A group of chassidim once came to R. Yisrael of Ruzhin, complaining of a drought that was jeopardizing their crops and their livestock. R. Yisrael led them through shaded paths in the nearby forest until he came upon a particular tree. He motioned to the chassidim to sit and began speaking: “When there was a drought in the time of the Baal Shem Tov, he would bring his chassidim to this tree. He would sing a melody and share a teaching, and rain would come.

“A generation later, when there was a drought, my greatgrandfather the Maggid of Mezritch would also bring his followers to this tree. He would tell them the story of the Baal Shem Tov and say: ‘Although I no longer remember the teaching, this is the melody the Baal Shem Tov would sing.’ And after he sang the melody, the rain came down.

“As for me,” R. Yisrael concluded. “I know neither the melody, nor the teaching. May retelling the story bring rain.”

R. Yisrael and his chassidim had barely emerged from the forest before the first thunderbursts were heard.

* * *

Many of us have difficulty reliving the past. Of course, we retain a general recollection of events, but as they fade into history, it’s hard to get all the particulars right, to recall the feelings experienced then, or to visualize where we were then. But sometimes, we turn around and find ourselves in a situation that is almost identical — and then everything comes back.

Everyone who lived through the winter of 1990-1991 has memories. Throughout the world, people panicked in dread of chemical warfare, missiles hurled from thousands of miles away, and the thought of an extended and bloody military conflict. In America and in Israel, the media incited anxiety, evoking distressing images of what could be. Many public figures wavered in indecision, compounding the uneasiness of people at large.

While people worldwide were seeking direction and inspiration, one voice stood out. In the Jewish community and indeed, far beyond the Jewish community, ordinary people, religious leaders, and opinion-makers all turned to the Rebbe. He shone forth as a source of unwavering optimism. He radiated the confidence that is anchored in a trust in G‑d’s Providence, and the leadership and purpose that stems from the Torah’s eternally relevant truth.

Recalling a passage from the Midrashic classic Yalkut Shimoni1 that describes a crisis in the Gulf zone that will cause “nations to challenge each other,” “the entire world [to] panic and be stricken with consternation,” and “Israel also [to] panic and be confounded,” the Rebbe pointed to the conclusion of that passage:

[G‑d] will tell them: “My children, have no fear. Everything I have done, I have done only for your sake. Why are you afraid? Have no fear; the time for your redemption has arrived.”

With prophetic vision, the Rebbe reassured people time and time again that Eretz Yisrael was “the safest place in the world.” With a confident smile, he told Jewish soldiers in the American army that the war would be over by Purim. And to all, he radiated strength, serenity, and purpose.

As we recall those events, we look for such a voice today and — in lieu of one — find ourselves listening again to the Rebbe’s words of the past. Do the Rebbe’s words uttered then apply today? We are not Rebbes and there is no way we can provide that assurance. But, as R. Yisrael of Ruzhin said, in a situation of need, we can tell the story.

* * *

Moreover, many of the statements the Rebbe made then — and which are reprinted in the present booklet — share poignant relevance to our present situation. The second essay, “Every Jew has a Silver Lining,” highlights the meritorious dimension and the unique spiritual potential of every member of our people. It proclaims, in terms valid now as much as then, that no one of them is deserving of harm. The third essay, “The Safest Place in the World,” communicates a sturdy trust in G‑d and provides a worldview that motivates one to fruitful activity without the inhibitions of worry or fear.

And the theme of wonders and miracles that pervades the entire booklet is pertinent in our times, for Divine miracles are not past history. G‑d can intervene conspicuously in our lives, providing deliverance and relief in a manner beyond any expectations of mortal reason.

May we witness a resolution of the present Gulf conflict that surpasses our greatest hopes. And may that positive outcome initiate a benevolent cycle of events, until, as the aforementioned passage from Yalkut Shimoni predicts, “Mashiach will stand on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash and proclaim, ‘Humble ones, the time for your redemption has arrived.’”

Sichos In English

24 Teves, 5763 [2002]