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Moshiach - Spread the Word
by Rabbi Zvi Homnick
A WAR OF WORDS
 
On Shabbos afternoon, on the fourth day of the month of Shevat, in the year 5751 (1991), I was born again.
 
Okay, that definitely didn't come out sounding right.  However, that does not make it any less true.
 
The Rebbe Rayatz (cited in Hayom Yom, 30 Shevat) said, “Many Chassidim considered the day they arrived in Lubavitch to be their 'birthday.'”  I had been in 770 many times before as a child and had seen the Rebbe on numerous occasions, and even had the delightful experience of being tossed unceremoniously out of the path made for the Rebbe.  However, this was the first time I went to the Rebbe with the conviction that I wanted to connect myself to him as his Chassid.
 
It was a few days after the January 15th deadline set for the first Gulf War, and the first rockets had been fired towards Eretz Yisrael that Friday.  My family had just returned from a four month trip in Eretz Yisrael where I had immersed myself in a crash course on Chabad Chassidus and the nesius of the Rebbe and his teachings in particular.  I fully accepted the prognostications of the Rebbe regarding the upcoming war in the Middle East, not only as prophetic but also as an expression of the power that the Tzaddik of the generation has to influence outcomes through the power of his words.
 
That Shabbos morning in Kensington, I decided that I had to walk to the farbrengen.  My wife and in-laws expressed concerns about my safety especially considering that I only had a vague idea of the general direction and was relying on meeting up with other people walking from Flatbush or Boro Park.  So, after davening and the Shabbos day meal, I set out toward the general vicinity of Prospect Park.  Fortunately, I met up with two bochurim learning in the Novominsker yeshiva walking from Boro Park.
 
When I got to the farbrengen, shortly after it had already begun, it was readily apparent that there was no place to stand where one could both see and hear.  Although it was completely out of character, I decided to climb up between the bleachers at the front end of the Rebbe's platform and the bleachers that cut off the front end of the shul.  Suspended in midair with a half of a toe on each set of bleachers, I was able to see the Rebbe in profile and catch a few words in fits and snatches.  (I later found out that the only reason I wasn't sent flying from my precarious perch was because I was still clean shaven at the time so people felt sorry for the crazy “outsider”).
 
At one point the Rebbe inclined his head towards the right and in a louder tone spoke about the impending miracles and the terrible defeat of Saddam, and added that G-d should put the right idea in the mind of President Bush so that he finish off Saddam completely.  This part of the sicha I was able to hear loud and clear, and I felt a jolt of electricity as the Rebbe looked directly at me with a look that said he knew what I was thinking, that yes the Rebbe was not just making prophetic pronouncements but actually fighting the war with words.  After the farbrengen, I joined one of the circles reviewing the sichos, and of course people were excited about what the Rebbe said regarding the war, although there was still speculation in the media that the rockets fired towards Israel had contained bio-chemical payloads.
 
When the edited version of the farbrengen came out before the next Shabbos, I was shocked to see that this portion of the Rebbe's remarks had been excised.  After some investigation, I found out that the Rebbe had instructed the reviewer who would review the sichos over the phone immediately after Shabbos to omit that portion and the same applied to those in charge of putting it into writing.  It was only twelve years later when a new president named Bush actually completed the mission of putting down Saddam that we gained some insight into why the Rebbe had withheld publicizing his statements at that time.
 
A WORD, IF I MAY  
 
Over the next year I continued to walk in on occasional Shabbosos and although I never did find a place from where I could hear clearly, at the review sessions following the farbrengens it always seemed as if the Rebbe touched on whatever Torah topic I had been thinking about during my walk, as well as issues that had recently been on my mind.  One time, I encountered a Chassid walking to the farbrengen and we struck up a conversation.  I asked him if this was a common experience amongst Chassidim that the Rebbe seemed to read their minds and address their questions and issues at farbrengens.  He assured me most emphatically that this was pretty much universal for those who bothered to pay attention to what the Rebbe said.
 
Although I had no problem accepting this on faith, one Shabbos I decided to conduct an experiment.  Instead of thinking about something in Chassidus relating to the Parsha, which would have a greater likelihood of coming up in a Shabbos farbrengen, I decided to focus on a topic that had no obvious connection.  The topic I chose to think about was whether or not the idea of reviewing one's study of Torah a hundred and one times was still applicable today or if it was even a good use of time. 
 
Sure enough, during the review afterward, someone mentioned that the Rebbe had spoken about reviewing a topic in learning one hundred times as they did back in the time of the Gemara, and even one hundred and one times.  However, those who were close enough to hear couldn't piece together how that had fit in with what the Rebbe was talking about, before and after, and remarked about how it seemed to be a maamar hamusgar (parenthetical statement).  You can imagine that I was suitably blown away and even a little ashamed for having contrived my little “test.”  (See sicha Behaaloscha 5751, para. 5, where what the Rebbe has to say on the topic is incorporated into the sicha).
 
One whole year later, on Wednesday, the third of Shevat, I decided to go to 770 for mincha with the Rebbe as part of my spiritual preparation for my first “Chassidic birthday” which would be that night and the following day.  After mincha, the Rebbe indicated that he would say a sicha.  At that time, the issue that plagued my mind was how to reconcile the fact that the Rebbe demanded that everyone go out and teach and promote Chassidus with much of what I had read from the Rebbe Rayatz, which seemed to make it quite clear that not everybody could or should teach the loftiest secrets of the Torah unless he was on a certain level.  As a newcomer, I was conflicted between the idea of “Who am I to open my mouth,” and the Rebbe's insistence that “If you know Aleph, then teach Aleph.”
 
In that sicha, the Rebbe addressed the fact that the Rebbe Rayatz suffered an impediment in his speech in the later years of his life, which according to the rules of nature, limited his ability to influence others in promoting Jewish study and practice, and especially in the realm of teaching and spreading Chassidus.  So although we have no way to explain why Hashem made it so, our only response can be to increase in the study of his teachings with speech and especially in spreading the wellsprings outward, so as to fill the lack that was caused by his impaired speech.  (See Sichos Kodesh 5752, p. 559-564, Sefer HaSichos 5752, sicha Bo 5752, paras 12&15)
 
Although the Rebbe spoke with his head down for almost the entire sicha, when he started talking about the need for each of us to fill in with his own speech, I thought to myself, “Oh no, he can't be talking to me, 'I don't know enough yet,' 'I don't like getting up in public,' etc.”  At that instant the Rebbe raised his head sharply, looked straight at me and then went back to looking down as my kishkes fell through the floor (or at least seemed to).
 
I knew then that I was going to have to overcome my hang-ups and inhibitions about “spreading the word.”  However, we still need to understand what changed.  Why is it that in our time it is the job of every person to teach and spread the wellsprings of Chassidus? Why did the Rebbe Rayatz speak and write so strongly against those who turn Chassidic ideas and teachings into sermons and lectures offering their own explanations and imagery, while the Rebbe insisted that his Chassidim do just that (albeit with great care not to dilute the original)?
 
THE EXILE OF THE WORD
 
In the sicha of the following Shabbos, the Rebbe relates the situation of the later years of the Rebbe Rayatz and that of Moshe Rabbeinu immediately prior to the exodus from Egypt, when he too suffered a speech impediment that required that his brother Aharon speak for him or that Hashem miraculously make his speech understandable.  The reason for this as explained in Kabbala and Chassidus is that “the speech was in exile,” referring to the Divine Speech as well as that of Moshe, who although he personally experienced the highest revelations of the future time could not communicate them to the world and his generation, because the world couldn't receive such revelation.
 
Similarly, the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz on the tenth of Shevat, Parasha Bo, alludes to the fact that he personally experienced the highest revelations of redemption, but it could not be contained in a physical body within the physical world, nor could he communicate it to the world.  The Rebbe concludes however, that in our generation there is no such problem since the world is ready and as such there is no limitation of speech or possibility of expiry of soul from body.  It is only after saying that in our generation there is no lack, that the Rebbe says that each of us needs to fill in the lack that was generated by the seeming impairment of the Rebbe Rayatz over forty years previous to that time.  What is going on here?  What does it mean that speech is in exile or not, and how does our behavior become an issue when the conversation is about the spiritual leader of the time and his ability to “communicate” the divine revelations that he is privy to, up to and including the revelations of the Era of Moshiach?
 
G-d created the world through speech.  He “spoke” the “words” of creation, and the world as it was before Adam sinned, came into being.  Words are paradoxical in nature.  They reveal to the listener what the speaker is thinking or feeling, but they do so by concealing the actual inner experience of the speaker.  The listener only gets a description of what is being talked about.  However, while the speaker is talking, the words actually make his own experience more intense, adding new insight and clarity.  So it turns out that speech has a very different effect on the listener than on the speaker.  To the speaker, putting something into words makes it more clear, more real, more powerful.  For someone who is just listening, as much as words can open up doors to new knowledge and ideas, they are always hiding more than they are revealing.
 
When G-d “spoke” the world into existence, since the world itself was part of the divine communication it did not experience itself as something outside of and separate from G-d.  That is why Chazal tell us that at the beginning of creation, G-d's ikar shechina was present in the lower world, the divine speech expressed and revealed the highest levels of divine communication (ikar shechina) through which G-d manifests himself.  The world was part of the speaker, not a separate listener.  When Adam sinned, the Sages tell us that the shechina was banished from earth up to the first heaven, and moved further away with the sins of progressive generations.  That is what it means when we speak of speech in exile.  We and the world experience ourselves as “listeners,” and to us it sounds like the “word of G-d” (even when passed along via a human conduit such as Moshe Rabbeinu) is speaking of a different reality than our own.
 
Regarding the future time it says, “And all flesh will see that the mouth of G-d has spoken.”  Moshe Rabbeinu brought G-d back down to earth during the revelation at Mount Sinai, but we couldn't contain the intensity.  Our souls “got it,” but our bodies couldn't handle it, and so “with every word, their souls flew out, and G-d resurrected them with the dew of resurrection.”  When Moshiach comes, he will have prepared us and the world to the point that not only our souls can relate to being an extension of the “Speaker,” but our bodies will relate to that as well.
 
REDEEMING THE WORD
 
The Rebbe informed us repeatedly that we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of redemption.  On the very first day, he announced that our mission is to bring the ikar shechina down to earth.  This in turn enables the world to receive far loftier revelations, until the very revelation of G-d himself.    In later years the Rebbe indicated that the job was done.  So what changed?  Before, when the “speech was in exile,” it was impossible for me to fully experience myself as the “word of G-d” or “breath of G-d” or “part of the mind of G-d,” and certainly not “part of the very Essence of G-d.”  I could only experience myself as separate, unless I worked very hard to lift myself up above the limitations of my physical being and the physical world, with the direct assistance of the Rebbe of each generation.  That is why you had to be careful about giving over the teachings of the Rebbe in a way that was as close to his original words as possible, and you needed to be holding on some sort of spiritual level.
 
In our generation, the shechina has come down to earth.  There is no impediment to speech due to the lack of refinement of the physical world.  You can “hear G-d” and “see G-d” without your soul having to leave your body. The operative word is C-A-N.  After the complete revelation of Moshiach, the whole world and all flesh - will see.  In this intermediate time, the time for preparing for that transition, we are capable and have the means and tools to experience ourselves and the world as part of progressively higher levels of divine expression, but we need to “fill the lack” that we carry with us from the past through our own verbalizing of divine truths in our own words using some of our own imagery and insight.  The words of the Rebbe, especially on the topic of Moshiach, are not simply to convey concepts and ideas describing far off and future events.  Those words actually convey and communicate the very reality of Geula, directing the events that grow out from the spiritual reality, and most importantly making it all accessible to us.
 
And by spreading those words of the Rebbe, we fill the lack within ourselves and the lack within the world, and bring about the True and Complete Redemption immediately, NOW!
 

 


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