Now please!...before you freak out and scream "Hey, Rabbi...this seems to be saying that all nations are going to be eliminated and Israel alone is going to dominate what's left of mankind!" please! please! please! wait until we study further before you make any such erroneous conclusions.
ITEM #1: We are shown in this Kaballah from the Zohar a war which (to myself) seems certain to be the present war with Iraq.
ITEM#2: Notice this snippet from the fuller Zohar citation above which tells (as I grasp it) what will happen either as this present Iraqi war is in progress or over:- " And then G-d will awaken Himself against them, as it says, "a sacrificial slaughter for the Lord in Batzra" (i.e.Basra),
This conveys to me [I am stating this solely as a personal opinion] that Divine Severity is going to occur as stated by the words "And then G-d will awaken Himself against them." This "awakening of God" connected in time to the battle described above can manifest in many possible ways e.g. volcanoes, floods, famine, plague, earthquakes etc. It may also come in Mercy
ITEM#3: "And after this, the children of Yishmael will be finished from the world."
Does this mean that every Arab on this planet is going to die? This question will now be answered by Rabbi Simon Jacobson (well renowned Jewish Scholar and author of Towards A More Meaningul Life.
Would it be possible for people learned in Torah to think that the birrur [spiritual elevation] of Ishmael [all Arabic peoples] involves the destruction of Ishmael?
Your question touches upon fundamental issues that are difficult to convey in the span and scope of an e-mail. However, I will make some brief remarks that perhaps can help launch a more elaborate discussion for us all.
Many references are made in the Torah to the destruction of the enemies of G-d in the end of days, in Messianic times. Some of these descriptions are quite explicit and elaborate. You may have heard reference made to the grand final battle of Gog and Magog and other similar references.
No wonder that there are many who have drawn apocalyptic images to describe the future.
What is the true Torah view on this matter? The question is not just an academic one - as in 'what do the verses tell us?' but rather a philosophical one: G-d created every human being in His own Image, and G-d is good and compassionate, He has "mercy on all His creatures." How then can he allow people -- His creatures -- to be killed at the end of days?!
It's one thing that G-d allows humans free will and they can then choose to hurt each other. This definitely requires explanation. But it's altogether another matter that people have to die in connection with the Messianic age -- a time when the world reaches its greatest perfection! When the world is coming to a greater place and is actualizing its true Divine purpose as a home for G-d, it seems more fitting that people would reach their greatest potential as well, instead of being killed...
In addition, many references are made to the transformation of all the nations of the world in the end of days. Most notably, the Rambam's halachik (legal) ruling that Moshiach will repair the entire world and bring them to serve one G-d. The activity of the entire world will be to know G-d, as it says, "The world will be filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea."
The answer to this lies in understanding the essential nature of a soul and its relationship with G-d. Every human being, having been created in the Divine Image and having a soul, is inherently a good person. Your responsibility on Earth is to actualize your calling and potential, to reveal the inner G-dliness within your life.
I should add, that this applies to all human beings. They realize their potential and Divine calling through fulfilling the Seven Universal Noahide mitzvahs/laws, which are the pillars of civilization. [Jews do so through their 613 mitzvahs]. When a person fulfills these mitzvahs s/he is honored as one of the Chassidei Umos HaOlam (righteous nations) and assured of a share in the World to Come -- eternal life.
If you do not, G-d forbid, live up to your potential and instead live a selfish life, you in effect hurt your own self. The concept of 'punishment' in Torah is actually cause and effect: when you hurt yourself by behaving contrary to your true nature, the resulting consequences are part of the healing process. There are atrocities that one can commit that in effect destroy his/her ability to continue living. This does not mean that the souls is destroyed, it means that the soul can no longer live in this body form (see at length my correspondence 'Can a Soul Die?').
The references to death and destruction in the end of days actually means the 'death' of one state of being in order to assume a higher state. What type of 'death' is up to the individual.
Those that choose to defy the G-dly laws of civilization, through murder or other crimes against G-d and humanity, may have to literally perish as a result of their behavior. But any reference to an indiscriminate global death of a large number of people does not mean literal death, it means the end of one stage and the beginning of another (see also Likkutei Sichos vol. 23 pp. 172).
In sum, in reply to your question whether the birur of Ishmael (or for that matter of any nation) involves their destruction -- the answer is: It depends on the individual. If Ishmael (or anyone) chooses to be destructive to the world and to themselves, they may have to literally be destroyed (in their present form) if for no other reason than to preserve the world from their harmful actions. If however they choose to live by the laws of G-d they will not be destroyed. On the contrary, by helping civilize the world in making it a home for G-d, they merit to be part of the Chassidei Umos HaOlam [righteous nations of the world] and benefit from the blessings of the Messianic Age.
Hope this serves as some food for thought...
Where does America stand in all of this.... and what will be America's future?
To answer this question we go to Rabbi Schneerson's comments on America.
"...although we are in the midst of exile, the dominant nation in this exile [America] is a generous country, a country who offers assistance to many nations and offers assistance to its Jewish residents. In appreciation, may G-d grant that country success in its war against Basra and may we soon merit the fulfillment of the prophecy, "Who is that coming in soiled garments from Basra?" with the coming of redemption."
PLEASE NOTE CAREFULLY: The above words were delivered AFTER the Gulf War of 1991 ended. Rabbi Schneerson was talking about another Iraqi war. At the time this was delivered there was no need to wish America succes against Basra. We had aleady won! Rabbi Schneerson was giving a Prophetic Blessing to America for what appears to be this upcoming war with Iraq that seems for certain now to be in the works!!!
The Prophecy "Who is that coming in soiled garments from Basra?" refers to a Divine Intervention!!!
It is both my mentor's opinion (he's one of the sharpest brains I know) and mine that this war with Iraq may very well indeed be when Rabbi Schneerson reappears/resurrects.
[edit of April 29, 2003---based on Jeremiah 29:10 having been fulfilled in October 2002 -i.e. the beginning of the Final Redemption-
I see a time frame from between then and war against Basra in 2003 or shortly thereafter for the promised Redemption to become apparent to all. ]
My mentor firmly believes that all the above cited passages will manifest non-literally and in a process and manner of peaceful transformation. I pray he is correct.
However, I respectfully disagree with him and I take these passages at their literal meaning(s).
I personally see the present world political situation unfolding in a manner described by both Prophecies above which I have explained to the best of my abilities. As Rabbi Jacobson concluded above via his answer...each individual will decide their own fate in all of this final battle by their own free choice deeds. He appears to state "Do evil....violate the 7 Laws of Noah and your present existence is no longer needed because it violates God's Plan for humanity." Now we have one dangling matter to address from this Zohar...
"And all the supernal powers of the nations will be broken, and no power will remain above except for the power of Israel alone."
Notice that the sentence states "supernal powers of the nations"...it does not state "the nations" themselves.
Since the days of Abraham and even much before...mankind has been self aggrandizing. Everyone wanted (and still wants!) to rule over everyone else. Everyone wants to be king of the hill. People serve God falsely and even use such service to God as yet but another piece of jewelry for their public image and pride. That is going to stop. The "supernal powers of the nations," which have been the driving spiritual forces for this self aggrandizement, will most certainly be eliminated. My mentor and I agree that all the latest intelligence from Sacred Jewish Sources points to the upcoming war with Iraq as appearing as the final battle of Gog from Gog whereupon God literally reveals Himself to mankind in miraculous ways never before seen on this planet.
Thereupon "...and no power will remain above except for the power of Israel alone."
The word Israel is understood to be made up of two Hebrew words: yashar and
(k)ayl..which together mean: straight with God.
Mexico will still be Mexico. America will be be America...etc. What will change and be destroyed forever is the present spiritual impurity that drives all national and individual pride and self aggrandizement. That pride and self aggrandizement has left a bloodbathed murderous history that stretches back to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.
The redemption of world Jewry is imminent. So stated Rabbi Schneerson as a clear and certain Prophecy from God. It is certain that God will fullfil His Prophecies.
This will not be just a private Jewish party. All mankind has a role to play in the upcoming Final Redemption.
We are seemingly in for a permanent spiritual house cleaning of our world. Out with the bad...in with the good. And, in my personal opinion, we are going to see this reported real soon on CNN, folks!
Rabbi Moshe Yess
December 10, 2002
edited April 4.2003