In 2022, approximately five years from now, a new star will appear in the night sky. Scientifically speaking, the appearance of this nova is the product of the collision of two other astral bodies. And for six months this new star will—to the naked eye—be the brightest in the heavens. Given that this is the first time that people will be able to witness a moment like this without technology, it’s a significant event in human history, but it may be much more than that. According to one rabbi, this new star is a sign of the coming of the Messiah.
Rabbi Yosef Berger, a rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, has proposed that the star is a fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy from the book of Numbers, in which a star precedes the arrival of an important military leader: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the borderlands of Moab, and the territory of all the Sethites” (NRSV Num 24:17)
The prophecy itself is significant because the speaker is not Moses, the Bible’s quintessential prophet, but Balaam, a historically attested outsider and foreigner. Jacqueline Vayntrub, a biblical studies professor at Brandeis University, told me, “The inclusion of a foreign prophet, Balaam, in a narrative history of Israel is puzzling. But when you realize that the story is about an important, well known foreign prophet who is blessing Israel, it makes a whole lot more sense. Moses, as Israel’s insider, of course wants the best for Israel; but even a famous foreign prophet blessing Israel, now that’s interesting.”