Shabbos of the 17th of Tammuz 1991 fell out on Parshas Balak, containing the wondrous blessings of the gentile prophet, Bilaam. Although he meant to curse the Jewish people, Hashem put words in his mouth about the Redemption of the Jewish people instead. The blessings of Bilaam form the basis of the laws of Moshiach in the Rambam. Because of the luminous nature of these blessings, the Rebbe tells us that Parshas Balak can never fall out during the three weeks, historically a time of suffering for the Jewish people.
Further, the redemption of the Previous Rebbe 12-13 Tammuz turned over this month to a time of Geulah. The Previous Rebbe said his liberation impacted every Jew. His coming to America led to a quantum leap forward in the spreading of the wellsprings, culminating in the worldwide empire of Moshiach, with Chabad in every corner of the globe. As a result of this, and many signs and wonders, the Rebbe tells us that we are the last generation of Exile and the first generation of Redemption.
Further, the Rebbe made a shturem about the nature of the seventeenth of Tammuz a (fast) day pushed off by Shabbos. The Rebbe said that years ago men of stature would never fast on a day following Shabbos. It was not considered appropriate to go from a day of feasting to the opposite.
When the fast is pushed off, eating and rejoicing even more sumptuously than on a regular Shabbos reveals the positive nature hidden in the fast. Feasting on the 17th of Tammuz when it falls on Shabbos thus reveals the ‘Tov’ – the inner good of the fast hinted to by the number 17, the numerical value of good. The Oral Law says that in the era of the Redemption, the fasts will turn over to joy and happiness.
Shabbos of the 17th Tammuz gives us a taste of this.
In the year 1991, the Shabbos of the 17th of Tammuz had a special significance. The intensity of the good of this day was stressed even more because the Rebbe said we are on the threshold of the Redemption and Moshiach is coming and is already revealed. The Jewish people are more connected to the yearning and anticipation of the Third Beis Hamikdash than the sorrow and destruction of the past. The service of the three weeks, especially the study of the Halachos of the Beis Hamikdash and an intensification of the study of inyonei Moshiach and Geulah, have also changed as the Rebbe stresses that they are an expression of our depth of yearning for the final Geulah.
The Rebbe spoke about Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the leader of the generation at the time of the Roman occupation of Israel. As background, we know that his unique friendship with the Roman emperor Antoninus shielded the Jewish people from oppressive decrees. Quoting from the Gemorah, the Rebbe said: If there are decrees from the nations, you fast. If there are no decrees but no peace, if you want you fast, if you want you don’t fast.” Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi went to the Sanhedrin and asked that the fast of the 17th of Tammuz be nullified. Although there was “no peace” but “no decrees,” the Sanhedrin agreed that the fast could be nullified. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi publicly washed himself in the marketplace to indicate that he was not fasting.
In our time, the Rebbe said that decrees from the nations against the Jewish people ended with the fall of Communism. Therefore, “if you want you don’t fast.” (Footnote 81, Balak, 1991)
In the year 1991, there were many revealed wonders such as the Gulf War and the Rebbe’s strong stance that there is nothing to fear and “Eretz Yisrael is the safest place in the world, the eyes of Hashem are always upon it.” The Rebbe called this year, ‘The year that I will show you wonders,’ and also said that Melech Hamoshiach has been revealed in this year and, ‘kvar ba,’ he has already come. Meaning, we are already in the days of Moshiach. The Rebbe emphasized this fact the following year on Tisha B’Av when he came into 770 wearing his silk kapote usually reserved for Shabbos.
Many of us, myself included, were in 770 and heard this sicha but even if we took these words to heart, our tendency is to watch the Rebbe with great admiration but do nothing ourselves. The Rebbe explains however, that we are in a galus pnimi (an internal exile) and it is incumbent upon us to increase our study of inyonei Moshiach and Geulah because only Torah has the power to transform one’s character. The Rebbe said that this Torah study will eventually penetrate our hearts and our actions. We will no longer feel ‘outside’ of the redemption but indeed begin to ‘live with the times’ of the true and complete Redemption.
It is clear that a Nasi is one with the people. Wherever we are, we put him. He is trying to arouse us to rise up to the level of the Redemption by accepting it, which means believing in him as Melech haMoshiach. When we hold back, he is in fact held back, ‘peering through the lattices.’
Upon further thought, the idea of feasting refers to the ultimate Feast of the Shor Habor and the Leviathan in which we will drink the aged wine at one same table with all of the Jewish people. Through this eating we will internalize the essence of Hashem that can only be manifest in the physical world, in our physical bodies, revealing the superiority of the body over the soul. May the feast never stop and all of the Jewish people unite in shira v’zimra together with Melech Hamoshiach in the Third Beis Hamikdash.
Sponsored in loving memory of Chaim Aharon ben Avraham Arye Leib
Also dedicated by Hillel and Malka Kipnes in honor of their loving
children and grandchildren.