A prominent rabbi recently gave a warning that the pre-Messianic War of Gog and Magog is already being fought through the encroaching reach of technology – and everyone on earth is a soldier on the battlefield as they sink deeper into a virtual world of screens.
Explaining that the prophesied pre-Messianic battle of Gog and Magog is an entirely spiritual battle on an unprecedented scale, Rabbi Shalom Arush, a prominent leader in the Hasidic movement in Israel, said in a recent interview that “technology and the mass of online abomination [is] spiritually murdering people and tearing them from Hashem (God).”
“The Evil Inclination has never been stronger in history,” he warned.
“Gog and Magog are the chatrooms, the texting, the screens and social media that render people zombies, unable to think, communicate or read.”
The prophesied War of Gog and Magog is normally understand as a military conflict fought between nations. However, there are many Torah scholars, including Rabbi Meir Kagan, one of the greatest Torah authorities of the twentieth century, who understand the prophecy of Gog and Magog as referring to a great spiritual battle fought not with guns and tanks, but within souls.
Internet psychology researcher and professor Dr. Yair Amichai-Hamburger agreed that Rabbi Arush’s warning, while expressed in spiritual terms, is “a powerful truth that needs to be addressed.”
Dr. Amichai-Hamburger, director of the Research Center for Internet Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and author of a recent book on the subject, has been researching the damaging effects of the internet on the human psyche for over two decades. He realized early on that new technology, intended to bring people closer together, was actually contributing to loneliness and depression.
“The old world we used to have a place to be with ourselves, and in the new world we don’t,” Dr. Amichai-Hamburger explained to Breaking Israel News. “Today, people get their self-esteem online and they are losing themselves. There is no more self. The group is actually deciding how worthy we are, what is good and bad. Society values the internet, even in cases that show it is clearly damaging.”
He also noted that the internet affords a distance and anonymity that can lead people to aggressive and harmful communication they would not normally engage in face-to-face.
Dr. Amichai-Hamburger agreed with Rabbi Arush’s claim that the new obsession with phones, computers and internet is “destroying families.” The professor explained that connectivity has added a new demand on people – multitasking – which is especially destructive to parenting.
“People are convinced that multitasking is a positive value, and that when they aren’t engaged in more than one thing, they are somehow doing something wrong,” Dr. Amichai-Hamburger said.
“[But] multitasking is actually damaging. By trying to be in many places at once we are actually nowhere. People think they can have quality time with their loved ones while they are actually focusing on the cell phone and there is no interaction at all. Children especially pick up this message from their parents.”
For the same reason, portable connectivity is destroying the foundations of religion, the professor continued, pointing out the very real ways in which Rabbi Arush’s spiritual warning manifests in everyday life.
“Prayer is about forgetting everything around you, the daily pressure and focusing on your relationship with God in a divine moment,” Dr. Amichai-Hamburger, a religious Jew, explained. “Being attached to your cell phone destroys this since once you have connected to the group, there is no ‘self’.”
“People feel that even during prayer they have to multitask,” continued the professor, saying that he has witnessed people texting while praying.
He believes the problem has potential to escalate into a crisis, as Rabbi Arush predicted.
“The internet is now a normative and acceptable addiction, and like any addiction, this is only going to get worse,” he warned. “To keep the group’s interest, people need to abandon their privacy and their individuality to an even greater degree.”
Rabbi Arush stated that there is only one strategy to win this pre-Messianic spiritual battle: faith.
“The only way to fight this war is to get the screens out of our lives and to return to emuna (belief), Torah and prayer,” Rabbi Arush said, adding, “Few people will heed me, even in the religious world … I pray that Hashem will have mercy.”
Dr. Amichai-Hamburger suggested a different tactic: using the internet itself to win the battle against evil.
“Communication is a powerful tool that can be used for great good or great evil,” he said. “The same technology that is a tool that is bringing this war is the tikkun (fixing) that will empower us to win this war. We live in an age of a higher demand of responsibility. We have more power to do bad, but also more power to do good.”
Despite his formidable message, Rabbi Arush gave words of hope that even this battle will be won.
“[The Messiah] will conquer the world with his prayers,” Rabbi Arush concluded in his interview. “Without firing a single shot.”