A Preface to
Moshiach: Setting the Record Straight
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 Moshiach?

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 happened.

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 generation?

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 passed away.

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 their obligation).

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 comments?

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 accomplishing.

Ashrenu ma tov chelkenu, ma na’im goraleinu, u’ma yafa yerushaseinu.

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.


If we’re talking about someone who’s going to come from a thousand years ago, there’s a question. Why should that person be the Moshiach? If it’s that person, it could be a thousand other people...

—Rabbi Heschel Greenberg




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.

—Rabbi Sholom Ber Kalmanson



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