"In the End We Will Win”
by Rabbi Chananya Weissman
Thank G–D. It was never really normal. It's finally going to become normal.
The transition phase in which we find ourselves is unsettling and difficult in many ways. We can expect to witness frightening events and cataclysmic destruction, as G–D settles old scores, Amalek and company are finally destroyed, and we ultimately enjoy a new world under G–D's order.
In the meantime, each of us needs to find the strength and inspiration to pull through the daily challenges. We lack trustworthy shepherds to guide us, and have seen so many of our presumed “religious leaders” expose themselves as phonies, cowards, and collaborators with Amalek. The people we counted on to lift us up are trying to pull us down, in the distorted name of Torah. Until Moshiach comes, we need to take greater responsibility for our spiritual welfare than we might believe we are capable of. There is just no choice.
This is the real Gog Umagog for us. Not the political upheavals and the space-age weapons. It is the war for our soul. It is the fight we have every day not to be dragged down by the headlines and the minutiae, not to delude ourselves into believing we have control over the situation. It is the fight to continue to learn Torah, overcome our personal struggles, help others, stay positive, and count only on Hashem for everything.
It sounds nice, of course, but how can I be confident that this is true? How do I know we shouldn't be planning an escape, or an armed revolt? Maybe we should spend these critical days stocking up on survival gear so we can hide in the woods until it's all over, as if the bad guys couldn't end that fantasy in minutes if they really wanted. How can I – neither a prophet nor a sage – know for sure what the proper approach is in the unprecedented time of Gog Umagog?
Because it isn't unprecedented. Gog Umagog is already on the books.
Chazal teach us that Hashem intended to make the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem the war of Gog Umagog, and for Chizkiyah to be Moshiach, but the opportunity was lost (Sanhedrin 94A). Unfortunate as this was, this episode in history is a golden resource for us. What better way to learn how to deal with our times than from what could have qualified as the actual story of Gog Umagog?
Here are some striking lessons from the Nevi'im and Chazal.
1. Sancheirev and his military were the superpower of the time. They conquered Israel and all the neighboring lands, displaced the populations, and crushed rebellions. All that remained of Israel after the exile of the ten tribes and the fall of Lachish was Jerusalem. Jerusalem was fortified with a wall, but defeating the Assyrians in battle was impossible in natural terms.
It wouldn't be Gog Umagog if Israel (and by this I mean the Jews of Israel, not the phonies in power) didn't have their backs against the wall. It must be unmistakable that Hashem is saving us from a truly impossible situation. The Jews, our enemies, and the rest of the world must see that G–D is in total control, and everything else is camouflage.
It is fast becoming apparent to the average person that once again we are in an impossible situation; only Hashem can save us, and any illusion to the contrary is being dispelled with each passing day. This should give us comfort as we see other attempts to overcome or escape the tyranny fail. These attempts must fail for Hashem's intervention to be undeniable. The sooner we surrender the fantasy of control, the easier it will be for us to weather the turbulence, and the more we will merit salvation. Besides, if the final war didn't end with Hashem saving us from an impossible situation, what would be the fun in that?
2. In the times of the first Beis Hamikdash the Jews often relied on foreign armies to protect Israel. The prophets castigated them for this; relying on other nations for protection is turning away from Hashem. Not once was this portrayed in a favorable light, irrespective of the practical or political considerations, and not once did this turn out well. For Israel to turn to the nations of the world to protect it is the ultimate desecration of G–D's name. This inevitably results in the very nation the Jews relied upon turning against them. Such was the case with Assyria.
Many Jews today continue to put their faith in the IDF, the Mossad, politicians, foreign aid, Jewish ingenuity, or any of the other laughable explanations for our survival. Hashem must teach them the hard way.
The IDF was on the brink many times in Israel's short history, and oftentimes cannot get out of its own way, yet continues to receive the credit for Israel's victories. Furthermore, the IDF is run in open defiance of the Torah in many respects. It prioritizes social engineering over military considerations, incorporating women into stations where they do not belong and promoting perversity. Religious soldiers are persecuted, particularly religious girls who want nothing to do with the army. The lives of Jewish soldiers and civilians are sacrificed on the altar of “world opinion” as a matter of policy. Kol Hakavod Latzahal indeed.
I expect the IDF to experience an epic setback – perhaps in an attack against Iran – that will shatter this heretical confidence in our own might and force a mass teshuva movement.
We have seen many times how fragile foreign aid is, the prices we are forced to pay in order to maintain “good relations” with our patrons, the human life that must be sacrificed “for the greater good”. Yet so many Jews, even “religious” Jews, insist that without this foreign aid Israel could not survive. This angers G–D, the true source of all “aid”, who would surely help us in a better, more dignified way if only we allowed Him to do so. We can expect all our patrons to turn openly against us and force us to turn to our only true patron – our Father in Heaven – and to depend on Him only. The Jewish nation must stand alone.
3. In the time of Chizkiyah, the bad guys reached the pinnacle before Hashem destroyed them. This is the flip side of the previous feature of Gog Umagog. It must be the nations of the world combining forces to destroy Israel. Sancheirev had conquered and assimilated the other nations under his rule. When he reached the very summit of his power, and was about to conquer Jerusalem, G–D sent an angel and struck his entire army dead in a single night.
Today the wealth and power of the nations has been almost entirely consolidated, and it is only a matter of time before their war on the Nation of Israel is brought into the open. They must reach the summit of their power so Hashem can cast them down in the most spectacular way, as only He can do. As disturbing as it is to watch our wicked enemies rise, destroying so much in their path, we must recognize that this is a necessary step leading to their ultimate destruction.
4. Gog Umagog is not merely a war for political or military control. It is a battle between good and evil, between G–D and those who wish to dethrone Him.
Whether Jews know it or not – whether they like it or not – they are G–D's ambassadors in this world. The nations of the world intrinsically know this. Everything that happens to the Jews both individually and collectively is a referendum on G–D's providence and rulership of the world. Those who hate the Jews, regardless of their excuse, really hate G–D. Those who wage war on the Nation of Israel, regardless of their tactics and weapons, are really waging war on G–D.
When Jerusalem was under siege, Sancheirev sent Ravshakeh, one of his top officers, to the walls of the city to mock the Jews and blaspheme the G–D of Israel. Ravshakeh urged the Jews to abandon Chizkiyah and his faith in Hashem, and surrender to the Assyrians. He claimed that the G–D of Israel would fail to save them from the mighty Assyrian army, just as the G–Ds of all the other defeated nations had proven impotent.
This open war against Hashem was a key component of the war. Openly blaspheming Hashem, and equating Him with the various false G–Ds of the world, is the best way to earn an epic downfall.
The same is happening in our times. We are experiencing a coordinated, worldwide war on G–D and creation. The bad guys want to know everything, own everything, and control everything, and there is no room for G–D in their plans. Those who truly place their face in G–D are mocked and slandered by the ignorant and brainwashed. Those who stand resolutely with G–D are the greatest thorn in the side of those who seek to displace Him. Speaking too much of G–D violates their “community standards”, and insisting on worshiping G–D is criminalized as a “danger to public health”.
Not since the Jewish people were chosen has there been such an organized worldwide attempt to displace G–D. Not surprisingly, Israel and the Jewish people are at the epicenter of this war, for we are G–D's ambassadors in this world. Just as Ravshakeh's blasphemy incurred G–D's wrath, those who seek to conquer the world today will be utterly destroyed in spectacular fashion. May it be soon.
5. Chizkiyah, the potential Moshiach, had less than a 50% approval rating. Shevna, one of Chizkiyah's top officers, led a movement to betray Chizkiyah and surrender to Sancheirev. Chazal teach us that Shevna's camp numbered 130,000 men, while only 110,000 men remained loyal to Chizkiyah (Sanhedrin 26A).
Imagine how demoralizing that must have been. Almost the entire land had already been conquered, ten tribes were exiled, Jerusalem was surrounded, and 55% of the remaining Jews defected to Shevna's treasonous camp. Imagine the newspaper headlines, the editorials, the political pundits, the memes on social media as Chizkiyah stubbornly held out, trusting in G–D.
We tend to believe that Moshiach will enjoy widespread popularity as he leads the Jews to redemption. Perhaps this will be the case, but it's likely that he will initially be opposed by the majority of his own people. Even “religious” Jews are spiritually assimilated in many ways, and Moshiach will make them very uncomfortable. If it was like that when we already had a righteous king and a Beis Hamikdash, it will almost certainly be like that today.
6. Naturally, things did not turn out well for Shevna. Chazal further relate that when he went to surrender to Sancheirev, Hashem sent the angel Gavriel to deter his followers, and Shevna reached the Assyrians alone. They believed Shevna was fooling with them, and killed him in a disgraceful way, as the prophet Yeshaya had foretold.
We are not told what happened of his followers. Presumably they were saved, and lived in shame thereafter.
The many Jews who seek to ingratiate themselves to our enemies will suffer a similar fate. The turncoats in positions of leadership are the Shevnas of our day, and the useful idiots who follow them will forever live in shame even if they are mercifully spared.
7. Chizkiyah made basic preparations to fortify the city and raise an army, but he had no delusions about the situation.
There is a remarkable Medrash about Chizkiyah's mindset during this frightful time. Chazal compare four righteous kings, each of whom turned to Hashem with a different request when faced with a war. David prayed to chase his enemies and destroy them. Hashem granted his request. Asa said “I don't have the power to kill them. Let me chase them, and You take care of it.” Hashem granted his request. Yeshoshafat said “I don't have the power to kill them or chase them, but I will sing and You take care of it.” Once again, Hashem granted his request.
Chizkiyah said “I don't have the power to kill them or chase them or sing, but I will sleep on my bed and You take care of it.” Hashem said, “I will do this.” That night, an angel came and struck dead the entire Assyrian camp, save a handful of survivors to return home in shame and tell the story (Eicha Rabba 4:15).
Chizkiyah had the weakest military and was in the most precarious situation. Instead of trying to do more than the other kings had done, he did the least of all. From the greatest depths of impossibility comes the most fundamental reliance on Hashem, for we are not obligated to do that which isn't possible. Chizkiyah was completely cornered by the Assyrians. There was essentially nothing practical he could do. So he made a heartfelt prayer, then got a good night of sleep.
This is someone who can be Moshiach.
What can we do today, really? Unlike previous epochs in history, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no realistic way to fight. Our enemies have all the power, all the weapons, and all the resources. The game is fixed against us in every way. We watch the monsters wage war on all that is holy and good, and we cannot even sing. So we must pray from our hearts, strengthen our faith, then get a good night of sleep, fully confident that G–D will destroy them.
8. When Chizkiyah was a child, his father, Achaz, passed him through fire in the worship of Molech. Chizkiyah's mother saved him from harm by anointing him with the blood of the salamander, which protected him from the flames (Sanhedrin 63B). The potential Moshiach, and progenitor of the eventual Moshiach, was nearly murdered as a child sacrifice.
How little things have changed! Once again child sacrifice has become the order of the day, the respectable choice, the socially responsible thing to do, indeed, a “religious” obligation. Our generation is no less primitive and monstrous than previous generations dating back to ancient times. The monsters of today have merely learned from their predecessors and developed superior methods to destroy humanity.
9. Chizkiyah “defeated” the Assyrian army without firing a shot. The war was won in the spiritual realm – where the true fight always takes place. Chizkiyah devoted himself to strengthening the Jews' bitachon (Pesachin 64A), increasing Torah study far and wide (Sanhedrin 94B), and abolishing idolatry. When times were tough, he turned to G–D in heartfelt prayer, put his complete trust in Hashem, then moved forward with his life. This formula merited miraculous salvation in the Gog Umagog of his time.
The formula has not changed. We lack prophets and great shepherds to lead us in this orphan generation, but they have provided us the guidance we need to navigate this extraordinary period in history. We do not need to endlessly stockpile supplies, or raise an army, or live in a cave, or drive ourselves crazy with fear. We will not defeat the enemies of G–D with lawsuits or protests or cleverness. We cannot beat them in a fight – but we don't have to. Chizkiyah went to sleep one night, and when he woke up it was all over. The mighty Assyrian army was a pile of corpses, and he went from a laughingstock to the envy of other kings.
G–D chose us to live in this time and to be aware of what's really going on. He did not do this to torture us, force us to watch helplessly as everything dear to us is destroyed, and suffer a bitter end, G–D forbid. He put us here to be His soldiers in an impossible war, which He will win for us, and to enjoy the everlasting fruits of this victory.
I don't know when this will end. I don't know the details of what will happen. But I know we will win, and I know it will all be worth it more than we can imagine. The monsters will be gone forever, everyone will recognize G–D, and then we will sing like never before.