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Parshas Behar

The Numerical Value of Gog U'magog

    Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the produce. But the seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to God; you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard. (Vayikra 25:3-4)

The Gematria of the words Gog U'magog, we are taught, is 70 (Gimmel-Vav-Gimmel Vav-Mem-Gimmel-Vav-Gimmel, or 3+6+3+6+40+3+6+3), a very ‘magical’ number in Judaism. The only problem is that normally it is a number that is associated with a positive idea, one of spiritual growth and world peace, not with the greatest enemies mankind will ever face.

But that cannot be mere coincidence, especially since we do not believe in mere coincidence. And if it is not a coincidence that this very Kabbalistic and historical number is associated with the final and greatest antagonists of all of history, then there must be a very important message that emerges from such an association, one that mankind today better learn well and quickly.

First, a little background: Who is Gog and Magog? The Talmud says the following:

    The Holy One, Blessed is He, was about to make Chizkiah the Moshiach and Sancheriv, Gog and Magog. The Attribute of Judgment said before The Holy One, Blessed is He, “Master of the Universe! You did not make Dovid, the king of Israel, Moshiach, though he recited many songs and praises. And now You want to make, Chizkiah, for whom You did perform great miracles but for which he did not recite song, Moshiach?” (Sanhedrin 94a)

When the Talmud refers to Sancheriv as Gog and Magog, it means the entire force that he assembled to destroy Jerusalem at that time. Indeed, that seems to be one of the main criterion of the War of Gog and Magog, as the Leshem explains:

    After Moshiach comes, a major war will be instigated against Israel, as mentioned in the Holy Zohar (Shemos 7b), and in Parashas Vayaira (119a) and Toldos (139). This is the War of Gog and Magog spoken about in Yechezkel (38, 39), and Zechariah (14), as well as in Midrash Tehillim (Mizmor 118:9). There it says: Three times in the future Gog and Magog will come against Israel and go up against Jerusalem, and assemble and anger the nations with him to go up to Jerusalem … (Sha’arei Leshem, p. 491)

Hence, there are meant to be three separate wars of Gog and Magog, and according to the following, two have already occurred:

    “While in London I heard from the holy Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, quoting the Chofetz Chaim, that Chazal say the War of Gog and Magog will be threefold. After the First World War, the Chofetz Chaim said that it was the first battle of Gog and Magog, and that in about 25 years there would be a second world war, which would make the first one seem insignificant. Then there would be a third battle …” (Leiv Eliyahu, Shemos, p. 172)

The question is, what is unique about a War of Gog and Magog, as opposed to other forms of anti-Semitism? That is where the gematria comes in:

    Anyone who becomes settled through wine has the knowledge—da’as— of his Creator … has the knowledge—da’as—of the Seventy Elders. Wine was given with 70 letters, and Mystery was given with 70 letters. When wine goes in, secrets [Kabbalah] go out. (Eiruvin 65a)

In other words, the number 70 represents the concept of Godly knowledge upon which Torah is based and which allows the Jewish people to fulfill their mandate of being “a light unto nations.” Indeed, the Jewish people are meant to be the spiritual channel through which such Godly knowledge is supposed to flow into the world.

There are a number of reasons why the number 70 represents this idea and our role, most of them Kabbalistic. But, a simpler, yet no less profound reason is that 70 is the product of seven times ten, with the number seven representing the natural world that was made in seven days, and the number 10 representing the perfection of an idea.

This is because, Kabbalistically, each of the days of the week correspond to one of the sefiros in the spiritual realm. Just as our physical bodies have emerged and are controlled by our personal DNA, so too are the days of the week rooted in specific spiritual emanations called ‘sefiros,’ which define the nature of the days to which they correspond (Chesed to Sunday, Gevurah to Monday, etc.). It is an important discussion, but not for now. The main point is that seven represents the physical, natural world.

Well, yes and no. As Kabbalah explains, the physical, natural world is actually the product of a spiritual, supernatural world. This is why miracles happen in everyday life, even with the most mundane things and for the most mundane people. For, everything in Creation, at its core, is miraculous and supernatural.

For example, the splitting of the sea at the time of the exodus. Conventional thinking says that the water did not possess the potential to become walls of water so that the fleeing Jewish people could escape on dry land, but rather, God imposed His will and made the water work against its nature. For the sake of the Jewish people, a natural reality was made to act unnaturally.

But Kabbalah says differently. According to Sod, the water always possessed a ‘nature’ to split just as naturally as it was for it not to split. It’s just that for the sake of history and free-will, it bided its time until the Master of the Universe gave it permission to unleash its miraculous potential just in time to allow the Jewish people to escape bondage and drown the pursuing Egyptian army.

It’s quite similar to our body and soul. The body is quite physically limited, and it is what we most see about people. Yet, it is powered by a spiritual and unlimited soul within, for which miracles are first nature. But, you wouldn’t know it from the way people live their lives.

But that is like, one could argue, putting the engine of a Mercedes into a Volkswagon Beetle. What would be the point? The body of the Beetle has been built to handle only so much power and stress. No matter how powerful the engine, the ‘Bug’ is only going to be able to drive so well because of its built-in physical limitations. No matter how powerful our souls are, how much can our bodies actually handle given their built-in physical limitations?

But there is a difference between our bodies and the Bug. The engine of a car has little to say regarding the final structural ability of the body that houses it. It’s not as if the engine has consciousness to be aware of the car body’s limitation, and the brains and the wherewithal to tinker with it. Once car and engine are brought together, they are what they and that is the way they will stay.

Not so with the human body. The soul is able to influence the spiritual make-up of the body, given the opportunity, and the truth is, we have sensed this from time-to-time. This is why Moshe Rabbeinu’s body gave off light when he descended Mt. Sinai after God passed by him, and why he did not have to eat or drink the entire time he was on the mountain, 40 days and 40 nights.

Indeed, let’s not forget that the original body on the original man was made of light, and that our skin is only the result of having sinned and becoming more physical. In fact, the whole point of resurrecting in the future is to return the body back to its former spiritual glory, something that righteous people begin to do so even while they are still alive. Hence, the body possesses the capability to be more like a soul than a body.

This knowledge changes everything, or at least it should. It should change a person’s priorities and approach to life, and certainly the way he looks at himself and others. It should make him far more spiritual, which should make communities far more spiritual, which should make the world far more spiritual. That is what the Jewish people, a light unto nations, is supposed to teach.

We teach it by living this way ourselves. To be a Ya’akov is to live life holding onto the philosophical heel of Eisav, and to live life his very pragmatic way. To be a Yisroel is to go above Eisav, to rise above pragmatism, and to learn to live more supernaturally. When the Jewish people live on such a level of physical existence, then the world, which consists of 70 Biblical nations, not only backs down from anti-Semitism, it chooses to support the Jewish people instead. This is the level of 70 to which the Talmud referred above.

Historically, globally-speaking, we do it anyhow. This is what caught Mark Twain’s mind’s eye when he wrote:

    “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvellous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

The Holocaust also revealed our immortality, because no one can humanly survive on the food rations the Jews were fed, especially given the inhumane conditions in which they lived and the forced labor. It was a terrible existence that may have felt worse than death, but it was existence none the less, and it was as if the survivors were kept alive supernaturally.

But who wants to prove the supernatural reality of man and Creation that way? Isn’t it better to prove it by keeping, for example, the law of Shmittah, which predicts bumper crops in the sixth year of a Shmittah cycle to carry Jewish farmers into the eighth year of the cycle while they let their lands remain fallow in the seventh year?

Of course it would. But we didn’t. Rather, 70 Shmittah cycles were ignored during the time of the First Temple, so we were exiled for 70 years into Babylonia, at the end of which we were tormented by Haman, whose rise to and fall from power is documented in Megillas Esther in 70 verses. This indicated that Haman was the Divine response to the Jewish people buying into the gentile approach to life instead of the Torah approach to life.

It will be likewise at the End-of-Days as well:

    Rav said, “All the dates of redemption have already passed, and now it depends upon repentance and good deeds.” Shmuel said, “It is enough that the mourner remains in mourning!” This is like an earlier disagreement: Rebi Eliezer said, “If Israel will repent then they will be redeemed, and if they will not, then they will not be redeemed.” Rebi Yehoshua said to him, “If they do not repent they will not be redeemed?! Rather, The Holy One, Blessed is He, will cause a king to arise who will make decrees as difficult as Haman’s and Israel will [be forced to] repent and return to the right path.” (Sanhedrin 97b)

This is why the gematria of Gog u’Magog is so significant. It hints to the fact that it is a war that comes to correct the way Jews think, just like in Mordechai’s and Esther’s time. Haman came to turn the minds and hearts of the Jewish people back towards God, in Shmittah-kind of way, that is, in way that we learn to rely upon Him completely, and love His Torah.

As the world, once again, becomes a riskier place for the Jewish people, and our past methods of support seem to be either dying out and disappearing, it seems that we are already well into the process, and how much of it we do on our own can mitigate the impact that Gog and Magog will have on the process.


Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.


 
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