A History of the Vilna Gaon - Part II
The character of the Vilna Gaon in the Empires of Armageddon series is based on the life of a real person who lived and worked in Vilnius, Lithuania in the late stages of the 18th Century. The Gaon ... or Genius ... of Vilnius was perhaps the most influential and famous Talmudic scholar of his time. He was also a dabbler in the mysticism of Kabbalah, and a master of mathematics, science and nature. And a writer of prophecies.
Here is the second part of a compiled history of the Vilna Gaon I put together for subscribers to my website and my newsletter.
The Hurva Prophecy – During the 18th century, the Vilna Gaon prophesied that the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem, first constructed in the early days of the century, would be destroyed and rebuilt twice, and that when the Hurva was completed for the third time, construction on the Third Temple would begin.
Plans to build the Hurva Synagogue over the ruins of an ancient synagogue in what is now called the Old City of Jerusalem – Hurva means ‘ruins’ – were first proposed in the early 1700’s. A group of Ashkenazic mystics started the building, but the cost impoverished them and they fell into debt. In 1720, the building was first destroyed when Muslims demanding the return of loans tore it down and set it on fire. The synagogue was rebuilt a hundred years later, dedicated in 1864, and became the most important Jewish house of worship in the Holy Land.
In May of 1948, during Israel's War of Independence, Jordanian troops of the Arab Legion engaged the Jewish fighters of Haganah in a two-day battle for control of the Hurva. After blowing a hole in the side of the building and overcoming the Haganah fighters, the Arab Legion troops set off a huge explosion which completely demolished the 84-year-old synagogue.
The Old City of Jerusalem remained in control of the Jordanian Arab Legion until the war of 1967, when Israeli troops drove the Legion out of Jerusalem and gained control over the entire city. In 2001, Israel decided to rebuild the landmark, which was completed and dedicated in 2010 and today stands in the center of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City. This was the third completion of the Hurva. The Gaon’s prophecy predicted that construction of the Third Temple would begin when the Hurva was rebuilt for the third time.
There are many who believe that construction and/or completion of the Third Temple in Jerusalem will mark the beginning of the “last days.” There is an organization in Jerusalem, The Temple Institute, that has already prepared all of the objects Jews used to fulfill ritual sacrifice in the first and second temples. As of this month, no Third Temple construction has begun … nor is it anticipated any time soon.
The Messiah Prophecy – In February of 2014, masked Russian troops without insignia invaded the Ukraine and occupied key Crimean locations, including airports and military bases. Within days, the Crimean government was disbanded and a new, pro-Russian government installed.
In March of 2014, in Jerusalem, Grand Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, the great grandson of the Vilna Gaon, revealed a closely guarded secret message that he said was written by the Gaon. Written in cryptic language, this prophesy was passed down in a direct line through four generations of rabbis and remained an ardently guarded secret over the centuries. Once deciphered and revealed by Shternbuch, the Gaon’s message read:
“When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the 'Times of the Messiah' have started, that his steps are being heard.
And when you hear that the Russians have reached the city of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), you should put on your Shabbat clothes and don’t take them off, because it means that the Messiah is about to come any minute.”
There is a second translation of the Gaon’s prophecy that some believe is more accurate.
“When the ships of the kingdom of Russia will cross the Dardanelles you [Israel] should dress in Sabbath clothes because this means that the arrival of the Messiah is close. When you see the Russian armies begin to move southward and enter Turkey, put on your Sabbath garments and get ready to welcome the Messiah.”
In this prophecy, the Vilna Gaon mentions two signs of the imminent arrival of the Messiah – Russia capturing Crimea and Russia invading the Turkish city of Constantinople. The first portion of the prophecy was fulfilled in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
I have been told that there are other prophecies, beyond these two, written by the Vilna Gaon but I haven’t come up with any evidence that is true.
The “Gaon’s second prophecy” which is a significant plot driver in the Empires of Armageddon series, is totally fabricated for the benefit of my story.