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Question 12.34:
What is Jewish thought on Gog and Magog?

Answer:

As Ezekiel writes, there will be a king (Gog) who leads his nation (Magog) in a final war. Who that king will be, and which country, is unknown—or even if that ruler arrived already (for it is possible the war described by Ezekiel was WWII... no one knows.)

In Tractate Succos, the Talmud tells a story about the dawn of the messianic era. The nation of Magog will complain to G-d that their fate is unfair. Israel recieved the Torah and they did not! Why should they be judged as less than Israel because of an opportunity they were not given? G-d offers them a single mitzvah, sitting in the Succah, the thatched roof hut of the Succos holiday. We are told that they will try this mitzvah, but give up in anger when the weather gets too hot, the commandment too difficult. The Talmud concludes that the problem was not in their giving up, but in their anger. The language of the story is "kicking the door on their way out."

Whatever this story comes to teach us, I wanted to point out a language connection. A gag is a roof. Magog would be a roofer. The Succah is noted for its sechach (from which it gets its name): a thatched roof that is thin enough to let rain through. A Succah does not protect you from the elements; it serves as a reminder that protection comes from G-d. Man must put in effort—we live in a Succah, not out of doors—but only with Divine Aid can we succeed. Magog is challenged with this commandment in particular because the message they convey is "my might and the strength of my hand won for me this war". In distinction to the message of the Succah, they feel they can provide their own roofs, their own self-protection. It is this notion that must fall before the messianic era can emerge.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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