Twenty-five years since gimmel Tamuz, something no Lubavitcher ever imagined, many feel perplexed and let down—where is the geulah the Rebbe spoke of so imminently! Of course, there are plenty who are still of the opposite extreme, and many others who may not give this any thought at all, but we must stop and ask ourselves—as chassidim of the Rebbe, why are so many of us worlds apart? Perhaps we have become confused due to the darkness of galus and lost sight of some important facts. Maybe those of a younger generation or new to Chabad were never aware of them altogether. So let’s take a moment to shed some light on the topic by going back to the basics, in the hope of arriving at a brighter, more unified future.
The History of Eternal Relevance
In the early 5750s, the Rebbe made his appointment as Moshiach candidly clear in many public addresses.1 Aside from showing their personal allegiance to the Rebbe, chassidim—with expressed permission—began to publicize the news to the outside world. At first, certain shluchim objected, saying that doing so would turn people away from Judaism. In response to this concern, the Rebbe agreed that silence was in order. However, come the year 5753, the Rebbe himself encouraged with his unspoken holy motions, and without any exception to the incoming inquiries, to publicize to the world his identity as Moshiach. And so it was—in newspapers, the spoken word and more.2
Reflect on the following: The Rebbe, as an established prophet, whose prophecies on both a global and individual scale were always faithfully fulfilled, would never so much as make a movement that wasn’t in line with the ultimate of truth. So how could we ever doubt and become weakened in the Rebbe’s primary prophecy about the arrival of the geulah and his Heavenly appointment as Moshiach, which he himself attested to! Surely it’s only a matter of time until the Rebbe’s shlichus as Redeemer of the Jewish People reaches its completion3 and, until then, any discouragement on our part is just another one of the many tests of emunah we have been given to surmount during our travails in galus.
Yaakov Avinu Never Died:
A Three-Stage Process
Never mind the concealment and lengthy lapse of time. It shouldn’t weaken us, but on the contrary, strengthen our efforts because we are ever closer to achieving our shlichus. If we feel a momentary lapse of faith, we should remind ourselves of the words of our Sages:4 “Rabbi Yochanan said that our forefather Yaakov never died.” Rashi explains that the reason they mummified him was because5 “they thought that he had died, but he was alive.”
The Rif on Ein Yaakov, authored by Rabbi Yehoshiyahu Pinto (1565-1648), explains what happened to our forefather Yaakov as follows:6 “His life force remained in his body and did not separate from his body… the reason they believed he had died and buried him was because his powers of motion ceased to be expressed as by someone in a faint, as it says that ‘Yaakov gathered his legs onto the bed and expired,’ meaning as a person who fainted. Since they did not realize his life force was still inside him, they buried him.”
The Alshich similarly comments on the verse describing Yaakov’s passing,7 “Yaakov was like one who had fainted, but in reality his life force, spirit, and soul were still with him.” So we can see that Yaakov is not just spiritually alive but physically alive as well.
This is not at all surprising considering that throughout the Gemara we find various examples of tzaddikim who did not pass away in the conventional sense of the word, like the stories told about Rav Achai, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, Rabbi Elazar, and Rabbi Tuvi.8
Melo HaRo’im writes that the word “נשיא,” leader, is an acronym for “ניצוצו של יעקב אבינו,” a spark of our forefather Yaakov. Once we merited to hear from the Rebbe that Moshiach is the Nasi of the generation and that he is in our midst, what happened on gimmel Tammuz cannot be seen as a passing in the regular sense of the word, since passing means the completion of a mission and the separation of the soul from the body to stand judgment. With regard to the Rebbe, however, who is the Nasi and Moshiach of the generation, histalkus was not a cessation of activity, G-d forbid, but an elevation to receive an even higher level of life that he needs in order to complete the job he began, and for this there had to be the current brief period of “absence.”
The Zohar elucidates such a three-stage process of Moshiach’s initial revelation, subsequent concealment in order to receive a higher soul, and final complete revelation.9 The Midrash likewise states that the future Redeemer will be revealed, then concealed, then revealed again.10 This is quoted by Rabbeinu Bechayei11 and the Chasam Sofer on the Torah.12 The latter writes, “This is a great test that the Redeemer [Moshe] was concealed… and so will it be at the time of our righteous Moshiach that he will be concealed after his revelation, as mentioned in the Midrash.”
The Rebbe stated similarly after the passing of the Frierdiker Rebbe,13 “Just as until now it was clear to every one of us that the Rebbe would lead us to greet our righteous Moshiach, so should it be clear now. What happened is only from our material point of view. It is nothing more than a trial, this being one of the tests of the birth pangs of Moshiach which must occur before the arrival of the righteous Redeemer. The sole purpose of these tests is to conceal the truth.” In a similar vein, the Rebbe said on the tenth of Adar that same year,14 “by the Rebbe there is no difference between what was before the event that occurred and what is now. Even now the Rebbe is physically present with us.”
Just as the Rebbe said then, so do we believe now that the “passing” was only to our physical eyes, but the reality is that the Rebbe is with us now just as much as he was before gimmel Tammuz. It is precisely by overcoming this test and pushing away this concealment that this truth will be revealed15 and we will see the Rebbe with our physical eyes and he will lead us to the Redemption. In the Rebbe’s own prophetic words,16 “we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption.
The King and the People: What You Can Do
Beginning with the command to appoint a king in Parshas Shoftim,17 we see the emphasis on the role of the people. This was evident by the appointment of King David, where despite his prophetic anointment by Shmuel Hanavi, the majority acceptance of the people, including the elders—a seven-year process18—was also needed to make his appointment official.19 So was the case with the people’s acceptance of King David’s successors as evident from Scripture.20
Likewise, in the sichah of Parshas Mishpatim 5751, the Rebbe taught:21
“The appointment of Moshiach has already taken place… There only needs to be the acceptance of his kingship (קבלת מלכותו) by the people, and the devotion and attachment between the king and the people in a most revealed sense—with the complete and true geulah.
The following year, in the sichah of Parshas Chayei Sarah 5752, the Rebbe said:22
“The only avodah left to do is to be מקבל פני משיח צדקנו.” The Rebbe proceeds to explain this as performing all of Torah and mitzvos in a manner of immediate preparation to bring and greet Moshiach.
The attribute of malchus, kingship, as Chassidus explains, needs to be aroused from others; that is, by the speech and deeds of the people, who call forth the leadership of the king—in this case, Melech HaMoshiach—with their total allegiance and nullification to him, since there can be no king without a nation.
This concept is expressed in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, which presents the query,23 “If a king does not have armies or camps, what is he king over? If there is no nation to praise the king, where is his honor?” In the language of Chassidus—אין מלך בלא עם.
Similarly, the Rebbe is saying in the first sichah above that it’s not sufficient for Hashem to appoint Moshiach; when the complete geulah occurs, the people will have to formally “accept” his kingship (קבלת מלכותו) in order to bring about their absolute attachment to him and his to them.24 In the second sichah quoted, the Rebbe takes the idea of קבלת המלכות a step further, saying that even before the complete geulah, we show our anticipation to attach and devote ourselves to Moshiach by doing everything in these final days of galus with the intent of bringing about his complete revelation and our subsequent bond to him. More than just mentally preparing us for Moshiach’s imminent revelation, this approach inspires us to additional action which makes his arrival occur even sooner. In other words, we see how there is a strong connection between the intent, speech and action of the people in their role in revealing Moshiach in the complete sense.
It would seem that the Rebbe’s encouragement to publicize his identity as Moshiach is also tied to the above. In doing so, the Rebbe opened the door for the connection to forge between him and the people even before his complete revelation, and hasten that time with their eagerness to accept his appointment. Moreover, it wasn’t enough for Lubavitch Chassidim alone to crown the Rebbe but the Rebbe strove to publicize the matter worldwide; after all, אין מלך בלא עם, and all of Am Yisrael are the Rebbe’s people and ought to accept his sovereignty willingly.
Rededication in Absence of Revelation
In an Elul maamar,25 an expression similar to the one outlining the final avodah—קבלת פני משיח—is found in the context of the unique avodah of Elul, in light of the Alter Rebbe’s mashal about the King in the field, which also entails the avodah of being “מקבל פני המלך” in the field.
In brief, the maamar explains that the revelation of Hashem during Tishrei, as the King in all His grandeur, evokes awe-inspired avodah that is considered primarily the outcome of the revelation from Above. But in Elul, Hashem helps in a different way. Once the Jew makes the effort on his own volition to come closer to Hashem—meeting Him in the field—with simple קבלת עול, Hashem in return helps him do exactly that by revealing the innermost, core desire, possessed by every Jew, to be dedicated to the King. The resulting avodah is consequently more essential to and inspired by his true being, rather than from an outside source of revelation, as in the month of Tishrei.
In fact, the Rebbe in the maamar26 likens the קבלת המלך in Elul to the קבלת התורה in the time of Haman, which Chassidus explains to be the ultimate culmination of קבלת התורה, completing that which we commenced at Har Sinai. When the Jews dedicated themselves to Hashem—the King—at Har Sinai, it wasn’t considered a true קבלה because it was inspired by the lofty G-dly revelation they witnessed from without. Only when they willingly rededicated themselves to the Torah in the times of Haman, when revelation was altogether absent, was it considered the true קבלה, because it clearly came from within. Likewise, the avodah of Elul, in a sense, can be considered a more authentic avodah than that of Tishrei. (In fact, the Rebbe explains, one cannot properly experience the revelation of the King in Tishrei without the avodah of Elul).
The same could be said with achieving “קבלת פני משיח” before his complete revelation. The final avodah—to be מקבל פני משיח צדקנו—when dependent on our own free will, is more powerful than the קבלת פני משיח before gimmel Tammuz, which was inspired—similar to Tishrei—by the awe of the Rebbe’s presence. It is our קבלה today which will be considered the true קבלה, worthy of receiving the full revelation of the Rebbe as Melech HaMoshiach! In other words, when the Rebbe revealed himself in full force in 5753, the task of קבלת פני משיח was not achieved in its complete capacity; that is possible only in our current circumstances. It is, therefore, our privilege and obligation to see this objective through to its completion.
Be Strong and Strengthen Others
We must, therefore, strengthen our emunah in the Rebbe and his words. We must renew our vitality in attaching ourselves to the Rebbe with complete devotion—making a serious accounting of our current standing in this regard and addressing whatever needs improvement— with the knowledge that this effort is an active duty in crowning our king, something in which we can’t afford to be lax. Moreover, we must not suffice with just improving ourselves, but also help others do the same. We must educate our children on this subject, as it can’t be taken for granted that they will understand on their own. We are producing a generation of youth totally unaware of all the above. They say “yechi” and have no clue why they are saying it or, worse yet, some have been educated to disdain the pronunciation altogether; if the outside world is uninformed, should we be just the same?
In the Rebbe’s own words, added by his holy hand when editing the sichah of beis Nissan 5748 for publication:27
When the nation announces ‘Yechi…’ this not only affects the existence of the king, but causes an increase in his actual life, expressing that the time has arrived for “Arise and sing, those who dwell in the dust”—my honored father-in-law, the Rebbe, Nasi of our generation—and up to and including “Arise and sing… Dovid Malka Meshicha.”
Those who are in positions of chinuch must also educate their students28 and, as chassidim, we must try to educate anyone else who will receive this message, Lubavitch or not.
Standing as One
Just reflect: By Divine directive, the Rebbe revealed himself as Moshiach almost 3 decades ago. It is now 25 years since gimmel Tamuz and we have endured so much as a people and individually. If in the past, like our ancestors in Mitzrayim,29 we were unable to perceive that geulah could be a reality, let’s not let the darkness of galus dull our senses any longer. Finally, it is time to open up our minds and hearts to hear the message of the Rebbe,30 “The time of your redemption has arrived!” and actively fulfill the prophecy in Scripture,31 “They will seek Hashem, their G-d and David their king”—they will seek Melech HaMoshiach who comes from the seed of David, and from him they will seek their request that he should rule them. Surely, we will not allow another moment to pass without making this our primary concern, for every painful moment that passes in galus is yet another moment lost of the eternal bliss of geulah.
As Rosh Hashanah approaches, when we crown the King of all kings, let us keep in mind His agent, Melech HaMoshiach, our Rebbe who will reveal Hashem’s Kingship throughout the entire world. After all, the one who truly desires the sovereignty of G-d to resound worldwide once and for all, will surely strive to crown His agent who will make that possible.32 The Rebbe is waiting eagerly, with open arms,33 for our call to accept his kingship with renewed vigor and lead us to eternal redemption. Let’s not delay any longer.
May our good resolution in this direction alone merit that we behold in the literal, physical sense our dear Rebbe, who will lead us out of galus to the final and complete geulah speedily in our days!