Weekly Hashkafa #61: The Last Era of the World—How to Survive Gog u’Magog

Given: August 16, 2021


Recap: Last week, I mentioned one of the indicators that we are close to the messianic era. I posed the question, what is the climate when mashiach comes, so I want to expand on that, the concept of prikas ohl—throwing off the yoke of precepts that G-d wants such as righteousness and holiness. The ultimate stage of throwing off the yoke is the war of Gog u’Magog (war of Gog from the Land of Magog).


Ultimately, it is about defying that which G-d wants man to abide by. There are different stages of defying the instructions of G-d; I’ll go through some of them. There are four stages to delineate. Fundamental to understand is that the time just before mashiach’s arrival is one of overthrowing the yoke which will be in sharp contrast to the climate once he is here, a climate of the opposite—ein od milvado—there is nothing besides Him, a climate to which the entire world will submit.


The Four Stages of Prikas Ohl—Overthrowing the Yoke


Stage 1: Man believes in G-d but doesn’t wholeheartedly adhere to His laws, desiring to indulge urges, needs, drives: pleasure, domination of others, seeking power and security, enslaving others. His rebellion is limited because he believes in / fears G-d, but his actions, consciously or unconsciously, compromise G-d’s authority.


This describes Esav who is Edom, which is Christianity and Western Civilization. Christianity and other religions mitigate G-d’s authority. It’s like “having your cake and eating it too.” There are various strategies: The worshippers attribute those characteristics to their god that they wish to assume themselves, to emulate. They can say, “We want to steal and G-d steals” or “G-d desires theft.” There are religions which are murderous and their conduct is attributed to G-d. Islam is a classic example. There are those who can say that service to G-d encompasses sacrificing others such as the Maya and Aztec.


Stage 2: Agnosticism, Atheism allows mankind to completely defy G-d’s edicts.


Stage 3: Mankind tries to destroy the Jewish people. The real cause of anti-Semitism is hatred of G-d. Jews are simply His ambassadors, bearing G-d’s message to a world that doesn’t want its freedoms curtailed. The slaughter of Jews over the last couple millennia is a protracted stage of defying G-d.


This last stage corresponds to the level of gaiva—arrogance present in civilization. There are different levels of it but, essentially, it is the distortion of self-identity in which a person ascribes to himself power and ability beyond that which he actually possesses. An extreme example is megalomania, a form of psychosis.


Gaiva Level #1-- Megalomania: The megalomaniac believes that his existence is supreme, that no one else really exists and, if they do, they are worthless. It is a person’s overestimation of his own status. People like Stalin, Hitler, some Roman emperors are examples.


Gaiva Level #2 -- Egocentricity: More common is the egocentric who acknowledge that others exist and have worth but whose function is to serve them, the egocentrist. They are the center of their own universe. A lot of them are psychopaths.


Gaiva Level #3 -- Arrogance: An arrogant individual acknowledges the existence of others but feel themselves superior. They believe in the inequality of mankind but only by virtue of their own existence, not having done anything particularly great.


Gaiva Level #4 -- Smugness, Self-righteousness: They regard themselves as equal to others but claim the right to be free to indulge their appetites. If I want to take a vacation, no one can defy my will. They feel there is a real yesh—insistence on existence by privilege; their will exists and no one can mitigate it.


These levels correspond to the stages of overthrowing the yoke that G-d has imposed on man.



The Final Attempt to Throw Off the Yoke—The War of Gog u’Magog


Another concept mirrors the worst expression of overthrowing the yoke—the famous war of Gog u’Magog. Who is Gog?—he who gathers the nations of the world to war against G-d. When a messianic figure emerges and it becomes apparent that the rebels’ way of life is ending and they will be annihilated, they go to war. It is a messianic war. It is the ultimate rebellion against G-d. At the End of Time, it is the last attempt to destroy the entire ethos of G-d.


We’ve had this throughout history. We see this in tehillim—Psalms, in perek beis—chapter 2. It is a messianic chapter saying: “Why do people gather and the nations talk in vain…..the kings of the earth take their stand to oppose, and the lords conspire secretly against G-d and against His anointed.” David says this in the second chapter. All conspire against G-d and “His anointed”—the messiah. What is the ultimate idea? He Who sits in Heaven laughs and mocks them, and speaks to them in anger, terrifies them and, ultimately, destroys them. The reason they do so is because they believe they exist independently of G-d and are entitled to their own will and can do what they want.


His anointed one is not only the messiah but also the Jewish people. They represent Him and are the bearers of the Torah, G-d’s message to the nations of the world. This is the ultimate battle of evil to overthrow good. It is the worst time in history. It seeks to destroy civilization which is what we are witnessing: tyrants, dictatorship, domination, destruction of the individual’s right to pursue his own rendition of happiness. The world has become a very dangerous place.



The Historicity of The War of Gog u’Magog and How to Cope


There have been such challenges to G-d’s primacy before: the dor ha’flaga—generation of the dispersion best known as the episode of the “Tower of Babel.” One nation attempted to overthrow G-d. It featured Nimrod, who the majority followed, and who attempted to kill Avraham by fire, and attempt from which Avraham emerged unscathed. The episode of that tower is a war of Gog, a first attempt. As I said in my lecture last week, the outcome culminates in G-d dividing mankind into many nations to distract them so the Jews will survive to complete their mission, the rectification of the Creation.


The next Gog war was with Egypt. Pharoah said he didn’t recognize the Hebrew G-d and refused to allow them to leave. That was a defiance of G-d and of the Jewish people themselves. G-d demonstrated his awesome power, supernaturally. At the Reed Sea came the pinnacle of the Gog war because it was to have been the End. The Jews were to have been redeemed, receive the Torah with Moshe as Mashiach ben Yosef. It was when Egypt attempted a final resurgence, a final attempt at conquest to destroy the Jews, to destroy G-d.


The way to sustain oneself through such turbulence was, and always is, with bitachon—trust in G-d. Moshe told the people they must sustain their faith. Having seen the miracles in Egypt, he reassured them that G-d would not abandon them.


Refraining from loshon ha’ra—evil, defamatory speech was Moshe’s second directive. A midrash—exegisis says that the Jews merited redemption because they refrained from such speech. G-d tells them “Watch the salvation of G-d; watch what I do; I will fight for you. Be silent.” To be silent means don’t complain that G-d has abandoned you. Don’t blaspheme or slander G-d. They obeyed and were saved but Moshe did not become mashiach due to the Sin of the Golden Calf.


A third incident involved the messianic candidate King Hezkiahu (Hezekiah). Our sages say that G-d wanted to make him mashiach. Who was Gog?--Sancherev. An army of 184,000 soldiers led by Sancherev surround Jerusalem to destroy it. At night, an angel moved through the enemy camp and miraculously killed all 184,000. Unfortunately, Hezkiahu didn’t sing shira—song of praise and thanksgiving to G-d for His awesome and majestic acts, so Hezkiahu did not become the messiah and this defining moment was an attempt that didn’t succeed.


It says in a midrash in parshat—bibilical portion “Tzav,” that the way the exiles will be gathered is only in merit of learning mishnayos--Mishna. G-d wants to rehabilitate the Jews before mashiach comes. Mishnayos is the entire oral law so if someone knows it b’iyun—in depth, he knows the entire oral law. If you learn it, you also fulfill it, as if you’d done those acts in the area you’re learning about. For example, if you learn about the sacrifices, then G-d considers it as if you brought the sacrifices. If you learn about the building of the beis ha’mikdash—Holy Temple, it is as if you built it.


It says by King Heziyahu that in searching throughout the land, it was seen that children had tremendous mastery of the laws of purity and impurity. As king, Hezkiyahu was able to enforce such learning. As king, he ordered learning by threat of the sword. All the Jewish people were masters of the oral law and, thereby, rehabilitated. That is why Hezkiahu did what the midrash said and G-d could have used him, Hezkiahu, as mashiach in a Gog u’Magog war against Sancheriv.


The Final Stage


We are now in the last tekufah—era of this world. What follows is a very interesting story that is relevant at this point. Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, who was the greatest talmid—student of the Chofetz Chaim, was once in London giving a lecture to a congregation called Machzikei Hadaas. This happened around 1937-38 while the Nazis were killing Jews. The congregants begged him not to go back to Baronovici, Second Polish Republic (now in Belarus), where he was the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohel Torah-Baronovich. He told them, quoting the Chofetz Chaim, “the messianic war of Gog will be split into three parts. Each will be a terrible destruction to the Jewish people. The first part was WWI and the second is to be WWII. There will be a third part. The reason G-d splits it up is to diminish its impact. Were it to be only one war, as it is written, only one or two families per city would survive. Rabbi Elchanan’s conclusion, as he told those begging him not to return, was that it didn’t matter whether he stayed or returned. The war will come here --in England-- too, eventually.


We are in the war already. The ultimate defiance of G-d and the Jews has been going on since the early 20th century. WWI was a tremendous destruction to Jewish communities all over Europe, with WWII being much worse.


Hitler hated the Jews so much, his hatred being that of a classic Amalekite, a resentment borne of the Jews making it impossible for mankind to compromise with G-d; indeed, Jews gave mankind a conscience. Mein Kampf was a justification for what Hitler intended. WWII is the second part of the Gog war against G-d and the Jews, with Hitler himself as an appointee of the Satan. As such, Hitler is an anointed figure, not an ordinary person. He had an obsession to destroy the Jews. The Nazis were methodical in their plans to murder European Jewry. It’s not as though they launched a war that just happened to kill many Jews.


The second unusual aspect of that war was Hitler’s intention to kill every Jew with unusual zeal. Even when a Jew’s blood was four times removed---as when someone had a Jewish great-great-great grandparent---that was enough to condemn you to death. Hitler made total use of the Jewish body. Usually in war, someone is killed and that’s it. Here, the skin was used to make lampshades, the body fats for soap. It was as if the Jew was a cow. That is how worthless the Jews were, like cockroaches; that is unusual. The extent of the murder and its brutality was also extraordinary. The ease of slaughter was unprecedented. It is hard to believe that people could do this to others. Murder squads, the Waffen SS, would accompany the Wehrmacht, the military unit, in its conquest of a city. Once the town was conquered, the death squad would round up all the Jews and kill them. It was their obsession. In William L. Shirer’s well known “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” it says that, toward the end of the war, Hitler’s generals told him that the war was being lost because the trains were being monopolized to transport Jews to concentration camps rather than to transport soldiers and supplies. Hitler told them to get lost; he couldn’t care less. As such, he could be regarded as one of the greatest traitors to Germany and its aspiration for victory. Hitler wasn’t interested in conquering nations except when such conquest could facilitate the killing for Jews.


That is a messianic war. Both world wars were messianic against G-d and the Jews. The only difference between these and the war to come is that these past wars were led by Magog. Gog was not present but will be in the final confrontation. One thing is clear. The brute force of Magog was expended in WWII. The final war won’t be as brutal. What G-d did was to absorb the terrible decree into those two wars.


I have no proof for this, but I think the following is true: Remember that Egypt is the template to understand the messianic process. Moshe Rabbeinu—Moses our teacher was born at a time when Pharoah decreed that all Jews have to die. Moshe was born into that. One reason is that the Satan must not know that the mashiach is born and on Earth. He is so busy prosecuting for Jews to die, that he is unaware of a messiah’s presence. The mashiach is always hidden because, were the Satan to know about a mashiach, he would do all he could to prevent the Redemption. I think it is possible that, just like Moshe was to have been mashiach born at a time of unspeakable brutality for the Jews, the mashiach we await was born during the Holocaust. This is what I believe though I have no proof. Mashiach’s neshama—Divine soul having been brought down, has to be concealed.



What the Wars Accomplish


Why does G-d want to conduct this type of a war against the Jewish people? Certain things have to be accomplished. The world today, as in the past, is at the “49th Gate,” that level of depravity that, were it to fall to 50, would render humanity irredeemable. G-d wants to press the restart button. The restart during the generation of Noah resulted in total destruction. The restart in Egypt did not require utter destruction of the planet but G-d had to “balance the books.” The Jews don’t deserve Redemption; they’re too far gone. That is why you have the concept of Gog. It isn’t just the dominance of evil that pervades the entire world. It is the suffering that ensues because G-d has the problem of having to undo the sins of Jews for thousands of years. G-d will bring Redemption only when justice has been satisfied and is completely quietened.


It is multi-deterministic. G-d uses the war of Gog u’Magog to resolve many problems. It balances the debt. It atones for sins, aggrandizes the enemy to demonstrate His awesome Might. G-d will overthrow the tyranny but does so against a phenomenal, formidable enemy to demonstrate His awesome power. G-d elevates evil to demonstrate his inestimable power to all the world.


Part of the concept, the purpose, of the Holocaust was to remove the Jews, the source of spirituality and holiness in the world. Without them, the world becomes darker and evil proliferates. Removing them and their Torah knowledge also removes their culpability because there are fewer kitrugim—Heavenly prosecutions. When the Jews hardly have Torah left, automatically they are regarded as less guilty. Removing culpability, the claim against them is reduced and they become worthier of Redemption.


We are waiting for the third confrontation to mark the end but be less severe. The Holocaust, the greatest evil ever perpetrated by man against man, also brought the merit earned when Jews die to sanctify G-d’s Name. They died because they were Jews. A Jew died representing G-d. That elevates the Jew’s neshama—Divine soul tremendously.


The world has never seen such wanton brutality. It is not just Germany. It was the German people too. And not just the German people, it was the Baltic states who were complicit. And then add greater Europe: the Vichy government, the British government that barred the way for Jews to escape to Israel. All of Europe was hostile to Jews. Many in the U.S. including Roosevelt, were against Jewish immigration. Even according to their own quota, they could have admitted millions, but they didn’t. It was an entire group of evil, a world war against the Jewish people and G-d. That is why the gematria—numerology of “Gog u’Magog” is “70,” the 70 root nations that were created when G-d dispersed mankind. WWII is the entire world against the Jewish people. There is no question that an enormous amount of the debt has been settled. But it isn’t finished. There is a tremendous rise in atheism, tyranny, man’s inhumanity to man. You would think with such advanced tech, man would learn not to behave this way. We are in the Gog u’Magog situation. We’re just waiting for the third part.


Right now, it used to be one nation, then another nation (against the Jews), but since most nations sit in the United Nations, it is Gog. It is always condemning the Jews; it is against Jerusalem. We are witnessing a rise in evil overall. Beyond China, North Korea, Iran, there is worsening anti-Semitism all over the world. What is so shocking is that America, which one could expect to be the last stronghold, fortress, for decency and dignity, has changed. There is nothing left except G-d. He will come back, gather everybody and take them away.


As it says in Prophets, “He will seek vengeance”—not because He is vengeful--but because, like the nations of the world, justice must be satisfied. Justice for them, in many ways, will be annihilation.


So, just as occurred at the splitting of the sea, we must trust in G-d that the Jews will be redeemed. There are many requirements that must be satisfied first. Things are speeding up and we are very close. Also important is to be careful not to speak loshon ha’ra—denigrating speech, slander, gossip. To do so creates hatred, destroys unity, and obstructs peace. In addition, foster love for your fellow Jew and learn Torah. At the end, we will learn why every event happened both collectively and individually.


Q & A


Participant: I thought that Gog u’Magog war involved him (Gog) sitting in a cave or (hiding) in a mountain…..


R’Kessin: You’ll have to show me the source for that. I am not familiar with it.


Participant: (continuing) What’s going on….it is going to get worse. What are we supposed to do, learn mishnayos….


R’Kessin: Have bitachon—trust in G-d and stick to ruchnius—spirituality. We are only a few weeks away from Rosh ha’Shana. Who knows what it will produce? And this coming year is shmita, a very propitious time for mashiach.


Participant: You see the terrible things: the fire in Israel, the earthquake in Haiti, the Taliban cr-p. Have you seen the footage of the fire in Israel?


R’Kessin: No


Participant: (continuing) If you are at the Kotel looking at the wall, it looks like a beautiful day, sunny, blue skies. Then you turn around and you see thick, thick clouds of ash.


R’Kessin: What the Jews have to realize… because this govt is terrible….Arabs hate the Jews by and large (the implication being that the fire resulted from arson). You can’t live together with Arabs. They must be separated. Israeli Arabs, citizens, demonstrated during the last war….rebelled against the Jews. How can you live with people who hate you, want to destroy you? They (Israeli leadership) don’t get it. Israel is so busy being proper, human, civilized, democratic, that they bend over backwards to do things that are insane. Israel has an inferiority complex in front of the goyimnon-Jewish nations. They are committing suicide. There is a great amount of Arab crime. Who will stop them? They can do this all day long and who’s to stop them? It doesn’t take much to kill people. The leaders are Eirev Rav and are so busy trying to placate goyim and trying to get the goyim to love them that they don’t realize that Jews must live alone, and not only in order to observe their religion. G-d says in the Torah that the 70 nations in Israel must be destroyed because they will tempt you to worship idols and because they hate you. Islamic theology hates the Jewish people because Jews have rejected Islam. It will never go away.


Participant: When you were talking about how Hezkiahu didn’t sing shira….if we sing shira now, would that speed up the process to bring the geula?


R’Kessin: It could….express gratitude for all the mercies G-d has shown us. Many people are so busy enjoying the gifts they’ve been given that they forget how they got them.


Participant: If we thank ha’Shem—“the Name,” referring to G-d for the actual pain, wouldn’t that speed up the bringing of Light?


R’ Kessin: Any mitzvah a Jew does can speed up the Redemption. But there are a certain number of requirements: diminish culpability, satisfy justice, bring atonement, demonstrate His power. All these have to take place, like in Egypt, but they will happen. The critical thing is to hold on. G-d says that even if you are outcasts at the ends of heaven, from there, I will gather you. It is an incredible promise. G-d says I will come to that place and shlep you out and bring you to me. The first thing is physical separation accomplished through giving us Torah. Then I will bring you to me, which is to bring you to Eretz Yisrael to the mashiach and the beis ha’Mikdash—Holy Temple. Unlike Egypt, that redemption only involved one nation; this is global. How will G-d remove all the Jews from all the nations? We don’t know. There are over two hundred countries. How to convince Jews to leave? We don’t know. Yet, G-d will not leave one Jew behind. It will be the greatest miracle ever known in all of Creation. It will make the redemption from Egypt look like a kindergarten party. And it is permanent, no going back to what was. And every Jew will have more honor than any Jew has now. They were treated like ants in the Holocaust. And this will be the messianic era, not in the Garden of Eden or the Future World! And this era of grandeur for the Jews will last over two hundred years, not three. There will be unbelievable joy to compensate for thousands of years of misery, suffering and torture. This is the promise G-d made. And he never reneges on a promise. Never.


Participant: The messianic era will be from the year 6,000-7,000?


R’Kessin: No. The year 6,000 is when this world ends. The messianic era is before that. There is 219 years left to go. The messianic era ends in 6,000. After that, the universe is transformed and we’re not even on this planet. We will be in another place, probably Gan Eden and we don’t even know what that means. Like a child before it is born. It cannot conceive of a world outside the uterus. We cannot conceive of a reality not like this world. The messianic era is part of the 6000 years.


Participant: Didn’t you say that t’chiyat ha’meitim—resurrection of the dead takes 210 years?


R’Kessin: It will take 210 years and the messianic era starts before. It starts right before resurrection and will continue, so there are people who will get up at the end of the messianic era. There will be people who will have missed most of it.


Participant: There are those who will have never experienced it?


R’Kessin: I’m sure everybody will be up….maybe some five months before it is over because their neshamot--souls couldn’t arise, have too much zoama—spiritual force causing degradation and entropy from too much sinning and (the insufficiency of needed) gilgulim—reincarnations until everything is erased. Everyone will experience it the messianic era. The question is--how much?


Participant: You know how Ya’akov Avinu—Jacob our father--said “redu shama,” the hint that the slavery in Egypt would be reduced by 210 years…..


R’Kessin: Yes. Let’s see….we are nine years from when resurrection must begin but I believe the messianic era will start before the nine years….that Mashiach ben Yosef and even Mashiach ben David will be here before then. G-d isn’t just going to wait around and allow the “LGBTQ-plus” to take over the planet, which is happening, and the incredible injustice and butchery. The world is in a death spiral. Therefore, G-d will act. He has to clean up the last vestige of filth. That is why things are so intense. That is why America is falling so quickly. In only five or six months, Biden has destroyed much of the Earth. It’s incredible to watch people, how deluded they are. The speed of deterioration is incredible, just like in Egypt. G-d wanted to end it quickly. That is why He made Pharoah give the decree that the Jews would have to gather their own straw to make the bricks, worsening their enslavement. G-d didn’t want to dilly-dally. Evil is coming at this world from all directions. Iran is much worse with this guy Raisi who is a certified murderer, the new president of Iran. And you have Hezbollah lobbing rockets into Israel, the Taliban taking control, fires in Jerusalem. How long can this continue? This is an intensified effort to end it. And then there is shmitaSabbatical year and, after, yovel—Jubillee year. Rava said mashiach comes with yovel.


Participant: Does he come before or during yovel?


R’Kessin: Probably during…Remember when we say “he comes,” it means he will be known. So, he will probably be freed in the shmita year.