Around seven years' ago, Rav Shalom Arush suddenly started warning everyone that war with the Arab states surrounding Israel was imminent.
I remember being glued to the shiur of his English-language translator, Rabbi Lazer Brody, as Rabbi Brody said: 'All-out war is imminent'. What sparked this off was the threat of millions of Arabs trying to cross the border into Israel as part of an organised march.
At that time Rav Arush said that people were completely underestimating the impact of what millions of Arabs trying to surge into the country could achieve, even if they were unarmed and apparently 'peaceful'.
In the event, nothing came of this and Rav Arush later explained that a number of the nations' tzaddikim had got together and managed to cancel the decree, or at least to push it off to some in the future.
Tomorrow, Seder night, the first night of Pesach, Hamas is trying to arrange for a million Gazans to try to 'rush' the border with Israel. Again, this could be something, it could be nothing, but given the 'atmospheric stress' nearly all of us are picking up at the moment, I can't help feeling something is around the corner.
Yesterday night, I woke up at 4am to find a gale blowing around - winds of over 50 mph were blowing around Jerusalem and are still going, although now they are more like 30 mph. Doors were slamming, washing was trying to fly away, trees were bowing and bending - and I suddenly felt a huge sense of panic.
Not so much because of the wind, more a feeling that 'something' is going down.
Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Who knows. In the meantime, I went to find Rav Arush's comments on the war of Gog and Magog from seven years ago, and I'm reprinting them below, as they seem as timely as ever.
And I hope this time of harsh judgment will pass as uneventfully as all those that have come before it.
Rabbi Shalom Arush: The Final Struggle of the Gog-Magog War
It’s no longer a dream: all of our contemporary spiritual leaders have expressed that this is the final generation before Moshiach. Just as in a hand-to-hand combat situation, when a fighter gets the upper hand and is close to defeating his enemy, then the enemy summons all of his strength in one final effort to overcome. If the fighter withstands the enemy’s tremendous final effort, then he wins, but it’s not easy.
The fighter is the Nation of Israel, the Jewish people all over the world. The enemy is the Yetzer Hara, the Evil Inclination (EI). The people of Israel are fighting for emuna, for truth, for the values of Torah. The EI is fighting tooth and nail against emuna, against any mention of Hashem’s name. The EI knows that only emuna (faith in the Sovereign Power G-d) can bring Moshiach; once Moshiach comes, the EI is finished. Therefore, he’s using all his forces to try and destroy emuna.
You don’t have to wait in dread for the war of Gog and Magog to begin – it has already started.
The prophecies lead us to believe that Gog and Magog is a physical war; we live with a daily threat from not only Iranian missiles, nuclear attack, and Qassam missiles. We can’t even trust that a tractor or a bulldozer isn’t being operated by a suicide bomber. Iran is open declaring that it wants to wipe Israel off the map; Hamas controls Gaza and the Hizbulla has a free hand in Lebanon to do what it pleases. The term powderkeg is an understatement.
In effect, Israel is safer than Europe or the USA. Consider 9/11 in New York City, the murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris, and the subway bombings in London, together with a tremendous resurgence of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, Australia, and South Africa. Jews around the world aren’t safe either. Worse than anything, thousands of Jews have been exiled from their homes within Israel itself, and thousands more are now being threatened with exile. This far surpasses our darkest nightmares.
Yet, despite the physical threats, Gog and Magog is a spiritual war; nuclear weapons might be able to destroy a Jewish body, but the Jewish soul, a tiny spark of Hashem, lives on forever. Gog and Magog is a global assault to destroy emuna, the pure and complete faith in Hashem.
By destroying emuna, Gog plans to sever the Jewish soul from the Creator, Heaven forbid. When a soul is severed from the Creator, it withers, and dies a spiritual death. The death of a soul is a far greater tragedy than the death of a body.
These are the most difficult times in over 3300 years of Jewish history. Never has there been so much assimilation. Assimilation kills 100 times more than international terror. It used to be confined to the USA and Europe, but now, it’s even hit Israel. Not long ago, I got a call from a broken-hearted mother whose daughter fell for a handsome classmate in Hebrew University – only, the classmate was an Arab. The daughter is now living in an Arab village near Ramalla, and her kids could conceivably grow up to be shahidim, suicide bombers.
This period is so difficult, with so many tests in emuna that the Talmudic sages said Yete velo achimena, let Moshiach come, but we don’t want to be a part of the generation that receives him.
Intermarriage, divorce, unbearable emotional and financial problems – just thinking about the problems of this generation is enough to give anybody a migraine.
There’s only one way to overcome the final onslaught of the EI – each of us has to add the light of emuna to the world. The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said that a little bit of light can defeat a whole lot of darkness.
The Torah in Parshat Vayishlach says that Jacob sent “Malachim” to Esau. Malachim has a double meaning in English, both “angel” and “messengers.” Rashi interprets that Jacob sent actual angels, for he had angels at his disposal.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan, II:1) that Hashem created the Jewish soul so that it could reign over the angels. This is the ultimate purpose of Jacob’s descendants, that by their prayers, their ability to rule over their own bodily urges, and their good deeds (since each good deed creates an angel of holiness), they rule over the angels.
Where did Jacob get angels from? Jacob reached a tremendous spiritual level, and thus achieved a tremendous control over the angels in his lifetime. But even so, as the holy Zohar teaches, Jacob didn’t trust his own ability. He, like all other subsequent tzaddikim – all descendants of Jacob – cried out in prayer to Hashem. This principle is the underlying theme of this series.
With everything that tears my heart, one thing hurts me more than anything else: Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that when Israel was in exile in Egypt, even worse than their bodies, their power of speech was in exile. That means that they couldn’t pray. They couldn’t talk to Hashem. In other words, they were in deep spiritual slumber.
I am fighting to keep my emunah each and every day. Despite the headlines in the news, the atrocities perpetrated by our enemies, the atrocities perpetrated by our co-religionists, and my own failings, I cling with faith to Hashem. I realize the yetzer hara is testing me, and this is what I remind myself when I feel like slipping back to old habits.