6 Tevet 5766 / January 2, 2006
I was in my mid 20’s when back in 1974 I began my slow trek home to my Torah roots. I thought I was alone in no longer feeling satisfied by any of the “truths” and “realities” on which I had been nurtured in the home, at school, in university or through all the philosophy and literature I had ever read. Truth was on offer on all sides of the ideological supermarket. But the only book that watered my thirsty soul was the Bible.
Some thirty years later, after finding all I sought and more in the Torah heritage, I know I was far from having been alone. Countless numbers of people from all backgrounds throughout the world are waking up to realize they no longer have faith in the truths and assumptions on which they were raised.
But where do we find truth in the ideological supermarket, assailed as we are with endless streams of information and hosts of conflicting ideas, opinions and attitudes? Who is right? Who is the final authority? Who gives legitimacy to the Truth. Is it CNN? The BBC? Some scholarly academy? A think tank somewhere? The Pope? The Imams? The Rabbis?
And if we should turn to the Rabbis (if we believe that the truth must lie in the Torah), to which Rabbis should we turn? Ultra-Orthodox? Chassidic? Lithuanian? Sephardic? Kabbalistic? Modern Orthodox? Conservative? Reconstructionist? Reform? Zionistic? Non-Zionistic? Men Rabbis? Women Rabbis? Karaite Rabbis? Messianic Rabbis? Christian Rabbis…???
With everyone bandying terms that carry different meanings for different people, the delicacy of the task of clarifying the truth may be illustrated by considering the term ISRAEL.
In the minds of people everywhere, Israel refers to a country in the Middle East, loved or detested, whose problematic existence is widely seen as the key factor obstructing world peace.
Traditionally, the term Israel has of course been used in the names of Jewish synagogues and communal organizations of all complexions, as well as by some Christian churches. Their purpose is to identify with the Israel of the Bible.
The Israel of the Bible are the descendants of the founding father Jacob. Jacob was given the name ISRAEL (or YISRAEL) as his “name of greatness” after his successful struggle with the angel (Genesis 32:28, 35:10). Jacob’s twelve sons were called BNEY YISRAEL, “the Children of Israel”.
The Children of Israel went down to Egypt, and within a few generations became “a multitudinous and mighty people” (Exodus 1:9). God told Moses to take “My people, the Children of Israel” out from Egypt to a “good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (ibid. 3:8-10). Moses was to go to Pharaoh and tell him that “Israel is My first-born” (ibid. 4:22).
God revealed Himself at Sinai through the Ineffable Name to strike a Covenant with “the House of Jacob, the Children of Israel” (Exodus 19:3): “And now, if you will surely listen to My voice and guard My Covenant, you shall be a treasure for Me out of all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine” (ibid. 19:5).
The conditions of this Covenant were the 613 Commandments that Israel were obliged to keep – the Torah, as written down in the Five Books of Moses. All through the Torah, Prophets and Holy Writings (the “Old” Testament”) and throughout the literature of those who most revered and probed this sacred tradition – the rabbis of the Talmud – the term Yisrael refers to the descendants of the Children of Israel, including the converts whom they integrated into their religion and communities: “There will be one Torah for the home-born and for the convert who dwells among you” (Exodus 12:49).
In the Talmud and the Codes of Torah Law (such as Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Aruch) the term Yisrael refers to those descended, at least through their mothers, from the Children of Israel, or to integrated converts. They are considered part of this Covenant even when far from being exemplary members of it. All are considered Yisrael, Israelites, except for a MUMAR or MESHUMAD (one who has embraced another religion), a MIN (Heretic), an APIKOROS (Non-Believer) and a MEHALEL SHABBAT BE-PHARHESIA, a blatant Sabbath desecrator, who are legally considered non-Israelites in all respects.
After their entry into the Land of Israel, the twelve tribes of the Children of Israel eventually took upon themselves a king. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the nation’s spiritual center, and his son Solomon built the Temple as the focus of worship of God. However, within two generations of the establishment of the Davidic dynasty, ten of the tribes under the leadership of Ephraim broke away to form their own “Kingdom of Israel”. They strayed so far from the Sinaitic Covenant that they went into exile and became “lost”, although they are destined to return (Sanhedrin 110b).
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin with individual members of the other tribes who remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty continued to consider themselves BNEY YISRAEL. However, being under the leadership of the tribe of Judah, YEHUDAH, they came to be known as YEHUDIM. The outstanding Biblical example is Mordechai, who although from the tribe of Benjamin is called ISH YEHUDI, “a Yehudi man” (Esther 2:5).
Later on, the European preference for replacing a “Y” with a “Zh” or “J” turned “Yehudi” into “Yid”, “Zhid”, “Jude” or “Jew”. Thus it was the Israelites who remained loyal to their ancestral religion also came to be known by themselves and by others as the Jews.
Mordechai was in exile with the Jews in Persia as a result of the same cyclical history of sin and chastisement that had caused the disappearance of the Ten Tribes. The culminating point had come with the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple. The Jews of Judea were then exiled to Babylon, and after its fall came under the rule of Persia. The Persian kings eventually permitted the surviving “Remnant of Israel” to return to their land, and rebuilt the Temple. As the central focus of the nation’s worship of God and also the seat of the Sanhedrin, the Council of Elders, the Temple was the central focus of the Torah code and symbol of Israel’s national independence.
Once again, sin led to destruction and exile, this time under the Romans, who destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and brought all vestiges of Jewish political independence to an end, boasting that Judea, the last relic of the original Israel, had been captured.
The new Christian movement that arose in the same period challenged Israel’s “chosenness”, charging that the exile of the “sinful Jews” was proof of their rejection by God as “not My people” (Hosea 1:9, 2:1). Because of the Jews’ refusal to accept the founder of Christianity, his followers deemed the original Covenant with Israel to have become defunct, having been replaced with a new one, the “New Testament”, whereby the Church became the “new” Israel. Islam, which arose a few hundred years later, likewise viewed the Jews as incorrigible, damned sinners whose tradition had been superseded by a new prophet.
The Talmudic rabbis and their successors fully understood that the destruction of the Temple and the exile from the land were the result of a terrible deterioration in the state of the people and their observance of the Covenant. However, the rabbis were not convinced by Christianity and Islam. No new leader or prophet could come to supersede or change in any way the prophecy of Moses, of whom the Torah testifies: “There never arose in Israel any other prophet like Moses, whom God knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). It was not permitted to add to, subtract from or change anything in the Torah (ibid. 13:1). “God is not a man that He should lie or a son of man that He should repent” (Numbers 23:19). “Where is the scroll of your mother’s divorce” (Isaiah 50:1).
For those who remained loyal to the Torah, the practice of the Sabbath, the laws of diet, family purity and circumcision were all irreplaceable parts of a bond connecting them with God in a way that can be known inwardly only by those who observe this Covenant. With prayer and constant study of God’s Torah providing nourishment for the inner soul, those who keep the Torah know that their mission is to serve HaShem – that same Ineffable Name that was revealed at Sinai. The Servants of HaShem yearn and labor for the vindication of His Torah and the promises of His prophets.
The Flight from Judaism
From the time of Jeraboam, first king of the Ten Tribes, onwards, there were numerous breakaways and deviations from the original code of Moses. The Ten Tribes disappeared, as did the Boethians, the Sadducees and Essenes of the Second Temple era. The Karaites never succeeded in forming thriving and enduring communities. If Christianity began as a Jewish sect, it quickly diverged radically from the Judaism of the rabbis and opened its doors to people of any descent.
Prior to the 18th century, the “Remnant of Israel” remained for the most part amazingly loyal to the Judaism of the rabbis despite the trials and tribulations of exile and wandering. Communities from east to west accepted upon themselves the authority of the Babylonian Talmud and of the later sages and rabbis who explained what it meant. Spiritually the Jews were a truly international people, with voluminous correspondence flowing back and forth between rabbis all over the Jewish Diaspora from Asia and North Africa to Western Europe.
In the 16th Century Rabbi Joseph Karo compiled the Shulchan Aruch (“The Set Table”), laying out the “bottom line” of Talmudic law as it applies in every area of life, from Prayer, Eating, Sabbath and Festivals to Marriage, Divorce, Business, Sickness and Death. In matters of custom as opposed to strict law, the Shulchan Aruch, reflects the customs of the Spanish and oriental (“Sephardi”) Jews. It was supplemented by the Mappa (“Tablecloth”), accompanying glosses by R. Karo’s contemporary, Rabbi Moshe Isserles (ReMA) reflecting the customs of the German and Polish (“Ashkenazi”) communities. The Shulchan Aruch with the Mappa was accepted as binding by all Torah-observant communities throughout the Jewish world.
It was from the 17th century onwards that storm winds broke loose against these communities. The major Ashkenazic centers of Poland and Russia were devastated by the Chmielnitzki massacres of 1648-9. In the 1660’s an orgy of false-messianism focused on Shabbetai Tzvi exploded in Jewish communities everywhere. Although Shabbeteanism was soon proscribed by the rabbis, it survived underground and spread in various forms, greatly weakening the bond felt by many Jews to their ancestral faith. The bond was further weakened by the ideas of philosophers like Baruch Spinoza (1632-77), which made it respectable for Jewish intellectuals to question rabbinic doctrines.
Prior to the “Renaissance” there had been no option for the Jew in exile other than to continue as a good or bad practitioner of his ancestral religion or else to convert to Christianity or Islam. However, the dawning “Age of Reason” created a new option: to practice no religion at all. The Torah demands that its adherents separate themselves from Gentiles not only in their family life and diet habits but even in their clothing, beards and side-curls. But from the 17th Century onwards, increasing numbers of Jews, weary of centuries of discrimination and abuse for being members of the “rejected” Israel, yearned to throw off their peculiar costumes and other unique practices and assimilate with the surrounding gentiles.
If the forces of history provided fertile circumstances for the growth of what became a widespread rebellion by Jews against the Torah, certain highly proactive individuals devoted their lives to fomenting and spreading this rebellion until it became an international phenomenon. Up until the end of the 18th century there had only been one kind of Judaism, as codified in the Shulchan Aruch. The 19th century saw the rise of “Reform” Judaism, which sanctioned violation of the laws of the Sabbath, diet, marriage, conversion and many others. A succession of other breakaways followed, all calling themselves “Jewish”, causing the authentic Judaism of the Talmud to be labeled “Orthodox” – as if it was just one more brand on the shelf of the ideological supermarket surrounded by equal competitors.
Return to the Land
The return of the exiled Israelites to their ancestral land and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple had been a central theme in all the daily and seasonal prayers. But it was only from the Middle Ages onwards that the possibility of physically returning to the Land started to become a reality for some highly determined rabbis and other saintly individuals. The numbers steadily increased, particularly after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The Shulchan Aruch itself had been written in the town of Safed, which by the mid 1500’s was a major center. In the mid-to-late 1700’s outstanding leaders, notably Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, and Rabbi Elijah, the “Gaon” (Luminary) of Vilna, urged their followers to move to Eretz Israel.
For all of these returnees to the Land, the purpose was to rectify the sins of the past and create a new future through practicing the Torah in the fullest way possible with complete adherence to its law and spirit.
By the 1800’s, however, even those European Jews who had fled their ancestral religion were discovering that it was by no means so easy to escape the stigma of Jewish descent and the anti-Semitism it evoked among the non-Jews with whom they wanted to assimilate. The anti-Semitism experienced by Theodore Hertzl prompted him to devise a new solution to the problem: a Jewish State in the ancestral land of Israel.
The difference between Hertzl’s vision of life in Israel and that of the Baal Shem Tov and the Gaon of Vilna was that Hertzl’s did not require adherence to the Torah. The Zionist movement which Hertzl founded to actualize his dream borrowed certain Torah concepts and ideals but its dominant secular wing emptied them of all their religious significance.
The State of Israel
Thus the State which the Zionists established took for itself the name of “Israel” but did not take the Torah of Israel as the foundation of its laws and government. This made leading Rabbis deeply skeptical and in certain cases adamantly opposed to the State. Initially the “Law of Return” granting Israeli citizenship to all returning Jews adopted a somewhat orthodox definition of “Who is a Jew?”, but in recent years the law been stretched to grant citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not remotely Jewish according to Torah law.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the balance between Torah-observant and non-observant Jews in its population was reflected in what was known as the Status Quo, a nebulous, unwritten and barely defined “consensus”. For example, it left those wishing to violate the Sabbath free to do so privately, while existing municipal arrangements forbidding the operation of businesses, cafes, places of entertainment, public transportation etc. were supposed to remain in force and be respected.
The perception of Torah observant Jews in Israel today is that this Status Quo has been largely if not totally undermined by secular forces in the country with the backing of the Supreme Court. These secular forces, which control the monopoly state-controlled radio and TV as well as the main “independent” media, have succeeded in defining the character of the State, its goals and ideals, as strictly secular. At the same time, those who continue to observe the Torah, whether DATI (“religious”) or HAREDI (“ultra-orthodox”), have been increasingly marginalized and aggressively demonized to the point of being perceived as fanatical extremists. The secularist campaign against the Torah and its followers is as fierce as those waged by Jeraboam and Jezebel.
The marginalization of Jews who remain loyal to the practice of the Torah is by no means restricted to Israel. The World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and most of the other major Jewish community organizations and lobbies in Europe, America and elsewhere in the Jewish Diaspora are controlled by Jews whose outlook is essentially secularist and assimilationist. In the 18th Century such Jews were on the edges of the mainstream observant communities. Today the picture is completely reversed.
Navigating the Ideological Supermarket
It is a profound irony that multitudes of Jews in Israel and outside are essentially in flight from Judaism at precisely a time when countless numbers of others, Jewish and Gentile, are searching for the truth about Judaism.
These seekers include many born Jews in Israel and outside who after a completely secular upbringing and education are actively embracing Torah observance. There are also hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of Gentiles who have been brought up as Christians, Moslems or other, or with no religion at all, and who are turning to the Torah and searching for a way to practice it in the modern world. Some seek to convert to Judaism; others wish to learn what the Torah teaches the Gentile.
How does on find the right path in an ideological supermarket in which so many different “brands” of Torah are on offer – by orthodox and non-orthodox groups, by Messianic Jews, Karaite Jews, Ephraimites, Christian Jews, Evangelical Jews…???
The difficulty of the search is greatly aggravated today in the aftermath of the watershed events of 11 September 2001, which have been painted as terrorist attacks perpetrated by religious extremists. The ensuing “Global War against Terror” has brought into sharper focus what many see as a larger undeclared war against religion in general. Many Moslems feel there is a campaign to discredit Islam while many Christians feel that powerful social forces are attacking and undermining their most cherished moral and family values.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam share in common the concepts of self-restraint and discipline that are at the very core of religion, whereby one binds oneself to a regimen that is supposed to apply in all areas of life. Against this, the secular alternative value is “Freedom”: the freedom to do whatever you like, whenever you like, in whatever way you like. Eat what you fancy; wear what you feel like – or nothing at all. Have sex with whoever or whatever you desire, male, female, stranger, family member, human or animal… Believe and practice what you want, be it mainstream religion, alternative religion, communion with spirits, witchcraft, sorcery, Satanism… The attitude that all alternatives are of equal status and validity is implicit in the daily output of radio and TV, in newspapers, magazines and entertainment, on campus and in popular culture.
From the standpoint of true religion, this is paganism. The view that all values are relative, as if somehow everyone is right, stands directly contrary to the faith of Abraham, who started his career by smashing his father’s idols. The Torah is a teaching about right and wrong. It is about how to make vital distinctions and discriminations between good and bad, valid and invalid, permitted and forbidden, pure and impure.
The watchwords of contemporary secular culture are “Democracy”, “Freedom” and “Tolerance”, supposedly integrating people of all beliefs. But from the standpoint of the Torah, democracy does not mean that the opinion of the majority is sacred and infallible and must be accepted by all. Nor does it give supposedly democratically elected governments the right to suppress and persecute minorities in the name of the majority. This is tyranny.
From the Torah standpoint, true freedom is not the freedom to do whatever you want, which in any case we already possess since we are ultimately free to do as we choose. True freedom is to be released from the shackles of the gross material world, which hides and conceals the world of the spirit. The freedom conferred by the Torah is the very opposite of licentiousness.
As for tolerance: Who tolerates sinners like God, Who is “slow to anger and full of kindness and truth”? The many centuries of pain and suffering endured by the Jews on account of religious intolerance have made them outstanding exponents of tolerance. Yet the need to be tolerant of those who think differently does not require one to accept the beliefs and opinions of all people as being of equal status.
The perniciousness of the “tolerance” espoused by secular culture is that legitimacy is given only to those who fall within the permitted boundaries of politically correctness while all others are subtly or unsubtly ridiculed, discredited and branded as lunatics, extremists and fanatics.
The mass media disseminating these messages are controlled by the same wealthy, powerful elites that control entire nations’ economies, judiciaries, police and armies – the earthly Malchus (“Kingdom”). The ideology of Freedom (= License) serves the socio-economic order that has grown up since the Industrial Revolution, based upon the idolatry of material prosperity and its handmaiden, technology. The consumerist, war-ridden world this has spawned is responsible for the needless waste and destruction of world resources, degradation of the entire global environment and untold human suffering.
In the words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the real fanaticism is that of those who pursue only the material world.
What are we to do?
What are caring people to do when confronted by a world that seems to violate our most deeply cherished beliefs and values?
We may dream about a better world, the world envisaged by the prophets – a world without war, where people join together to search out the true God and serve Him with one accord. To attain such a world would require a new approach to public education in which the media are used not to pander to man’s appetite for sex and violence but instead to promote spiritual awareness, wisdom, understanding, mutual respect, morality and goodness.
We seem to be veering further and further from this ideal world. Does the world have to revert to complete slavery to the earthly Pharaoh as in Egypt, a slavery from which none can escape until God will redeem us again? Or can we at least be like the Levites in Egypt, who remained faithful to the Covenant and were spared from slavery even while others were enslaved?
Sifting and Searching
For both Jew and Gentile, only the holy Torah, which totally transcends the mundane, can provide the tools and concepts with which to understand this global Leviathan for what it is and to survive and overcome it. The true mission of Mashiach is to transform the earthly Malchus into the Kingdom of Heaven. God has placed us in a mixed up world. Our task is to refine and purify it, selecting the good, rejecting the bad. The Torah teaches us the different ways to do this.
But it is also a major task to sift and search in order to discover the true Torah – because the Torah has been assailed with envious hatred for thousands of years, making it appear dark and forbidding, so that its inner face of light is obscured. It is said that evil speech destroys three: the one who speaks it, the one to whom he says it and the one about whom he speaks. Nothing has been reviled through the centuries like Rabbinic Judaism. The Christian scriptures mock the “Pharisees”, who were none other than the rabbis quoted throughout the Talmud. Zealous Christians organized public burnings of thousands and thousands of Talmud and other rabbinic texts. Until today questioning Christians and Moslems who want to know what the Talmud really teaches are warned that these are “doctrines of devils and demons”!
Even those with some knowledge of the “Old Testament” through translations cannot fully realize to what degree their understanding of the texts is limited by their inability to access the original Hebrew, whose layers upon layers of depth, meaning and allusion find no expression in other languages. If the Written Torah (the Bible) is virtually unknown to the wider world, how much more so is the Oral Torah (encompassing the entire Talmud, Halachah, Midrash and Kabbalah), which was an inseparable part of the revelation at Sinai and the Covenant that was struck there.
Until today Torah Judaism is vibrant and alive, with devotees in Israel and throughout the world. Yet Torah Judaism stands not because of its numbers of devotees, for “God did not set His love upon you or choose you because you were more in number than any people, for you are the fewest of all peoples” (Deuteronomy 7:7). Torah Judaism stands because of what it is in itself.
If there is a single defining feature that distinguishes Torah Judaism from all the other competing “brands”, it is the proper observance of the Shabbat, which is “an eternal covenant between Me and between the Children of Israel… a sign for ever…” (Exodus 31:16-17). “Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon: If Israel would keep two Shabbats according to the law they would be redeemed immediately” (Talmud, Shabbat 118b).
The laws of Shabbat that are seen as so restrictive and tiresome by those in flight from the Torah are in fact a system that teaches man to restrain his impulse to control and manipulate this world. Thus he learns that his own mastery has limits and only God is the true Master of the World.
If there is any antidote to the idolatry of materialism and technology that is now destroying the entire world, it is the Shabbat.
“Happy is the man who does this and the son of man that holds fast to it: who keeps the Shabbat from profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the alien that has joined himself to God speak, saying: ‘God will surely separate me from His people’; nor let the eunuch say: ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says God concerning the eunuchs that keep My Shabbats and choose the things that please Me, and hold fast by My Covenant: Even unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting memorial, that shall not be cut off. Also the aliens, that join themselves to the God to minister unto Him, and to love the name of God, to be His servants, every one that keeps the Shabbat from profaning it, and holds fast by My covenant: I will bring them to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56: 2-7).
Today the concept of Shabbat is unknown to almost the entire world, but this will not be so when redemption comes. In the end of days, “It shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Shabbat to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says God” (ibid. 66:23).
Peace in the Middle East
The task of clarifying, sifting and selecting the Torah truth is vital for the future welfare of the entire world. It is no coincidence that people throughout the world see the conflict between Israel and her neighbors in the Middle East as the single greatest obstacle to world peace. The State of Israel has adopted the Biblical name of God’s chosen people, and its Jewish population claims to be descended from them. God will not allow them peace until they return to His Torah.
In nearly 60 years since the establishment of the State, successive secular Israeli governments and their foreign backers have shown themselves totally incapable of finding any solution to the “Middle East problem”. All efforts to foster peaceful coexistence have simply led to increased hostility and tension. This should not surprise us, since Israel has steadily fallen from any early idealism into ever deeper corruption on every level, politically, economically, socially and culturally. Israel is among world’s leading centers of organized crime, prostitution and drug trafficking, while arms manufacture is one of the main foundations of the economy.
This decadent, corrupt, materialistic, militaristic Israel is an affront not only to the principles of the Torah but also to those of Christianity and Islam and other religions. Is it any wonder that millions of people all over the world continue to hate and resent this alien encroachment on the Land of Israel? Some would argue that Israel is forced to be militaristic because of the threats to its very existence. But the underlying cause of the hostility of its enemies, who are but a rod in God’s hand, is that the State of Israel has failed to be a Light to the Nations.
The true destiny of the Holy Land is to be a land cleansed of impurity and corruption, a model land where the Universal Laws of Mankind are observed, where idolatry, blasphemy, killing, stealing, immorality, cruelty to animals and injustice are abolished.
“And many peoples will go and say, “Let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we shall go in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge between the nations and reprove many peoples. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not raise the sword against nation, and they shall not any more learn war.” (Isaiah 2:3-4).
And then, “The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, instead of that which was said unto them: ‘You are not My people’, it shall be said unto them: ‘You are the children of the living God.'” (Hosea 2:1).
Each with his friend…
“Then they that feared God spoke each with his friend; and God listened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared God and thought upon His name” (Malachi 3:16).
Religion is often associated with glory, pomp and splendor. But Malachi teaches us that redemption comes through the quiet, private unsung efforts of individuals – you and me – talking together and seeking the truth. The way of the true servants of God is humble and unglamorous, filled with regret, contrition, apprehension and a deep sense of personal inadequacy. The true Messianic king, David, never claimed perfection and infallibility. When he did wrong, he admitted it: “Hide Your face from my sin and blot out all my transgressions… Let me teach the sinners Your ways and the offenders will return to You” (Psalm 51:11, 15). Mashiach is about repentance.
In the war of Gog and Magog, which appears to be now, the main work is interior:
“Go, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you; hide yourself for a little moment, until the indignation will pass over.” (Isaiah 26:20).
“This verse refers to the War of Gog and Magog, which will be a sore trial for Israel for a short time. ‘Entering the inner chamber’ and ‘shutting the door’ are metaphors for hiding oneself away in good deeds and complete repentance. For the rage will be only for a short moment. It will pass and the good will be saved” (Radak ad loc. See Targum and Rashi ad loc.)
Who are the good? Who are the bad? At the end of the day we will all be lying in our graves, and God will judge.
It was taught in the name of Elijah: “I make heaven and earth my witnesses: be it a man or a woman, a gentile or an Israelite, a slave or maidservant, everyone according to their deeds, so shall holy spirit rest upon them” (Tanna deVei Eliahu).