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 Torah’s 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: Rabbi Kalmanson, would you say that it’s
inappropriate to point out a specific individual and say that he’s the Moshiach
of the generation? Is that an okay thing to do?
Rabbi Kalmanson: First of all, the answer is yes. It’s an
okay thing to do because if you go back to the Gemara in Sanhedrin, we find this
right there in the Gemara. You have the Yannaites, the disciples of the
yeshiva of Yannai, who said, "Yannai shmo" (Yannai is his
[Moshiach’s] name), or "Shilo shmo" (Shilo is his name). The
various houses of learning felt that their rabbis, the heads of their
yeshivos, were the Moshiach of their generation, and there’s much discussion
throughout the generations about why they did that.
Rabbi Greenberg was speaking about Bar Koziva. It’s
interesting: the Rambam is a book of halacha, a book of laws – not a book
of history. Why would the Rambam even tell the whole story about Bar Koziva –
that Rabbi Akiva thought he was Moshiach? Why was that brought up?
The reason is explained once in the Rebbe’s sicha: You
have to make the concept of Moshiach tangible. It shouldn’t only remain in the
mind as a fantasy. Throughout the generations we see this happening.
The Ohr HaChaim believed that he was Moshiach. There’s a
tremendous story told about the Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh, who had to reprint his
book. The printer’s name was Asher. In the book, the Ohr HaChaim wrote clearly
that the name of Moshiach is going to be Chaim. The printer happened to be a
very simple person, and when he came across this statement, he felt it was
pompous to make a statement like that, so he omitted the statement.
When he brought the finished product to the Ohr HaChaim, the
Ohr HaChaim opened to that page and noticed that the statement was missing. He
asked the printer, "Why did you take this out?" This Asher replied to the Ohr
HaChaim in all honesty and said, "With all due respect to you, I felt it was
pompous, and I didn’t think it was the right thing to do." The Ohr HaChaim
became extremely serious, looked at him and asked him if he had ever had any
other relationship with other women
The printer looked at him and said, "No, definitely not." The
Ohr HaChaim turned to the page in which it discusses in the Torah the aspect of
the sota (suspected adulterous woman) in which the Kohen would
have to tell her, "Make sure you didn’t have any relationships with this man or
with any other man. The expression used in the Torah is "m’ish zeh o m’ish
acher." By mistake, the printer typeset a Shin instead of a Ches,
and it said not "m’ish acher," but rather, "m’ish Asher."
That was the proof that he did conduct himself in an un-tznius manner,
and obviously he had to admit it.
[The issue of identifying an individual as Moshiach] was
something throughout the generations that one did not play around with. The Baal
Shem Tov’s talmidim felt that he was Moshiach; the Rambam in his
generation... Throughout the generations it has been common practice for
disciples to say such a thing. There’s a sicha of the Rebbe that makes it
clear that if this was the case in earlier generations, chassidim, in a
sense, nami abasrayu (do likewise) in pointing out that their Rebbe is
Moshiach in their generation.
The Rebbe makes an even stronger point. The Rebbe says that
the Nasi HaDor is the Moshiach sh’b’Dor (the Moshiach of the
generation). The Rebbe also points out that a Nasi HaDor who happens to
be the Nasi HaChassidus of that generation, the torchbearer of the Baal
Shem Tov (who was told that Moshiach will show up l’k’sh’yafutzu maaynosecha
chutza [when your wellsprings will spread outward]), the torchbearer
spreading those wellsprings chutza (outward) – is definitely the Nasi
to whom we should point the finger to say that he is the Moshiach.
Rabbi Pape: Thank you, Rabbi Kalmanson. Rabbi Greenberg,
I want to take this discussion a step further. We were talking about Moshiach
not being from the living, and Rabbi Kalmanson has said yes, we have an
obligation as chassidim of the Rebbe to say that it’s the Rebbe. But a
person might ask: Well, why shouldn’t it be Dovid HaMelech? Why shouldn’t it be
any of the outstanding leaders of the past who fought and had self-sacrifice for
Rabbi Greenberg: The Rebbe answered that himself in one
of his talks in Parshas VaYigash. The Rebbe says that Moshiach has to be
somebody – although there are some opinions that may not accept this – but the
Rebbe suggests that the final decision, the final halacha about Moshiach,
is that Moshiach has to be someone who functions within the period of exile and
who establishes himself as Moshiach while there is exile. He starts the process
and then he completes it later.
In other words, if Moshiach started the process during exile,
then he is the leader who is the Moshiach of that generation and he will finish
the process. If we’re talking about someone who’s going to come from a thousand
years ago, that scenario, there’s a question. Why should that person be the
Moshiach? If it’s that person, it could be a thousand other people. The most
likely scenario is that somebody starts the process in the time of exile and
then will finish the process.
I think that one of the problems that some people have, that
some critics have, and I hear the expression over and over again, "How could you
believe that someone is to be proclaimed as Moshiach in an unredeemed world, and
then will come back and finish the process?" That’s precisely the Jewish belief
– that Moshiach is first proclaimed Moshiach in an unredeemed world. The world
is still an incomplete, unredeemed world. We’re still deep in Galus.
The Rebbe says that this idea is based on the Rambam. The
Rambam suggests that Moshiach is somebody who is a leader in the time of exile,
and then he will complete the task in the second stage. Nobody believes that we
already have Redemption, that we already have a world where we don’t have to
fast, for example. We just fasted a few weeks ago, the tenth of Teives. If the
Redemption had already been here, if we claimed that the Rebbe brought the
Redemption, there would be no fasting on Asara B’Teives. We still believe that
we have to pray every day for the rebuilding of the Temple, the rebuilding of
Yerushalayim. We still need the comforting of Moshiach.
So when people say Moshiach and they mean Redemption, that’s
not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the leader of the generation
of Redemption while we’re still in exile, who we believe is the Rebbe, and we
believe the Rebbe will come to complete that task as the many sources that Rabbi
Majeski indicated suggest will happen in two stages.
Rabbi Kalmanson: As Rabbi Greenberg mentioned earlier,
the Rambam points out that when an individual from the House of David presents
the credentials, so to speak, in the sense of "yakuf kol Yisroel l’chazek
bidko" (he will compel the Jewish people to strengthen in Torah
observance to the letter), "yilchem milchemos Hashem" (he’s going to
battle the spiritual wars of G-d), and so on, the Rambam concludes with the
statement: "Harei zeh b’chezkas Moshiach" (he is the potential Moshiach)
– but not the way the term "b’chezkas" is popularly interpreted.
The principal of chazaka in halacha is a very
sound and strong principal. In essence, the Rambam’s use of the term means, as
the Rebbe said, this person is actually Moshiach at that point. Not that he is a
potential Moshiach. Not maybe he will be Moshiach. Because if that’s what the
Rambam intended, then when the Rambam continues: "…When he will bring the
ingathering and construct the Beis HaMikdash, harei zeh Moshiach Vadai"
(he is definitely Moshiach) – the Rambam should have earlier used the term, "harei
zeh safek Moshiach." He does not use the term "safek"
(questionable). He uses the term "chezkas."
"Chezkas" means that he is Moshiach. He is what we
call in halacha "mechusar maaseh" – he has to complete one more
act so we can acknowledge him as such. If people throughout the generations met
these criteria, you have a very good question [i.e., why couldn’t Moshiach be
someone from a long time ago]. But I would like to know: To whom can anyone
point who lived in previous generations? This is not to denigrate anybody; the
world was not ready, the time was not ready – unless Jews would have had the
z’chus and the zachu would have happened.
As we all know, there are two ways that Moshiach can show up:
either in a period of "zachu," when all the Jews merit it, or "b’ita,"
in its time. If the first option would have been the case, then anyone we
pointed out from those days could have been Moshiach – it would have actually
However, if Moshiach is coming now because it’s the time –
"the time of Redemption has arrived" – he has to meet the criteria. Throughout
the generations, no one has met these criteria of chezkas Moshiach... But
today the time has allowed it to be so. And that person isthe Rebbe.
Rabbi Pape: I’d like to direct this question to Rabbi
Majeski. Didn’t the Rebbe refer to the Previous Rebbe as Moshiach? What kind of
references did the Rebbe make about the Previous Rebbe? Didn’t he say he is the
Nasi of our generation and didn’t he say he is the Moshiach of our
Rabbi Majeski: The Rebbe said many times that every
Chabad chassid believes that the Rebbe in his generation was Moshiach.
Again, tonight we’re talking about sources. One could look this up in many
places. I just want to play a tape of the Rebbe from 19 Tishrei 5747. If anyone
wants to look up the full text they can read it [in Seifer HaSichos].
The Rebbe is talking about the Tzemach Tzedek, who was called
Tzemach Tzedek because these two names represent Moshiach. "Menachem Mendel" is
the gematria [numerical value] of "Tzemach Tzedek," indicating the belief
of the chassidim that the Rebbe is Moshiach.
[Audio clip of the Rebbe’s sicha.]
The Rebbe explained in many places that the Nasi HaDor
is the Moshiach of the generation. The Rebbe said this in Likkutei Sichos,
Volume 29, page 360. The Rebbe explains this point many times after this. In
Seifer HaSichos 5751, Tazria-Metzora, page 497, the Rebbe mentions the
Gemara relating how students said that their Rebbe is Moshiach. "Anan
chassidim nami abasrayu" – we follow the example of these students
and say the same thing about our Rebbe.
The Rebbe says these words in a number of places – that "the
Rebbe, Nesi Doreinu, the Rebbe, my father-in-law, is the Moshiach of this
generation." He says this in many places in Seifer HaSichos 5762, pages
95, 111, 113, 153, 373, and so on.
It has long been known in Lubavitch, that for 42 years when
the Rebbe would refer to the Previous Rebbe as Nesi Doreinu, the Rebbe
was talking about himself, but the Rebbe said it in this disguised way. The
Rebbe would even talk about his personal activities, and say, "These are the
activities of the Rebbe, my father-in-law." The reason for this is that in the
Rebbe’s view, it is the ko’ach of his father-in-law that gives him the
power to do what he’s doing. The Rebbe explains this idea at length in a
sicha of the 11th of Nissan 5745 (1985).
Therefore, every time the Rebbe said these words – that "the
Rebbe, my father-in-law, is Moshiach of this generation, the Nasi HaDor"
– it was understood by the chassidim that the Rebbe was also alluding to
himself, especially based on the principle the Rebbe gives that whoever is the
Nasi of the generation is also the Moshiach of the generation.
These sichos were edited by the Rebbe, and the Rebbe
requested that these sichos be published in the newspapers to be
publicized for everyone to see.
Rabbi Pape: Rabbi Majeski, I want to cut you short. We’re
concluding an hour-long program about Moshiach, Geula, and the
Lubavitcher Rebbe. We have very distinguished rabbanim here with us on
the air, and we’re running out of time. There are many other subjects that we
would have liked to discuss.
I want to get to one last, very important subject. Before we
conclude the hour, Rabbi Majeski, many people are concerned that there are
chassidim claiming that the Rebbe is still alive, that he is here, even if
we don’t see him. Can you please comment on this?
Rabbi Majeski: This principle is not an issue of
Lubavitch. Again, this principle is in Torah. In B’Reishis (Parshas
VaYechi) 49:33, Rashi states: "Yaakov Avinu lo meis." The Gemara claims
that Yaakov Avinu did not die. Rashi says, "Chai l’olam" (He lives
forever). Then he explains: "The Gemara asks a question: ‘But didn’t we see that
he was eulogized? Didn’t we see that he was buried? Didn’t we see that he was
embalmed?’ The Gemara answers, ‘Mikra hi – I just know what it says in
the Torah.’" And he brings the verse from the Torah that teaches us that
Yaakov Avinu lo meis. Rashi explains that it only appeared to them that he
This is the principle found in reference to Yaakov; in
reference to Moshe – "Moshe lo meis." We find this in
reference to Rabbeinu HaKodesh, where the Gemara says that every Friday night he
would come back home to his family. The Gilyon HaShas on the Gemara
itself says that he would come home and make Kiddush for his family,
which means he had the power to be motzi them (to cause them to fulfill
Whenever the Rebbe would speak about the Previous Rebbe, he
strongly said that this principle applies not only to Yaakov, but to every
Nasi HaDor. In fact, Nasi is the roshei teivos [acronym for] "netzutzo
shel Yaakov Avinu" (a spark of Yaakov Avinu).
Therefore, we chassidim say the same about the Rebbe:
The Rebbe is here. The Rebbe is with us. And even though the thing that
happened, happened, we go by what it says in Torah. And the Torah says, "Yaakov
lo meis." We can see this throughout all the years. The Rebbe made it a
matter of principle: Whenever he spoke about the Frierdike (Previous) Rebbe, the
Rebbe never said nishmaso Eden (his neshama is in Gan Eden) or
zecher tzaddik livracha (the memory of a tzaddik is for a bracha),
because he said [the Rebbe Rayatz] is here – he’s alive. And this is basically
what we are saying.
Rabbi Pape: Rabbi Majeski, do you have any concluding
Rabbi Majeski: I just want to say in conclusion that the
Rebbe gave us this message that the time is now for Moshiach. We should do
everything we can to hasten his coming. That is, through adding in Torah and
mitzvos, and specifically teaching the subject of Moshiach and Geula.
All I can say is that the fact that there are voices of opposition – all one
needs to do is just to take one trip to one Chabad House and see how hundreds of
homes are lit up by the warmth of Shabbos candles, hundreds of children are
learning in yeshiva who otherwise wouldn’t have, how many kitchens have
been kasher’d, how many homes have mezuzos, how many families are using
mikva, how many young men and women have been prevented from
intermarriage, missionaries, and cults. Multiply this by thousands more from one
end of the globe to the other end of the globe.
If you think of it and you see this, you will see that the
words that are coming from any other angle – words of hate, words of opposition
– all of this will just melt in the presence of what we see that the Rebbe is
Ashrenu ma tov chelkenu, ma na’im goraleinu, u’ma yafa
Rabbi Pape: Thank you, Rabbi Majeski. Anyone interested
in fulfilling the directive to learn about Moshiach and wants to have a class (a
shiur) on Moshiach in English, Hebrew, or Yiddish, please call (718)
778-5000. Arrangements can be made for a class over the telephone or in your
home together with friends.