Publisher’s Foreword

A visitor confronting an array of dazzling pictures instinctively steps back a pace so that he can appreciate their total effect from a different perspective. In much the same way, so many momentous issues have been addressed by the Rebbe Shlita over the past two eventful years, all of them pointing to the uniqueness of the period in which we live, that many of our readers have no doubt felt the need to stand back for a moment — just long enough to find their bearings in relation to the overall direction being taken.

With this need in mind, we at Sichos In English are happy to present our readers with an overview of some of the key addresses of the Rebbe Shlita over the last two years, on the subject of Mashiach and the ultimate Redemption.

17 Adar I, 5752

An Unanticipated Spiral

There are times when a person feels that history is in the making, that the experiences he is living through will resound and reverberate long after the ephemeral flutter of a flamboyant headline. Time moves fast, and when looking back, one cannot imagine that so many significant events have taken place in such a short time.

These feelings are surely shared by Lubavitcher chassidim and, indeed, by anyone who has been in contact with the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita in recent years. At a farbrengen (public gathering) on the 29th of Iyar, 5749 [June 3, 1989], the Rebbe noted that the Hebrew letters that give the numerical equivalent of the coming year תש"נ, formed an acronym for the Hebrew words, תהא שנת נסים — “This will be a year of miracles.”

As the Rebbe continued to express this theme in the coming months, people in all walks of life began to look forward to see what the new year held in store. And they were not disappointed. Soon it became clear that the Rebbe’s statements were no mere play on words. Within a very short time, cataclysmic upheavals overwhelmed one despotic regime after another, the Soviet bloc collapsed, and the potential for world peace blossomed.

This unanticipated spiral had a dramatic impact on the Jewish people. Jews who for seventy years had been denied even a glimpse of a Torah scroll, now danced in the streets on Simchas Torah. Hoary old chassidim in the quaint wooden Lubavitcher shul in Moscow’s Marina Rosscha quarter, wide-eyed with incredulity, tore down the heavy blue shutters that since Stalin’s youth had hidden their lone surviving clandestine mikveh, cheder, and shechitah room. Throughout the Soviet Union, on campus and kolkhoz alike, tefillin and mezuzos were no longer incriminating contraband. And the first waves of Jewish emigration, dammed back for decades, surged eagerly southward to kiss the soil of Eretz Yisrael.

In public addresses throughout the year,1 the Rebbe emphasized that this change was not a matter of coincidence, but rather resulted from a unique positive change in the spiritual climate of the world. He explained that this change reflected how:

Regimes... which employed force and fear to transmit their values have given way to... an environment conducive to the natural motivation for development possessed by all.... Through the establishment of an environment of warmth, love, joy, and disciplined freedom,... all will develop their G‑d-given potential... and dedicate themselves to a life of positive activity, spreading good throughout the world.

At the same time, looking further ahead, the Rebbe saw these events as symptomatic of the ultimate good, the coming of the Redemption:1

Soon this approach will lead to the refinement of the world, and will hasten the coming of the era in which the world will reach its ultimate state of perfection, a state in which2 “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war any more.” This unity will spread beyond the human realm, encompassing all existence, as it is written,3 “A wolf will dwell with a lamb and a leopard with a kid.”

After reaching such a peak, one might well have expected the level of expectation to subside. Instead, the Rebbe promised even more. Months before the following Jewish year began, at a public gathering on the 17th of Iyar, 5750 [May 12, 1990], the Rebbe associated the Hebrew letters that form the numerical equivalent of the year to come, תשנ"א, with the Hebrew words, תהא שנת אראנו נפלאות — “This will be a year when4 ‘I [G‑d] will show you wonders.’ ” He promised that the miracles of the coming year would exceed those of the current one.

The Midrash and the Gulf War

While the Rebbe was delivering this message, preparing the Jewish people and the world at large for these developments, urgent preparations of a different kind were being made in a distant corner of the world. In August, 1990, Saddam Hussein marched the armies of Iraq into Kuwait, plunging the entire world into panic. As people throughout the world — whether they were heads of government, opinion-makers in the media, or men in the street — reacted in fear, the Rebbe spread a message of quiet optimism. He urged confidence and trust, citing a now-renowned Midrashic passage in the Yalkut Shimoni,5 and giving it the widest possible publicity:

In the year in which the King Mashiach is revealed, all the kings of the nations of the world will be at strife with each other. The King of Persia will provoke an Arabian king.... Consternation and confusion will strike all the nations of the world.... The Jewish people too will be seized by consternation and confusion, as they ask: “Where shall we come and go?”

And the Almighty will answer them: “My children, do not fear. Whatever I have done, I have done only for your sakes. Why are you afraid? Have no fear: The time for your Redemption has arrived!...

Furthermore, our Sages taught: “At the time when the King Mashiach comes, he will stand on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash in Jerusalem and proclaim to the Jewish people: ‘Humble ones: The time for your Redemption has arrived.’ ”

There is no need to recount the entire saga of that episode.6 Suffice it to recall that in the face of the fear and uncertainty that gripped the world at large, Rabbinic and lay leaders alike and private citizens from all continents turned to the Rebbe for direction, and for the optimism that he radiated.

Acknowledging Miracles

In the wake of that conflict, the Rebbe drew attention to the miracles and wonders that had occurred. While others basked in euphoria or struggled to propose natural explanations for the victory (when several months earlier they would have considered them utterly untenable), the Rebbe pointed to the workings of the Hand of G‑d. Thus, he explained,. See the essay entitled “Divine Miracles are not Past History,” based on the Rebbe’s address of 25 Nissan, 5751, and appearing in the above-mentioned booklet. if a child asks, “Why do we not see miracles like our ancestors did?,” he should be told that:

Indeed we do.... It is not only in the distant past that G‑d worked miracles for the Jewish people. Ancient events like the exodus from Egypt or the Purim miracles of Shushan are not the only examples of our unique relationship with G‑d. As we have seen, miracles are happening today. Indeed, the miracles of Purim this year surpassed those recorded in the Megillah.

Our Sages7 associate the recognition of G‑d’s miracles and the expression of thanks for them with the Redemption. Thus they teach that G‑d had initially desired that King Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah) be revealed as the Mashiach. However, when he failed to express due praise after the miraculous defeat of Sancheriv (Sennacherib) and his invading Assyrian armies,8 G‑d withheld this revelation from him and from the Jewish people.

The Rebbe hence issued a call for an appreciation of the miracles that had transpired,7 “an appreciation so vibrant that we will not be embarrassed to dance in celebration.” He assured his listeners, moreover, that such celebration would escalate the miraculous process that we are witnessing, culminating in the ultimate wonders of the Redemption.

“Do Everything You Can to Bring Mashiach!”

No one in Lubavitch will forget that night. Thursday evening, the eve of 28 Nissan, 5751, began with an ordinary weekday Maariv service. The Rebbe had returned from one of his visits to pray at the gravesite of the Previous Rebbe. After the service, he began to deliver what first appeared to be a regular sichah, whose format and style promised to resemble many hundreds of previous sichos. The Rebbe opened by relating the theme of redemption to the distinctive spiritual potential of the current year, the current month and week, and so on.

After a short time, however, everything changed. The intricate scholarly discussion came to an end, and in tones of intense clarity the Rebbe turned to the community of chassidim assembled that night at “770”, addressing them directly — most unusually — in the second person. Unmistakably, this was a cry from the heart.

The Rebbe’s words were highly charged:9 “What more can I do to motivate the entire Jewish people to clamor and cry out, and thus actually bring about the coming of Mashiach?.... All that I can possibly do is to give the matter over to you. Now, do everything you can to bring Mashiach, here and now, immediately.... I have done whatever I can: from now on, you must do whatever you can....”

Stunned, the chassidic community around the world began to mobilize. On the following Shabbos the Rebbe clarified his intent, and emphasized that he was advocating concrete activity within the reach of everyone:10

Every man, woman and child has an individual responsibility to work to bring about Mashiach’s coming. No one else can shoulder this burden for him; his own efforts and energy are needed. Each of us must prepare for the coming of Mashiach by increasing his study of the Torah and enhancing his performance of its commandments behiddur, in a beautiful and conscientious manner....

In particular, we should devote our energies to the study of pnimiyus haTorah, the mystical dimensions of the Torah as they are revealed in the teachings of Chassidus. In a well-known letter,11 the Baal Shem Tov records that he once had a vision of Mashiach and asked him, “When are you coming?” Mashiach replied,12 “When the wellsprings of your teachings shall spread outward.”13 Disseminating these teachings, the teachings of Chassidus, both within our own personalities and to others, thus brings the coming of Mashiach closer.

More specifically, our study should center on the subject of Mashiach himself and on the future Redemption, and in particular, as these topics are developed in the maamarim and the Likkutei Sichos of the Nasi of our generation.

Shouldering the Burden of This Great Hour

The Rebbe’s words echoed far beyond the immediate chassidic community. They roused the interest of “professors, commentators on Judaism, journalists, and others,” to quote Shaul Schiff of the Mizrachi daily HaTzofeh. In one of the many articles written in response to the Rebbe’s words, that columnist saw the Rebbe as wishing to “shake up” his followers as well as their fellow Jews throughout the entire world: “The Rebbe is demanding that the Jewish people do its part in shouldering the burden of this great hour, instead of passing it on to the Rebbe’s shoulders, while they themselves carry on as usual.”

And indeed, “shaken up” — in a positive sense — aptly describes the Rebbe’s chassidim at that time. Without wasting time, they collected and published talks of the Rebbe on the subject of Mashiach, established classes where these works were studied, translated them into various languages and distributed them throughout the world. Millions of people began to think seriously about the subject. Topics such as the Rambam’s perspective on the function of Mashiach and the occurrence of miracles within the Era of the Redemption were no longer regard as esoteric, but rather became subjects which laymen, housewives and children studied and understood.

The Rebbe himself encouraged these efforts. On the 15th of Iyar, 5751 [April 29, 1991], for example, he personally handed a publication named Dvar Malchus,14 which analyzed these subjects, to every single man, woman and child among the thousands of his followers who waited in turn for his particular moment.

No Longer a Distant Dream

With the advent of the period of Bein HaMetzarim, the three weeks associated with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, a marked change became apparent in the Rebbe’s approach. He was not only speaking about yearning for the coming of Mashiach and the need to prepare the world for the Redemption. Calmly and without fanfare, the Rebbe now announced that “We are at the threshold of the Future Redemption. Mashiach’s coming is no longer a dream of a distant future, but an imminent reality which will very shortly become fully manifest.”

The Rebbe’s statements fell on receptive ears. People throughout the world began to connect the miracles of the Gulf War, the fall of communism, and the mass emigration of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, and to appreciate them as components of the unique spiritual climate we are living in.

Newspapers and the media at large, both Jewish and non-Jewish, began to speak about the Redemption and Mashiach. Billboards were posted on highways. Jewish community leaders and public figures around the world began to address themselves to the issue. Symposiums on questions such as, “Will the Redemption be miraculous or not?” began to feature throughout the worldwide Jewish community.

Wonders In All Things

With the approach of the new year, 5752, the Rebbe promised that the miraculous momentum of the previous years would be continued, that this would be “a year replete with wonders” (תהא שנת נפלאות בה) and “a year of wonders in all things” (תהא שנת נפלאות בכל). Furthermore, he tied these wonders to the Redemption, noting that the Hebrew word for “in all things” (bakol) recalls the familiar threefold expression of blessing15 associated with our Patriarchs — bakol mikol kol (בכל מכל כל). The numerical equivalent of these three Hebrew words equals that of the Hebrew word kabetz, meaning “gather” — in allusion to the ultimate Ingathering of the Exiles.

And as the year began, we saw the Rebbe’s words come to fruition. In anticipation of that great Ingathering, Jewish immigrants from Russia continued to flock to Eretz Yisrael. Moreover, the Communist Party there dissolved out of existence; the mighty Soviet Union disintegrated; the pride of the long-dreaded Kremlin was deflated.

Significantly, the final moves in this direction took place a few short weeks after the Kremlin had hosted an undreamed-of assemblage — the ten thousand exultant Jewish Muscovites who packed its Palace of Congresses as participants in the interactive satellite video hook-up on Chanukah this year. In the course of this unforgettable event a number of major Jewish communities around the world watched each other lighting Chanukah candles and celebrating the Festival of Lights, and then all joined to see the Rebbe as he delivered his annual Chanukah message. And Moscow’s audience, as mentioned above, was situated in the heart of the Kremlin! As one elder chassid in New York commented, the Kremlin had evidently undergone a trauma that night that was more than it could withstand....

It was during these weeks that the Rebbe made the most explicit statements hitherto about the Redemption:16

There exists in every generation — and surely, in our generation17 — “a person from among the descendants of Judah who is worthy of being the Mashiach of Israel...” When the divine service of the Jewish people over the centuries is considered as a whole, everything that is necessary to bring about the Redemption has been accomplished.18 There is no valid explanation for the continuation of the exile.

On another occasion the Rebbe said:

Our Sages19 have described the Redemption as a feast. To speak in terms of this analogy,20 the table has already been set, everything has been served, we are sitting at the table together with Mashiach. All we need to do is open our eyes.

Our Sages21 describe Mashiach as waiting anxiously to come. In previous generations, however, his coming was prevented by the fact that the Jews had not completed the tasks expected of them. At present, however, those tasks have been accomplished; there is nothing lacking. All we have to do is accept Mashiach.22

Furthermore, the climate in the world at large is obviously moving toward the idyll of the Redemption. Nations are openly speaking of a new world order of justice and peace. In a metamorphosis that is unfolding before our very eyes, disarmament talks are beginning to turn a long-awaited prophetic vision23 — “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares” — into an actual reality.

A Blueprint Springs to Life

What is the core of the Rebbe’s message, that Mashiach’s coming should not be regarded as a dream of the future, but as a cogent factor that influences the way we live our lives today; moreover, that living one’s life in this manner will actually bring about the fulfillment of these promises?

Our Sages24 point to Mashiach and the Redemption as the ultimate purpose for the creation of the world. For G‑d created the world in order that He should have25 “a dwelling place among mortals,” and this goal will be realized in the Era of the Redemption.

However, G‑d desired that mortals themselves should fashion this dwelling, for man has a natural tendency to appreciate the fruit of his own labors.26 If, instead, this dwelling were to be granted as a gift from above, the bliss we would thereby enjoy would be tarnished by the stigma of being unearned.27 To borrow the metaphor of our Sages,28 we would be eating “the bread of shame.”

For centuries now, the Jewish people have been consciously or unconsciously constructing G‑d’s dwelling, and now it is emerging before our very eyes.

To explain by means of an analogy: A contractor is hired to build a complex mansion. From the moment he designs it, and throughout the building process, a clear picture of the final structure remains intact before his mind’s eye. His workers may momentarily lose sight of the goal, yet ultimately, as it takes shape, they too begin to envisage the edifice that their own hands are transforming from a blueprint into a reality. Indeed, as it progresses, the building itself shows its builders the goal of their endeavors.

In our generation, at long last, the Jewish people can begin to see the edifice, G‑d’s dwelling, which has been constructed29 “by our actions and divine service throughout the period of exile,” and which will be consummated by the coming of Mashiach.

At the Gate of Rome

G‑d has long been ready to bring Mashiach, and Mashiach is anxious to come — except that his path until now has been obstructed by the imperfections in the world. This is illustrated by a well-known narrative in the Talmud.30

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi encountered the prophet Elijah as he was standing at the entrance of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai’s cave,... and asked him: “When is Mashiach coming?”

Replied the prophet: “Go and ask him.”

“But where is he to be found?”

“At the gate of Rome.”

“By what sign shall I recognize him?”

“He is sitting among paupers stricken by wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at once, and then bind them up again. But he unbinds one wound at a time, and straight away binds it up again. For he says, ‘Perhaps I shall be called upon [to appear as Mashiach], and I must not be delayed!’ ”

So [Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi] went to him and said, “Peace upon you, my master and teacher!”

He answered him, “Peace upon you, son of Levi!”

Then he asked him, “Master, when are you coming?”

He answered, “Today!”

Rabbi Yehoshua returned to Elijah, who asked him, “What did he say?”

He replied: “...He has deceived me! He told me, ‘I am coming today,’ and he has not come!”

Said Elijah, “What Mashiach had in mind was this [verse]:31 ‘Today — if you would only listen to His voice!’

In our generation, as the Rebbe Shlita has been declaring of late, this stipulation has been satisfied. Our generation is in fact turning towards G‑d to listen to His voice. There is thus no reason for Mashiach, who is already impatient to come, to delay his arrival any longer.

In the marital rift between G‑d and His people which we call exile, there are two sides. On the one hand, G‑d has hidden His countenance from us. (“On that day I will hide My face...for they have turned to other gods.”32 ) On the other hand, as the same verse records, man has turned away from G‑d. And what is needed to unveil G‑d’s hiddenness? — A change of direction in man. All man has to do to heal the rift is — to turn to face G‑d, to open his eyes, and to discover that by virtue of this very initiative, G‑d’s face is no longer hidden. The exile is vanishing.

A Dwarf on the Shoulders of a Giant

In the popular restatement of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith, the twelfth Principle reads: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Mashiach. Even if he delays, I will wait every day for him to come.”

The Rebbe Shlita points out33 that this does not mean that every day we should wait for Mashiach’s ultimate coming, but that every day we should wait expectantly for Mashiach to come on that very day.” Thus every day can become that very day.

This is hard for many people to conceive. They look realistically at the world around them, with its blotches of evil, strife and injustice. And since G‑d’s dwelling must be fashioned by man’s labors of refinement, they ask: How can it be argued that man and the world are ready for Mashiach?

In response to this query: It is possible to perceive that the world is ready — provided that one is prepared to delve beneath its surface impressions until one discovers its positive dimension. For evil is temporary, whereas good is eternal.34 In that context, the good which the Jewish people have done throughout the centuries — all the Torah they have studied, the brotherly acts of kindness and charity that they have performed, their self-sacrifice for the sanctification of G‑d’s Name — remain constant factors. Surely, this applies with redoubled force after the luminous legacy bequeathed to us by the past generation, the martyrs of the Holocaust. Our Sages35 teach that the very fact that a person dies al Kiddush HaShem, for the sanctification of G‑d’s Name, elevates him to such a peak that “no created being can stand in his presence.”36

We,37 “the firebrand saved from the blaze,” the heirs to this hard-earned merit, are thus38 “like a dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant.” Despite our imperfections, we are able to draw on an endless credit — a reservoir of meritorious deeds that has been steadily filling over the centuries.

Furthermore, our generation has no small merits of its own. The Rambam writes39 that merits are judged by no mere numerical gauge, but “according to the wisdom of the All-knowing G‑d.” Our generation, despite its unrestricted involvement in pluralistic secular societies, is adhering tenaciously to its Yiddishkeit. When considered on the scales of the All-knowing G‑d, this must surely weigh heavily.

In our generation, moreover, tens of thousands of Jews have taken the courageous step of redirecting their life’s path, and returning to G‑d in teshuvah. And our Sages teach,40 “Teshuvah brings the Redemption near.” Since “All the appointed times for the Redemption have passed, and now the matter depends on teshuvah alone,”41 our generation’s turning to G‑d will no doubt bring about a reciprocal move on His part — an immediate end to our exile.

Once Again: Master, When Are You Coming?

Our generation’s readiness for the Redemption can be understood in another context.

As recorded in the letter42 mentioned above, the soul of the Baal Shem Tov once ascended to the heavenly abode of Mashiach and asked him, “Master, when are you coming?”

Mashiach answered,43 “When the wellsprings of your teachings shall spread outward.”44

This is not merely a prophecy, but echoes an inner dynamic embedded in the very infrastructure of creation. The Torah’s rewards are granted45 “measure for measure.” And the Redemption will be characterized by such an outpouring of enlightenment, that46 “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.” Hence, in order to prepare for that revelation, we must make every endeavor to spread the knowledge of G‑d throughout the world. And this has been accomplished. There is no place on the map which the teachings of Chassidus have not reached.47 Furthermore, every communications device that modern technology can boast has been utilized to disseminate Judaism and Chassidism. Indeed, in the interactive satellite video linkup for Chanukah this year (5752; 1991), trailblazing techniques interlocked millions of people around the globe.48

Considering the above, we can better appreciate the Rebbe’s repeated statement that all the divine service needed to bring the Redemption has been completed. Some decades ago the Previous Rebbe49 stated that “all that is needed now is to polish the buttons.” Today, that too has been done.

Saying LeChaim with Mashiach

An old chassidic story goes like this: Mashiach arrives, and the entire Jewish people come out to greet him.

A few eminent scholars in the front row ask him, “Mashiach, would you like to hear a learned Talmudic dissertation to be delivered in your honor?”

Mashiach agrees, and one of the scholars begins to hold forth. Then he asks, Nu, Mashiach, how was it?”

“Not bad,” replies Mashiach.

“Only not bad?!” protests the scholar.

“Well, quite frankly,” explains Mashiach, “it could have been improved here and there.”

The scholar shamefacedly admits, “I’m afraid we weren’t quite expecting you.... If you had come a day or so later, it would have been better.”

Mashiach is then greeted by a jovial group of chassidim: Shalom aleichem, Mashiach! Would you like to join us in a LeChaim?”

Mashiach agrees, glasses are poured and a toast is made.

One of the chassidim asks, “Nu, Mashiach, how was the mashkeh?”

And Mashiach tells the truth: “The mashkeh was good, but there was very little of it.”

The chassid explains: “Every day we were so sure you were coming that day, that we’ve been saying LeChaim all along! If you had come a day earlier, there would have been more.”

In a similar vein, but in a different context, the Rebbe Shlita once said that if Mashiach calls at a business office, he will be stopped at the door by the secretary.

“Mashiach wants to see you,” she tells the boss on the intercom.

“He can have an appointment in two weeks,” replies the boss.

Whether busy gathering spiritual or material wealth, each of us is preoccupied with the immediate here and now in which we are living. This is the real reason some people object to the current talk of Mashiach. His coming would ruffle their everyday routine and prevent tomorrow from being the same as yesterday.

Our Sages50 associate Mashiach with the word poretz — “the one who breaks through,” as in the verse,51 “He who breaks through shall ascend before them.” This is the task of Mashiach — to break through the barriers of exile. Similarly, the people who await the coming of Mashiach are those who break through their own internal barriers. Rather than shield themselves behind the insistent demands of their day-to-day routine, they challenge themselves and yearn for the infinite, striving for that infinite to become manifest within their finite existence.

The Identity of Mashiach

Shortly after the Previous Rebbe issued his call,52 LeAlter LiTeshuvah, LeAlter LiGeulah — “Immediately to repentance, immediately to Redemption,” he asked the Rebbe Shlita what was the reaction of the Jewish community at large.

At first the Rebbe declined to answer, but when he was asked again he replied, “People are saying that the Lubavitcher Rebbe wants to declare himself the Mashiach.”

The Previous Rebbe answered, “Nu-nu, but at least they’re talking about Mashiach.”

It is natural for people to associate talk of the imminence of the Redemption with a particular individual who will prove to be the Redeemer. And there is a positive dimension to this, for it reflects how one’s belief in Mashiach is concrete — that one is not idly contemplating an old dream, nor debating an arguable hypothesis, but expecting something that is actually going to happen.

Mashiach will be a man of flesh and blood. Our Sages53 discuss the proposition that although there will be an Era of the Redemption, there will not be a Mashiach; instead “the Holy One, blessed be He, will rule over [the people of Israel] Himself.” The Talmud rejects this thesis utterly, to the extent that no less an authority than the Chasam Sofer54 declares unequivocally that whoever subscribes to it today “denies the entire Torah.”

There is a potential Mashiach in every generation,55 “a person from among the descendants of Judah who is worthy of being the Mashiach of Israel.” As the Chasam Sofer writes,56 “From the time of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, there was born one who in his righteousness is worthy of being [Israel’s] redeemer.” Moreover, this concept is obviously a logical imperative, for Mashiach’s coming can materialize on any particular day.

In preparation for this event, the Rambam57 defines certain criteria by which we will be able to recognize Mashiach. He will be a Torah sage of the House of David, faithful in his observance of the mitzvos, who will motivate the entire Jewish people to strengthen their Torah practice. At a given time he will “fight the wars of G‑d and be victorious,” rebuild the Beis HaMikdash, and gather in the dispersed exiles of Israel.

This is more than one day’s work, even for Mashiach. Thus we must assume that in every generation there is a potential Mashiach,58 who is in the midst of the preliminary stages of the above service. Should the setting be appropriate, as the responsum of the Chasam Sofer cited above states, “the spirit of Mashiach will rest upon him,” and he will redeem our people.

The Rambam59 points out that Rabbi Akiva was one of the supporters of Bar Kochba and called him the Mashiach. Though there were Sages who differed from him, none suggested that there was a fundamental problem with his stance. The Talmud60 likewise discusses the claims made at different times by the disciples of four celebrated Talmudic sages, that the head of each of their respective academies was the Mashiach of his time. In later generations, too, the Messianic yearnings of our people have often focused on a particular individual, such as: R. Shachna (the teacher of the Rama, R. Moshe Isserles);61 R. Yitzchak Luria, the AriZal;62 R. Yehudah Loew, the Maharal of Prague;63 R. Chaim ben Attar, author of Or HaChaim;64 R. Yitzchak Meir of Ger, author of Chiddushei HaRim;65 R. Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, author of Sfas Emes;66 R. Yechezkel of Shiniva, son of R. Chaim of Sanz;67 R. Mendel of Vizhnitz, author of Tzemach Tzaddik;68 and many others.69

In contrast to these cases, needless to say, our collective national memory flinches in recollection of several negative experiences. The difficulty in each of those instances, however, was the fact that the individual in question in no way satisfied the above-mentioned criteria of the Rambam (as in the consistent observance of the Torah and its mitzvos); the difficulty was not with the concept that there was a potential Mashiach in the world. Indeed, in the above-quoted words of the Chasam Sofer, the argument that it is impossible for a person today to be Mashiach is heresy.

A Prelude to Mashiach

One of the participants at a chassidic farbrengen once uttered a fervent wish that Mashiach come at once. The Rabbi leading the gathering reacted: “And what will you do then? Just imagine what would happen if Mashiach would come now! Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to stand before him? Together with your wish for Mashiach’s coming, shouldn’t you add a wish that you succeed in preparing yourself?”

The Rebbe Shlita has been reminding us that we must — now — “live with the Redemption,”70 experience a foretaste of it and anticipate it in our daily conduct. This means living our lives in a way that parallels the way we would live in the time of the Redemption.71

Simply stated, what the Rebbe wants is that Mashiach’s coming should not take us by surprise — that our lives and our homes be ready for him as of now. This implies conducting our lives and our homes in harmony with Mashiach’s message to the world. Furthermore, this mood of anticipation should be shared with others, with the calm confidence that comes from looking at reality.

And living in harmony with the Redemption will make the reality actually manifest. When describing the coming of the Redemption, the Rambam does not speak of an apocalypse, but rather of a gradual process of preparation within Mashiach himself, within the Jewish people, and within the world at large. In a very literal sense, history is indeed in the making. By “living with the Redemption,” we will thus make it actually happen. By radiating peace, harmony and a knowledge of G‑d, we will bring about the age when72 “there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition,... [and]73 ‘The world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.’ ”