May 18, 2007
Revered Israeli apocalyptic kabbalah leader shocks Jews, Christians with name 'Yeshua'
A controversy is raging in Israel, in evangelical circles in the U.S. and on kabbalah web forums worldwide following the posthumous release of what a revered Sephardic rabbi claimed to be the name of the Messiah.
When Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri died in February 2006, somewhere between the age of 106 and 117, 300,000 attended his funeral in Jerusalem.
The Baghdad-born kabbalist had gained notoriety around the world for issuing apocalyptic warnings and for saying he personally met the long-awaited Jewish Messiah in November 2003.
Before Kaduri died, he reportedly wrote the name of the Messiah on a small note, requesting it remained sealed for one year after his death. The note revealed the name of the Messiah as "Yehoshua" or "Yeshua" – or the Hebrew name Jesus
However, complicating the story further, the note is being challenged as a forgery by his 80-year-old son Rabbi David Kaduri.
"It's not his writing," he is quoted as telling Israel Today.
The note, written in Hebrew and signed in the rabbi's name, said: "Concerning the letter abbreviation of the Messiah's name, He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid. This I have signed in the month of mercy."
The Hebrew sentence consists of six words. The first letter of each of those words spells out the Hebrew name Yehoshua or Yeshua.
The finding has raised a combination of excitement and controversy in both Jewish and Christian circles – but scarcely any media attention. Jewish blogs and web forums are filled with skeptical analysis and puzzlement.
"So this means Rabbi Kaduri was a Christian?" asked one poster rhetorically.
Another wrote: "The Christians are dancing and celebrating."
In fact, many Christian discussion boards say Kaduri's description of the Messiah – no matter what his name – don't fit the biblical account of a returned Jesus of Nazareth, who, they believe, will rule and reign on Earth from Jerusalem for 1,000 years.
About his encounter with the Messiah Kaduri claimed is alive in Israel today, he reportedly told close relatives: "He is not saying, 'I am the Messiah, give me the leadership.' Rather the nation is pushing him to lead them, after they find [in my words] signs showing that he has the status of Messiah."
Kaduri was also quoted as saying the imminent arrival of the Messiah will "save Jerusalem from Islam and Christianity that wish to take Jerusalem from the Jewish Nation – but they will not succeed, and they will fight each other."
Statements like that have some Christians wondering if Kaduri might be talking about another Yeshua – perhaps even a miracle-performing "false Christ" many evangelicals believe will precede the return of Jesus.
"It is hard for many good people in society to understand the person of the Messiah," Kaduri wrote before his death. "The leadership and order of a Messiah of flesh and blood is hard to accept for many in the nation. As leader, the Messiah will not hold any office, but will be among the people and use the media to communicate. His reign will be pure and without personal or political desire. During his dominion, only righteousness and truth will reign."
Kaduri wrote that not all will believe in the Messiah – and that it will often be easier for non-religious people to accept him. He also describes a Messiah who is, at first, not aware of his position.
A few months before his death, Kaduri gave a Yom Kippur address in which he gave clues as to how to recognize the Messiah. He told those gathered for the Day of Atonement in his synagogue the Messiah would not come until former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dies.
Sharon was stricken while in office Jan. 4, 2006. He remained in a coma until replaced by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. While many expected the imminent passing of Sharon, he has remained alive but unconscious ever since his attack.
Shortly after what Kaduri characterized as his Nov. 4, 2003, encounter with the Messiah, in which he said he learned his name, the rabbi began warning of impending disasters worldwide.
In September 2005 in a class at his Jerusalem yeshiva seminary, Kaduri called for Jews all over the world to return to Israel because of the calamities about to befall the Earth and for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple.
"In the future, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bring about great disasters in the countries of the world to sweeten the judgments of the land of Israel," he said.
In 1990, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson told Kaduri that he would live to see the coming of the Messiah.
Also in September 2005, Kaduri said: "The Messiah is already in Israel. Whatever people are sure will not happen is liable to happen, and whatever we are certain will happen may disappoint us. But in the end, there will be peace throughout the world."
As a lifelong student and teacher of kabbalah, Kaduri rejected a meeting requested by pop superstar Madonna, who dabbled in the ancient art of Jewish mysticism. He reportedly said at the time: "It is forbidden to teach a non-Jew kabbalah, not even Talmud, not even simple Torah."
Kaduri is said to have been one of the few known living practitioners who used his knowledge of kabbalah to affect change in the world. He would often distribute amulets intended to heal, enhance fertility and bring success. He was also believed to have been involved in the removal of 20 dybbuks, or lost souls that strayed into the hapless bodies of living people to torment them.
Aviel Schneider, the author of the Israel Today story, said the worldwide reaction to news of Kaduri's note has been "crazy." He said he has never received so many emails and calls from around the globe.
He said he was urged not to publish the story by the rabbi's yeshiva, where officials said it was "impossible" that the note was actually written by Kaduri.
But Schneider was given access to many of the rabbi's manuscripts, written in his own hand for the exclusive use of his students. He was struck by symbols painted by Kaduri all over the pages.
"They were crosses," said Schneider. "In the Jewish tradition, you don't use crosses. You don't even use plus signs because they might be mistaken for crosses. But there they were, painted in his own hand."
Asked what those symbols meant, Kaduri's family said they were "signs of the angel."