R. Yisrael, the Koznitzer Maggid, would relate the following allegory:

In Poland and Russia, the landowners were virtual lords over their holdings. All the people who lived on their lands were subject to their rule, and they could do with them as they pleased without being accountable to a higher authority.

In particular, the wrath of these landowners would be stirred by their tenants’ failure to pay their rent. And there was no one to dispute the punishments they would hand out for such conduct. Indeed, the punishments were considered justified; the tenants had failed to meet their due.

So it was that one landowner had a large underground dungeon built for his tenants who had not paid their rent. Anyone who failed to make his payments was simply tossed in the dungeon, never to return. At twelve o’clock each day, the landowner would have food lowered into the dungeon so that the people would not starve, but that was the extent of his involvement. The people would never hope to see the light of day again.

At one point, the dungeon got crowded. Somehow the landowner must have appreciated this fact, for he ceased throwing people into it. And so it was, that except for the food that would regularly descend at noon each day, the people had no contact with the outside world.

This went on for years. People married, had children, and died in the dungeon. Soon all the people who had lived in the outside world passed away, and the only ones who were left were those who were born in the dungeon. For them, life had a simple routine. They would go about their personal business until noon when the door to the dungeon would open and food would be lowered down. They would divide the food, and then everyone would go back to their private concerns.

And so, several generations were raised in the dungeon. As time went on, the people of the dungeon became divided into two groups. One, the traditionalists, maintained that the dungeon was not the sum total of reality. There was a world outside with a sun, with trees, lakes, streams, and many beautiful things. They had been told this by their parents, who had received the message from their parents in a chain leading back to the time when people had actually lived outside the dungeon.

The others, the moderns, disagreed. We must, they argued, confront our reality as it is without seeking comfort in legends and fables. Our reality is the dungeon. There is no existence beyond it. The stories told by their parents could not be proven, so there was no reason why they were required to accept them.

The main point of contention was the opening of the dungeon door and the lowering of the food. The traditionalists maintained that this was proof of the existence of a reality beyond the dungeon. The moderns, by contrast, admitted that while the phenomenon was hard to explain, it was not, they countered, reason enough to believe in a premise that could not be substantiated.

And so the dispute continued. For many years, the two sides argued, each presenting various proofs and supports, but neither was able to convince the other.

Then it happened, one day, right before the food was to be lowered at twelve o’clock, that a living person was tossed into the dungeon. He had failed to pay his rent, and the present landowner, a descendant of the previous one, had decided that there must be room in the dungeon by now.

The people crowded around him and he told them about the outside world: about the sun, the trees, the lakes, and the streams; and how this was merely a dungeon....

* * *

The allegory explains who a Rebbe is. The traditionalists represent people who believe in G‑d, despite the fact that they have no real experience of His existence. The moderns represent those who choose not to believe, and the person sent down to the dungeon from the outside world represents a Rebbe, someone who has a firsthand experience of G‑dliness, whose knowledge of His Being comes from direct awareness, not merely acquired knowledge.

While telling this allegory, Chabad mashpiim would ask: Whose positions are closer — that of the traditionalists to that of the person who arrived from the outside world, or that of the traditionalists to the moderns? On the one hand, the answer is easy: the traditionalists and the person from the outside share the same beliefs. On the other hand, that is precisely the point of difference. For the traditionalists, these are beliefs, while for the person from the outside, it is an actual experience. In that sense, the traditionalists are far closer in mindset to the moderns, for both of them share the same fundamental appreciation of existence. Both know nothing else but the dungeon, while the person from the outside knows otherwise.

Similarly, in the analogue, while people at large may believe in G‑d, their belief is removed from their ordinary day-to-day experience. As such, the difference between them and a non-believer is one of faith, not one of perception. For a Rebbe, by contrast, G‑d is reality.1

Similar concepts apply with regard to the coming of Mashiach. For people at large, Mashiach’s comingis an abstract concept. Some believe in it — and within that category itself, there are levels of belief — and some don’t. For the Rebbe, Mashiach is a reality.

Now the uniqueness of the Rebbe is not merely that he has a greater vision, but as stated above, that he is able to share that vision with others and encourage them to adopt it. In these efforts, the Rebbe’s influence is more than inspirational. Over the years, he has served as a patient teacher, coaxing us and training us to accept an idea and an outlook that is really above our own natural perspective.

The above enables us to understand why, on the 28th of Nissan, 5751, after calling on people the world over to “do everything you can to bring Mashiach” the Rebbe stated2 that first and foremost, these efforts should center on studying “the subjects of Mashiach and Redemption, and in particular, as these topics are developed in the maamarim and the Likkutei Sichos of the Nasi of our generation.”

Why this choice of priorities? Several reasons can be given. Firstly, there is a concept of spiritual causation. In Chassidus3 it is explained that at times, the Maggid of Mezeritch would deliver addresses that he knew his listeners would not understand with the intent of drawing down the concepts into the atmosphere of this world. Similarly, studying teachings about the Redemption cause it to become a reality.

The Zohar4 states that “the Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah and created the world. A mortal looks into the Torah and maintains the world.” In Chassidus, this is interpreted to mean that every change in existence in the world at large begins with a development in Torah. Study brings about change, for it taps the building blocks of creation and transforms them from potential energies to dynamic forces.

Going further, such study is the ultimate response to the Mashiach’s answer to the Baal Shem Tov: that he would come when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings are spread outward. On a simple level, the fact that people become acquainted with an idea on a conscious level prepares them to deal with it in actual life.

But there is something more. The same mindset thatis mired in a question cannot provide an answer for it. The answer has got to come from a higher and more developed conception.

Similarly, to leave exile, we have to tap a different source of energy, a source which has no questions, one which looks at the world through the eyes of Geulah and understands galus only as an external phenomenon. This is the advantage of learning “the maamarim and Likkutei Sichos of the Nasi of our generation.”

Chassidus explains5 that a little light dispels much darkness. The more the light of Mashiach shines in the world, the faster we will be able — to borrow the Rebbe’s terminology — “to open our eyes and see” Mashiach’s presence in the world.6

This is our responsibility at present: to spread the light of Mashiach. The Rebbe has stated7 that we have completed the service of refining the world. There is no need to contend with darkness anymore. Our task is to disseminate the light of Redemption, in our lives, in our homes, and in our environments.

This is our challenge: to make the world conscious of Mashiach, and to create a setting that will allow his mission to be fulfilled. The fundamental step in meeting that challenge is leaving behind the mindset of galus, andadopting the mindset of the Geulah, and that is possible only through learning the Rebbe’s teachings.