Question:

Could global warming be a sign that the Messiah is about to arrive? I learned that the Torah predicts that in the future the “covering of the sun” will be removed, and wicked people will melt in the intense heat. Maybe this is describing the hole in the ozone layer. Could this be true? Are we about to see the destruction of the wicked? (I'm not sure which side of that I’ll end up on . . .)

Answer:

The Jewish view of the end of days differs greatly from other apocalyptic visions. It will not need to be violent, and there will be no need for more wars. Even the punishment of the wicked can happen by peaceful means.

The Talmudic teaching you mention illustrates this: “In the future, there will be no need for purgatory. G‑d will remove the sun from its sheath. The righteous will be healed by it, and the wicked will be punished by it.”1

The “sheath of the sun” could be the atmosphere, the photosphere, the ozone layer, all of the above, or something else entirely, but the Talmud here is talking about a change in spiritual climate.

In Torah teachings, the sun represents G‑d’s light.2 In our current world, this light is hidden. Just as the sun has a sheath that covers it and filters its light, so too the laws of nature cover over G‑d’s light in the world. The divine hand is often hard to detect, and life can sometimes seem random and meaningless. G‑d is there if you look for Him, but He can easily be missed, and the world can seem like a very dark place.

But one day soon, it will all make sense. When the Messiah comes, G‑d will reveal Himself, His light will shine unblocked, the veil will be lifted, and we will see that it was His hand guiding the world all along. Nothing was random, nothing was a mistake, and everything was part of His ultimate plan.

This awareness will be a healing for the righteous. They always knew that G‑d was there, and it pained them that He could not be seen. They will take pleasure in feeling G‑d’s closeness and seeing goodness prevail, which is what they dedicated their lives to achieve.

But for the wicked, it will be a punishment. When the truth is revealed, when the game is up, they will feel the pain of having wasted their lives on emptiness and triviality. The greatest punishment is to discover that you got it wrong, that you built our life on false ground and missed out on doing so much good.3

The sun will shine. The question is, are you blocking the light or helping unveil the light? Is yours a life of enduring worth, or are you preoccupied with the pettiness that will one day melt away? The future is bright. You can help make it so.