IN THE YEAR 5752-1992, the Rebbe's followers and admirers were riding a high wave of optimism for immediate global redemption before the eyes of the world due in part to the following items:
- The Rebbe's war on assimilation was turning the tide;
- The Rebbe's greatness as a world class spiritual and humanitarian leader was common knowledge for both Jews and non-Jews;
- The Gulf War and the collapse of Communism provided dramatic proof to the world of the Rebbe's prophetic ability;
- The Rebbe announced, characterizing the announcement as prophecy, that Moshiach and redemption are an immediate reality,
- The Rebbe had launched "the last campaign" - "to receive the face of our righteous Moshiach in actual reality;"1
- The Rebbe in essence even proclaimed himself to be King Moshiach and approved various programs promoting him as such;
On the 26th of Adar I, 5752 (March 1st 1992), a New York Post journalist passed by the Rebbe and asked, "What is the message of the Rebbe to the world?"
Answered the Rebbe, "That Moshiach is coming." Then he added, "He is not only coming. He is on his way."
Less than 24 hours later, tragedy struck. The Rebbe suffered a stroke while praying at the graveside of his predecessor and father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson. He recovered enough to sit up, eat, and respond to questions with either yes, no, or amen.
His miraculous blessings and guidance did not slacken during this period. For example prior to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Rebbe responded to his followers in and around Miami to stay home and nothing would happen to them, even though the National Guard were called in to ensure everyone would be evacuated. CNN featured Chassidim telling the National Guard, "No, we're not defying the President, we're just listening to the Rebbe." The result? Contrary to all expectations (but one), the hurricane swerved to miss Miami Beach completely, but unfortunately the Gulf Coast (where the evacuees were sent) was hit with many casualties and many billions of dollars in damage.
One after another, medical complications arose while a steady stream of specialists tried in vain to turn the situation around. In the meantime, the Rebbe continued to support the Moshiach campaign he had launched. For over a year, on a daily basis the Rebbe would attend prayer services, following which he would invariably encourage the singing of Yechi, i.e., "Live, our Master, Teacher and Rebbe King Moshiach, forever and ever."
The Rebbe's health continued with ups and downs until he suffered a second stroke, two years to the day from the first one.
The Rebbe's followers had hoped that the many written and oral Torah sources referring to the severe pains and illnesses Moshiach must endure would be figurative and that the Rebbe would continue with uninterrupted good health to the Redemption. However once these troubles had come upon us, we realized that we were seeing the harsh predictions coming to fulfillment too.
According to Torah sources, Moshiach undertakes the most intense suffering in the world on the condition that every Jew that has ever lived should have a portion in the ultimate redemption, including even aborted fetuses, the stillborn, and those souls that only arose in G-d's thought,2 The Sages state,3 "G-d divided the world's suffering into three portions. One of those portions is the lot of King Moshiach. 'He is wounded because of our sins... He suffers that we should merit peace.'4 When his time will come, G-d says,5 'Today I have given birth to him ... It is his time and he will be healed.'''
After a few months, on the 3rd day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz, 5754 (June 12, 1994), the Rebbe was pronounced dead and buried before hundreds of thousands of followers and admirers at Montefiore cemetery in Brooklyn, adjacent to his father in law, the previous Rebbe.
Beyond Life and Death
The funeral itself was a mixture of perceptions. Some were crying hysterically, some were simply stunned, some felt betrayed, almost everyone was miserably sad. Strangely, some were singing and dancing, and yet they too were sad. They were certain that any second, the hoax would end and the Rebbe would get up and lead us to the redemption right then.
One thing is demonstrable; the Rebbe has not left us. He still guides us, obtains G-d's favor and campaigns on our behalf. He's still here, still alive, somehow. He is still the generational leader and he's still Moshiach. The redemption is still on, and the world is still moving towards its ultimate fulfillment. The miracles haven't slackened one bit. In fact there are more miracles now. You can access the Rebbe, too.6 The main point is that we will soon see him again, here, soul in a body, and he will be recognized by all to be Moshiach and he will finish the job he started leading mankind into the true and complete redemption.
One may ask, "But how can this all be true? It sounds too fantastic. And besides, now this really sounds like another religion."
The first thing we must realize is that resurrection is a Jewish belief. In fact, the Sages maintain that denying the reality of resurrection is equivalent to denying the entire Torah. The Five Books of Moses hint at resurrection, but the Jewish Prophets of the Written Torah speak about resurrection frequently and explicitly. It is also frequently described in the Talmud. Judaism maintains that all Jewish souls, most Jewish bodies, and all righteous Gentiles will be resurrected.
Resurrection involves both perfection in the state of man and a revelation of the Essence of G-d, an essence that transcends both the spiritual and the physical. In resurrection, there is a fusion of the Divine with the human through which is fulfilled the purpose of creation - to provide G-d with a dwelling in this lowly world.7
Surely it is challenging to imagine the reality of the dead rising as living, healthy beings. However, as with all other aspects of the redemption, we have some foretaste of this already. Within the last few years, living ear cells have been homogenized in the lab to the point that they were biologically dead, and then were found to reorganize into living cells.8 Also, it is now commonplace for hospitals to resuscitate patients who are technically dead for some time, even hours.
A certain woman was found to have a swollen artery (aneurysm) in her brain. Conventional brain surgery could not be performed because if they operated on the artery while the blood was still circulating in the brain the artery could burst at any time and she would die. As the surgeon explained it, it would be like operating on a tense balloon. So she was referred to a certain medical team at Columbia University that has been successful at performing a radically different type of surgery. In their procedure they deflate the artery by stopping the blood circulation and draining the blood from the brain. They achieve this by circulating the blood of the patient out of the body and through a refrigeration unit, thus lowering the patient's body temperature to the point that the heart stops and the brain waves cease! At this point the patient is scientifically and legally dead. They then perform the operation. After the operation they warm the blood again as they circulate it through the body, starting the brain waves and the heart again. CBS News reported on this on their news program "60 Minutes" on April 2, 1995. At the time of their report, this medical team had performed such operations 40 times and in 37 cases the patients had survived.
Thus we have several modern examples of ‘resurrection’ from Medicine. Modern Cosmology, too, has a model of this process. Physicist Frank Tipler, as a self-avowed materialist, has concluded that the resurrection of the dead is a necessary outcome of his cosmological Omega Point Theory, which has been increasingly accepted and published even in secular academic journals.9
Chassidic philosophy has added significantly to our understanding of the resurrection generally, and of Moshiach specifically. Moshiach's case is somewhat different, since his soul comes from the Divine Essence (atzmus in Hebrew). At this level, life and death are equal.10 In fact this Essence transcends all limitations, for a soul of this Essence, the miraculous and the natural are equal and coexist. It follows that the life of Moshiach is completely above the laws of nature, which our Sages confirm.11
The Rebbe himself, spoke often about the transcendence of his Rebbe, the Rayyatz, as a generational leader, and as the potential Moshiach. He widely publicized his view after the previous Rebbe’s passing , that the Rebbe will be resurrected and lead his followers to the Redemption, regardless of what people may think.12
"The suggestion is the study of Torah on the topics of Moshiach and the Redemption. For it is within the ability of Torah to transform human nature. It is possible that one may be, heaven forbid, 'outside' and far removed from the concept of redemption as far as one's own perception is concerned (since he has not yet emerged from his own internal exile). Yet, through Torah study in the topics of redemption, he uplifts himself to a redemption state of mind, and begins to 'live' with the concept of redemption, amidst the realization and recognition that 'Behold, here he comes!'
The Rebbe's discourse of Shabbos Balak, 5751-1991
"One may wonder, 'What will the world say if a Jew performs his Divine service ... particularly trying to speed the redemption? Seemingly,' he argues, 'in order to succeed, one must take into consideration how the world will view it.' The answer is that the world is ready and prepared! When a Jew goes about his Divine service properly, rising above all limitations and constraints, yet doing so in a way that his service can be clothed in the garments of nature, he will see how the world, nature, and non-Jews are indeed aiding him in his Service.
The Rebbe's discourse of Shabbos Korach, 3rd Tamuz, 5751-1991
"A question has been asked with regard to the recent statements that the redemption is coming immediately. Some might suggest that it would not be so easy for this message to reach people and convince them. People are uncertain of how their families and the world at large will react to it. The response is that such concerns would only be valid if the idea of redemption was an innovation. However, the redemption is nothing new. Rather all its elements have already begun, and have already been brought down and accepted in the physical world, the level beyond which these is nothing lower. Therefore it should be of no surprise when immediately, the Redemption arrives."
The Rebbe's discourse of Shabbos Shoftim, 5751-1991
1. Sicha of Chayei Sarah 5752-1991, Ch.1
2. Ya/kut Shimoni on Isaiah 53
3. Ya/kut Shimoni, Psalms 2.
4. Isaiah 53:5
5. Psalms 2:7
6. See Ch. 12
7. p. 38 in To Live and Live Again. N. D. Dubav. Sichos in English, NY, 1995.
8. Reiter, Dr. Levi, pers. comm., citing biomedical research
9. Tipler, F.J. 1994. The Pbysics of Immonality: Modern Cosmology, G-d, and the Resurrection of the Dead. Doubleday.
10. Sefer Maamarim 5670 (Eter) p.100
11. see Sbaarei Geulah, vol. 2, p.69. note 29
12. V'hu Yigaleinu. 1994.