I have a friend who was brought up in a chassidic (but not Lubavitch) home. Even as a child, he showed signs of brilliance. To develop his unique intellectual abilities, his father sent him to one of the finest yeshivos in the country. Perhaps because he was sent away from home at such a young age, or for whatever reason, he began to rebel and look into different modes of secular thought. By the time he turned seventeen, he had dropped out of yeshivah and stopped putting on tefillin.

The vitality and energy in Lubavitch attracted him as did the mystic dimension of Chassidic thought; and so, with a little bit of coaxing, he ended up in the Lubavitcher yeshivah in Morristown. There he was successful, but since he had tasted the world outside, he felt a certain longing. One experience led to another and he left Morristown. A year later, he came back. And then he left again and then came back again.

Years later, he had come full cycle and was very happy attending the shtiebel in which he had grown up as a youth — albeit with hair as long as his colleagues’ peiyos. At one point in this odyssey, I asked him if he had kept in contact with people from all the different phases of his life journey. He told me that he was in contact with some, but the ones he felt most comfortable speaking to were the Lubavitchers. At whatever point in his life he met them, they accepted him as a brother and showed genuine concern.

This is no accident. One of the unique dimensions that has always characterized chassidic life is brotherhood. For when people dedicate their lives to a higher purpose, a lot of the petty egotism that often prevents them from seeing another person honestly does not blur their perception. Since their lives are not centered on their own selves, they can look beneath the surface and see another person’s core. Instead of seeing him as a portion of their own picture, someone who can satisfy their various needs, they can appreciate that he has a neshamah. This in turn makes it possible for them to see him as a human being with positive qualities and also failures and lacks. Seeing a colleague in such a light evokes love and compassion.

This approach is not a recent innovation. Instead, from its earliest beginnings, Chassidism was never an abstract ideology with many disparate, inspired adherents; it was a community. A chassid does not live a private existence, but instead finds himself part of a greater whole, a fellowship of friends dedicated to the same values and principles, and willing to sacrifice themselves for one another.

Accordingly, achdus and ahavas Yisrael have always been part of the legacy of Chassidus. When the Rebbe Maharash asked his father, the Tzemach Tzedek, what the Alter Rebbe had desired from his chassidim, the Tzemach Tzedek answered that he wanted his chassidim to be ein mispochah ... b’ahavah, like an extended family, tied together by bonds of love.1

The oneness that characterizeschassidic life shares a fundamental connection to the Redemption. Once, the Previous Rebbe shared the following gematria with his chassidim: משיח (Mashiach, 358) equals משה (Moshe, 345) and אחד (echad, “one,” 13).2 The equation is not just an interesting exercise in putting letters and numbers together; it provides us with a crucial lesson regarding our preparations for Mashiach’s coming.

First, Mashiach must be a Moshe. With regard to Moshe, our Sages state:3 “He was the first redeemer, and he will be the final redeemer.” In a simple sense, this is impossible, because Moshe is from the tribe of Levi, while Mashiach will be a descendant of King David, from the tribe of Yehudah.

But the essence of Moshe is not his physical person, but rather his connection with the Torah. And so the prophet states,4 “Remember the Torah of Moshe, My servant.” Our Sages explain:5 Why is the Torah identified with Moshe? Because he sacrificed his life for it.

The Torah was Moshe’s entire being, the core of his life. Other individuals, even great spiritual leaders, allow certain aspects of their personalities to obstruct the Torah’s influence, preventing their connection with the Torah from being complete. Moshe, and similarly, the extensions of Moshe — the Torah leaders of every generation6 — by contrast, are totally given over to the Torah.7

The same will be true about Mashiach. The fundamental dimension of Mashiach will be the Torah insights that he will reveal. All the changes that he will bring about in the world at large will come as a result of his teachings. That’s why when describing the qualities Mashiach will possess, the Rambam8 states immediately after saying that Mashiach will be a descendant of King David, that he will “delve deeply into the study of the Torah.”

But having a Moshe is not enough. For Moshe to be Mashiach, we also need echad, oneness. It is possible that a person will have a connection to the Torah that is so perfect that he has the potential to be Mashiach, but if echad, the oneness of our people is lacking, he will remain Moshe; his potential to be Mashiach will not be realized.

In many different ways, our Rabbis have highlighted the importance of unity and love in hastening the coming of the Redemption. Our Sages explain9 that the destruction of Jerusalem and our people’s exile came about because of unwarranted hatred, envy and enmity that had no place in reason. And we have been assured that the effect, exile, will continue only as long as its cause endures. By erasing the reason for the exile through unwarranted love — efforts on behalf of our fellowmen that go beyond the limits of reason — the exile itself will cease to exist.10

Moreover, it is possible at present to experience the type of unity and love that will characterize the Redemption: “In that era, there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition”;11 peace and harmony will prevail throughout the world. As a foretaste of that era, and to hasten its coming, we should reach out to others — all people, regardless of their background or way of thinking — and join together in bringing out the positive qualities that we all possess.

Indeed, this motif is steadily working its way into the fabric of our lives. Instead of the individual efforts and rigid hierarchies that characterized businesses and organizations in the past, we have begun to organize ourselves in interactive networks where sharing and pooled initiatives are the rule.

Nevertheless, the concept of achdus can remain abstract and is therefore difficult to implement in reality. And that is what is really important. Most of us already know the value of achdus;there’s no need to convince anybody. What is difficult — and what is really necessary — is for us not only to tell people that it is important, but to create situations and settings that encourage the expression of achdus in our day-to-day lives.

A simple farmer once came to town on a day when a communal fast had been declared because of a drought. He saw all the Rabbis and townsfolk praying with conviction, and was confused.

“I don’t understand,” he told one of his friends. “Just before it rains, my cat senses the moisture in the air and hides beneath the oven to stay warm. I’m sure that happens here too. Why don’t they take all the cats, put them beneath the ovens, and then it will rain!”

Our naivefriend was confusing the difference between a cause and an effect. And the same is often true about ahavas Yisrael and achdus Yisrael. Love is an effect that is produced by thought and deed. There is no way you can command an emotion. That’s why Chassidus12 interprets the mitzvah13 to “Love your fellow man as yourself,” as meaning: create a mindset from which love will evolve. Similarly, our Rabbis have taught14 that emotions are evoked by cultivating an environment and habits that will call them forth.

One of the classic studies taught in first year psychology courses describes the work of researchers who wanted to see if they could create bonds of unity among people. They took a random cross-section of volunteers, people who had not previously known one another, and put them in a room to perform a common task. The activity required cooperation, and as the people worked together, bonds were forged between them. Their awareness of a common purpose, and the satisfaction in doing one’s part in this effort, opened them up to sharing and friendship with their colleagues.

The same researchers conducted another experiment with the opposite goal: they wanted to see if it was possible to create an environment that would breed friction and strife. They did something very simple: they put a similar group of people in a room with nothing to do. Shortly afterwards, bickering started. The people needed an outlet for their energies and turned against each other.

Extrapolating from the conclusion they reached enables us to make inferences for our own lives. If we see a community living in harmony, we can assume that they share a common purpose and are working to see it achieved. And if we see people torn by tension and discord, we can make an assumption that such a sense of purpose is lacking. As a result of having nothing to do, their energies are seeking expression and finding it in conflict and discord. Quite probably, they will continue to pay lip service to the principle of achdus, but it will become increasingly apparent that the meaning of their words is: “Of course, unity is important. So let’s all get together and follow me.”

In this sense, the connection between Mashiach and unity becomes immediate and pressing, rather than abstract and theoretical. We have been told, “The time for your Redemption has arrived.” But together with that pronouncement, we have also been given a mission: to make the world conscious of Mashiach, and to create an environment that will allow his ideals to be manifest.15

By giving us the mission to prepare the world for Mashiach, the Rebbe gave us a task that will encourage unity. When people dedicate themselves to this common ideal, they will rise above their petty self-concern, for there is no bond more potent than that of shared values, and the deeper the values, the more powerful the bonds.

Moreover, this ideal is not a passive one, but a theme that stirs a wholehearted, uninhibited, and dynamic commitment. To communicate this mission to mankind as a whole, an extraordinarily wide range of activities is necessary, and by definition, these activities require a meeting of minds and heart. When human minds and human hearts work toward a common goal, they open to an understanding that reaches deeper than humanity, inspiring the innate G‑dly potential that we all possess to surface.

These efforts leave room for every person to develop his own individual potential. For unity does not mean uniformity and difference need not lead to division. This concept is reflected in the vision of the prophet Zechariah in which the Menorah found in the Holy Temple is chosen as a symbol of the Jewish people.16 The Menorah extended upward in seven branches, indicating seven different paths of Divine service. And yet, it was made of a single block of gold, showing how the Jewish people remain one unified entity despite their different qualities.17

Similarly, our efforts to spread the awareness of Mashiach must be broad and diverse in nature. Indeed, there is no other way. For the Redemption that Mashiach will bring will encompass all mankind; and therefore, in preparation, introductory approaches must be made to people of all different backgrounds and ways of life, reaching out to each group in a manner appropriate to it.

Embracing these varieties of approach will have a reciprocal benefit, engendering greater life and vitality among those who open themselves to it. For when a person is prepared to accept different ways of thinking, his own perspective gains depth and breadth.

Once the Tzemach Tzedek risked his life rather than agree to Czarist demands to change Jewish education and practice. One of the leading Rabbis who had worked with him, R. Yitzchak of Volozhin, questioned the Rebbe’s course of action, asking what the future of the chassidim would be if the Tzemach Tzedek’s life would, G‑d forbid, be in jeopardy.

The Rebbe answered with two replies: “Firstly, I have sons. And secondly, the ahavas Yisrael of the chassidim will lead them to Mashiach.”18

Let’s return to the equation mentioned at the outset. We have a Moshe, and he has told us: “The time for your Redemption has arrived.” When we add achdus, the sum of that equation — the coming of Mashiach — will become manifest.