With countries like North Korea and Iran building nuclear weapons, and the war in the Ukraine pushing Europe to the brink of World War Three, the Hamas attack on Israel is threatening to be the spark that ignites the prophesied war of Gog and Magog that pits the forces of good against the forces of evil as a prelude to the Messianic era. This image grows even sharper after considering Jewish sources that predict the end-of-days conflict will come directly after the holiday of Sukkot.
On October 7, thousands of Hamas terrorists infiltrated into Israel from Gaza, murdering over 1,300 Israelis and taking hundreds of hostages in what was the most horrifying day in Jewish history since the Holocaust. The Islamist terrorists initially intended for the attack to fall on October 6, the anniversary of the disastrous Yom Kippur war of 1973. But Hamas delayed the attack for two days, choosing to attack on Shabbat when they assumed the IDF would be less prepared as many soldiers would be on leave, celebrating the holiday of Simchat Torah with their families. The terrorists also hoped to carry out an attack at the Supernova music festival attended by about 3,500 young people that was held that night in a dusty field outside the Re’im kibbutz, about 3.3 miles from the border that separates Gaza from southern Israel.
That day will indeed be remembered for the tragedy that took place. But it should also be remembered that it was the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, the holiday of Simchat Torah, referred to in the Torah as Shemini Atzeret (Eighth [day of] Assembly). While it is sometimes thought to be the summation of the Sukkot holiday that precedes it, Shemini Atzeret is a holiday unto itself.
The Bible says: “Seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to Hashem. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to Hashem; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations”(Leviticus 23:36)
It is a holiday that comes after Sukkot. The intrinsic connection between the joyous holiday of Sukkot and the horrific final battle of Gog and Magog that precedes the final redemption was described in an article by Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler in 2015:
“The apocalyptic War of Gog and Magog, the final war that is part of the Messianic process, is mentioned in two places in the Bible – in the Book of Ezekiel, starting in chapter 38, and in the Book of Zechariah, beginning in chapter 12,” Dr. Adler wrote citing a lecture given by popular speaker Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi.
“The numerical value of the Hebrew term “Gog u’Magog” (גוג ומגוג) is 70, Dr. Adler wrote. “According to Mizrachi, this is an allusion to the 70 nations that make up the world. When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, 70 oxen were sacrificed during the week of Sukkot. Each of these 70 oxen represented one of the original 70 nations.”
She went on to explain that on the Sabbath that falls during the week of Sukkot, the section of the Books of Prophets that is read in synagogues all across the world comes from the Book of Ezekiel (38:18-39:16). This passage discusses the war of Gog and Magog which is predicted to come before the Final Redemption of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Mizrachi also stated that the only reference to Gog and Magog in the Talmud is in the tractate named Sukkot. Amidst a discussion of the death of the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) in Messianic times, the Talmud speaks of the mourning that will accompany the death of Moshiach ben Yosef (the first Messiah from the Tribe of Joseph) who will be killed in the War of Gog and Magog.
In Jewish eschatology, Gog and Magog are leaders that head a confederation of enemies who rise against Israel. The war will be devastating, but the armies of Gog and Magog will ultimately be defeated by the king of Israel, ushering in the Messianic era.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prolific end-of-days writer, was clear that
“The world is polarized like never before on every issue, divided essentially between the forces of good and the forces of evil,” Rabbi Winston said. “That is what the War of Gog and Magog is supposed to do; have people self-identify whether they are for God or against God. It is very clear cut.”
“The Hamas attack was on a level of atrocities that we rarely see in this day and age. It made that choice very clear. Yet there are many people who support it, who are calling it a moral imperative to support the attack against Israel, even to celebrate it.”
He noted that the attack had precisely the opposite effect in Israel.
“One day before the attack, Israel was completely divided. After five years of indecisive elections, there were massive protests. The Arabs were carrying out terrorist attacks on a regular basis and we were still divided. Jews were stopping other Jews from praying on Yom Kippur. Then, one day after Shemini Atzeret, that was all forgotten like it had never happened. Israel was one family joined together in mourning.”
“This usually happens in war time in Israel but this time, the disunity was so great that war would not have brought us together. This attack was the price we paid for that level of disunity.”
Rabbi Winston said that normal moral standards were reversed when dealing with Israel.
“Russia was declared to be evil when they carried out an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, killing Ukrainian civilians,” Rabbi Winston said. “Using that standard, Hamas, which carried out an unprovoked invasion targeting civilians, should be vilified. But the same people who are condemning Russia are praising Hamas.”
“Of course, they say they are supporting the Palestinians, but the murder of 1,300 Israelis turned that cause into a celebration.”
“Every time there is a great building as a stage of geula (redemption), it is preceded by a massive destruction. 400 years of slavery, the murder of babies, ten plagues, all preceded the Exodus from Egypt.The destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian Exile preceded the building of the Second Temple.The Holocaust preceded the State of Israel.”
“That is another reason why Gog and Magog precede the Messianic era.”
Rabbi Winston referred to a Kabbalistic concept called shvirat ha’kelim (the breaking of the vessels).
“This world is not strong enough to contain the great light of God so it shatters. This sometimes happens to people when they try to become closer to God. It is our job to rebuild the vessels in a way that is stronger. For Jews, this is accomplished by performing mitzvot (Torah commandments.”
“The world is not ready for the Messianic era and the light it will bring. The world is being broken so we can work hard at rebuilding it. That was not a simple terrorist attack. Something deep and essential in the world was broken. Some people are working at fixing it and others are joining Gog and Magog.”
Rabbi Winston emphasized that Hamas is precisely the opposite.
“It is clear that Hamas was not fighting for freedom or to end an occupation. They wanted to show the world what they wanted to be, what they wanted to do, what they worship. They wanted to show the world the horrors that they are and have the world celebrate it. And much of the world did.”
Rabbi Winston said that the world has changed since the Hamas attack.
“Think back. World War One changed everything. World War Two did even more. 9/11 changed everything. People can’t even remember what the world was like before COVID. The war on Ukraine changed everything.”
“This attack was COVID part two. It was a paradigm shift, for Israel and the world. Travel is suspended, kids are out of school. There are a lot of similarities.”
But the rabbi emphasized that the end has been revealed in prophecy.
“If you are expecting the War of Gog and Magog, you will miss the bigger picture,” Rabbi Winston said. “This is the prelude but not just to a war, and not even the prelude to the Third Temple. This is the whole shebang. This is geula shlema, complete redemption in all its wondrous glory.”