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  “Basi L’Gani” On the Way To Jerusalem
By Avrohom Jacobson 

My fellow passenger wasn’t being sarcastic; he was truly interested in what I had to say. Never having learned Chassidus, the concepts I introduced him to were entirely new…

 A couple of weeks ago I got into a taxi to go to Jerusalem, and climbed into the back seat. There was one other person in the car – a middle-aged man wearing a knitted yarmulke.

“You’re a Chabadnik?” he asked me rhetorically. After confirming his speculation, a long conversation ensued. “Tell me,” he said, “is it true that you Lubavitchers still believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach?” By the time I finished explaining, we were already on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

My fellow passenger seemed genuinely curious about hearing my answer; he wasn’t looking for an argument or engaging in polemics. The whole way to Jerusalem he listened attentively.

His first question to me was, “When did you first start to believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach?”

“Instead of answering you directly,” I began, “let me tell you about a seifer entitled Chamoro Shel Moshiach (Moshiach’s Donkey), by someone named Safi Rachlovsky. The book was controversial when it first came out. An entire chapter is devoted to dispelling the misconception that one day, out of the blue, Lubavitcher Chassidim decided that the Rebbe is Moshiach. To prove his point, the author quotes extensively from the very first maamer said by the Rebbe in 5751, “Basi L’Gani,” and shows that the Rebbe saw himself as Moshiach from the moment he assumed the leadership of Chabad.” 

My fellow passenger was stunned. “This is the first time I’m hearing this,” he said. “What exactly did the Rebbe say?”

“Chassidus deals with all these concepts at great length,” I replied, “but I’ll try to explain it while ‘standing on one leg’:

“The Rebbe began his maamer with a Midrash that opens with the words “Basi L’Gani.” It explains that when the world was first created, G-dliness was openly revealed throughout creation. As time progressed and the first seven generations of mankind were sinful, the Shechina (Divine presence) withdrew from the earth, and ascended from the first firmament all the way up to the seventh firmament. At a later point in time, seven different tzaddikim of their respective generations gradually drew the Shechina back down. The seventh tzaddik, Moshe Rabbeinu, succeeded in bringing the Divine presence completely back to earth, where it rested in the Mishkan and among the Jewish people.

“The Rebbe then drew a parallel between the seven tzaddikim in the Midrash and the seven Nesiim of Chabad, the first of whom was the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. The Rebbe states clearly that our generation is the seventh generation, and that we are the final generation before the coming of Moshiach. In the same way that Moshe Rabbeinu completed the process of drawing the Divine presence back down to earth, so too is it our generation’s function to finish the job and bring about the final Redemption by drawing the Shechina completely down to the physical plane.

“So you see that almost 50 years ago, anyone with an ounce of sense could figure out that the Rebbe was saying that he was the parallel to Moshe Rabbeinu. In other words, that he is the Moshiach, whose function is to complete the historical process and effect a state in which the entire world senses its underlying G-dliness.”

“Do you mean to say that the Rebbe is a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu’s soul?” my fellow passenger said.

“Not exactly,” I tried to explain. “I’m saying even more. The Rebbe isn’t just a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu’s soul. The Rebbe is the actual soul of Moshe Rabbeinu.”

This was too much for my poor friend to absorb. Never having learned Chassidus, the concepts were too overwhelming. He demanded further explanation. I tried my best.

Concerning the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu, our Sages explain in the Talmud (Megilla 13b) that when Moshe was born, it nullified the future decree of the evil Haman. “When [Haman] cast his lot and saw that it fell in the month of Adar, he was overjoyed. He said to himself: The lot has fallen in the same month in which Moshe died. [Haman] did not know that although Moshe died on the Seventh of Adar, he was also born on that date.” Rashi comments: “[Moshe’s] birth was sufficient to atone for his death.”

The Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach asks an important question about this (in Volume 26 of Likkutei Sichos, in the first sicha on Parshas Shmos): At first glance this seems illogical. How can Moshe’s birth atone for his death? On the contrary  the concept of death nullifies birth. Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that the revelation of G-dliness that began with Moshe’s birth on the Seventh of Adar ceased when he passed away 120 years later on that date?

However, the Rebbe explains that when Moshe Rabbeinu was born, something completely new occurred, as it states in the parasha, “And she saw him that he was good.” According to our Sages, “When Moshe was born, the entire house was filled with light.” This unique light was an eternal, never-ending phenomenon that can never cease to exist, because Moshe Rabbeinu was the embodiment of the attribute of emes (truth). The definition of truth is not just the negation of its opposite, falsehood. Rather, truth is something that lasts forever, something that never changes, something that endures eternally.

That is why our Sages declared in the Talmud that “Moshe did not die.” Since Moshe is the embodiment of emes, the concept of death does not apply to him.

True, there is the general adage, “Tzaddikim even after their death are called alive,” “even more than in their lifetimes,” but this is only meant in the spiritual sense. On the physical plane, a change occurs, and they are no longer invested in physicality.

However, of all the tzaddikim who ever lived, Moshe Rabbeinu is in a special category. Since Moshe is the attribute of emes, he lives forever on the physical as well as the spiritual plane. Moshe Rabbeinu cannot die.

In order to understand this concept, we need to preface it with a basic Jewish principle formulated by our Sages: “The extension of Moshe Rabbeinu exists in every generation.”

This extension of Moshe Rabbeinu’s soul is embodied in the one nasi, or leader, of each generation. Our Sages said: “There is no generation that does not have one like Moshe.” In other words, there must always be one person in every generation in whom Moshe Rabbeinu’s soul is invested. In this sense Moshe Rabbeinu is always alive on the physical plane, because his soul exists in the physical body of the nasi of a given generation. Thus, when our Sages stated that “Moshe did not die,” they meant it literally.

The light that began to illuminate the world when Moshe Rabbeinu was born on the Seventh of Adar was true and eternal, and can never cease. Accordingly, Moshe’s birth does indeed atone for his “death,” for his histalkus on the Seventh of Adar did not negate the light that continues to shine in the physical body of the nasi of each generation, (e.g., for example, in the body of Yehoshua, the nasi who succeeded Moshe Rabbeinu.)

This process has continued over the generations. Upon the histalkus of one nasi, the same soul, the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu, is embodied in the next nasi.

In simpler terms: The Rebbe, the nasi of our generation, simply cannot have undergone any change or cessation of life in the physical sense, G-d forbid, because it would imply an interruption of the same light that began on the Seventh of Adar. This is the same light that began to illuminate on Yud Alef Nissan 5662, when the Rebbe MH”M was born; it is the same light that came into the world on Yud Beis Tammuz 5640, when the Rebbe Rayatz was born, and the same light that shone on Chaf MarCheshvan 5621, with the birth of the Rebbe Rashab, etc.

The Rebbe concludes definitively that every generation must have its own nasi, not only in the spiritual sense but also physically.               

Next, I explained to my new friend that everything Chabad Chassidim believe in is based on the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh, and that the Rebbe is the prophet of our generation. In light of his every single utterance over almost five decades, there is no doubt that the Rebbe continues to be our nasi, and that he is the Moshiach who will lead us to the final Redemption.

The man was silent for a few minutes as he digested this new information. Then he said, “You’re basing everything on the Rebbe’s sichos. But what about reality, about what the eye can see? Is it possible that the Rebbe wasn’t speaking literally?”

My answer to him was to explain how Jews, and Chassidim in particular, have always viewed the world: Whenever there is a seeming contradiction between science and our holy Torah, science always loses. Scientific theories come and go, but the Torah is true and immutable.

Thus, if we have a question about anything the Rebbe ever said, which constitutes a part of our holy Torah, the problem lies with us and our inability to understand it, rather than in the sicha.

Another interesting topic that came up was the phenomenon of tzaddikim being able to live without food or drink. On Chaf Menachem Av 5731 the Rebbe spoke about the saying of our Sages that “Yaakov Avinu did not die,” rather, “it appeared as if he had died.” The simple meaning is that Yaakov’s soul did not depart from his physical body. In other words, although a person usually has to eat and drink to maintain the connection between body and soul, there is also another type of connection that transcends the body’s physical requirements.

This is, in effect, the state everyone will attain in the Messianic era, when the soul will receive its nourishment from the physical body.

At the end of our journey, as the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem appeared in the distance, I prayed that we will no longer have to engage in such conversations, for the Rebbe’s immediate revelation as Melech HaMoshiach will have rendered them superfluous and obsolete.


When our Sages stated that “Moshe did not die,” they meant it literally.





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