Astronomers and other scientists say that life on earth has a finite amount of time to exist. There are different scenarios, but it seems inevitable there will be an end to life on Earth. There’s something slightly emotionally disturbing about the thought of the end of mankind even if it’s off in the future and I won’t be around for it: “You mean we won’t be here forever?”
Kabbalah also teaches that life as we know it won’t last forever. In fact, the universe is quickly coming to the end of its journey. The Jewish calendar counts our years as 5761. Parenthetically, this is not necessarily a negation of the present scientific viewpoint that the universe is billions of years old. This is a subject addressed by other authors. Read Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schroeder. It is stated that the world will last 6000 years. This means we have at most 239 years left. (I say at most because it is a Jewish belief that the messiah may come at any moment and thrust humanity into a new and different realm of being.) Although anyone reading this now won’t be around in 239 years to see it, this time period seems incredibly short. It is an interesting point that 239 represents a fraction of 1/25th of the total 6000 years. Kenneth Feder in The Past in Perspective quotes that single celled organisms appeared on earth 3.5 billion years ago. Christopher McKay of NASA Ames Research Center has a prediction that the earth will no longer be inhabitable in approximately 145 million years. If this is true, 145 million years represents the exact same fraction 1/25th of the total life span of 3.5 billion plus 145 million. According to science and Kabbalah we are at the very end of the cycle of life. To give an analogy, if the entire span of life is considered an hour we are in the last two and a half seconds. The finality, however, is not the main point.
We cannot possibly fathom the intent of an infinite Being in His creation of the universe. The perspective that He taught us to have is that it is for our pleasure. Man was created to come close to the infinite Being in every possible way. In order for this to take place there needs to be two periods: a period of challenge and struggle, and a period to realize the fruits of our labor. This world is the place of illusion, and striving for closeness to the Creator. It has a beginning and an end. The second stage is called “the world to come,” and will last for eternity. From a spiritual point of view, in order for our reality to make sense the world as we know it must end. If you suggest this world should continue forever, you’re willing to accept all the imperfections that we live with like war, hatred, famine, etc. We are in a limited and finite world where God’s existence is hidden. Is this a world that God is happy with? It can’t be that a wise, loving, and infinite Being would allow this to continue forever.
It is in this context that the kabbalists are writing; and the mystical perspective on history or historical events must be viewed in this way. We cannot see it, but there is a design in the history of man. Although we are given free will, all events that happen are part of a plan we are not privy to. Our choices cause a reaction on a spiritual level, but the entire production is being lead, directed, and influenced by the infinite Creator. It’s not merely that there is an end point to life on Earth, but somehow all mankind as a unit is being perfected. Many aspects of the creation we assume are random, like how many souls have to come into the world, have already been determined. Not only that, but our individual circumstances may be dictated for us for the sake of the perfection of humanity as a whole.
Kabbalah unites everyone who ever lived, or will live, under the banner of God’s will. His goal and purpose will be achieved no matter what. Our free will is whether or not to consciously be a part of it.