Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 23 November 2019 / 25 Heshvan 5780

Is This the End?

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From: Jim in Charlotte, NC

Dear Rabbi,
There is so much chaos and crisis in the world all the time. Is this the end of the world?

Dear Jim,

Is what the end of the world?

A principle of Jewish faith is the belief in "Mashiach," a messianic era in which the world reaches a state of tikun and perfection. Rather than a twisted gnarl of meaninglessness, history is a meaningful yet misunderstood process approaching ever closer to its perfection.

This revolutionary idea is the gift to Mankind from the Jew. The words emblazoned on the United Nations building, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore," is the vision of a fifth century BCE Sabbath-observant, kashrut-observant Jew, Isaiah. He lived Israel. He said it in Hebrew.

This war-less world will be "at the end of days" (Isaiah 2:4) when the nations will realize that Judaism and the Torah are true and that the Jews are chosen to convey the Torah's message to the world. Everyone will look to Jerusalem and the Jews for direction; all war will cease because everyone will submit to Jewish sovereignty under the rule of a benevolent, enlightened monarch, the Mashiach.

Does this look like it's about to happen?

Still, the great turmoil, mass destruction and the "War of Gog and Magog" which are to precede the great era of peace have all been predicted in our sources; according to prophecies in our Bible and Rabbinic writings, the nations will wage war against each other and against Jerusalem, and the descendants of Ishmael will wage war against all the other nations of the world.

Does this look like it's about to happen?

The great Sage Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, known as the "Chafetz Chaim," said that "Gog and Magog" would be a three-stage process, stage one of which was the First World War. He predicted that another war even more devastating would follow in about 25 years (WWII) and said that this war would be stage two, after which there would eventually come a third war.

So, on the one hand, when we look at the horizon, we definitely don't see a peace-filled utopia anywhere out there. On the other hand, Jewish tradition tells us that it is there, and that each day brings us one day closer to it. And just as one hour and a half on September 11th seemed to change the whole world for the worse, so too can the world ever so quickly change for the infinitely better.

  • Sources: Isaiah 2:4; Shemot Rabbah 1; Zecharia 14; Ezekiel 38; Zohar Chadash Shir Hashirim 10; Lev Eliyahu Shemot p. 172; Chafetz Chaim story related by Rabbi Shimon Schwab, zatzal, who witnessed the incident

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