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THE QUESTION HAS BEEN ASKED, has the Rebbe ever said that he is Moshiach in so many words? Let's answer a question with a question. If someone asked you your name and instead of saying it, you spelled it, did you tell him your name? If you answered yes to this question, then yes, the Rebbe has told us plenty of times that he is in fact Moshiach and will presently bring about the redemption. If you answered no, that spelling out your name is not an answer to the question, 'What is your name?' then no, the Rebbe never told us that he is Moshiach.
In other words, the Rebbe told us by spelling it out. Remember, Moses never got up there and said, "I'm Moses so listen to me!" and King David never told the people, "I'm the king, get that straight!" Such people don't assert themselves as leaders ... They just lead. Similarly the Rebbe never said, "I am the Rebbe" much less "I am King Moshiach."1 But still, people need to know who the leader is. Therefore there are enough clues given to be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt. Let's look at some of them.
Moshiach Agenda From Day One
The Rebbe officially accepted the role of the seventh Rebbe of the Lubavitch dynasty on the 11th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, 5711, corresponding to February 6, 1951. At that time he convened his followers and said his first Chassidic discourse, or maamar2. It is known within Chabad Chassidim that the first discourse of a Rebbe contains the message of his mission, and lays out the spiritual purpose of his generation in the grand scheme of things.
This profound mystical discourse, entitled "I have returned to My garden" (Basi LeGani), explains a verse from King Solomon's Song of Songs (5: 1), found in the Jewish Bible. In this discourse, the Rebbe explains that our generation is destined to catalyze the permanent return of the Divine Presence to our physical world.
The discourse starts by reviewing how G-d's essential presence was initially revealed in the Garden of Eden, but the sin of the Tree of Knowledge caused its withdrawal to a first spiritual dimension. Over time, the sins of subsequent generations caused the Divine Presence to withdraw up to a seventh spiritual dimension. The seven generations from Abraham to Moses brought the Divine Presence back these seven levels concluding with the revelation at Sinai, where G-d was revealed for all.3
Subsequently over time, the divine presence was again withdrawn seven levels, due to the sins of the generations. At that point in the discourse, the Rebbe made an amazing, historical statement that set the agenda for himself, his followers, all Jews, and all people. He said that just as Moses was the seventh leader from Abraham and brought the divine presence down to the physical world at Sinai, so too, we are the seventh generation from the Alter Rebbe, and are thus destined to bring the Divine Presence to this physical world in the true and complete redemption by Moshiach.
This distinction, which comes to us through no choice or merit of our own, brings with it the enormous responsibility of preparing the world for this ultimate revelation of G-d's Kingship here on earth. The groundwork has already been laid through the service of preceding generations. All that is left for us to do is to bring G-d's hovering presence down just one more level, to the immediate ground of material reality. This final mission qualifies us, in the words of the Rebbe, as the "last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption. "
The Rebbe's statement was not a wish, but a point of providential fact: "Notwithstanding the fact that we are the seventh generation, this is not through our own choice or as a result of our service; in fact, it might often not even be to our liking. Nevertheless, 'all sevenths are beloved,' and so we stand on the 'heel of Moshiach' the very footstep of the heel - ready to complete the task of drawing down the Divine Presence, and not just the Divine Presence, but the very essence of the Divine Presence, into this very lowliest realm of existence."
The excitement and trepidation following this discourse was intense, and it set the tone for all the Rebbe's subsequent work, as discussed in the last few chapters.
Had the Rebbe made his identity clear within this mission? One of the people in attendance at this first discourse left and told some of those gathered that he wouldn't be back. When the Chassidim asked him why, he said, "Didn't you hear what he said? One of these days, he's going to stand up and proclaim himself Moshiach ... I'm not ready for that."
For thousands of years, Jews have been expecting Moshiach. "When Moshiach comes... When Moshiach comes ... " The hope always seemed so distant, we figured it would be altogether sudden, without warning. Now that the redemption has started to unfold and Moshiach is among us, we see that it has been a process and we are not at the end of it yet.
The Rebbe never denied that he is Moshiach. On the other hand he was very firmly selective as to where and when to let the information out. Some Chassidim always addressed the Rebbe as King Moshiach and it was accepted. But until around 1989, the Rebbe would not tolerate his followers publicizing his identity as Moshiach. Then as the redemption started to progress, he allowed more acknowledgment of his true role in the world.
In the late 1980's, Rabbi Yonah Avtson, the director of Sichos in English, a Lubavitch publishing arm, prepared a book entitled 'From Exile to Redemption' which features extracts from the Rebbe's works on the subject of Moshiach and Redemption. The Rebbe rejected the proposal outright. But just a few years later, in 1991, the Rebbe gave strong encouragement to the immediate publication of the very same book.
In 1991 the Rebbe requested the Rabbinate to rule on the identification of Moshiach. Rulings started pouring in from around the world that the Rebbe is the presumed Moshiach according to Maimonides and that the time of the redemption has arrived, as discussed previously. The Rebbe's responses to all of these rulings were favorable. He expressed his gratitude and pleasure, and gave his blessings to continue these efforts.
Rabbi Dov Ber Wolpo submitted a manuscript to the Rebbe, fully explaining how the criteria of Jewish Law for identifying Moshiach are fulfilled in our time. On the 28th of Marcheshvan 5752, corresponding to November 5th 1991, he received the following response: "I have received and was greatly delighted. The enclosed should be properly bound; accept my gratitude in advance. It should be successful; and I hope to hear good news."4 The Rebbe also took active interest that the book should receive endorsements from the greatest Rabbinic leaders of the day, which it did. This is all in stark contrast to his firm rejection of the manuscript in 1984. It seems that over the intervening eight years, substantial readiness for Moshiach had been achieved.
Then came the petitions. Men and women from all walks of life signed their acceptance of the Rebbe as King Moshiach. This was done in the format of individual or group letters which were delivered to the Rebbe. The purpose being In conformity with what was discussed previously that public acceptance is prerequisite to the establishment of kingship. At every occasion when these signatures were submitted to the Rebbe, he expressed his pleasure, approval and blessing. Often the Rebbe would add that these efforts are timely. All this served to encourage increased activity aimed at acceptance of the Rebbe as Moshiach.
Moshiach acceptance dinners, initiated by the Lubavitch Women's League, were held in New York and, following the Rebbe's continued approval, throughout the world. In 1992, when the Chief Emissary in London balked at the idea of a Moshiach acceptance dinner, his wife appealed to the Rebbe, who advised her to consult with the women in New York who already had success with such programs.
Some followers chose to ask the Rebbe whether or not to undertake Moshiach acceptance activities since they were in doubt. The Rebbe told them that they must determine this for themselves. The Rebbe never told people to accept him as Rebbe and he never told them to accept him as King or Moshiach. Acceptance cannot be legislated from above. Rather it has to be the initiative of the people.
Concurrently, there were billboard campaigns, full-page ads in the press, radio and television ads and feature coverage. There was even a 'coronation' in 1993 that was newsworthy enough to preempt the Super Bowl on the anniversary of the Rebbe's ascent to leadership. The Lubavitch publication society started to include the Rebbe's title as King Moshiach on his works. All of these initiatives were carried out with Rebbe's prior and explicit approval.
Then there was the singing of “Yechi," in the Rebbe's presence and with his vigorous approval. The lyrics of this song roughly translate as "Live, our Master, Teacher and Rebbe, King Moshiach forever and ever." In Hebrew the words are "Yechi adoneinu moreinu v'rabbeinu melech hamoshiach I'olam va'ed." This song was first sung by his followers, before the Rebbe and with his encouragement on the 15th of Iyar, 5751, corresponding to April 29, 1991. This is captured on videotape. From Simchas Torah 5753 (corresponding to October 20, 1992) it was sung almost daily and often twice daily, to the Rebbe's obvious pleasure and encouragement.
Quotes of the Rebbe
"We are the last generation of exile, and the first generation of redemption. "
Maamar Basi L'Gani, 10 Shvat, 5711
"For every Chassid believes with complete faith that the Rebbe of his generation, just like the leader of our generation, is the Moshiach."
Fifth night of Sukkos, 5747, Hisvaduyos
"The leader of the generation is also the Moshiach of the generation."
Kuntres Beis Rabbeinu Shebevavel, Ch. 5
"I will not be troubled if one will translate "Moshiach" literally, i.e., the ultimate Moshiach, since that is indeed the truth. The leader of the generation is in fact Moshiach of the generation."
Eve of Simchas Torah, 5746, Hisvaduyos
The Rebbe writes that "The house of our Rebbe" in exile is in fact equivalent to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. He then continues:
"'The house of our Rebbe' has the address '770'. Indeed it has come to be called by the name '770' by all Israel… It should be noted that 'The house of Moshiach' also has this numerical value of ... '770'.
"At the time of the arrival of King Moshiach, he will stand on the rooftop of the Holy Temple and announce to Israel, 'Humble ones, the time of your redemption has arrived!' This 'rooftop of the Holy Temple' refers to the miniature sanctuary of the Diaspora which substitutes for the Temple of Jerusalem."
Kuntres Beis Rabbeinu Shebevavel, ch.6-7, & footnote 92
"We have already seen actual wonders which attest to the fact that this is 'the year in which King Moshiach is revealed' and 'the moment that Moshiach arrives'... and he is announcing to the Jewish people, 'Humble ones, the time of your redemption has arrived' and 'Behold! Here comes King Moshiach!' that he has already come ...
"For we are presently standing at the threshold of the commencement of the redemption. Its continuation and consummation will immediately follow."
Shabbos Balak, 5751, Ch. 8
"One points with his finger and exclaims, 'Behold! Here he is! Here is Menachem, our righteous Moshiach!’"
Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5749
"All impediments and obstacles have been nullified. Thus, not only is the actual existence of Moshiach here, but also the revelation of Moshiach. Now, all one needs to do is actually greet and accept Moshiach."
Shabbos Vayeira 5752, Ch. 14
One plus One
So the Rebbe never actually said that he is Moshiach. All he said was:
· That Moshiach is currently here.
· That Moshiach's name is Menachem Mendel.
· That Moshiach's address is '770'.
· That the time of the redemption has arrived.
· That Moshiach is announcing that the time of the redemption has arrived.
· That the Chabad Rebbe’s are descended from King David.
· That the Chabad Rebbe is the spiritual leader of the generation.
· That the generational leader's statements are authoritative in Judaism.
· That the leader of the generation is the Moshiach of the generation.
· That when the redemption comes, the Moshiach of the generation is the Moshiach.
· That the spiritual leader of the generation is a prophet.
· That his prophesy is "immediate redemption" and "behold this Moshiach coming."
· That we just have to accept Moshiach and the redemption will immediately follow.
Is this a disclosure by the Rebbe that he is Moshiach?
In fact, the Rebbe rarely uses the word "I" at all.
Sefer Maamarim Melukat Vol. 1, pp.5-9
Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5: 1
Chayalei Beis David. And He Will Redeem Us. Mendelson Press, NY, p.6
Chabad of New Jersey