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On Publicizing The Identity Of Moshiach
Interview by Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan

Three distinguished shluchim, known for their involvement with inyanei Moshiach and Geula, gathered to discuss the Rebbe’s directives as they pertain to our times * Their conclusion: publicizing Moshiach’s identity must be, as the Rebbe put it, “an ongoing and increasing activity”

Rabbi Wilschansky: Before dealing with specific questions, we must begin with an important preface that pertains to the topic as a whole. Just as when it comes to halacha in daily life it is the Shulchan Aruch that shows us the way and establishes the conduct of every Jew, so too when it comes to hiskashrus and hafatzas ha’maayanos, what the Rebbe says is our Shulchan Aruch. Especially when we speak of inyanei Moshiach and Geula and the besuras ha’Geula, which are based solely on explicit sichos of the Rebbe MH”M, the mevaser ha’Geula, the Rebbe can be the only one to establish the way.

So, for every single topic, we must examine what the Rebbe has to say — in the Rebbe’s printed, edited sichos, in the Rebbe’s letters, and in the Rebbe’s public conduct.

Rabbi Majesky: Unfortunately, insufficient knowledge of the sichos and inaccuracy when studying what the Rebbe said have led to varying opinions that have become commonplace in certain circles. As the Rebbe Rayatz once put it, “It’s difficult to discuss this but much harder to remain quiet.” As is the case, sometimes we have to deal with opinions that utterly oppose those of the Rebbe. The call of the hour is to unite around a close examination of the Rebbe’s views on the topic of Moshiach and Geula. This is the only way to attain the proper approach.

Rabbi Greenberg: When we stick to examining what the Rebbe said, we avert arguments. Most of the differences of opinion stem from the fact that the “anshei Tohu” are inclined to get excited about things, and with great enthusiasm and commotion they are the ones to make breakthroughs. The “anshei tikkun,” on the other hand, scrutinize everything before making a commitment, which often leads to a significant reduction in their activities. When we internalize what the Rebbe said about the topic of Moshiach, “oros d’Tohu b’keilim d’Tikkun,” i.e., that both approaches are necessary, it would seem that many points of disagreement could be resolved peacefully.


For many years, Moshiach’s identity was an “inside” topic. What has changed to make this now a matter for public consumption?

Rabbi Wilschansky: In the Rebbe’s sicha of Chaf-Ches Nissan 5751, the Rebbe informed us that we are in an auspicious time for Redemption. From that point on, the subject of Moshiach took on a different tone and significance. The Rebbe began saying that Moshiach is already at the threshold, and we must live with his imminent arrival. The Rebbe even said that in certain respects, we are already in the actual Yemos HaMoshiach, and can see this in the fact that the fulfillment of certain prophecies about the Redemption has begun. Since then, the Rebbe gave much encouragement to what we call publicizing Moshiach’s identity.

In that same sicha, the Rebbe said that he completed his role in bringing Moshiach and he gave us the rest of the job. Some thought that the point that is specific to us and not to the Rebbe is the idea of kabbalas ha’malchus, something that must come from the people and not, of course, from the king himself.

The rabbanei Chabad in Eretz Yisroel, followed by rabbanei Chabad elsewhere, signed a psak din saying that the time had come for the Rebbe to be revealed as Moshiach. In addition to that, many of Anash signed letters of kabbalas ha’malchus. These piskei dinim and letters of kabbalas ha’malchus were accepted by the Rebbe, and the Rebbe even encouraged the reading of these piskei dinim at the gravesites of the Rebbeim.

During the period of time following this, people saw that the Rebbe had begun to allow this matter to go public. For example, Rabbi Yurkowitz asked about speaking about the topic of Moshiach’s identity in the Chabad neighborhood in Lud, and the Rebbe answered, “A judge bases his decision only on what his eyes see.” One of the rabbanei Anash in South Africa received a similar answer. He had written that they hesitated about signing for kabbalas ha’malchus because they weren’t sure if the Rebbe wanted it. The Rebbe answered, “It depends on the conditions of the place; Chabad on the scene has to make the determination.”

From these answers it is clear that, although for years Moshiach’s identity was an inside matter, a change had taken place and since then it has been permissible and proper to publicize it. Permission to publicize Moshiach’s identity had to do with the times changing and the dawn of a new era.

Rabbi Majesky: The Rebbe himself began openly talking about Moshiach’s identity. Over the years, the Rebbe had spoken about it infrequently and only alluded to it. But starting from the summer of 5751 and even more in the winter of 5752, the Rebbe began talking about the leader of the generation being the Moshiach of the generation, etc. Expressions such as “Moshiach she’b’dor” began to be connected with the well-known phrase, “der Rebbe der shver.” These expressions did not remain the sole province of those who attended farbrengens, but were publicized in edited sichos which were published in the Algemeiner Journal and elsewhere. Doesn’t this show us that the Rebbe himself changed his mode of conduct?

But how can we ignore the sharp words the Rebbe used against this, particularly what the Rebbe said on Shabbos Bereishis 5745, when he spoke so strongly about this pushing Jews away from Chassidus. Dare we say that times have changed?

Rabbi Greenberg: Definitely, the situation and times have changed, and the answers received then do not apply now! Allow me to explain. One of the principles of our faith is that Torah is eternal and unchanging, and if someone were to come along and say that something in Torah has changed, it would be outright heresy with respect to the eternality of Torah. At the same time, there are things that the Torah says are subject to change, and the best example of this is the study of Chassidus. At the time of the Gemara, they interpreted the verse, “they should be held captive under your tongue,” to mean that deep matters such as Maaseh Merkava and the like must be hidden “under the tongue” and not spoken about publicly, but only to individuals in private. Then along came the Arizal, hundreds of years later, who said that now “it is permissible and a mitzva to reveal this wisdom.” Then came the Baal Shem Tov who began revealing the teachings of Chassidus, “the precious stone in the king’s crown,” followed by the Alter Rebbe and the other Lubavitcher Rebbeim, who explicated these matters even further, until our times, when the Rebbe allowed all Chassidic works to be published, and in square letters too!

(Indeed, the Rebbe asks [in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 30, sicha of 19 Kislev] how is it that something which at first was completely forbidden became permissible? The Rebbe answers that from the outset the prohibition was not about the idea itself but about certain secondary issues. When those issues are no longer apparent, and in addition, there are reasons which necessitate the publicizing of Chassidus [due to the great darkness of exile, and most especially because we are approaching the Geula] the matter becomes one which is permissible and even obligatory.)

So too, regarding the matter at hand: the topic of Moshiach is subject to change and development. For the first 2,000 years since Creation, people could not have known that the main purpose of creation is Moshiach. During the next “2,000 years of Torah,” that idea slowly became more clear. And in the “2,000 years of Moshiach,” the matter has become even more revealed. In these latter 2,000 years, specifically in this last generation, all gedolei Yisroel have declared that we are living in ikvisa d’Meshicha. The topic of Moshiach has become more real, to the point that we have merited the incredible news of “the time for your redemption has arrived,” which attests to its immediacy.

So, as we stand on the threshold of Geula, we already have the existence of the redeemer, who openly prepares for the imminent Redemption. It is only natural that the time has come for Moshiach’s identity to become public knowledge. There is every reason to say that the positive answers, which are the latest answers we’ve heard to date, indicate that we are now living in a different era from the time when negative answers were received.

Rabbi Majesky: There are many things that went through a process of being prohibited and even sharply negated by the Rebbe which later became permissible. An interesting example of this is the custom of donning Rabbeinu Tam tefillin from the age of bar mitzva. This was not done in Lubavitch in previous years. And those who asked the Rebbe about it were told in no uncertain terms that our custom is to begin wearing the Rabbeinu Tam tefillin at a more advanced age. Then on Purim 5736 (1976) the Rebbe said that the situation had changed, and all men from the age of bar mitzva should wear Rabbeinu Tam tefillin.

An even more significant example is when the Rebbe initially refused to accept the Chabad leadership. The Rebbe went so far as to say he wasn’t suited for it. Not only did he not accept the leadership, but he negated the very notion, saying, “M.S. [i.e., the Rebbe’s name] should be Rebbe?!” The Rebbe also said that the publications that said “under the leadership of K’vod K’dushas Admur shlita” should be hidden away.

However, after the Chassidim repeatedly begged him, the Rebbe accepted the leadership. Even then, it wasn’t that the Rebbe announced, “I have accepted the leadership,” but the Rebbe had begun to do things which he had up until then refused to do. He accepted pidyonos and held yechiduyos and said maamarim and sichos.

Nu, do you think that anyone would ever come along and say: How can you possibly ignore the fact that the Rebbe said, “M.S. should be Rebbe?!” (which the Rebbe certainly meant at the time). Or would anybody say: How can you ignore the Rebbe’s explicit opposition to becoming Rebbe?

Furthermore, the Rebbe never actually negated the idea of publicizing the identity of Moshiach, rather, he merely opposed certain modes of publicizing it. Then the time came when the Rebbe began openly conducting himself as Melech HaMoshiach, informing us that Moshiach is already here and active, and so this became a matter pertinent to all.

I once heard somebody pose the following question at a farbrengen in 5753: “How can we publicize Moshiach’s identity when the Rebbe negated doing so in the past?” One of the elder Chassidim sitting there replied, “Tell me, at the time the Rebbe spoke strongly against it, didn’t you have the feeling that this wasn’t a permanent state of affairs, but something temporary? So why are you surprised that the time has finally come?”

Rabbi Wilschansky: In the Yud-Alef Nissan issue of Beis Moshiach, an answer of the Rebbe is publicized regarding the intention of the Committee of 71 Institutions to print the maamerMinui HaMelech” found in Derech Mitzvosecha of the Tzemach Tzedek. R’ Ben-Tzion Shemtov, had suggested that by learning this maamer “we will merit that Hashem will crown the Rebbe as Melech HaMoshiach.” Near the Rebbe’s directive that “they should completely cancel the printing and strongly condemn the one who suggested the above-mentioned,” the Rebbe wrote, “it is simply not at all the time for this.” In other words, the time wasn’t right then, but there just might be a time that would be right.

Along the same lines, the Rebbe answered a Lubavitcher from New York in 5751: “According to the results for the meantime, according to reports coming until now...according to the situation at present — what makes more sense is a temporary break.”

On the other hand, after the sicha of Chaf-Ches Nissan, the Rebbe said the following about Jews signing forms for kabbalas ha’malchus: “It was received and many thanks. May it be an ongoing and increasing activity, and the time is auspicious... I will mention it at the tziyun.”

In another answer of Kislev 5752: “May it be fulfilled in them ‘whoever has 200 wants 400, etc.’ I will mention it at the tziyun.” There are many other such answers printed in V’Hu Yigaleinu and in the Yomanei Beis Chayeinu printed at the time in Kfar Chabad Magazine and other publications.

It’s sufficient to take as an example the sicha mentioned in the question, from Shabbos Bereishis 5745. In that sicha the Rebbe protests the fact that they began singing a niggun which included the words “HaRebbe Moshiach Tzidkeinu.” Then the Rebbe strongly protested the plan of printing a book containing allusions to Moshiach’s identity. That book is the famous Yechi HaMelech, written by Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Volpe. The author received a very sharp personal answer from the Rebbe, which said among other things, “It can cause much harm, r’l, to Chabad and spreading the wellsprings...and I warn you to stop talking, writing, and certainly spreading this... If, Heaven forbid, you will do something, you should know clearly that this is going to war against me specifically and generally.” (Indeed, the author fulfilled the directive and put the book aside.) Could there be a sharper answer than that?

Yet six years later, at the end of 5751, the Rebbe not only approved of the book (which now included material based on the sichos the Rebbe had said in the interim), but gave the same author explicit instructs to publicize it! The Rebbe, after seeing the galleys, wrote: “It was received, many thanks. It is herewith enclosed to be exchanged for a bound copy and thanks in advance. May it be successful and [provide] good news. I will mention it at the tziyun for the above.” Following this, the Rebbe inquired of his secretaries about the progress being made on disseminating the book! Then the Rebbe gave his explicit approval to the printing of the book Yechi HaMelech HaMoshiach, which declares as its aim: to publicize Moshiach’s identity.

There are also many additional answers to individuals and mosdos about projects such as this, primarily the Rebbe’s actual public encouragement of the singing of “Yechi Adoneinu,” which included a live satellite broadcast seen by millions around the world on Yud Shvat 5753.

Rabbi Greenberg: I would add another example showing the change that began in recent years regarding the topic of Moshiach and Geula in general. The book M’Gola L’Geula, which is a compilation of the Rebbeim’s teachings about the Redemption, was ready for the printer in the mid ‘80’s, and the suggestion was made to the Rebbe that it be printed. The Rebbe strongly negated the idea, saying here too that it “would push Jews away.” Now remember that this book is simply a compilation of statements of the Rebbeim which were already in print, and the book didn’t deal at all with Moshiach’s identity. Still, the Rebbe said no. Yet in 5752, when the editor asked the Rebbe whether he could publish the book in accordance with the Rebbe’s directive to learn inyanei Moshiach and Geula, the Rebbe answered, “It caused much nachas ruach,” and the Rebbe even edited the wording of the introduction.

From this it’s clear that the entire topic of Moshiach changed in recent years. In the past, the topic in general was not the call of the hour, neither Moshiach’s identity nor any other detail. However, when the Rebbe informed us that this is the “only shlichus,” publicizing Moshiach’s identity is one definite facet of this.

(Click here to continue.)


Rabbi Heschel Greenberg - director of the Jewish Discovery Center Williamsville, New York
When we stick to examining what the Rebbe said, we avert arguments... When we internalize what the Rebbe said about the topic of Moshiach, “oros d’Tohu b’keilim d’Tikkun,” i.e., that both approaches are necessary, it would seem that many points of disagreement could be resolved peacefully.

Rabbi Shloma Zalman Majesky - dean of Machon Chana, Crown Heights
The Rebbe never negated the idea of publicizing the identity of Moshiach, rather, he merely opposed certain modes of publicizing it. Then the time came when the Rebbe began openly conducting himself as Melech HaMoshiach, informing us that Moshiach is already here and active, and so this became a matter pertinent to all.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Wilschansky - Rosh Yeshivas Chassidei Chabad Lubavitch, Tzfas
The Rebbe wrote, “it is simply not at all the time for this.” In other words, the time wasn’t right then, but there just might be a time that would be right.


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