new Jewish homeland, the indigenous heritage that they would be forced to leave behind will be destroyed.
In 100 years time, despite many misfortunes, the Jewish world will be stronger than ever. The Jewish nation will undergo an awakening of its religious-ethnic identity, and recover its tradition. Israel will lead an effort to research and develop technologies in the areas of information communications, medical science, water conservation, alternative energy, transport, security, food production and agriculture. The Jewish population will multiply in number, give new life to the Rabbinic and Bibilcal texts of its heritage, and build a society based on its ancestral heritage.
In 100 years time people will wander the street holding mobile telephones that allow them to image and talk to any person anywhere in the world. They will be able to turn deserts into gardens, create electricity from the sun and the wind. The marketplace of ideas will be global and limitless. Every item of knowledge and every creation of literature will be accessible from a six inch screen that you can hold in your palm. People will be cured of disease before it takes hold. The nation state of Israel will contribute strongly to much of this accomplishment.
Eliyahu knows what the world will be in the year 2011, one hundred years from its elucidation at the Shabbat table in 1911.
I wonder what it would be like if Eliyahu came to our Shabbat table next Friday night? What would he tell us about the world 100 years from now, in 2111? Will greed and power lead to more destruction and genocide? Will unimaginable and unthinkable historical events occur because technology overrides government, or monetary systems collapse? Will the Jewish nation become recognised for its advancement, and will the moral clarity of Judaism be recognised through the growth and development of Eretz Yisrael?
Had I been listening to the description of the next century from the year of 1911 I would not have believed the account provided to be possible. The scale and magnitude of change, the speed of destruction and of recovery would be simply unimaginable to contemplate.
We have the capacity to guide the next 100 years for better or for worse. Yet our ignorance of history, fear of the future, and tendency to be overwhelmed by the scale of the current surge of political, religious and social revolutions that we see unfolding sometimes leave us with a sense of being powerless.
Along comes the festival of Purim and turns everything on its head. The absurdity of it all becomes suddenly apparent, and the desired outcome is delivered by way of divine providence. More than anything else, the story of Purim shows how the foresight and perseverance of a single person can overturn anything, including historical destiny.
I would love to tell my great grandchildren of what their world will be like 100 years from now. That there will be more hope and opportunity than ever before, and that the spiritual strength of humanity will be centred within the Temple of Jerusalem, built with the blessing of all of the nations of the world.
In the words of Herzl “If you will it, it is no dream”, and in the words of the Megillat Ester, “The Jews should have light and gladness, joy and honour.”