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The Rebbe's ambitious vision

Sixty-two years ago, on the 10th of the Hebrew month of Shvat, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, passed away. The Frierdiker Rebbe, as he came to be known, had no sons, only daughters. The grieving chassidim turned to one of the Rebbe’s sons-in-law, the one they considered most suitable, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, and begged him to assume the position of Rebbe. For weeks, then months, the chassidim kept up a constant stream of requests, but the Ramash, as he was then known, refused to accept the role.

A year to the date after the Frierdiker Rebbe’s passing, the chassidim gathered to mark his yahrtzeit. At the head of the table sat his illustrious son-in-law, the Ramash, delivering words of Torah. During a brief lull, one of the elder chassidim stood up and pleaded, “The chassidim want to hear a maamar!”

A maamar is an original Chassidic discourse, delivered only by the Rebbe himself. Requesting a maamar was a way of saying that the chassidim wanted the Ramash to demonstrate, in a revealed way, that he accepted upon himself the role of Rebbe.

Suddenly the Ramash’s face became grave, and he began to deliver a chassidic discourse in the classic “maamar” tune.

*

This discourse, which served as the official acceptance speech of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, laid out the Rebbe’s ambitious vision – no less than to “bring the Shechinah back to earth,” and to prepare the world for Moshiach. The Rebbe did not leave it at words alone, though. He immediately began to implement his plan, by sending out Shluchim, emissaries, to all corners of the globe, and introducing scores of campaigns and projects to ensure that no Jew, anywhere in the world, would be disconnected from his or her roots. The Rebbe was determined to fill the world with mitzvot, with acts of goodness and kindness, with G-dly love and spirit. And through his army of emissaries dispersed around the world, an army that grows from day to day, the Rebbe has largely succeeded.

Over the four decades of the Rebbe’s leadership, the Rebbe often spoke about the imminent Redemption and gave even more explicit directives for how we can make that long-awaited era a reality. In the 1990’s, the Rebbe stepped up his talks on Moshiach, stating publicly that our observance of Torah and mitzvot at this time is for the sole purpose of greeting Moshiach in reality. Our eagerness and anticipation for Moshiach’s coming will in themselves hasten his arrival.

*

As much as the Rebbe spoke about Moshiach, so did the longing and excitement grow among the chassidim to finally see that reality. In a sense, we can compare our waiting for Moshiach to the desperation that the chassidim felt during that year of loss, from the passing of the previous Rebbe until the Rebbe accepted the leadership on himself. They knew that the chassidim needed a Rebbe, although nobody had yet accepted that role.

For nearly 18 years, since the Rebbe’s physical presence was hidden from us in 1994, we have known that we need a Rebbe, that, indeed, we have a Rebbe – albeit one that we can no longer see or hear. From that time chassidim have been buoyed and sustained by their faith in the Rebbe’s words – that the Redemption is imminent and our task now is to continue the final preparations to make it a reality. Then, chassidim needed to wait only a year for the Rebbe to accept the leadership, whereas we have been waiting for close to two decades. As a people, we have been waiting for Moshiach for millennia.

As we approach the anniversary of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s passing, and the Rebbe’s ascension to leadership, we hope and pray that this lull will speedily come to an end, and the Rebbe will reveal himself as Moshiach and end this exile.

 

 


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