The Zohar says:

I will show you, but not for now, for these things will only come to be at that time, some after time and some in the Days of King Mashiach. "A star has gone forth from Jacob ..." (Numbers 24:17). This teaches us that in the future, the Holy One, Blessed is He, will build Jerusalem, and one star will spark within seventy pillars of fire and seventy sparks will receive light from it in the middle of the sky. The other seventy stars will be swallowed within it. It will give off light and blaze for seventy days. At the end of the sixth day it will become visible at the beginning of the twenty-fifth day of the sixth month. It will be gathered in at the end of seventy complete days and be visible in the city of Rome, and on that day, three great walls will fall and a great hall will fall, and the power of that city will die. (Zohar, Balak, 212b) …the concept of Rome can be anywhere else in the world today, in part or in whole

Rome? Ancient Rome fell over fifteen hundred years ago, and nothing like this has occurred to modern Rome. And why should it anyhow?

However, historically, all modern nations can trace their roots back to ancient peoples, and all modern day philosophies can find their roots in ancient philosophies as well. Rome the physical city may remain today in Italy, but the concept of Rome can be anywhere else in the world today, in part or in whole.

Certainly New York City is seen by many to be the focal point of today's Western World, as was Rome. This is the implication of those who try to read in the above quoted passage a reference to the blowing up of the World Trade Center ("three great walls") and Pentagon ("great hall") on September 11 of this year - which happened to have also been the twenty-third day of the sixth Jewish month, Elul.

What difference does it make?

It was a horrible act of terrorism and more than three thousand innocent people were killed that day. American confidence was severely jolted as well, and the world's economy took another big blow. And now, a new wave of war has begun that could easily result in a world war, to no one's benefit. What difference does it make to look for an ancient source for a modern catastrophe, and a somewhat vague one at best?

Historical Precedent

In the year 1656 from creation, or 2105 BCE, there was a major flood that wiped out the people of that time, except for Noah and his family and a small number of the animal kingdom. For forty days and forty nights it rained, and for 150 days waters surged from the depths of earth to rid the world of evil.

However, it took Noah and his sons 120 years to build that Ark that was to be their home and source of redemption from the flood waters for an entire solar year (Bereishit Rabba 30:7). And, they were forced to build it in full view of all the people of their time, who mocked them to no end and disbelieved their warnings of the impending flood.

The rest is history. The Great Flood came, man was washed away, and Noach and his family were forced to begin mankind anew one year later. However, there are important lessons to be learned from then that are certainly applicable now.

The Ineffable Name of God, which at this time of history is too holy to be pronounced as it is spelled: yud-hei-vav-hei, is actually made up of two parts, yud-hei and vav-hei. The unified Name represents periods of history when God's Presence is revealed and known, and the divided Name represents periods of time when God's Presence is hidden. This is why the prophet said of the Days of Mashiach: "On that day, He will be One, and His Name will be One." (Zachariah 14:9)

Rashi tells us that it is Amalek's wish and drive to keep the Names divided (Ex. 17:16). Commenting on Deut. 25:18, he reveals to us how Amalek does this:

"... He made you cold and lukewarm after you had been boiling. For, all the nations were afraid to war against you, and this one came and led the way for others. It is like a boiling hot bath into which no living being could enter, until a wild person came and jumped into it. Although he scalded himself, he made it cooler for others."

Amalek comes specifically to sever any connection between the will of Heaven above and the events of earth below

Amalek's actions make people doubt the reality of God and His hand in the affairs of man and specifically that of the Jewish people. Amalek comes specifically to sever any connection between the will of Heaven above and the events of earth below. Perceived randomness destroys the meaning of history and denies a person the ability to learn from his mistakes and turn his heart back to God.

It makes the attack on the World Trade Center and the results random - planned and carried out by terrorists, but devoid of any Heavenly meaning.

The Flood waters, we are told, rose above the highest mountain fifteen cubits (about 30 feet), while the Ark listed down in the water eleven cubits (see Rashi, Gen. 8:14). Why do we need to know this information; what difference does it make to history to know how severe the devastation was at that time?

The numerical value of yud-hei, the section of God's Holy Name that corresponds to His revealed and perceived Presence, is fifteen. The numerical value of vav-hei, the part of the Name that corresponds to the hidden hand of God that works through nature, is eleven.

This is why the fifteen "ascended," while the eleven "descended," indicating a split in the Name, while the two sections moved in opposite directions. It was the measure-for-measure punishment against the Generation of the Flood, whom, through their everyday beliefs, acted in the same manner. Dramatic events they witnessed were to be messages from God to wake up…

The Ark and the other dramatic events they witnessed were to be messages from God to wake up and change their ways of life. However, given the choice to ascribe the subtle messages to God or to nature, they chose the latter, pushing the hand of God further away in their minds.

Are we doing the same thing today, as we always have throughout history?

The attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is history now. Why some people were late for work that day and others were not, is understood only to God's Heavenly Court. That a great evil was perpetrated that day is without question.

However, is it a message from Heaven? In spite of all that, can the tragedy of September 11, particularly since it was so surreal, still act as a Heavenly message, specifically for the Jewish people?

A prophet could tell us yes or no with certainty and take away our free-will choice in the process. The Zohar and our own interpretation of events and historical context can only do so with uncertainty, leaving room for us to make our own choices.

Maybe New York City is a modern-day Rome; the comparison has been made before. Maybe the three towers that fell were the three walls mentioned by the Zohar. And just maybe, if indeed we are entering the time period our rabbis of the past believed in - the Days of Mashiach - we should ready ourselves to the best of our ability.