They know, and are trying with their last burst of energy to stop it. As a man who is fighting for his life will muster superhuman strength to prevail over his opponent, so our enemies are using every ounce of strength they possess to try to put off the inevitable moment when their power will be stripped away. “Hear the word of Hashem, Oh nations, and relate it in distant islands, and say, ‘The One Who scattered Israel, He shall gather them in, and guard them as a shepherd does his flock” (haftarah, second day of Rosh Hashanah).
This scenario, of course, echoes the fate of biblical Mitzraim, which collapsed when confronted with the appearance of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Ten Plagues and the imminent revelation of the Torah on Har Sinai. Many great commentators, including the Chofetz Chaim, have told us that the Final Redemption will resemble the Redemption from Mitzraim, when all of Israel was saved from destruction.
“Gog and Magog add up to seventy [in gematria] which corresponds to the seventy nations. Gog will rule over seventy nations and all of them will join together against Israel…” (Alexander Aryeh Mandelbaum, quoting the Arizal in Redemption Unfolding).
This scenario can also be understood from the battle of Yaakov Avinu with the malach of Esau (Genesis 32:23). At the “break of dawn,” the angel finally had to admit defeat. Yaakov was victorious, but not until the malach wounded him. Indeed, now at the end of our Exile, although “beaten and torn” (Selicha 42), we are close to victory.
I want to quote from a great rabbi of the present generation who speaks about precisely this scenario: “As the approach of Mashiach nears, the leaders of the world all sense some danger to their power. They are clueless, however, as to why, and don’t even realize the extent of the danger that their kingdoms will crumble entirely. In response to the threat they perceive and as a result of their apprehensiveness, the kings blame their neighbors or even wage war against their own people! That tension brings war to the world.
“The practical instruction that flows from all this is that if we see nations fighting each other, we should anticipate Mashiach…. The leaders of the world cannot rest or sleep and they feel pressured, all because of the impending malchus of Hashem. They take it out on each other and fight wars, but only because they can’t read the real message.”
Here is another statement on the subject (from Redemption Unfolding): “All the nations of the world will participate in the War of Gog and Magog…to fight against Hashem’s people, who will be led by the Mashiach….
“ ‘In every generation they rose up against us to destroy us’ (Haggadah). [But] in every [previous] generation Hashem always arranged that a few nations do not join those who are against us, so that those very nations can serve as a refuge for us in times of persecution. However, in this Final War…all of the nations of the world will simultaneously rise up against us. It will be clear to all that there is no possibility of our survival by any natural means.”
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Not only do other nations panic because they feel an imminent threat to their power, but even Jews who are unwilling to acknowledge Hashem’s Kingship also panic and try desperately to marginalize or undermine Torah.
Before my wife and I became observant, I hated Torah and was embarrassed to be Jewish. I thought I could run away from the truth. In those distant days, my wife and I were walking down the streets of Rome when a stranger approached, and said, “landsman!” I was in shock. How did he know we were Jewish? (Come to think of it, how did I know what “landsman” meant?)
When my wife and I first got married (eleven years before our frum wedding), I refused to have a rabbi officiate. But my wife’s grandfather gave me an ultimatum: “A rabbi must officiate!” So we searched for the most liberal Reform rabbi we could find, and I added a condition: “No Hebrew in the ceremony!” Insane, no? What is a Hebrew word going to do to me? Will I break out in boils? But that’s how much I hated being Jewish.