There is no mystery more shrouded than the time of the קֵץ, or End – referring to the End of Days. This special time is marked by the arrival of a wicked ruler which is followed by the arrival of the King Messiah, a messianic Israeli leader who will help usher in an era of peace and justice.
A passage from Megillah 3a tells us that within the Ketuvim (writings) the Kietz or End is contained, meaning the time when the Messiah was to come who would lead Israel to it’s final redemtion. The Book of Daniel is part of that biblical collection. The closing chapters of Daniel contain the visions of the ‘Kietz’, but Daniel was instructed by the angel Gabriel to conceal them from human understanding. Jewish tradition tells us that Yonathan ben Uziel, most brilliant of Hillels disciples, revealed the mysteries of the prophets in what we know as the Targums, but when he desired to reveal the secrets of the Writings, a heavenly voiced forbid it, because the secret of the End is contained there.
A kietz or end is a point in time where the culmination of God’s plan is brought about leading to a redemption or to the final redemption. Due to the numerous well-meaning and some not so well meaning scholars who have tried to interpret the exact time when the Messiah was to be revealed, and the numerous disappointments and tragedies that resulted from these incorrect datings, the sages hoping to discourage anyone from trying to determine the date, pronounced a curse upon those who would try. One only need look at the messianic aspirations of the Great Revolt which spawned numerous messianic pretenders and resulted in the deaths of over one million Jews.
Nevertheless, some very prominent rabbi’s have made calculations of the Kietz – R’ Saadia Gaon, Rambam and Ramban. These however are noteworthy in that these calculations were allowed in Jewish communities that were under going intense persecution and forced conversions – such as the Jews of Yemen who were beset by a government who demanded conversion to Islam who sought advice from Rabbi Moshe Maimon. The Jews of Catholic Spain were also under duress to convert.
In these cases, these Jewish communities were in dire need of hope and encouragement and the study of the End was particularly uplifing because it foretold of the demise of Israel’s enemies and the re-establishment of the Davidic Kingdom. In fact one of the prominent features of the Apocalyptic genre, of which the Book of Daniel is archetypical, was to give comfort to a persecuted people.
Daniels visions are part of the apocalyptic tradition and in reality its foundational document. During his days, the Jewish people needed encouragement that God had not abandoned them and that he was working on thier behalf to bring about thier redemption.
In the realm of the Final Redemption, two possibilities exist. One, that the guelah (redemption) will occur through Israel’s meritorious deeds. And two, that the guelah will come at ‘its appointed time’ if Israels does not merit it by good deeds.
It should be understood that the sages cautioned that no man knows the time of the End. The End is hidden. But within Daniel lies the knowledge to know how to recognize the signs that indicate when the Kietz – The End of Days is drawing near. It is these signs that we will look at to help us determine if indeed we are in the time of the End.