The mashpia Reb Mendel Futerfas used to tell the following story:
One of the greatest disciples of the Baal Shem Tov was the Chassid Reb Zev Volf of Zhitomir. On his deathbed he summoned his student, Reb Schneur of Pastov, for his final words: “My son,” — Reb Zev Volf began, — “there are hard times ahead for the Jewish people, the period of ‘the footsteps of Moshiach.’ Jews who shave their beards with a razor will be heads of the community; they will even be given Shishi or Maftir in shul. Yet Chassidim of 80 or 90 years old, with decades of service to G-d behind them, will still be putting pennies in the charity box before davening, begging G-d to strengthen their simple belief in our sages and righteous people.
“And Jews like us will still be searching our souls to determine if our belief is genuine…”
“So Rebbe, what can I do?” asked the disciple.
“My advice to you is to tell others what I have said,” Reb Zev Volf replied. “This will make it easier for them to hold on to their faith during turbulent times.”
Reb Mendel would then always point out that Reb Zev Volf’s last concern wasn’t about faith in G-d, but simple faith in sages and righteous people. The Torah is referred to as Moshe’s Torah – “the Torah that Moshe commanded us” and “Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant” – even though the Torah is obviously from G-d. For the most important element of service to G-d, the very foundation upon which everything else is built, is absolute faith in “Moshe My servant.”
It is only when a Jew has one hundred percent faith in Moshe Rabbeinu, when he is completely connected to the Rebbe, that he can have full faith in G-d. If, G-d forbid, his faith in the Rebbe is defective, his faith in G-d is also not real.
We are now approaching Gimmel Tammuz. Once again, we are faced with the crucial question: How should we relate to this holy day?
Of course, it is our fervent desire that the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach will be revealed by then, and that he himself will answer all our questions. But if, G-d forbid, Moshiach is delayed for another few moments, we must also be aware of what the Rebbe wants us to do in this contingency. That is why it is necessary to repeat some basic ideas which should already be obvious to everyone:
That the Rebbe is alive in the literal sense, in a physical body on the material plane of the world, is a fact that is based on everything we have ever been taught. “Any other alternative is simply impossible.” According to Chassidus, there cannot be a situation in which there is no Rebbe, G-d forbid. The very concept flies in the face of reality, and contradicts G-d’s plan in the creation of the world.
The simplest “proof” is that every Chassid knew this and accepted it as fact up until Gimmel Tammuz. In every single Lubavitcher periodical it was presented as incontrovertible, unquestionable truth. That the Rebbe is Melech HaMoshiach was not up to individual interpretation or argument, just something that we took for granted, having been raised on this knowledge.
As explained in numerous places in Likkutei Sichos (Vol. 25, page 7 for one), in every generation there has to be a Nasi with the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu invested in his physical body. This Nasi is the channel through which all G-dly vitality flows to the Jewish people, and from them to the world at large. This is the way it always was and always will be according to the Torah, till the end of time. The dynamics themselves aren’t subject to change.
Chassidus further explains (see talk of Shabbos Parshas Tzav 5751) that the reason a physical body is necessary is that the Rebbe functions as “a connecting intermediary” between G-d and the world – “I stand between Hashem and you.” In order for the G-dly vitality to animate and sustain creation, it must first clothe itself in the body of the Leader. The Rebbe is completely nullified to G-d; his entire existence is G-dliness. In other words, the Rebbe “combines” G-dliness with the physical world, allowing the Divine flow of vitality to permeate the lowest plane.
The same principle is true in microcosm, pertaining to the G-dly soul of every Jew. In the same way the brain is the intermediary between the spiritual soul and the physical body, and the soul must first clothe itself in the brain to animate the various limbs, so too the Nasi HaDor is the channel or intermediary between the Divine energy that sustains creation and the physical world. And just as it is impossible for a person to live without a head, so too is it impossible for the world to exist without a Nasi in a physical body.
This principle is the underlying basis upon which the world was created. If we cannot comprehend our present situation, the problem lies solely in our ability to explain it. But lack of understanding on our part in no way changes the fact that the Rebbe is alive in the literal sense.
True, none of us could have anticipated our experience of Gimmel Tammuz. But, as will be explained, what our physical eyes perceive is not in contradiction to Torah, and does not mean that the very foundation of our lives should be abandoned, G-d forbid.
According to Torah law, if a sage determines a law before a given situation arises, we are obligated to accept it. By contrast, if he determines the law only after the situation has presented itself, we are not allowed to accept his ruling, even if he claims to have heard it on good authority. The reason for this is that in matters of Torah and its laws, absolute objectivity is required. Laws cannot be rendered under duress, and are not subject to popular vote.
Once a law has been determined it cannot be changed, and whatever happens afterward is irrelevant.
Without exaggeration, we heard the Rebbe tell us thousands of times that the Torah is “the Torah of truth” and “the Torah of life,” providing direction for our daily existence. The Torah’s laws determine what life is, and establish the true reality. The Torah does not change or adapt itself to the variables of time or place. Only the Torah can determine reality.
In general, the Torah doesn’t contradict what our eyes perceive as physical evidence. On the contrary, by telling us what to do in particular situations, it gives strength to the world and reinforces reality. The Rebbe has even explained that what we perceive as reality is due only to the force the Torah bestows upon it.
As our Sages asked, “How do we know that snow is white? Only because the Torah states ‘[your sins] will be as white as snow.” If snow would appear to be any other color, we would still know that in reality it is white.
Another example is the planetary orbits. The Torah tells us that the sun revolves around the earth and not the other way around. Disregarding for a moment the Heisenberg Principle of Improbability and the Rebbe’s numerous explanations about modern science ultimately validating Torah, does anyone seriously think we’re supposed to distort the Torah, G-d forbid, to make it more “modern” and palatable?
There are many other examples of what the Torah establishes as reality that seems to contradict common knowledge or perception. Does a believing Jew simply disregard what the Torah tells us? Obviously not. The only issue for the Jew is to find out what the Torah really says.
Once that is done in a completely objective manner, “even if all the kings of the east and the west claim otherwise,” our only answer is the saying of our Sages: “It is preferable that Shlomo and a thousand like him be lost, rather than nullify a single letter of the Torah!”
The same principle applies to the issue at hand. Before Gimmel Tammuz, not one Chabad Chassid doubted that according to Torah there could be no histalkus. So what happened? Are we supposed to change what the Torah says just because it’s suddenly unpopular? Anyone who even considers the notion is following his own theology rather than Hashem’s.
As the Rebbe shlita said in 5710, “Der Rebbe hot altz bavorent – the Rebbe foretold everything.” How much more does this apply today!
I cannot believe that even the biggest fool would seriously consider that the Rebbe didn’t anticipate Gimmel Tammuz, that it came as a surprise to the Rebbe or was against his will. How can anyone think that the Leader of the generation would neglect to tell us what is expected of us after Zach Adar and Gimmel Tammuz?
Any responsible person in a position of leadership would anticipate the future, let alone a manhig Yisroel and prophet, the Nasi HaDor and Melech HaMoshiach. The Rebbe knew exactly what would occur, and “foretold everything.”
What exactly did the Rebbe do? He told us that a “new period” related to the final Redemption commenced on Chaf-Beis Sh’vat 5748, which would require more service and independent effort on our part. All previous types of service have been completed, and the only thing left to do is to actually bring about the revelation of Moshiach. In this new period we would not be able to rely on the Leader of the generation, but would have to work independently. Furthermore, the Rebbe stressed that this would be the responsibility of each one of us.
From that point on the Rebbe’s “style” changed dramatically. The public speeches gradually decreased in frequency and eventually ceased. The talks became shorter and more concise. The Rebbe almost completely stopped elaborating on Rashi, the Rambam, Pirkei Avos, and the like, and those points that were elucidated were extremely brief. At the same time, the Rebbe began to speak incessantly about the coming Redemption. The Rebbe told us countless times that the service of “separating the sparks” is over, “the buttons are already polished,” and that Moshiach is due to be revealed at any moment. The Rebbe explicitly stated that Moshiach is already present and is having an effect on the world, and declared that “the time for your Redemption has arrived.” The only service that remains is to actually greet righteous Moshiach, allowing him to fulfill his mission to take the Jewish people out of exile.
Parenthetically, the whole debate about whether or not to publicize Moshiach’s identity is superfluous. It is simply pointless to go around quoting talks from before 27 Adar:
Before Gimmel Tammuz, everyone spoke about the Rebbe as Moshiach and nobody batted an eye. The banner “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed” appeared each week on the opening page of Kfar Chabad magazine. If that’s not publicly identifying Moshiach, what is? Every single “official” Chabad publication touted the Rebbe as Moshiach, clarified the concept, and called upon the whole world to accept his sovereignty.
Allow me to quote the feature article on the front page of issue #318 of Sichat HaShavua: “It does not require much imagination to come to the conclusion that the [person who] acts in such a manner will eventually be revealed as the Redeemer of Israel. When you also take into consideration the Rebbe’s persona… it is eminently clear that this tzaddik is none other than he who will soon be revealed as Moshiach.
Chabad Chassidim have known this all along, although they may have refrained from declaring it openly. We are now at the climax [of a historical process], which paradoxically appears to be the lowest point. Without doubt, it is a difficult moment, a test, after which the great light of the Redemption will break through. Have faith, and we will merit that it happen.”
Another piece on the back page of the same issue, under the heading “Jewish Life,” describes the Rebbe sitting on the balcony of 770 “after davening on weekdays and Shabbos, before thousands of people crammed into the beis ha’midrash. The Rebbe’s holy eyes are piercing, serious, and extremely aware. The Rebbe scrutinizes the crowd, considering each person individually. When the song ‘Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed’ bursts forth, the Rebbe nods his head and conducts the singing, encouraging and energizing it.”
The next week’s issue of Sichat HaShavua, #319, contains the following: “True, it is not easy to cling to a belief that seems to fly in the face of reality. People ask such difficult questions… yet you know that the only answer lies in the realm of faith. For the whole concept of Moshiach is above nature, in contradiction to the reality of the world, and indeed, against logic.” “It is a test of faith, depending on the degree that a person is affected by what appears to be physical reality, and how much he is willing to rely on G-dly faith, the supernatural, the foundation of which is the Torah and the words of our tzaddikim.” And yet, “tens of thousands of the Rebbe’s Chassidim are passing this difficult test, and are not becoming dejected.”
Only after Gimmel Tammuz did some people scramble to find “other explanations” for what has always been eminently clear. But, of course, these new “interpretations” were not given to Moshe at Sinai! And anyone claiming that the Rebbe deliberately misled us, G-d forbid, for such a long period of time is obviously not the kind of person to determine what is permissible and what is forbidden according to Torah.
There are several components to the “new period” that began on Chaf-Beis Sh’vat 5748, among which are the following:
Our generation is distinguished from all previous generations by the fact that the concept of hefsek or interruption of life does not apply. The Biblical injunction of “to dust you shall return” can be fulfilled by the spiritual nullification of “and may my soul be like dust to everything,” after which we will pass directly into the “eternal life” of the full and complete Redemption.
The phrase that the Rebbe used so often in the early years of his nesius, referring to the darkness of exile as a “choshech kaful u’mechupal” (“doubled and redoubled darkness”) virtually disappeared in his later sichos. The Rebbe repeatedly stated that the world is ready for the Redemption, and pointed to various world events to substantiate that Moshiach is already exerting a positive influence. The unique avoda of our times consists of joyously anticipating Moshiach’s revelation at any moment.
With the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, it’s easy to see how the Rebbe foresaw everything. The Rebbe gradually accustomed us to the idea that there would be no histalkus of the soul from the physical body, and that his “illness” was more than met the eye. Rather, the whole phenomenon of Zach Adar and Gimmel Tammuz is only for the purpose of attaining the highest level of bittul necessary for the Rebbe’s revelation, the “fiftieth gate,” as the Rebbe elucidated so often in his most recent sichos kodesh.
On Rosh HaShana 5752, the Rebbe spoke about the baal ha’tokeia’s face turning red (from the effort), and described a condition that we would recognize as a stroke. Yet the Rebbe went on to ensure us that he was only speaking of something that is extremely positive and beneficial!
To anyone with even a smidgen of a Chassidishe chinuch, the notion that ‘the Rebbe did everything he could to prevent our current situation but wasn’t able to’ is utterly repugnant.
As every Chassid knows, it is axiomatic that the Rebbe transcends the limitations of the natural world. Everything happening to the Rebbe is with his full approval and in accordance with his will, which is synonymous with G-d’s will.
As far as the Rebbe is concerned, there is no such thing as helem or tzimtzum. The Rebbe, who is completely nullified to G-d and united with Him, knows everything and can do whatever he wants. As the Rebbe declared in the sicha of Chaf Av 5710, whoever doubts this doubts “I am the L-rd your G-d” and “You shall not have any other gods before Me.”
This includes even when a Rebbe is imprisoned or seemingly ill; to the Rebbe, there is no darkness or concealment. The concepts of Geula and refua are extraneous to him; they only seem to apply from our limited standpoint.
Should the Rebbe decree that the Redemption must take place now, there is no doubt that it would happen — “When the tzaddik decrees, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, fulfills it.”
The fact that the Rebbe hasn’t is the ultimate level of mesiras nefesh, in accordance with G-d’s will that the Jewish people redeem themselves from exile through their own efforts. (See sicha of Shabbos Parshas Pinchas 5744.)
During the period of Sfiras HaOmer, the Rebbe Rayatz would make a mark in his siddur each night to “remind” him of where he was holding. Surely there was no need for this, as the concept of forgetting does not apply to him. Nonetheless, the avoda of a tzaddik requires him to “go through the motions” in order to affect even the lowest levels of existence. Similarly, the Rebbe “went through the motions” of exhorting us and urging us on to do more, all the while knowing how things would play out.
There are many things in the world that seem to contradict G-d’s will. People do aveiros, steal, murder, and rob. Yet would anyone think that G-d really wants to stop them, but, nebach, it’s beyond His ability to do so? To the believing Jew, G-d is omniscient and all-powerful. Whatever happens in the world is according to His will, whether or not we can understand it.
In the same way, the Rebbe knew exactly what would happen before and after Gimmel Tammuz. With prescience and foresight, he taught us how to look at the world around us and determine what the true reality is according to Torah.
The Rebbe has also emphasized that the unique avoda of our times flows in the direction of “below to Above.” Bringing about Moshiach’s revelation is dependent on us. No longer can we wait for explicit directives, but must act independently, and G-d will give us special abilities to know what to do.
The avoda required of us now is different from anything we’ve ever done in the past. No longer can we fulfill our obligation by simply studying a Rashi sicha or going out on mivtzaim.
Every action we take must be with a single goal in mind: Moshiach. As the Rebbe commented about himself, “I am crazy about Moshiach!”
The acceptance of Moshiach’s sovereignty must come from below, from the people, which is why we cannot wait for explicit directives. And in order to accept Moshiach’s sovereignty, the world has to know who Moshiach is.
In other words, there was no stroke and no histalkus, G-d forbid, in the usual sense. The period we are now going through is for the sole purpose that we act as if under our own power and do all we can to bring Moshiach.
The Rebbe has placed his trust in us. He is watching each of us intently, waiting for us to fulfill our mission. With true achdus and love for one another, we will overcome all obstacles and make the final Redemption a reality.
Even the biggest fool wouldn’t maintain that the Rebbe didn’t anticipate Gimmel Tammuz, that it came as a surprise to the Rebbe or was against his will.
How can anyone think that the Nasi HaDor would neglect to tell us what is expected of us after Zach Adar and Gimmel Tammuz?
The Rebbe told us that the world is ready for the Redemption, and indicated that Moshiach is already exerting a positive influence.
The unique service of our times consists of joyously anticipating Moshiach’s revelation at any moment.