In reaction to renewed controversy
and interest regarding the Lubavitch-Moshiach issue, a small panel of prominent
Lubavitch scholars and shluchim, utilized the medium of radio to provide
thousands of listeners with a clear picture of the Torahís position on Moshiach.
* The following is Part 2 of an interview aiming at shedding light on the
oft-neglected subject of Moshiach & Redemption, clarifying the views of Chabad.
* A preface to the discussion on "Talk-line With Zev Brenner," whose transcript
continues in this issue.
(Continued from last week.)
Rabbi Pape: Thank you, Rabbi Kalmanson. I would like to
ask the next question to Rabbi Majeski. Whatís been said until now about the
identity of Moshiach and the era of Moshiach has applied for thousands of years.
Why are you making such a big fuss about it today?
Rabbi Majeski: Although there are prophecies, and many
sources in the Talmud and Midrash about Moshiach, and in none of these sources
does it say the time when heís going to come, it does describe what the world is
going to look like when that time happens. These signs, based on what all the
Torah leaders have been saying for the last 50 years (and even before the
Holocaust), are being constantly fulfilled clearly before our eyes.
Most recently, these signs were shown in the Persian Gulf War
crisis. The Rebbe said that the crisis that we saw taking place in the Persian
Gulf was a fulfillment of what it says in the Yalkut Shimoni. It can be
looked up in the Rebbeís Seifer HaSichos of 5750, Parshas Ríei, page 640.
What the Midrash was describing took place in the summer of 1990.
The Rebbe says this description was exactly what was
happening at that time: Thereís going to be conflict among nations, the whole
world will be in panic, the Jewish people will be very frightened and will say,
"Where shall we go?" Moshiach will say to them, "My children, donít be afraid."
Hashem will say through Moshiach, "Everything that Iíve done is only for you -
higia zíman Geulasíchem!" (the time of your Redemption has arrived!).
The Rebbe said that this is the message for klal Yisroel
now - that the time of your Redemption has arrived. Because this is something
that is relevant now, this is what has created this commotion and excitement
about the coming of Moshiach, and generated all the talk and discussion about
Rabbi Pape: If Iím not mistaken, is that not the same as
when Moshe Rabbeinu came to Egypt and made his announcement that he was there to
redeem the Jewish people - "Pakad pakadíti"? So the Rebbe said words that
people have been waiting for thousands of years to hear!
Rabbi Majeski: True.
Rabbi Pape: Rabbi Kalmanson, we have to move on to the
next very important subject of Tíchias HaMeisim, the resurrection of the
dead. This is closely related to the subject of Redemption, Geula,
because itís supposed to come afterwards. We praise G-d three times a day that
He will be mechayeh meisim (resurrect the dead), but most people donít
have a clear, detailed idea of what this is. Could you please throw some light
on the subject?
Rabbi Kalmanson: Tíchias HaMeisim actually is one
of the 13 Principals of Faith, and as you know, it comes right after the listing
of emuna, the faith in the coming of Moshiach. There are three phases in
Tíchias HaMeisim. One is a tíchias haímeisim that has taken place
throughout the ages. There have been people such as Elisha, who performed
tíchias haímeisim with that little child people thought was dead. Tíchias
haímeisim has taken place throughout the ages.There was Yechezkel with the
atzamos heíyeveishos (dried bones), and that form of tíchias haímeisim
will continue before Moshiachís coming and before Moshiachís revelation, as
There is a second [aspect of] tíchias haímeisim that
is going to happen again before the Geula. The Gemara asks a question in
Yoma: Whatís going to happen when Moshiach has come, and he has to build the
Beis HaMikdash before the final Redemption, so we can acknowledge him as
being the Moshiach Vadai? How is he going to know the fine details
of the Beis HaMikdash if he has never been there before?
The Gemara says that Moshe, Aharon and his children are going
to be there. All the mefarshim (Torah commentaries) and the Rebbe speak
about this at great length. This means that there will be tíchias haímeisim
at that point, prior to [the final] Redemption. All the tzaddikim -
Moshe, Aharon and his children - and all the tzaddikim and nesiyei
Yisroel (leaders of the Jewish people) of the previous generations will come
back. Moshe, Aharon and his children will be of assistance to Moshiach to help
him construct the Beis HaMikdash.
And then comes the final phase of tíchias haímeisim,
which is probably the one that most people have heard about. This is the
tíchias haímeisim after Redemption, whether itís 20 or 40 years after
Redemption. That is the tíchias haímeisim for the general klal Yisroel.
Rabbi Pape: Rabbi Majeski, would you say that itís
against Torah to say that Moshiach could be a person who had passed on, and then
he would come and redeem the Jewish people after having passed on? Is there any
basis for that?
Rabbi Majeski: This is a perfect example of what we said
before about people having preconceived ideas without looking and studying what
it says in Torah. When this question comes up - "Is this according to Judaism?"
- the answer is that the definition of Judaism is that which is written in
Torah. Torah defines Judaism. We have to look to see if it says in Torah that
Moshiach can be someone who passed on and then comes as Moshiach.
Let me go through a number of sources. First of all, we have
the Gemara in Sanhedrin, the Talmud, page Tzaddik-Ches amud Beis, where
the Gemara says: "Rav says that if Moshiach is among those who are living, then
itís Rabbeinu HaKodesh, and if heís among those who passed on, then itís
We have again the Gemara, in Yerushalmi, Mesechta Brachos
2:4, where it says, "The rabbanim say, ĎIf Moshiach is among the living,
then his name is Dovid, and if heís from among those who passed on, then itís
Dovid HaMelech himself.í" Midrash Rabba Eicha 1:51 says a similar thing:
"If Moshiach is among the living, then his name is Dovid, and if heís among
those who passed on, his name is also Dovid."
The Abarbanel, in the seifer, Yeshuas Meshichoi,
chapter 1, writes, "There should not be a question in your mind whether Moshiach
could be someone who will come after passing, because it says this in the
Gemara. The Gemara says there is that possibility: if heís among those who
passed on, then itís Daniel Ish Chamudos."
We find also in the Sídei Chemed, who was a master of
halacha, in his seifer Paas Sadeh, siman Ayin,
"There are two possibilities as to how Moshiach can come. He can come as someone
who is alive, and he can come as someone who has passed on, as it says in the
Gemara in Sanhedrin."
We donít have to go that far; we can look in the Chumash,
the commentary of Ohr HaChaim, Parshas Balak 24:16, on the pasuk, "Aríenu
vílo ata," where he says exactly the same thing - that Moshiach can come in
two possible ways. One is from those who are living, and it could also be that
heíll be nisgaleh (revealed) from Shamayim. We can also find it in
the Zohar: you can look it up in Parshas Balak, page 203, amud 2. The
Zohar says that Moshiach is one who will be here, pass on, and then heíll come
back and take the Yidden out of Galus.
We also find this in the writings of the Arizal, in Shaar
HaGilgulim 13 and 31, where he describes how Moshiach will be a human being
born to a father and a mother, who will grow up to be a great tzaddik, a
righteous person, and he will be given the task to take the Yidden out of
Galus. After that, like Moshe Rabbeinu, who went up to the mountain for
40 days and 40 nights, and then he came back - thatís how Moshiach [will be].
After he will be here, and not everyone will accept him, he will disappear, then
come back, take the Yidden out of Galus, and then everyone will
I want to conclude with the words of Rav Aharon Soloveichik,
aíh, who was definitely a Torah giant of our generation. He wrote a letter
that was printed in the Jewish Press, June 28, 1996. Iím going to read a
few lines from his letter regarding this issue:
"Before the passing of the Rebbe, I included myself among
those who believe that the Rebbe was worthy of being Moshiach. And I strongly
believe that had we, particularly the Orthodox community, been united, we would
have merited to see the complete Redemption. Insofar as the belief held by many
in Lubavitch - based in part on similar statements made by the Rebbe himself
concerning his predecessor, the Previous Rebbe, including prominent rabbanim
and roshei yeshiva - that the Rebbe can still be Moshiach in light of the
Gemara in Sanhedrin, the Zohar, Abarbanel, Kisvei Arizal, Sídei Chemed,
and other sources, it cannot be dismissed as a belief that is outside the pale
of Orthodoxy. Any cynical attempt at utilizing a legitimate disagreement of
interpretation concerning this matter in order to besmirch and to damage the
Lubavitch movement that was, and continues to be, at the forefront of those who
are battling the missionaries, assimilation, and indifference, can only
contribute to the regrettable discord that already plagues the Jewish community,
and particularly the Torah community."
Rabbi Pape: Rabbi Majeski, thank you very much. There
are some things in your comment that I would like to bring up again, but Rabbi
Greenberg is with us. Rabbi Greenberg, I believe that you were involved with
Rabbi Soloveichik in the writing of that letter, is that not true?
Rabbi Greenberg: Yes, that is true. And Iíd like to give
some of the background, because when I mention the fact that Rabbi Soloveichik
signed this letter, people tell me they know from reliable sources that itís not
true, that he never wrote it, that itís a forgery, and that they know from
reliable sources that he was pressured into writing it. And then I hear that
they know from reliable sources that he retracted it. Well, if he didnít write
it, he canít retract it. I was there in the room together with two other rabbis
who witnessed him sign the letter.
Let me give you the background on that letter. The letter was
not written personally by Rabbi Soloveichik; he didnít actually take a pen and
write it. He was paralyzed, and it was very hard for him to write. But the
letter was composed to contain the ideas that Rabbi Soloveichik said orally to
one of the rabbis in Chicago, Rabbi Eli Turin. I helped put the letter together
containing Rabbi Soloveichikís ideas about this very subject. We brought the
letter to Rabbi Soloveichikís attention, and there was no coercion, G-d forbid.
Rabbi Soloveichik was a gadol bíTorah. One could not
suspect that he would have been pressured into writing something that was
heresy. If someone believes that, they can believe anything; and this is a great
insult to a man of the stature of Rav Aharon Soloveichik, of blessed memory.
We had a very pleasant conversation. We spoke about the
subject in a pleasant manner and we said to Rabbi Soloveichik, "This is the
letter that weíd like to publicize to stop all this terrible discord. Would you
sign it?" Rabbi Soloveichik went through the letter very carefully. It doesnít
take long to read. It took him probably a minute or two to read it carefully. He
probably read it and reread it, and his words to us were, "Ich vil dos
chasemín (I will sign it)." And he proceeded to sign it.
As far as I know, the letter was published in the Jewish
Press, and before the Jewish Press would publish it, they wanted to
get a confirmation that he indeed signed the letter, and of course that was
forthcoming, because they did publish it in the Jewish Press.
The so-called retraction came a week later when someone
misrepresented what Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik signed. Rabbi Soloveichik did not
sign that he said that the Rebbe is Moshiach. That was not what he signed. He
signed that there are legitimate sources for that belief and nobody should be
criticized or condemned for it. That was what he confirmed, in fact, in the next
weekís Jewish Press.
Even according to those who say he never endorsed this belief
- that is not true. He endorsed it, but perhaps not as his own personal belief.
But he made it very clear that one should not condemn Lubavitch for it.
Let me ask you: If it is a heretical belief that the Rebbe is
or could be Moshiach, as critics claim it to be, how could Rabbi Soloveichik say
that we are not to condemn it?
For those who knew Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik - and I knew him
well; I had many occasions to talk to him and to hear his very, very strong
views about Jewish issues. He was forceful and strident in his opposition to the
Israeli government giving up territory for peace, the false peace agreement. He
was strident in his support for many religious issues that were not popular. Yet
concerning the issue of Moshiach he said one should not criticize [Lubavitch].
Obviously, heís saying this is a legitimate issue of
interpretation and that thereís nothing wrong with this belief. Anyone who
continues to fight it and condemn it is going directly against a gadol
bíTorah, Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik.
Rabbi Pape: Thank you, Rabbi Greenberg. Rabbi Majeski, in
some of the comments that you made, you seemed to be saying that the process of
Redemption could be started by Moshiach, and then he will disappear and then
come back. In previous weeks it was said that this idea goes against Jewish
belief. Is there any foundation for the claim that the idea does go against
Jewish belief? Are there sources to the contrary?
Rabbi Majeski: Again, to reiterate: The definition of
Jewish belief is that which is written in Torah. That defines Jewish belief.
This possibility - that Moshiach comes, and after his coming and revelation
thereís an interruption, and then he completes the process - this is found in a
number of places in Torah. Let me just mention a few. One is Midrash Rabba
Shir HaShirim 2:22, on the pasuk "Domeh dodi lítzvi." And the
Midrash says, just like a deer is revealed, and hidden, and again hidden. I
guess it means that when it runs, it runs between the trees - you see it and
then you donít see it. Thatís what happened with Moshe Rabbeinu in Egypt. He
came, and then he was concealed for a few months - there are different opinions
how many months - and then he was revealed again and took the Jews out of
Mitzrayim. The Midrash concludes the same thing will be with Moshiach: He will
be revealed, then he will be hidden, and then he will be revealed again. In
fact, the Midrash says that when he will be hidden, it will be a very difficult
time. There will be people who will stop believing in him because of that, and
that ultimately he will come.
This message is also in Rashi, in Daniel 12:12. The
pasuk says, "Ashrei haímíchakim" (fortunate are those who will wait
for Moshiach). Rashi says this is not just talking about people in general who
wait for Moshiach. [Rather,] fortunate are those who will wait for Moshiach
after he is revealed, and then he will be hidden, and then revealed again. In
that in-between time: fortunate are those who persevere in their emuna.
In fact, Rashi says this is brought down in the davening,
in the siddur, the "Yotzer" for Parshas HaChodesh. Anyone can look
it up. Itís in the Rav Yaakov Emden Siddur. It says the same thing: Moshiach
will come, be revealed, then heíll be hidden, and revealed again.
Itís also found in this weekís parsha, Parshas Shmos.
Rabbeinu Bechaye, at the end of the parsha, says, "Moshe Rabbeinu came,
then he was hidden, and then he came back to take the Yidden out of
Mitzrayim." And he writes that the same will be with Moshiach, as it says, "Kimei
tzeisícha míEretz Mitzrayim aríenu niflaos." This redemption will be similar
to the redemption in the times of Mitzrayim.
The Chasam Sofer, one of the greatest masters of halacha
in our recent generations, also wrote in his seifer, Toras Moshe, on this
parsha, Shmos. At the end of the parsha, he says that the fact
that Moshe was gone for six months was a very big test. The same will be
bíyimei Moshiach Tzidkeinu, yinelam achar nisgaleh (in the days of Moshiach
Tzidkeinu, he will be concealed after he is revealed), and we will need special
assistance from Hashem to stand up to this test. As mentioned before, the Arizal
in Seifer Shaar HaGilgulim also says the same thing - that heíll come,
and like Moshe Rabbeinu, he will disappear, go away, we wonít have him. Then
heíll come back and take all the Yidden out of Galus.
Rabbi Kalmanson: Actually, the Rizhiner, who lived at the
time of the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Lubavitcher Rebbe), asked how can we say "ein
ben Dovid ba ela bíhesech haídaas"? How can Moshiach only come when people
stop thinking about him? In essence, Jews must yearn and think about him and say
every day, "achakeh lo bíchol yom shíyavo" (I await his coming every
day). How can it be that he will come when people will not be thinking about
The Rizhiner said precisely what Rabbi Majeski just
mentioned. There will come a time that this individual will have functioned.
Then weíll come into a state of mind in which nobody will be able to believe
that this is going to happen again. Whatever happens to him, he is not going to
be around for anyone to believe. Then and only then is the hesech haídaas
that will bring forth Moshiach.
Rabbi Pape: Rabbi Kalmanson, I want to bring up a very
touchy subject. It was claimed on this program a few weeks ago that for
thousands of years Jews have had self-sacrifice to reject Christianity because
the leader of that religion died. Could you please explain how this fits into
our discussion tonight?
Rabbi Kalmanson: First of all, the rejection of Yeshu
HaNotzri, as the Rambam calls him, had nothing to do with his death, or his
being killed, or the likes thereof. Everyone in those times, including the
non-Jews of the time, knew that Jewish rejection of him was precisely because he
went against Torah and mitzvos, because he abolished Torah and
mitzvos. There was nothing about him to indicate that he was a
representative of the concept of a Moshiach. This has nothing to do with the
fact that he died.
He definitely was misrepresenting [Torah], and definitely had
nothing to do with somebody that could have [been Moshiach, but was
disqualified] because he died. Thatís for sure.
Rabbi Greenberg: If you look at the Rambam that Rabbi
Kalmanson just quoted, the Rambam talks about two different individuals. One was
Yeshu, and one was Bar Kochva. With regard to Yeshu it says clearly he couldnít
have been Moshiach because he stood up against the ideals of Torah. That is what
invalidates someone. With regard to Bar Kochva, it says [he wasnít Moshiach]
because he was murdered. Thatís the reason he was not Moshiach. The Rambam could
have very well said the same thing about both. But itís obvious that the fact
that somebody dies doesnít in and of itself prove anything, if the ideals that
he stands for are the ideals that are consistent with Moshiach.
Rabbi Pape: Rabbi Greenberg, Iím glad you brought that
up. You mentioned Bar Kochva, and the Rambam says that since he was killed, we
know that he was not Moshiach. Doesnít this prove that if an individual passes
away, he cannot be Moshiach?
Rabbi Greenberg: There are many points that have to be
made, but I think the most obvious is that the Rambam was very careful in the
terminology that he used. He used the word "killed." If someone who was thought
of to be Moshiach is killed, then that proves that he is not Moshiach.
What is the Rambam saying about Bar Kochva? Bar Kochva was a
leader of the Jewish community right after the destruction of the Temple a few
decades later, who started a rebellion against the Romans. Because he was
successful in his initial battles, Rabbi Akiva, the leading sage, and many other
sages, considered him to be Moshiach, until they realized that he wasnít after
he was killed.
What was his claim to be Moshiach? Think about what the
Jewish people needed in that time. They were persecuted by the Romans. The
Romans destroyed the Temple. They did not let the Jews live as Jews. Here was a
man who stood up against the Romans and defeated them, one battle after another.
His credentials, if you wish, to declare himself as Moshiach existed because he
was fighting the Romans successfully. As soon as he failed miserably in
defeating the Romans because he was killed by them, and they clamped down more
ruthlessly on the Jewish community, that proved that he wasnít Moshiach.
The fact that somebody is considered to be Moshiach and he
passes on physically, or it appears he passes on - heís in a state of
concealment - that doesnít disprove anything, because what he has done to make
himself worthy of being Moshiach continues to exist.
Thereís nothing wrong with believing that that person could
come back and complete the task to be Moshiach even if there were no sources to
that effect. The fact that there are sources only strengthens the argument that
this is precisely the scenario that has always been foreseen for Moshiach.
Moshiach will come, he will start a revolution, a spiritual revolution, a Jewish
revolution, then heíll be concealed, and then heíll come back to finish the
(To be continued.)