Publisher’s Foreword

In the course of the recent sichah before us, the Rebbe Shlita relates to a question that many thinking individuals have no doubt asked themselves: “What can I do to bring Mashiach? How can my seemingly insignificant actions have any bearing on a matter of such immense proportions?”

In his answer the Rebbe explains that every individual experience of redemption hastens the coming of the Redemption as a whole — in the spirit of the well-known teaching of the Rambam1 that at any given time, a single deed performed by one person can bring salvation to the entire world.

Ours is an era of mass media, an era in which people are increasingly conditioned to being related to as mere components of a mass — nameless and indistinguishable. In an era such as this, it is refreshing indeed to be reminded from time to time of the cosmic worth of every single individual and of every action he performs.

One Sunday afternoon only a few weeks ago, an elderly lady was patiently waiting her turn in a long, long line of Jewish women and girls from all walks of life, each of them anticipating the moment at which the Rebbe Shlita would give them his blessing while handing them a dollar bill to be passed on to tzedakah.

When her turn finally arrived, this lady blurted out in informal Yiddish, “Rebbe! I’ve been standing here for only an hour, and I’m already falling from my feet in exhaustion. Yet you’ve been standing here doing this for the men and now for the women for hours upon hours on end, and just look...!”

The Rebbe smiled quietly and said, “When you’re counting diamonds, you don’t get tired.”

7 Menachem Av, 5751 [July 18, 1991]

What is Eretz Yisrael?

A chassid once asked the Tzemach Tzedek whether he should settle in the Holy Land so that he could devote his life there to Torah study and the service of G‑d. The Tzemach Tzedek replied, “Make this place Eretz Yisrael.”2

The Tzemach Tzedek’s response conveys more than a reply to the chassid’s question about his personal future. For us, its meaning extends far beyond the question of whether one should live in Eretz Yisrael. Instead of being seen only in that limited context, it should also be understood as alluding to the path through which all the members of our people, whether in the diaspora or in Eretz Yisrael, can come to a true and complete appreciation of our Holy Land.

What is Eretz Yisrael? — A place where G‑dliness, holiness, and Yiddishkeit are openly revealed. In an ultimate sense, this will be realized in the Era of the Redemption when the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt and the observance of all the mitzvos associated with the holiness of the land will be restored.3 Furthermore, not only will we fulfill all of the mitzvos in that era, but we will appreciate the bond with G‑dliness that will be established through this observance.4

This is the essence of the Redemption: the relationship between man and G‑d will no longer be based on faith alone, but will also be nourished by a firsthand awareness of G‑d’s Presence here on earth. Thus, concluding5 his description of the uniqueness of the Era of the Redemption, the Rambam6 quotes the verse,7 “For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.” The physical setting of the world will not change in the Era of the Redemption;8 what will be different is our knowledge and awareness of G‑d.

A Different Focus for our Attention

This concept is reflected in the fact that the Hebrew word for exile, גולה, shares the same letters as the Hebrew word for redemption, גאולה, with one exception: גאולה possesses an alef. The alef stands for G‑d, Alufo shel olam (“the L‑rd of the world”).9

What is the difference between exile and redemption? — The alef, our consciousness of G‑d’s presence. All the material dimensions of our present existence will continue in the Era of the Redemption. Our souls will be contained within physical bodies, we will derive our nurture from physical food, and we will live together with gentile neighbors. All these aspects of material existence, however, will be suffused with an awareness of G‑d.

The relationship between these two Hebrew terms also points to the path which will enable us to proceed from exile to Redemption. G‑d rewards the Jewish people in a way which reflects their conduct “measure for measure.”10 Thus it is through drawing down the alef, the awareness of G‑d into our daily experience, that we will prepare ourselves for the era when His Presence will be openly manifest in all aspects of our lives.

This is the meaning of the directive, “Make this place Eretz Yisrael.” Every individual ought to draw G‑dliness into his life and into his environment. Rather than seek to escape from worldly involvement and seclude oneself in spiritual expressions of holiness, we are asked to reveal holiness within the living reality of our contemporary experience, to give actual expression to the concept that there is nothing in this world which is apart from G‑d.

In particular, this is relevant at present as we stand at the threshold of the Redemption.11 All the spiritual tasks required of the Jewish people have been completed; to borrow an expression used by the Previous Rebbe, we have already “polished our buttons.”12 Nothing is now lacking, nor can anything now stand in the way of the Redemption. And our efforts in drawing down a consciousness of G‑d into our daily experience can hasten the realization of its promise.

Therefore, the message to “Make this place Eretz Yisrael” should be communicated to others — to the members of one’s family, to one’s students, and indeed to every Jew, man, woman, and child. Each one of us should know that “this place” — his or her place, i.e., each dimension of our environment and each moment of time we experience — can be transformed into Eretz Yisrael, into a place where G‑dliness is openly revealed.

An Individual Experience of Redemption

This message helps to resolve a question asked by many who wonder: What can I do to bring Mashiach? How can my seemingly insignificant actions have any bearing on a matter of such immense proportions?

The answer to that question is that every individual experience of redemption hastens the coming of the Redemption as a whole. “Making this place Eretz Yisrael,” living in the spirit of the Redemption and infusing that spirit into all the dimensions of our life experience, is not merely an individual matter, but rather affects the world in its totality,13 making the universal Redemption even more imminent.

Now is a time when we can — and we are asked to — “Make this place Eretz Yisrael,” to conduct ourselves in the spirit of redemption. The time of the Redemption is near and we must become accustomed to a new approach to our daily experience. And this will not be merely a symbolic gesture: it has the potential to actually hasten the coming of the Redemption. May this take place in the immediate future.

An Adaptation of an Address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe שליט"א
on Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, 5751