During the Cold War, plenty of people were aware (I think?) that detonating enough nuclear bombs could lead to human extinction. Did any rabbis address whether the belief that Moshiach will come mean that a believing Jew is sure there will be no nuclear extinction (or something to that effect)?

(Rabbi J.D. Bleich in Tradition Fall 1984 says that because the Gemara says a king would not be punished for killing up to one sixth the world's population in war, that means a nuclear war killing more than that would be prohibited. But he's not addressing the question -- "does our faith claim there will not be nuclear extinction?")

  • 5
    ואף גם זאת בהיותם בארץ איביהם לא מאסתים ולא געלתים לכלתם להפר בריתי אתם כי אני יהוה אלהיהם. Is God a rabbi?
    – Double AA
    Nov 25, 2018 at 1:20
  • This is just speculation but I would imagine many Orthodox Jews believed that the nuclear age might be evidence of the coming of Moshiach
    – JJLL
    Nov 25, 2018 at 1:39
  • Also addressing the ethics but not the theology of nuclear war: '"RED OR DEAD?": An Attempt at Formulating a Jewish Attitude', by Maurice Lamm, Immanuel Jakobovits and Michael Wyschogrod, in Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought Vol. 4, No. 2 (SPRING 1962), pp. 165-209 (45 pages), available online with free registration at JSTOR
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 26, 2018 at 3:57

4 Answers 4


The Vilna Gaon (quoted by Dayan Abramsky) famously said: "the war of Gog and Magog will last 12 minutes. A third of the world will die, a third will suffer from plague and a third will survive."

Although it is purely conjecture, many believe that Nuclear Warfare is the likely interpretation of the Gaon's 'prophecy'.

  • 2
    Thank you, but that's not extinction.
    – Shalom
    Nov 25, 2018 at 12:21
  • Gd forbid. (Who are "many"? @chortkov2 )
    – SAH
    Nov 25, 2018 at 17:19
  • With apologies to the Vilna Gaon (ha, ha), isn't the War of Gog and Magog supposed to last 7 years? ...There should be no more war.
    – SAH
    Nov 25, 2018 at 17:25
  • Thank you @chortkov2, do you have a source for this quote? Did Dayan Abramsky or one of his talmidim publish this in a sefer?
    – user15985
    Feb 9, 2022 at 12:07

In a public address by Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe z"l (circa 1981), at which I was present, he told the crowd, that he can assure them that there will never be nuclear extinction.

He explained, that he is not a prophet, but he can still state so with the utmost confidence.

That is because according to Jewish thought, throughout the generations, there is a constant battle between "good" and "bad". However ultimately, "good" will triumph, and the Messianic era will be ushered in.

The scenario of nuclear extinction, he posited, would mean that "bad" has triumphed, and the Messianic prophecies would never be fulfilled. Theologically, that is impossible, he concluded.


I've heard Rabbi Manis Friedman Shlita say many times, based on Torah teachings that Hashem's plan cannot fail, the world is getting better and not worse. His world will never be destroyed; nuclear extinction is not possible.

When I come across him saying in a shiur, I will definitely share it.


The below quotations describe certain conditions that may need to apply in order for the messiah to come. They both speak of destruction, and that it has to be possible (see end). But the presumption is that at such a time, the messiah will arrive, with things not having been destroyed, obviously.

Pasikta Rabati 1:

אין מלך המשיח בא אלא בדור שפניו של כלב רבי אלעזר אומר בדור שראוי כלייה מלך המשיח בא

Shir Hashirim Rabbah 2:13:

אָמַר רַבִּי לֵוִי אֵין בֶּן דָּוִד בָּא אֶלָּא בְּדוֹר שֶׁפָּנָיו חֲצוּפוֹת וְחַיָּב כְּלָיָה.

Rabbi Kaplan (Handbook II 24:10) understands the above bolded phrases to be referring to a generation capable of destroying itself.

Thus, if you wanted fro extrapolate from this, yes the Rabbis were expecting such threats and possibilities. However, this seems to imply the imminent non-usage of such things.

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