How Exile used to be
And some relative quiet in between.
Such were the unfortunate but typical fate of Jews in the vast majority of diasporas for the last 2000 years.
The source of all trouble: The hostile gentiles, the hosts of the wandering Jews.
Jews themselves were obviously not persecuting each other.
Rarely would Jews willingly cross the border of their Jewish Faith to join the oppressing religion.
Even more rarely would such apostates be involved in perpetrating trouble against their ("former") brothers.
Scientific Revolution (17th Century) and Age of Enlightenment (18th Century) introduced sweeping changes across the societies of Europe and the rest of the civilized world.
The Jewish Community was not spared from the impact of these powerful waves.
The European Enlightenment led to the formation of Jewish secular movements, such as the HASKALA (Jewish “Intellectualism”).
The Haskalah promoted study of language, science and philosophy. It sought to integrate Jews with the growing intellectuals around them. It was so successful it even reached the Jews under Arab rule (Sefaradim) and impacted them as well.
Was that a bad thing?
Intellectual enlightenment -- the study of science, music and art -- is "Kosher" if done in the right way and for the right reasons.
During this period in History, studying Secular Education was the gateway to abandoning tradition and never looking back. The outcome speaks for itself -- over 80% of the young generation that were born in Jewish villages (Stetl) in Poland after 1880, discarded their Jewish observance, due to the Haskalah and Socialism.
Ironically, this very Enlightenment forms part of the Good Signs for the Coming of Moshiach (to be elaborated on in future topics, G-d willing). However it has also been the vehicle for these Unpleasant Signs...
Russia hosted a big (the biggest) chunk of world Jewry.
Here too, there were antisemitic governments (Tsars) and pogroms.
Here too, Haskalah hit hard.
The most notable impacts were:
Where it hurt the most
Young Jewish children drafted away from their parents and community at age 12 to "train" and serve in the Russian Army.
Powered by the Government but instigated and assisted by the Haskalah -- the doorway into the Jewish Communities.
This was during the years 1827 to 1856, seeing over 50,000 Jewish boys lost in assimilation.
Introduction of mandatory Secular Education into the Jewish Day Schools by "qualified" teachers (through Haskalah accreditation).
These teachers specialized in subtly undermining Jewish tradition while playing up secular values.
Formation of the Yevsektsia in 1918 - 1929, the Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party.
Its mission was to simply destroy traditional Jewish life.
The ensuing impacts on the Jewish Community were untold.
Independent solution to Exile
Out of all the surging troubles threatening Jewish continuity, yet another powerful movement was formed within the Jewish Community: Zionism.
The goal of Zionism: Jews should have their own independent (secular) state.
This will allow the Jews to look after their own safety and advancing their own affairs, in stark contrast to the Exile status quo of relying upon Anti Semitic governments to protect them, which obviously wasn't working even with the recent secularization and assimilation.
Zionism's nationalist goal was achieved when the State of Israel was established in 1948. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Jews have migrated, and are still migrating to Israel.
More about Zionism -- later on, G-d willing.
All four signs have been
in the above-mentioned events*
1. Informers will increase
Never in history* have we seen such organized Jewish forces like the Haskalah and Yevsektsia crystallize and act in alliance with the antisemitic authorities to destroy Judaism.
These were the "strong winds" that attempted to destroy the "Jewish Tree".
2. Scholars will decrease
With so many Jewish children drafted to the Russian Army, Jewish day schools taken over by the Haskalah, and then all Jewish schools closing down (in Russia), as well as two World Wars happening around the same time, Torah students and Torah learning hit a history-record low.
So the roots that keep the Jewish Tree alive have been significantly reduced, jeopardizing the future of the Tree, even with no winds, de-fertilization, and old age. How-much-more-so with them three.
3. Wallets will become empty of coins
Throughout history, Jews suffered economically as well.
But no matter how little funding was available, Torah institutions were supported. These kept the Jewish Tree alive.
With mass secularization, funds that were previously spent on Torah Institutions were sent to cultural and political "Jewish" institutions, which did not advance Jewish values and often acted against them.
Such institutions are like weeds around the Jewish Tree, exhausting the local nutrients, which not only stop the tree from growing but also jeopardize its existence.
The "Wallets" refer to the pools of funds (bank accounts) of the Torah Institutions* which were forced to close or at most really struggle to survive.
Jews always believed redemption from the troubles of Exile will come from G-d (and what we need to do is fix up our sins).*
The motive behind Zionism however is different: We have to take matters to our own hands to obtain salvation as it ain't coming from Above. Effectively this is giving up on the Redemption (and G-d) and devising alternative means to secure the future.
The Jewish Tree (hope for G-d's Redemption) has grown too old and is perishing as the masses veer toward Zionism and the State of Israel which have supposedly superseded it.
4. People will give up on the Redemption
The Signs haven't gone away
The impacts of the above signs are ongoing, as can be readily seen in the Post World War II Era.
Here are some:
Assimilation keeps trending up
Majority of Jews identify themselves as "Secular"
Hatred of Judaism within Jewish camp
So according to these four signs, Moshiach is ready to come (and has been for a while now...)
We still need to understand:
How is the Jewish "Tree" managing to survive these Signs??
How these signs indicate the arrival of Moshiach? Seemingly there is no connection...
Why does Moshiach's arrival depend on these signs?
Why Moshiach hasn't come yet if these Signs have already happened?
REFERENCES AND NOTES
How all four signs have been fulfilled: See the book "Bet Hashoeva" pp 66-69. It then also becomes clearer how all these four signs are not isolated from each other, but are four different aspects of the same historical chain of events, starting with Enlightenment and ending with Zionism.
Never in history has there been such organized Jewish forces like the Haskalah and Yevsektsia to destroy Judaism: Well, the Hellenists came close. In the times when the Greek Empire was ruling over Israel, there formed a significant movement within the Jewish People to adopt the popular Greek culture. However, although affecting the highest levels within the Jewish Government (High Priest), there was no persecution of the people to adopt the new faith by the Hellenists. It was the attractive new culture that was endangering Jewish Tradition. Later on, when the Syrian Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes started using brutal force to suppress Judaism (the first religious persecution in history, eventuating in the victory of Chanuka) it was him and his Syrian soldiers who were the force behind it, not the Hellenists.
"Wallets" refer to the bank accounts of Torah Institutions: The Rashash's (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) commentary on Rashi's commentary on Talmud Sanhedrin 97a, based on the Mishnah's plain reference to wallet (כיס - "kis") as that of a Charity (see Ketubot 6:5). However he puts a positive spin on this to say people will be so rich that even the smaller donations will not consist of small coins (פרוטה - "pruta").
Redemption coming from G-d: See Deuteronomy 30:1-5 and many places throughout the Prophets. Regarding whether and how G-d's salvation depends on our repenting -- see Talmud Sanhedrin 97b, and Rambam Laws of Repentance 7:5. Jewish Tradition and Law are clear that our actions go only as far as arousing Salvation from Above (through Moshiach), not making the Redemption happen regardless and independent of the Almighty, Heaven forbid.