Publisher’s Foreword

Almost a year ago, the Iraqi army crossed the border into Kuwait. The concern and fear that gripped the world drew widespread attention to a now famous passage from the classic text, the Yalkut Shimoni,1 whose details precisely anticipate this year’s events in the Persian Gulf. The Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita suggested at the time that this passage be publicized, and drew focus to its conclusion, which states that as these events unfold, Mashiach will announce to the Jewish people: “Humble ones: The time for your Redemption has arrived.”

True to the verse chosen by the Rebbe as an acronym for the Hebrew letters that spell out this year’s date, “I will show you wonders,”2 we witnessed the progress and conclusion of that conflict. “Miraculous” is an understatement for the series of events in which the enemy of the Jewish people was routed and our people’s safety secured.

In the aftermath of that conflict, on the 28th of Nissan, the Rebbe Shlita appealed to the Jewish people to “do everything you can to bring Mashiach, here and now, immediately.”3 And on many occasions in the subsequent months, the Rebbe has emphasized the imminence of Mashiach’s coming and the need to work toward that goal.

The present essay, adapted from sichos of Shabbos Parshas Balak and Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, clearly emphasizes the unique nature of the present times: “We are at the threshold of the Redemption.” Calmly and without fanfare, the Rebbe Shlita informs us that the Redemption is imminent.

The Torah tells us that when Moshe Rabbeinu conveyed prophecies of redemption to the Jews in Egypt, “They did not listen to Moshe, because of broken spirits and hard labor.”4 The nature of exile is such that it deprives one of the possibility of conceiving any other reality. But conceiving a different reality is precisely what the Rebbe Shlita is suggesting to us now — that we “live with concepts of Mashiach and redemption,” and that this awareness permeate our day-to-day conduct.

And through “living with the concept of Mashiach,” we will hasten his coming and bring about the era in which these three weeks of Bein HaMetzarim will be transformed from mourning — into the celebration of the Redemption. May this take place in the immediate future.

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5751 [July 12, 1991]

Seeking Purpose in the Exile

There are two approaches to the present period of Bein HaMetzarim, the three weeks between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tishah BeAv, the period which commemorates the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. One is to dwell on the awesomeness of those tragedies and the difficulties suffered by our people in the exile which followed.

The other approach, while not minimizing the extent of our nation’s loss, puts the emphasis on the purpose of the exile. Heaven forbid to say that destruction and exile are ends in and of themselves. Rather, within the ashes of the Temple’s destruction was kindled the spark of the Future Redemption.5 In an ultimate sense, this was the purpose of the exile — to prepare the Jewish people and the world at large for the higher and deeper level of fulfillment to be reached in that era.6

In the present age, there is no question that the second approach is more in place. Our Sages declared,7 “All the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have passed; the matter is only dependent on teshuvah.” And we have already turned to G‑d with sincere teshuvah. Thus, speaking of the readiness of our generation, the Previous Rebbe used the allegory of a garment that is complete in all respects — “and all that is needed now is to polish the buttons.”8 And surely, the almost fifty years of vibrant Torah activity that have followed since that statement was made have been sufficient to accomplish that purpose.

On the Threshold of Redemption

The imminence of Mashiach’s coming is further emphasized by the events of the present year, a year in which we have seen the fulfillment of the prophecy, “I will show you wonders.” For we have witnessed wonders of a unique and unprecedented nature. In a miraculous manner which followed the course predicted by the Yalkut Shimoni,9 a formidable enemy of the Jewish people was destroyed. And as the passage from that classic text emphasizes, these miracles are to occur in “the year in which the King Mashiach is revealed,” and that at that time, Mashiach will announce to the Jewish people, “Humble ones: The time for your Redemption has arrived.”

We are standing on 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.

Study as a Catalyst

For this reason, emphasis has been placed on the importance of studying about the Redemption and Mashiach.10 Such study will in itself hasten Mashiach’s coming.11 Over and above that purpose, however, this suggestion is meant to be appreciated on a more personal level by each individual. The intent is that everyone, men, women, and children, should begin to live with the concepts of redemption and Mashiach; that these ideas should become relevant to us on an intellectual level; moreover, that our intellect should affect our feelings; and ultimately, that we should begin to conduct our lives in a manner which reflects how we are permeated with an awareness of the Redemption as an imminent reality.

Anticipating the Beis HaMikdash

This concept is also relevant to the custom of studying the laws of the Beis HaMikdash during the three weeks of Bein HaMetzarim.12 Our Sages13 relate that G‑d commanded the prophet Yechezkel to teach the Jewish people about the structure of the Beis HaMikdash while they were still in the Babylonian exile. When the prophet questioned the purpose of such study, G‑d told him that He would cherish their study as if they had been involved in its actual construction.

At present, this study should be carried out in anxious anticipation that the Beis HaMikdash will soon be rebuilt. One should not consider this subject matter as being merely theoretical in nature. Rather, just as when one studies the laws of the mitzvah of tefillin, one does so with the awareness that one will observe the mitzvah about which one is studying every day, similarly, in the present context, we should study the Beis HaMikdash with the awareness that in the very near future, we will see what we are studying about in actual reality.

The Ultimate Siyyum

The above is also relevant in regard to another custom of Bein HaMetzarim. During the nine days concluding with the fast of Tishah BeAv14 it is customary to hold siyyumim,15 i.e., festive gatherings marking the conclusion of the study of Talmudic tractates. These gatherings should be held with the recognition that we are approaching another siyyum, the conclusion of the exile.

And through these endeavors, we will merit the fulfillment of the prophecy16 that in the era of the Redemption, all the commemorative fasts will be transformed into holidays and festive occasions,17 when together with the entire Jewish people, we will proceed from exile to redemption. May this take place in the immediate future.

An Adaptation of Addresses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe שליט"א
on Shabbos Parshas Balak and Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, 5751