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Moshiach: Concept and Reality

By Professor Herman Branover



The future Redemption, Geulah in Hebrew, has always been one of the most vital beliefs and hopes of the Jewish nation. Redemption, in its fullest sense, will include both physical redemption and spiritual redemption. The physical redemption will allow the Jewish nation to return to its land, and the spiritual redemption will free each person from captivity, from all bonds and ties separating him from his Creator. After this complete Redemption, there cannot, and will not be, another exile.


Throughout their history, whenever the Jews have been deliv­ered from their difficulties, they were neither satisfied nor complacent, but rather continued to pine and pray for the complete Redemption. Moses, the mentor and teacher of all the prophets, our first redeemer, who led the Jewish people out of the exile in Egypt, foretold shortly before his death that the entry into Israel in Joshua’s period was not going to be an eternal Redemption from exile. However, he assured them that ultimately, "G-d will bring you back from captivity ... and He will gather you in from all the nations where He has scattered you... and He will bring you into the land possessed by your forefathers ... and you will return and listen to the voice of G-d, and perform all His command­ments."1 There will come a day, Moses foretold, when G-d will bring an eternal physical and spiritual redemption.


The prophet Isaiah2 also foretold concerning the future Redemption many times, meriting the title 'Prophet of the Redemption'. This is hinted at in his Hebrew name, Yeshayahu, which comes from the root yeshuah - rescue. He also describes, in great detail, Melech HaMoshiach, the King Moshiach, descendant of the House of David, who will bring the long-awaited Redemption to the Jewish nation, and the entire world. In Isaiah's words, "A staff will emerge from the stump of Yishai,3 and a shoot will sprout forth from its roots. The spirit of G-d will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and under­standing, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of G-d."4 The prophet goes on to describe the wonderful days into which we will then be ushered, called 'the days of Moshiach.'


In the Jerusalem Talmud,5 Rabbi Akiva6 explains the prophecy of Bilam,7 "A star has issued from Jacob, and a scepter bearer has risen from Israel"8 as referring to Melech HaMoshiach, the King Moshiach. These are just a few of the clearest and most well known examples, which demonstrate that tidings of the Redemption and Moshiach's arrival are fundamental principles in the Torah that occupy a central place in the convictions and life of a Jew. There are many more such examples to be found in the Torah.


Therefore, despite those who do not feel it necessary to become familiar with the topic, the requirement to believe in and long for the Redemption and the coming of Moshiach - as a flesh and blood human being - is in no way the esoteric fantasy of an insignificant group of fanatics. Indeed, confidence in the coming of Moshiach has strengthened the Jewish nation through its most trying and difficult periods, and continues to strengthen us now.


Our Rabbis9, viewed yearning for Redemption as one of the basic responsibilities of a Jew. Therefore, as part of the established daily prayer in which a person requests his needs, they instituted a special blessing imploring G-d to bring the Redemption immediately, and to reveal King Moshiach. "May you cause the offspring of your servant David to flourish speedily," is a prayer recited not once, but three times daily.


In Maimonides' 10 explanation of the Mishnah,11 he includes belief in the Redemption and the King Moshiach as one of the thirteen fundamental tenets of Jewish faith. The twelfth tenet, regarding the days of Moshiach, is "to believe and to affirm that he will come, and not to think that he will be long in coming. If he should tarry, to wait for
him and to believe that he will be greater than any king that ever was, according to the prophecies of all the prophets, one who doubts this, or thinks that he will not posses all the listed attributes, is denying the truth of the Torah..”12 In his code of laws, Mishnah Torah,13 Maimonides writes very sharp words regarding one whose faith in the Redemption falters. "The King Moshiach will arise and return the Kingdom of the House of David to its former strength ... Anyone who does not believe in him, or does not await his coming, is not only denying the truth of the prophets (who clearly foretold his coming) but is also denying the Torah and Moses, for the Torah testifies, "G-d, your G-d, will bring back your captivity ... and He will gather you in from all the nations where He has scattered you ... "14


In our generation, the belief, which was a distant dream for our grandparents, is turning into reality. Nevertheless, many people do not understand what Moshiach is. Even those who are convinced they do understand, do not know why it is urgent that he come without delay.

 

Many interpret the concept of Moshiach as an ancient fairy tale about a time when strange things will occur in the world. Some tell of silver growing on trees, and others of an old man riding a donkey and distributing good to all.


True, in our sources we do find descriptions that, at first glance, seem to justify this naive picture. For example, the prophet Isaiah describes the world situation in the days of Moshiach, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie with the kid."15 So too, Maimonides mentions the expression, "All delicacies will be widespread like dust,"16 and further emphasizes the miraculous revival of the dead, which he lists as one of the tenets of the faith.17


Nonetheless, Maimonides writes, "One should not entertain the notion that the King Moshiach must work miracles and wonders or create new phenomena in the world ... (nor will) any element of the natural order be nullified ... rather the world will continue in its normal fashion."18 Similarly, in his explanation to the Mishnah Sanhedrin he writes, "We do not yearn for the days of Moshiach because of the abundant crops or wealth, nor to ride horses and drink wine with music as is thought by confused people."


Moshiach is not some kind of magician or angel who will appear out of nowhere and alter the laws of nature. Yet mirac­ulous developments are expected to occur as a result of his coming. This brings back the question, what is Moshiach?



* * *


"In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth."19 Five thousand seven hundred fifty nine years ago (at the time of writing), G-d created the universe in which we now live. In this world, there is much good, but also the opposite. Good people reside in it, and not such good people. Even in the ecosystem, there are both creative and destructive forces, carnivorous animals and domesticated animals, and so on.


In this world, good and evil merge, so that we are barely able to differentiate between them. Why did G-d create this world, the lowest of spiritual levels? There are higher worlds in which the truths, "G-d is One,"20 and "There is none but Him,"21 shine clearly, yet G-d created this world of spiritual darkness where this truth does not shine. Even more so, it is a world where light and dark­ness intertwine. Light is mistaken for darkness and darkness is mistaken for light. In short, it is a world of falsehood. Why then did G-d create this lowest of all worlds?


These questions and many more like them are explained in the teachings of Chassidism.22 According to the Midrash, "When G-d created the universe, He desired a dwelling in the lower [worlds] as in the higher [worlds]."23 It was the will of the Holy One, blessed be He, to create a world at a 'low' spiritual level, with the specific intention to make it a dwelling place for Him. (It should be noted that the term 'dwelling place' in reference to the Creator of the world is allegorical, and is used because of the need to convey profound and subtle concepts in clear and simple terms. Similarly, when Scripture speaks of the 'eyes of G-d'24 or the 'hands of G-d',25 it is obviously not referring to hands or eyes as we know them; Scripture uses physical terms to enable human beings to relate to Divine perception and action.)26


In one's own dwelling, a person feels at home, and acts with­out any inhibitions. In contrast, when one is in strange surroundings, though a person may act appropriately, he makes an effort to present himself in a particular way. G-d wants His essence to be revealed completely, particularly in this world of falsehood. Specifically in this world, G-d wants the light of truth to be revealed without barri­ers or inhibition.


G-d wants another thing - and this is essential. G-d wants this task of illuminating the world with the light of truth to be done by man. Therefore, G-d created man as the 'chosen' among creations, and gave the Torah and the commandments - 613 to the children of Israel, and 7 to the nations of the world27 - in order that the sovereignty of G-d will be revealed in the world through their fulfill­ment.

 

However, G-d does not force man to fulfill the commandments.


G-d wants man to come to recognize the truth, and choose the true path by virtue of his own will and free choice. The Torah states, "See I have placed before you today life and good, and death and evil ... and you shall choose life."28 G-d has given man freedom to choose between light and darkness, good and evil. Thus, man is deserving of reward when his actions are good. Nonetheless, as explained at length in the Torah, all events in the world happen with specific Divine Providence, and everything happens exactly according to the will and 'master plan' of the Creator.29


Now, after a lengthy and tiring journey, we find ourselves thousands of years closer to the great and wondrous moment when G-d will permanently establish His dwelling place in this world, and reveal His sovereignty to all. That period, when the entire world will be illumined with the light of truth, is described in the words of the prophet, "On that day, G-d will be One and His name will be One".30 In Judaism, this era is called the 'Days of Moshiach' or Geulah, meaning Redemption.


* * *


To clarify the ideas 'light of truth' and 'revelation of G-d's sover­eignty', it is worthwhile to quote the words of Maimonides who describes those great days in simple and practical terms. He writes, "In that era there will be no war, nor envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and everything delightful will be as common as dust. The entire world will be occupied with acquiring the knowledge of G-d."31 Simply stated, the world will recognize its Creator and Director, people will live in peace, fulfilling the commandments perfectly. Everyone will be occupied with the lofty pursuit of "knowing G-d," and all physical delights will be no more valuable to them than dust.


Maimonides explains32 the allegorical meaning of the various expressions in our Sages' writings regarding the 'Days of Moshiach'. For example, the expression "the wolf will dwell with the lamb" used by Isaiah, describes the peace which will then prevail. "Wolf" refers to evil people who prey upon others, while "lamb" refers to those who are weak and defenseless. Similarly, the references to Moshiach riding either on the clouds of heaven or on a donkey are interpreted as meaning either swiftly and without hardships, or after a long and difficult exile preceded by troubles and suffering.


As mentioned earlier, Maimonides does describe changes in the nature of the world that will occur in the Messianic era, including the greatest miracle of all, the revival of the dead, which is one of the Maimonides' essential tenets of the Jewish faith. However this does not contradict his statement that the world will continue in its regular nature, for two separate periods are being discussed. In the Mishnah Torah, his code of laws guiding a person in proper conduct, Maimonides explains what one must believe and what one must long for in the period before Moshiach's arrival. He says that Moshiach is not coming to perform miracles or to alter the nature of the world, but to redeem the Jewish nation from its physical exile so it will not be dominated by other nations, and to increase knowl­edge in the world so that all will recognize their Creator. After this, in a later period during the days of Moshiach, there will also be changes, including the revival of the dead.33

 


* * *

 

The world is directed according to a 'master plan' established from the start. It has been a long and winding road full of setbacks and advances, but the general direction has been forward. The setbacks that occur are integral to the advances that follow, like a person who takes a step back to increase momentum.34 Moshiach and the redemption are the purpose and fulfillment of creation - the reason why this world was created."35


To clarify, we quote the Gemara36 about three general periods which serve as progressive stages in preparing the world for Redemption. "The world is 6000 years: 2000 of chaos, 2000 of Torah, and 2000 the days of Moshiach."37



The First Period - From Creation to the Era of the Patriarch Abraham


G-d created a physical world and in it, Adam - Man. At first, Adam was in the Garden of Eden, in the shelter of his Creator. Later, after he transgressed the commandment of G-d and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, G-d banished him from the Garden.38 Man was exiled to the darkness of this world. For many years, the world was in chaos and disorder. Mankind began to believe foolishness and serve the planets and stars. "As days passed, G-d's awesome, honored reputation was forgotten by man and erased from his knowledge... nobody recognized and knew the 'Rock of the Worlds', save a few individuals."39


"G-d said, 'How long will the world conduct itself in the dark­ness and folly of idol worship without knowing G-d? Let the light of true belief shine.' When G-d said, 'Let there be light,' who is this light? This is Abraham, who came from Ur40 Kasdim to the land of Canaan, and awakened the world to belief in G-d, and lit up the world with the light of truth and righteousness."41 Abraham was called the Hebrew (Ivri, meaning 'one who crosses over') and it is explained that this is because the entire world was on one side and Abraham on the other.42 Abraham disputed social norms and let everyone know that there is only one G-d, and that it is right to serve only Him. Abraham's enlightenment campaign was in full swing precisely at the end of the second millennium from Creation. The transition was difficult for society as all major changes are, but the light of ethical monotheism was beginning to shine. With this began the second period, the era of Torah, the purpose of which is to enlighten all mankind.



The Second Period - From Abraham to the Diaspora


Abraham traveled to numerous cities and countries proclaiming the existence of G-d and preaching about Him. As people would gather and become interested, he would teach each one according to his understanding until they would turn to the path of truth. Abraham's followers numbered in the thousands, their hearts set in his words, and their lives illumined with knowledge of G-d.


A son, Isaac, was born to Abraham. He educated Isaac in the true path, but his other son, Ishmael, did not follow the path of his father. Isaac continued his father's legacy and taught it to his son Jacob. Isaac, too, had another son, Esau, who did not go in his father's ways. Twelve sons were born to Jacob; he succeeded in educating all of them in the way of his fathers, and he thereby established the first completely Jewish household. This household increased and strengthened until it grew into an entire nation that acknowledged G-d.


Before the birth of Isaac,43 G-d informed Abraham that his descendants were destined to receive the Torah, that their purpose in life would be to permeate the world with the holiness of the Torah, and that to this end, it would first be necessary for them to undergo exile in Egypt. In preparation for receiving the Torah, the children of Israel were exiled to Egypt, "the iron smelting furnace",44 where they were purified, to make them suitable for accepting the Torah.45 Three days prior to the great and awesome day; they received specific instructions about how to prepare. On the third day, the sixth of Sivan (annually marked by the festival of Shavuos), G-d was revealed to them on Mt. Sinai, and in a wondrous event, the likes of which never happened before and will never happen again, G-d gave the Jews the Torah and its command­ments.46 The commandments seem to be simple and physical, for example to take the skin of an animal and make it into tefillin, and to don them each morning. However, by doing this, Jew transforms the plain, physical parchment into a holy object, a mitzvah object.


G-d also commanded the Jewish nation, "Make me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them."47 It is G-d's will to dwell in a physi­cal structure built by human beings. As a rule, the performance of the Torah's commandments elevates the physical to a spiritual level. The building of the Sanctuary began in the desert, where Moses constructed the Tabernacle, a portable, prefabricated, temporary structure, which the Jews dismantled and reassembled for each stage of their journey.


After a few centuries of settlement in the Holy Land, King David's son, Solomon, built the Temple in Jerusalem. There the Divine Presence was permanently revealed, and wonders and mira­cles were witnessed daily. During this period, virtually all the Jews followed the path of Torah, and people from all nations recognized the truth, and made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem to humbly present themselves before G-d. The Queen of Sheba, who heard about Solomon and the Temple that he built, came to visit, and said, "May the Lord your G-d be blessed."48


Then, when we seemed to be near the fulfillment of our jour­ney, G-d announced, in effect: This is not yet the final step. True, a G-dly light shines in the Temple in Jerusalem, and from there, it spreads to the entire world, but this is not the objective. The goal is even higher. The goal is not that a fire glow in just one place and that the entire world derives benefit from its light, but rather that the source of the light itself will reach every place. In every corner of the world, a Divine energy will emanate. As long as there remains one corner where the light does not shine on its own, this is proof that the light is limited. When the boundless light of truth shines, it will illuminate every place and every corner. 49


For this purpose, G-d exiled the Jewish people from the land, spreading them out to all ends of the earth, thus beginning the third period.



The Third Period - The Days of Moshiach


For nearly two thousand years, the Jewish nation has been wandering from place to place 'collecting sparks.' Sparks of holiness were scattered in the process of the creation of the world, and were clothed in the physical objects of this world. Using these physical objects to fulfill G-d's commandments frees the sparks and allows them to return to their source in holiness. Every place a Jew does his Creator's will, he ignites the spark of holiness hidden there, and he turns it into a holy place. Reb Oshiya50 explained51 the verse, "The righteous acts of His warriors in Israel."52 as meaning that G­-d dealt favorably with the Jews by scattering them amongst the nations, because only in that way can they come to fulfill the prophetic promise, "The dispersed will return to Jerusalem."53


It may seem strange that this period is called the 'days of Moshiach'. Is it not a long period of exile, persecution and oppres­sion? Don Isaac Abarbanel54 explains55 that these years are called the 'days of Moshiach' because they are ready and prepared for his coming, if the generation has merit. He compares this to winter days, which are called 'the rainy season' although it does not neces­sarily rain every day, but they are more disposed to rain than any other days of the year. In the same way, the last two thousand years are called 'the days of Moshiach' because they are the days most prepared for Moshiach's coming.


Obviously, the above division of the six thousand years since creation into three eras is only delineated in a general way. In the writings of the Sages, there is a more specific division, which elaborates on the Divine order that can be discerned within each of these six millennia.


Nachmanides56 writes57 that the six days of Creation correspond to the six thousand years of the world's existence. "The six days of creation are all the days of the world, whose existence is six thou­sand years. Therefore it is said that one of G-d's days is a thousand years." Nachmanides goes on to explain a number of similarities between the events that happened on each of the six days of creation and the events of its corresponding millennium.


In the teachings of Chassidism,58 this is discussed in even greater detail. For example, on the fourth day of creation, the two great luminaries, the, sun and the moon, were created. Corresponding to this, during the fourth millennium, the two Holy Temples spread light throughout the entire world. Similarly, on the sixth day of creation, the world reached its completion with the creation of man. In the corresponding millennium, in which we presently find ourselves, the world will reach its completion, and the ultimate man, King Moshiach, will be created and revealed. Within the sixth millennium, the most significant period is the time called ikvisa demeshicha - 'the footsteps (or heels) of Moshiach'. The name of this era expresses the two opposite extremes present in this period. The heel is the lowest and most inferior part of the body, with callous skin that lacks full sensation. This refers to a general lack of spiritual sensitivity. On the other hand, ikvisa demeshicha is the time when we hear the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, referring to a greater revelation of G-d's presence in the world.59


On the positive side, the primary preparation for Geulah has been the revelation of Chassidism, initiated by the holy master, the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov himself wrote about his spiri­tual ascent to the chambers of Moshiach, where he inquired, "When is the Master (Moshiach) coming?" Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings will spread outward." Moshiach's coming is connected to the revelation of the inner dimension of Torah, especially as elaborated in the works of the Rebbe of Chabad, who explain the most exalted spiritual concepts in terms accessible to the average person.


The Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya, initiated the system of thought that was further developed by the successive Rebbes who filled his place. As if with a single mind, they revealed more and more G-dliness and holiness, until the present Lubavitcher Rebbe.60 He brought the shechina61 down to this world by spreading Torah and holiness to the entire world through fulfilling the command­ments, doing good deeds, and utilizing a broad spectrum of modern media to an unprecedented extent. From the time the Rebbe accepted the mantle of leadership, he sent thousands of emissaries to every forlorn corner of the world, where each one bolstered Torah and Judaism, so that every comer of the world would be illu­minated with the light of Torah.


Conversely, the negative predictions62 for 'the footsteps of Moshiach' are also being fulfilled in our time. These predictions include spiritual decline, moral degradation, societal disintegration, extreme misery, neglect of the Torah and its commandments and widespread denial of G-d. Most disturbing is the terrible degree of intense suffering which befell the Jewish nation, prompting one Talmudic sage to proclaim, "May Moshiach come, but may I not be witness to his coming."


Presently, after more than 1900 years of exile, as we stand on the threshold of Redemption, the prophecy of Isaiah is beginning to take place: "And I will restore your judges as at first and your advi­sors as at the beginning."63 G-d sent Moses during the exile in Egypt, before the redemption, to prepare the nation and to tell them that they would be redeemed very soon. So too now, before leav­ing exile, G-d sent His servant and prophet, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to let His ways be known to His nation, and indeed to all people.


This is it! We are at the end of the road. The pure eyes of a Tzadik64 see what we simple people cannot see. The Tzadik sees and tells us, "The divine service of extracting and elevating the sparks of holiness in exile has been completed, and the world is ready - totally!" After all our efforts and exertion throughout the entire exile, the world is shining with a G-dly light (which unfortu­nately most of us simply cannot see).65


The Rebbe told us that the task of the present generation is to complete the job. In his words, "This is demanded from every one of us in this generation, the seventh generation, as all sevens are beloved ... We find ourselves in the ikvisa demeshicha, at the end of the ikvisa, and the task is to finish drawing down the Shechinah, and not only the Shechinah, but the essence of the Shechinah, and specifically into this low world.”66


The Rebbe said, "We must publicize to all people of this gener­ation that we have merited that G-d has chosen and appointed an individual with free will, who is intrinsically on a level that others of the generation cannot reach, to be the 'judge for you and an advi­sor for you'67 and the prophet of the generation. He gives direction and advice to all Jews and all people of this generation in all areas of the Torah and its commandments, and regarding our required daily behavior - every ordinary day. 'In all your ways you should know Him'68 and 'all your actions should be for the sake of heaven'69 until - the most important prophecy - 'The immediate Redemption' and 'Behold this (Moshiach) coming.70 He does not just fill the role of a sage or a judge, but speaks as a prophet ­therefore it is certain."71 As Maimonides rules in his legal code, a prophecy for the benefit of the people has to be fulfilled. Indeed the Almighty Himself if bound to its fulfillment.


It should be noted that countless times, and especially since 5751(1991), the Rebbe stressed that the leader of the generation is the Moshiach of that generation. He also hinted that Moshiach's name is Menachem, and that the word MiYaD, immediately, is an acronym for the three generations associated with the previous Rebbe, in reverse time order: M stands for Moshiach, whose name is Menachem  Y stands for Yosef Yitzchok the previous Rebbe and D is for Dov Ber, the second name of the Rebbe Rashab.72


The Rebbe already began making these allusions in his first Maamar (discourse), in which he explains at length that the seven generations of Rebbes in the dynasty of Chabad Lubavitch corre­spond to the seven generations of Tzadikim from Abraham to Moses, who brought down the Divine Presence after it withdrew because of the sins of the preceding generations. Just as Moses brought down the Divine Presence and built the mishkan (taberna­cle) as a dwelling for G-d in the world, so too we are in the seventh generation, which has been chosen to bring down the Presence and complete the task, even if this is neither by our choice nor accord­ing to our wishes.


In the forty-odd years of the Rebbe's leadership, he repeated again and again that our generation, the seventh generation, is the generation of the Redemption. In 5751 (991), the Rebbe made a proclamation and instructed his followers to publicize that there is a prophet in our generation and G-d is prophesying through him that the time for the Redemption has come. The Rebbe stressed that this was said prophetically, which means that it is a certainty.


The Rebbe added that Moshiach is revealed in the world73 and has already begun to affect the world. To demonstrate this, the Rebbe pointed to geopolitical events, and explained that they are the beginning of Moshiach's effect on this world.


The Rebbe explained74 that the Gulf War is the war described in the Ya/kut Shimoni75 "In the year that Moshiach will be revealed, the kings of the nations of the world will be at strife with each other. The King of Persia will provoke an Arabian King ... Consternation and confusion will strike all the nations of the world ... The Jewish people too will be seized by consternation and confusion ... and the Almighty will answer them, 'My children, do not fear. Whatever I have done, I have done only for your own sake ... The time of your Redemption has arrived.' The great Aliyah (ascent, immigration to Israel) of Jews from the nations of the world," says the Rebbe, "is also an effect of Moshiach and the ingathering of the exiles. Similarly, the fall of Communism and other repressive regimes with­out bloodshed is an effect of Moshiach rectifying the world."76


"Now," says the Rebbe77 "we find ourselves at the end of the sixth millennium corresponding to the sixth day of creation. We are already on Friday after midday and we must be preparing for the seventh day, Shabbos a day of rest, the seventh millennium, corre­sponding to the Shabbos of Creation. Moshiach is already here! We only have to open our eyes and see it.78 We have to stand ready for his revelation, by each one of us doing everything in his or her power to strengthen observance of Torah and increase good deeds. If there were only ten stubborn Jews who would seek tirelessly and demand advice about what to do and how to speed up Moshiach's arrival, Moshiach would have come long ago!"79


Our generation has the merit to be the generation about which the Torah has prophesied. Our generation will merit seeing the end of this difficult exile, and the beginning of the era awaited by the entire world since the dawn of man, and indeed, since the begin­ning of time. Very soon, G-d will reveal His sovereignty for all to realize. The time has come for G-d to dwell eternally in this, our world.


* * *


The question is often asked: How is it possible to claim that a person of our times will be Moshiach? Indeed, one who is not famil­iar with the issue is prone to the mistaken impression that Moshiach is not part of the world we live in, like an angel or a concept. However, after careful study, it becomes clear that it is not a prob­lem for Moshiach to be a person of our generation. On the contrary, it is entirely consonant with pure faith in the coming of Moshiach. Once we learn a little about Moshiach, we understand that this is how a Jew must think: Moshiach is a human being of flesh and blood, a Jew, a great tzaddik, who lives among us, waiting for G-d to send him to redeem his nation and the world.


Moreover, we see that already during the time of the Talmud, people would attribute to certain people the possibility of being Moshiach. It is related in the Talmud80 that students of various Torah academies would say that the name of Moshlach is the same is the name of their teacher. Rav, one of the great Talmudic sages of his generation, said that the Moshiach of that generation was 'Our holy Rebbe', Rabbi Yehudah, the leader and Rebbe of that generation. Rav Nachman (another Talmudic sage who lived about 1600 years ago) said about himself that if Moshiach were to come at that time, it would be he. In these earlier examples, the discussion centered on who would be fit to be Moshiach, if he were to come then. In our context, we are speaking about a Moshiach who has already been revealed and has begun his task - while we are still in exile - of bringing the Redemption, much as Moses did in his time.


It is written in many sacred texts, "A descendant of David who is qualified to be Moshiach for the Jewish nation is born in every generation."81 And, "When the time arrives, G-d will be revealed to him, and G-d will send him, and then the spirit of Moshiach, hidden on high, will be awakened."82 The Sde Chemed adds, "In this fash­ion, each generation had someone ..." and in accordance with this, the students of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria83 said that he was the Moshiach of his day.


To better understand:


In the entire history of the Jewish nation, in each generation, one person stood at the head of the nation, passed on the word of G-d, and directed them in the proper path.


The task of this person is not just to be a physical and spiritual leader, as any group with a leader at the head. The task of the leader of the Jewish nation is far loftier and far deeper. In the words of Moses, (the first redeemer of the Jewish nation), "I stand between you and G-d ... to convey to you the word of G-d."84 G-d chose to connect with his children below in the physical world through an intermediary connector, an intermediary who is not a third entity, but includes within himself both the 'upper' and the 'lower'. Moses was a flesh and blood human being living in this physical world, yet he was also a G-dly man, completely elevated above worldly limi­tations. For this reason, he was chosen to connect the Jewish nation to G-d, and to relay to them the word of G-d.


Our Sages state, "There is an extension of Moses in every gener­ation."85 That G-dly extension of Moses spreads out to every generation, as every generation has its own Moses. Only the name is different, and at times, also the title, be it 'President', 'Prince', 'King', or in our time, 'Rebbe'. This is the meaning of the statement, "Moses is the first redeemer [of the Jewish nation], and the last redeemer,"86 as the task of the 'Moses' of each generation is to redeem the Jewish nation. The Moses of the last generation in exile will be the one chosen to bring complete Redemption to the world.


In addition, in our generation, since we live in deep darkness, we merited the ray of light of the Rebbe, who connects us to G-d and relays G-d's word to us. The Rebbe is that wonderful figure with the characteristics of Moses.


On the one hand, no one compares to him in the whole world, from his knowledge of matters of science and philosophy, to aware­ness of every event, down to little details in every corner of the world. On the other hand, he is a Jew who is entirely above the limitations of the physical world. In the course of forty years, not one of the millions of people who knew him saw in him even a touch of the 'personal interest' so characteristic of us all. The Rebbe's complete dedication to Jewish nation is also apparent in the fact that over the entire forty years, the Rebbe did not take for himself a moment of vacation or rest!


Our Rebbe, the Moses and the Moshiach of our generation, will complete the exile and usher us all into the days of Moshiach, because our generation is the final generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption!


The Rambam, in his code of law, lists signs by which we will be able to identify the person, when the time comes, to whom we must attach ourselves, and whom we must believe is Moshiach. "If a king will stand up from the house of David... he is assumed to be Moshiach."87 These words are simple and clear. When a king, a descendent of King David, will arise and toil in the depths of the Torah and its commandments in the most elevated fashion, like David his ancestor, and when this will not be enough for him, and therefore he will concern himself with the entire Jewish nation, and he will force the children of Israel to go in the way of Torah (obvi­ously, in a peaceful manner, the Rebbe explains), and he will concern himself that not a single Jew remain separated from the Holy Torah, and he will fight with all his strength for the observance of the Torah and its commandments, then this person is assumed to be Moshiach. In other words, there is an assumption that he is actu­ally (not just potentially) Moshiach, for he already began to affect the world.

 

* * *


In our generation, according to the signs, and especially in light of the clear prophecy of the Rebbe, we know that this is the gener­ation of Redemption, and we then ask, "Who is Moshiach? Who is the person about whom the Torah prophesied?" It is clear to all that the only person who meets the criteria is the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


The Lubavitcher Rebbe is descended from Maharal of Prague,88 who is a descendent of King David. No one in our generation compares to him in Torah knowledge and observance of the commandments. Most importantly, he is the only one who was not still and did not rest for decades, until he reached virtually every Jew in every forlorn corner of the world. He sent emissaries to all ends of the earth, and strengthened Jewish observance everywhere. He was concerned that every Jew, even the most assimilated, should have the opportunity to do a mitzvah (fulfill a commandment) at least once in his life. The Rebbe completed the final stage in prepar­ing the world for the Redemption. Without exaggeration, the Rebbe brought many millions of Jews closer to Judaism.


The Rebbe did not work only with Jews. He used various means to persuade all people in the world to conduct themselves with moral and spiritual integrity. He replied to countless thousands of letters he received from across the globe. In his later years, he was famous for the advice, counsel and blessings he gave, along with 'dollars', to thousands of individuals who came to receive his direction. In earlier years, the Rebbe used to receive everyone in his room privately, in a meeting called yechidus.


As the Rebbe's influence spread throughout the world to an unprecedented degree, it became physically impossible to see everyone in yechidus, and the Rebbe began distributing dollars every Sunday and on other special occasions. The person receiving the dollar became a messenger for the mitzvah of giving the dollar, or its equivalent, to charity. (People would keep the dollars they received from the Rebbe's holy hand as a token of his blessing, and give other dollars to charity instead.) This was an opportune time for requests and advice. The Rebbe would reply with patience and a smile, and the person would act according to the instructions. In this way, the Rebbe brought tens of thousands of people closer to Judaism.


Anyone who turned to the Rebbe with a request and acted according to his advice, recognized that each of the Rebbe's words has great strength, greater than can be estimated or understood. With all this, it is clear that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the one who is fit to redeem the Jewish nation, and he was the one chosen to bring Redemption to the entire world.


* * *


In our present situation, the fact that King Moshiach is hidden from our eyes for a short time does not, G-d forbid, contradict the clear prophecy about the coming of the Redemption. Rather, it is a part of the process of the Redemption and revelation. As it says in the Midrash, "Reb Berachya said in the name of Reb Levi, that like the first redeemer, so [will be] the last redeemer. The first redeemer - Moses - was revealed to the Jews and then hidden ... So too, the final redeemer will be revealed to them, and then hidden ... and then revealed again."89


The Ari said the Moshiach will arise in body and soul like Moses, who climbed the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, returned down from the mountain, and then everyone acknowl­edged him.90 This is also in the writings of Rabbeinu B'chaye,91 where it says, "Know that the details of the first exile are a symbol of the details of this final exile we are in… Just as we find that time passed after [Moses] came before Pharaoh and said to him in the name of G-d, 'Free my nation,' etc., and after that, their labor was increased, and hatred against them grew, so too, in our Redemption… The redeemer will be revealed, and then hidden again…"


Jews are called· 'believers, children of believers', who trust that the words of the Tzadik will be fulfilled completely. And our faith is well founded for we have reason to believe. As mentioned earlier, there are innumerable examples of the Rebbe's advice, blessings and reassurances to individuals being fulfilled to the letter. Therefore, how much more likely in regard to such an important and essential issue, one that generations have been waiting for since creation. The Rebbe, not once, not twice, but countless times, stressed that he was talking about the Redemption in its simple sense. It is clear, without a shadow of a doubt, that his prophecy will be fulfilled completely and presently.


When the subject is Redemption, which is entirely beyond our comprehension, the importance of faith must be stressed even more. To exemplify, it once happened that the renowned Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, went to the fields around Tzfas on a Friday evening with his students to usher in the Shabbos. As they were singing, the Rabbi said to his students, "My friends, do you wish to go to Jerusalem for Shabbos?" (Jerusalem is very far from Tzfas.) Some of the students said, "We want to go." Some said, "We want to let our wives know first." As soon as they said they wished to go to their homes, the Rabbi became very shaken, and clapped his hands in dismay. He said, "Woe unto us that we did not have the merit to be redeemed. If only all of you had answered as one that you wish to go to Jerusalem with great joy, the whole Jewish nation would have been redeemed from exile, for it was just a time of Redemption. Because you held back, the exile has returned."


The stories in the Torah are a part of the Torah,92 especially a story about the Ari, which was publicized. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from it.


It seems strange that the students wishing to inform their wives that they are going to Jerusalem with the Ari would prevent the Redemption. According to the Torah, a man must discuss things with his wife, especially regarding Shabbos, when peace between husband and wife is stressed.93 Why then would this action hold back the Redemption - which is based on Torah and halachah (Jewish law)?


The answer is that: a) when the students were instructed by the Ari - who was a master of the revealed parts of Torah as well ­it would have been proper for them to rely on him, and to know that he would not direct them to do something against the law, and b) on a deeper note, to think is important, but in a war, one has to be a soldier. It is impossible to bring Moshiach if, as soon as one is instructed to take action, one runs to the shelf, pulls out a Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) and goes to ask a Rabbi whether what he was told is against halachah. It is impossible to bring Moshiach that way!94


Although a Jew is commanded to learn and understand, the primary approach of a Jew to any matter of Torah must not be its logical structure, but simple and pure faith. Of course, one is required to understand as much as possible, but to base one's approach on limited human intellect is wrong! As the Rebbe Shalom Dov Ber Schneerson said, "Even the intelligent people of our time must set aside their intellect and not follow rhyme and reason, for they can be led astray by intellect. .. The most important thing, in this time of the 'footsteps of Moshiach' is not to follow one's intellect and understanding, but to fulfill the Torah and its commandments with integrity and pure faith in the G-d of Israel. "95


And we shall have the merit, in the near future, to greet the Rebbe, King Moshiach, in the true, complete Redemption. Amen. Fortunate is the generation that has this merit.

 




1. Deuteronomy 30:3-8.

2. Isaiah prophesied for a period of 60 years, 2600 years ago.

3. Yeshai is the Hebrew name of Jesse, the father of King David.

4. Isaiah 11:1-2

5. Ta'anis, Chapter 4, Halachah 5. The Jerusalem Talmud is a collection of the opinions of the sages who lived in Israel about 1900 years ago.

6. Rabbi Akiva was one of the great sages of Israel, who lived in the period of the destruction of the Second Temple. He was born in 3776 (year 15 of the Common Era), he lived 120 years (as did Moses), and was killed sanctifying G-d's name.

7. Bilam was a master of black magic who was hired by Balak, King of Moav, to curse the Jews. (See Numbers, Chapters 22 through 24.)

8. Numbers 24:17.

9. "The men of the Great Assembly" in the period of the second Temple, about 2300 years ago. The word chazal is an acronym for cb ochmeinu, Z ichronam l'vracha, which means "our sages of blessed memory."

10. Maimonides, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, was also known as the Rambam.

According to his tombstone in Tiberias, he was born in Cordoba, Spain on the 14th of Nisan, 4895 (March 30, 1135), and he died on the 20th of Tevet, 4965 (December 13, 1204) in Egypt. He was a philosopher and an extraordinary doctor (he was the court physician), and is considered amongst the foremost authorities in Jewish Law.

11. The Mishnah, a summary. of the Oral Torah given to Moses together with the written Torah, is a large collection of laws, customs, traditions and decrees which expounds and explains the Torah, as established by the Rabbis.

12. From the Rambam's explanation of Mishnah Sanhedrin, Perek 11.

13. Mishnah Torah or Yad Hachazakah, the magnum opus of the Rambam, is a 14-volume code of laws, covering every detail of Jewish Law.

14. Mishnah Torah, Laws of Kings, 11:1.

15. Isaiah 11:6.

16. Mishnah Torah, Laws of Kings 12:5.

17. In his explanation of Mishnah Sanhedrin, Perek Chelek.

18. Ibid. 12: 1.

19. Genesis 1: 1.

20. Deuteronomy 6:4.

21. Deuteronomy 4:35.

22. In Chassidism, the hidden aspects, inner content and meaning of the Torah and commandments are explained. It was first revealed through Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, who was born 300 years ago, in the year 5458 (1698 C.E.), and seven generations of Lubavitcher Rebbes have followed his path.

23. Mtdrash Tanchuma, Parshat Nasso, Chapter 16. Mtdrash is a general term for books and collections of explanations by our Rabbis in Law and Aggadah (legend). Most were compiled more than 2000 years ago, in the days of the authors of the Mishnah and Talmud.

24. Psalm 34:16.
25. Exodus 9:3.

26. An alternative perspective on anthropomorphism found in the teachings of Chassidism is that Torah references to G-d's hand, eye, dwelling and so on are literal and it is rather our hands, eyes, dwellings, etc. which are allegorical.

27. The seven commandments of the children of Noah are not to eat a limb cut from a live animal, not to curse G-d, not to steal, to establish laws and courts of law, not to worship idols, not to indulge in improper sexual conduct, and not to murder. See Appendix 1.

28. Deuteronomy 30:15 and 19.

29. This raises the question of how free will can be reconciled with Divine Providence, which is discussed in various Chassidic and philosophic texts, but which is beyond the scope of this essay.

30. Zechariah 14:4.

31. Laws of Kings, 12:5. 222 Ibid. 12:1.

32. Ibid. 12:1.
33. Likutei Sichos, Volume 27, page 191.

34. Sicha of Parshas Shmos, 5752.

35. Tanya, Chapter 36.

36 The Gemara is a collection of the teachings of the Sages in Babylon 1900 years ago. The Mishnah and Gemara together comprise the Talmud.

37. Sanhedrin 97a.

38. Genesis 23:24.

39. Maimonides' Laws Regarding Idolatry, Ch. 1.

40. In Hebrew, the place name 'Ur' and the word 'Or', (which means 'Light') are made up of the same letters.

41. Beraishis Rabbah, Chapter 2:13.

42. Midrash Rabbah, Chapter 42.

43. The story is told in Genesis, Chapter 15.

44. 1 Kings 8:51

45. Torah Ohr, Parshat Shmot.

46. Described in detail in Exodus, Chapters 19 and 20.

47. Exodus 25:8.

48. 1 Kings 10:9.

49. Sefer Hamaamarim Melukat, Volume 6, Maamar Purim Katan, 5752 (1992).

50. A Babylonian scholar who lived about 1700 years ago and migrated from Babylon to Israel.

51Pesachim 87b.

52. Judges 5:11.

53. Zechariah 8:12

54. Don Isaac Abarbanel, one of the sages of Spain, was born in 5197 (1437) in Lisbon. He died at the age of 71 in Venice. He was the author of many books about the Redemption.

55. In the Sefer Yeshuas Meshicho.

56. The Ramban, Rabbi Moses hen Nachman, also known as Nachmanides, was a doctor, a Kabbalist, and a widely studied commentator on Torah and Talmud. He lived amongst the sages of Spain in the generation after Maimonides. He was born in 4954 (1194) and died in the Holy Land in 5030 (1270) at the age of 76.

57. In his commentary on the Torah, Genesis 2:3.

58. In the Maamarim of the Alter Rebbe.

59. Sichos ParShas Ekev, 5751 (August, 1991).

60. Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe. His follow­ers often refer to him in the present tense even after his apparent physical passing in 1994.

61. The Divine Presence, the feminine aspect of G-d immanent in the world.

62. Babylonian Talmud, Satah 49b.

63. ISaiah 1 :26.

64. A perfected person.

65. The prophecy and the instruction to publicize it amongst all Jews are in the stcba of Parsbat Sbofttm, 5751 (August 17, 1991).

66. Said during the Rebbe's inaugural Maamar (Chassidic discourse) which he delivered on the 10th of Sbvat, 5711 (January 17, 1951).

67. A reference to Isaiah 1:26.

68. A reference to Proverbs 3:6.

69. The Ethics of the Fathers, 2:17.

70. Song of Songs 2:8.

71. From Sichas Parshas Shoftim, 5751 (August 17, 1991).

72. Sicha of Parshas Mishpatim 5752 (1992)

73Sicha of Parshas Toldos 5752 (1991)

74. Hisvaaduyos, Naso, 5751 (1991).

75. A collection of Midrashim on the Bible, compiled by Rabbi Shimon Ashkenazi, who lived about 750 years ago in Frankfurt on Main.

76. Hisvaaduyos, 5750, page 420.

77. Parshas Pinchas, 5751 (1991).

78. Sefer HaSichos, 5752 (1992).

79. Sicba of 28th of Nisan, 5751 (April 12, 1991).

80Sanbedrin 98b.

81. In Rabbi Ovadia Bartenura's explanation of Book of Ruth.

82. Responsa of the Cbasam Soferon Cbosben Misbpat, Likutim 97.

83. According to Sbivcbei Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak [Isaac) Luria, one of the sages of Israel and a master of Kabbalah, .was born in Jerusalem in 5294 (534), and died on the 5th of Av, 5332 (August 14, 1572), at the age of 38. He was known as the 'Ari', the Lion.

84. Deuteronomy 5:5.

85. Tikunei Zobar 69.

86. Shmos Rabbah on Exodus 2:4.

87. Laws of Kings 11:4.

88. Rabbi Yehudah Loewe of Prague, one of the outstanding Jews of the sixteenth century, wrote many books on Jewish law, philosophy, and morality.

89. Vayikra Rabbah, Numbers 80: 11.

90. Sejer HaGilgulim, Chapter 13.

91. A Mekubal (Kabbalist) and commentator on Torah who lived in Spain in approximately 1340.

92. Zohar, part 3, p.152a.

93. Talmud Shabbos 23b.

94. The Rebbe related this story with the commentary cited on Shabbos Parshas . Sbemtni 5718 (April 12, 1958).

95. quoted in Hayom yom, by the Rebbe.

 

 


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