What is the mission of Dor Hashvi’i and how do we have the power to accomplish it? A Chassidisher Derher takes a in-depth look at some of these oft-repeated concepts.
By: A Chassidisher Derher
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For a full year following the histalkus of the Frierdiker Rebbe, the Rebbe rejected the requests of Chassidim to assume the nesius. Finally, on the occasion of the first yom hillulah, the Rebbe accepted the leadership with the recital of his first maamar, Basi Legani.
The maamar is unique in the annals of Chabad history. In clear and concise terms, the Rebbe defined the goal of the seventh generation, explaining how we are the generation that would finally bring on the geula.
From that day, bringing Moshiach was at the fore of the Rebbe’s activities. As the Rebbe’s nesius progressed, the Rebbe emphasized that geula is already here, and all that remains is for us to open our own physical eyes.
Why us? Why are we better than previous generations, who were greater talmidei chachamim, ovdei Hashem and baalei mesiras nefesh? Why are we placed in this unique position, and how does this impact our own avoda?
In celebration of the seventieth anniversary of this milestone, it is appropriate to delve into the toichen of the Rebbe’s nesius and the goal set out to accomplish over these 70 years. In the following pages, we examine this topic through the lens of the Rebbe’s sichos.
Note: This article is but a glimpse into quite an extensive topic, far too long to be covered in these pages. For a complete understanding of the issue, the original sichos should be studied.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
On 7 Sivan 2448*, the Jewish nation stood around a mountain in a forsaken desert, when Hashem made a revelation. It was time, Hashem said, for the lower worlds to reach upward and the higher worlds to reach downward, thereby fulfilling the original purpose of the world’s creation. Until that day, a stark separation had been in force between spirituality and physicality, but now those barriers were struck down, and the Jewish people were granted the ability to impact the physical world through Torah and mitzvos and elevate it to a more spiritual plane.1
We sometimes think of this concept as a one time event; a surprise that occurred with no prelude at all. However, the groundwork for this process was being laid for several generations—seven generations to be precise.
The process began when Avraham Avinu established his motel in the desert, and began teaching the Arab passersby to thank Hashem for the sustenance He provided for them (charging them at a premium if they refused). Although Chassidus explains that the work of our forefathers is considered mere reichos—an aura—compared to the work of later generations, nonetheless, it was Avraham’s efforts to make Elokus known to the world that made matan Torah possible.2
By the same token:
The coming of Moshiach will herald a drastic change to the world order. There will be no war, no hunger, and no impurity, and the world will reach an era of peace and prosperity as never before. Most importantly, it will bring an absolutely new revelation of Torah the world has never before seen, which Moshiach himself will teach all Yidden. It seems obvious that such a drastic change necessitates its own unique preparation to lay the groundwork for its arrival.3
But what is the groundwork for the geula?
THE REAL MOSHIACH
“On Rosh Hashanah 5507*,” writes the Baal Shem Tov, “I had aliyas haneshamah, and I entered the chamber of Moshiach, where he was studying Torah with the tanaim and tzaddikim and shivas haro’im [the Ushpizin].
“I asked Moshiach, ‘Eimosai ka’asi Mar—when will the Master arrive?’
“He answered, ‘This is how you will know: When your teachings will become well-known and be revealed in the world, veyafutzu mayanosecha chutzah—and your wellsprings will spread to the outside…”4
Over the generations since the revelation of Toras Hachassidus, the Rabbeim have often explained that the teachings of Chassidus serve as a prelude to, and a taste of, the era of Moshiach. In a sense, it is actually a form of Moshiach’s arrival already.5
In a famous story, the Rebbe Maharash once asked the Tzemach Tzedek why Moshiach hadn’t arrived during the year 5608*, which had been described in sefarim as a ketz [a date the galus is supposedly to come to an end]. The Tzemach Tzedek replied that the ketz was fulfilled with the printing of Likutei Torah that year.
In response, the Rebbe Maharash said, “But Yidden want Moshiach kipshuto, literally…”
When relating the story, the Rebbe asked a question:
“The answer of the Tzemach Tzedek was obviously meant truthfully. If so, the question arises: Did the Tzemach Tzedek not know that Yidden need the geula kipshuto? And on the other hand, did the Rebbe Maharash not know that the Likutei Torah was printed?”6
What indeed, is the association between Chassidus and Moshiach? Why is Moshiach’s arrival dependent on the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings? How could the publishing of a sefer, as holy as it is, compare to the “geula ha’amitis vihashleimah?”
FISH IN THE WATER
“One time,” the Gemara relates,7 “Pappos found Rabbi Akiva teaching Torah in public. He said to him, ‘Akiva, are you not afraid of the [Roman] empire?’
“Rabbi Akiva answered him with a parable:
“A fox walking along a riverbank saw fish fleeing the fishermen’s nets. ‘Why are you fleeing?’ the fox asked, ‘Come up on dry land, and we will live together…’
“The fish retorted, ‘Aren’t you the cleverest animal? You are a fool! If we are afraid in the water, our natural habitat which gives us life, how much more so in a habitat that causes our death.’
“The same is true for us,” said Rabbi Akiva. “If this is our situation when we learn Torah, about which the possuk says: ‘Ki heim chayenu v’orech yameinu—this is our life and the length of our days,’ how much more terrible it would be if we would cease learning it…”
This statement of Rabbi Akiva, that a Jew’s natural habitat is Torah, is more than a mere analogy; it’s a reflection of a reality that we will only experience fully when Moshiach comes. In Rabbi Akiva’s times, the fact that Torah was the “natural habitat” of a Jew wasn’t very apparent. In our day as well, a person might not realize that he is connected to Elokus. This concept will only be fully apparent after the coming of Moshiach.
As the Rambam writes,8 the central concern of Moshiach’s times will be—not materialistic indulgence, rather—the proliferation of de’ah, knowledge of Hashem; a revelation of pnimius haTorah. In other words, when Moshiach comes, the presence of Hashem in the world will become revealed; as the Rebbe says in Hayom Yom,9 even the earth will protest if we don’t speak words of Torah when we step on it.
In simple terms: We will live every moment of our lives knowing and internalizing that we are like fish in the sea, inseparable from Elokus.
This is the very goal of Chassidus. We have been given an element of pnimius haTorah, which teaches us how Hashem is present in, and constantly recreates every facet of existence, and how we can live our lives being constantly mindful of how the entire existence is merely an expression of Hashem’s being. Even if we don’t currently live up to this standard to its fullest, the study of Chassidus helps us reach for this goal.10 That is why the printing of Likutei Torah, with its Toras Chabad in printed form and available for all, is, in essence, a stage of the revelation of Moshiach.
The giving of pnimius haTorah was with matan Torah (and even earlier), but a focused study became more prevalent with a select group of talmidim studying from Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar. In more recent times, his teachings were expounded upon further by the Arizal and his students. However, the Arizal transmitted these teachings only to a select group of students; it wasn’t yet the time for the entire world to participate.
A turning point was the revelation of the Baal Shem Tov. During his time, the Jewish people were in a depressed state. The horrors of tach v’tat11 followed by the events of Shabsai Tzvi had decimated many Jewish communities and left them in a “state of his’alfus [passed out].”
In response, the Baal Shem Tov took these ideas of pnimius hatorah, and channeled them into simple teachings and stories which could be understood even by the simplest individuals, inspiring them and raising their spirits. He taught them to constantly thank Hashem, and to see everything that occured as hashgacha pratis.
However, the real turning point was some time later, with the birth of the Alter Rebbe. Hashem gave the world a neshama chadasha, a new soul who brought a new revelation to the world: the revelation of Toras Chabad. The goal of Chassidus Chabad was to transmit the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov in an intellectual manner, so that the concept would be understood and internalized, not just believed.
In the Rebbe’s words:
“The beginning of the revelation of Chassidus to the masses, without limitations, began with the Baal Shem Tov. He traveled from place to place and taught Chassidic concepts to very simple people. In order that they understand his message, he channeled his teachings into stories and short Torah-vertlach—but which contained the most profound concepts. The Mezritcher Maggid spoke Chassidus more openly, without enclothing them in stories, but he did so only for his select students. The Alter Rebbe and the following Rabbeim, however, brought Chassidus into sechel, helping the human mind comprehend Chassidus.”12
In one instance, the Rebbe points to an interesting example of the difference between the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe’s Torah:
The Baal Shem Tov taught that the world is recreated at every moment. His source was the possuk ‘לעולם ה’ דברך נצב בשמים’; in other words, it is Torah who says that the world is created at every moment, and the Baal Shem Tov’s students accepted this assertion out of faith in Torah.
However, the Alter Rebbe teaches the same concept differently. In the first perek of Shaar Hayichud V’haemunah, he teaches the explanation of the Baal Shem Tov. However, in the second perek he proceeds to explain the same concept logically, explaining the differences between yesh miyesh and yesh me’ayin (something from nothing or something from something), bringing this same idea to be understood by the logical mind.13
Within Toras Chabad, we find a similar progression through the generations. From the Alter Rebbe until our generation, Chassidus has become more understood and more available, reaching ever growing audiences. The Mitteler Rebbe explained Chassidus much more expansively,14 the Tzemach Tzedek demonstrated the cohesiveness of Chassidus with the rest of Torah,15 the Rebbe Maharash simplified Chassidus so that every listener walked away with a clear message,16 and the Rebbe Rashab brought a new clarity to the study of Chassidus with his broad approach to subjects and ideas.17
In the sicha quoted earlier, the Rebbe points out the progression until the times of the Frierdiker Rebbe:
“The [Frierdiker Rebbe] would speak Chassidus to all audiences, without limitations. Wherever he came, he spoke Chassidus, whether or not it was a Chassidishe place. Moreover: He placed a special emphasis that also those who were lacking in their observance should learn Chassidus. He explained it in simple terms, so that those with less knowledge should understand as well, and even for those who didn’t understand Lashon Kodesh or Yiddish, he directed that it be translated into other languages…”
The final step of this process is in dor hashvi’i.
The number seven was chosen by Hashem to be beloved. In many instances, the seventh is singled out as unique; most noticeably, the day of Shabbos, the ‘minor’ geula of each week; as well as shemita, sefira, and the ultimate elef hashvi’i, the millennium of the final redemption.18
The same is true about the generation to bring the geula in actuality: Moshe Rabbeinu, the seventh generation to Avraham, brought the Yidden out of Mitzrayim so that they could keep Torah and mitzvos and fulfill the world’s purpose. So too, we, the seventh generation since the revelation of Chassidus Chabad, were granted the zechus—through no deed of our own—not only to bring the geula closer, but to complete the mission and actually bring the Shechina down here.
Indeed, in the decades since the Rebbe’s nesius, we have seen an unprecedented infiltration of Toras Hachassidus into the world.
A QUALITATIVE DIFFERENCE
When the Roman authorities brought out Rabbi Akiva to be tortured and killed in the most heinous fashion, he retained his calm demeanor, and prepared himself to be mekabel ol malchus Shamayim with love.
His students couldn’t believe it.
“Ad kan? To this extent?” they asked.
“Throughout my life, I was pained by the possuk “בכל נפשך,” [which obligates us to serve Hashem] even if He takes your life. I said, when will I have the opportunity to fulfill it…?”21
In the Rebbe’s first maamar, Basi Legani, he contrasts this mesiras nefesh of Rabbi Akiva with that of Avraham Avinu. What we learn from this story is that Rabbi Akiva sought out mesiras nefesh; for him, it was a value which he desired for his own spiritual growth. Avraham Avinu was also willing to be moser nefesh, but for him, it wasn’t an end in itself; his goal was to teach humankind about the Aibershter, and if that would entail mesiras nefesh, he would be willing to do so as well.22
The Rebbe explained that our generation was given a similar task. In our day and age, we can no longer permit ourselves the luxury of indulging in our own spiritual pursuits. A Jew in our day must ask himself: Like Avraham Avinu of old, how can I further the goal of bringing the Shechinah to the outside. [This attitude, the Rebbe explained, will also enhance one’s personal avoda.]
“Even though the fact that we are the seventh generation is not by our choice nor by our own avoda, and in several aspects it is against our will, nonetheless . . our work is to complete the hamshachas haShechinah, and not only Shechinah but ikar Shechinah, and specifically in the tachtonim.”23
The avoda of the final generation is the culmination of all the previous work of Chassidus: To bring the revelation of ikar Shechinah to every corner of the world, to the furthest chutzah possible; to make those places a dwelling place for Hashem’s presence as well. (In fact, the way to ‘measure’ the ‘revelation’ of ikar Shechinah is by measuring its impact. Ikar Shechinah, the revelation of atzmus um’hus, is essentially beyond all limitations of time and space, and will therefore stretch to the furthest reaches of the world.24)
This task has a qualitative difference. It is no longer enough to further the goal by bringing more Elokus into the world; now we are tasked with finishing it, once and for all, bringing about a state of geula in the world, and thus ushering in the true and complete redemption in actuality.
The practical meaning here is that we are no longer in a slow course of progress. We are part of an urgent war effort, mobilized into an army with a stated goal and purpose that needs to be immediately achieved.
We can understand the task of our generation even better, with the following story.
The Arizal had a minhag to greet Shabbos with his talmidim in the fields.
Once, as they went into the fields, the Arizal said to his students, “Would you like to go to Yerushalayim to receive Shabbos there?”
It wasn’t physically possible to reach Yerushalayim in time for Kabbalas Shabbos, and his talmidim understood that it would be a miraculous journey. However, they realized that they would need to spend Shabbos away from their families, and some students told the Arizal that they needed to consult with their wives.
The Arizal’s face fell.
“Had we immediately gone,” the Arizal told them, “we could have brought Moshiach.”
When the Rebbe repeated the story, he asked the obvious question:
How could asking your wife’s permission be a contradiction to the geula? According to halacha, one must seek to maintain peace in the home, and there are many obligations pertaining to how one must treat his wife. How is it possible that following halacha could distance the geula?
The answer is:
“Der cheshbon iz takeh a cheshbon, uber tzu milchama iz er ‘nye godin.’ Your calculation is correct, but you are not fit for battle.”25
Making the geula a reality in the world necessitates a very real sense of urgency, a war; and in a war effort, kabbalas ol is paramount. Every soldier needs to realize that he doesn’t understand the bigger picture, and that if he chooses to go his own way, he sabotages the entire war effort. The Arizal’s students should have trusted their master, and followed his instructions without question.
The same applies to us, the Rebbe explained:
“In every generation, when you hear a directive of the nossi hador, there is no time to deliberate or to look into sefarim. You need to carry out the directive!
“This is what the Temimim did. When the Rebbe instructed them to go to distant cities, they didn’t consult with their parents or in-laws, and didn’t hypothesize how much they would be able to learn if they remained in yeshiva. They knew that they were soldiers, and a soldier does nothing but fulfill the orders of the commander.”
THE COMING OF MOSHIACH
Needless to say, as long as the complete and final goal has yet to be actualized, the avoda of Dor Hashvi’i continues full-force, right up until the coming of Moshiach and beyond. As the Rebbe explained in a similar vein:
“The most important work and the main focus of the [Frierdiker] Rebbe was in bringing the geula closer, as he publicized and printed the mantra: “לאלתר לתשובה לאלתר לגאולה” (immediate teshuva will bring immediate geula)…
“…Our avoda [in bringing the geula] is not merely an outcome and continuation of the [Friediker] Rebbe’s work during his lifetime, but it is actually due to his current activity and input nowadays too. Chazal say, ‘מה זרעו בחיים אף הוא בחיים’ (just as his children are alive, he too is alive). That means that today as well, the [Frierdiker] Rebbe is active in our midst!
“There are those who actually see the [Frierdiker] Rebbe’s impact in their everyday life; whether in material matters—like increased success in their business, or in spiritual matters—like random doses of inspiration to do teshuva (‘הרהורי תשובה’), or they see the Rebbe in a dream etc…
“…The proclamation that the [Frierdiker] Rebbe made about לאלתר לגאולה stands true till this very day, without any question. The [Frieridker] Rebbe is alive, just as his children are alive. And this will be the case until the coming of Moshiach!
“…Not only that, but even after Moshiach’s arrival, the [Frierdiker] Rebbe’s nesius will still continue in its full glory!
“…And for those who ask: But aren’t we already so many years after the [Frierdiker] Rebbe’s proclamation of לאלתר לגאולה? Perhaps we can intimate that he didn’t actually mean ‘immediately’ in the literal sense, teikef umiyad mamash.
“This question can only be asked by the ‘old foolish king’ (the yetzer hara) or his accomplices. Anyone who finds pleasure in bringing up such a question finds themself, rachmana litzlan, in a deep, dark churban.
“The obvious truth is: when the [Frierdiker] Rebbe said לאלתר לגאולה, he meant ‘immediately’ in its most literal sense. Due to our sins (בעוונותינו הרבים) we didn’t merit the fulfillment of this statement in tangible reality. But the truth still stands—לאלתר לגאולה, Moshiach is coming now, teikef umiyad mammash!”28
Over the years of the Rebbe’s nesius, he increasingly spoke about the importance of spreading the knowledge of sheva mitzvos bnei Noach to the non-Jews of the world. In truth, this is an essential part of the geula. The revelation of Elokus is only genuine if it reaches everywhere and everyone: Jew and non-Jew. They too, must come to realize the presence of Elokus in the world, and live their lives in tandem.19
During a sicha in 5750*, the Rebbe addressed the fact that Yiddishkeit had been spreading by leaps and bounds, and he also noted the following:
“Even in those places where no Jews at all live, the gentile inhabitants are aware of the existence of the Jewish people, and . . when these nations find out about the Jewish people, they will be prompted to make further enquiries until they discover the sheva mitzvos bnei Noach.
“The above is particularly relevant now, in the final era before the coming of Moshiach, when ‘I will transform the nations into a pure speech so that they will call in the name of Hashem.’ The spreading of this awareness is incumbent upon every Jew since we are commanded, as the Rambam writes, to try to influence the gentiles to keep these seven commandments. Since today Jews live among gentiles, we must search for an opportunity to influence our non-Jewish neighbors to follow these universal laws.”20
A NEW WORLD REALITY
In this article, we’ve explained the various stages in the revelation of Chassidus, as well as the various stages in the state of the Jewish people. However, the state of the world around us also has bearing on this topic:
The Rebbe explains that in previous generations, Yidden were accosted with insurmountable hurdles. Keeping Yiddishkeit was difficult, and sometimes impossible, and the Jewish people were occupied with the very basic task of keeping Torah and mitzvos. In recent years, we have been blessed with an abundance of material prosperity and peace of mind.
The impact of this situation is two-fold:
1 – On one hand, this sets the stage for the mission of dor hashvi’i. Bringing Elokus to the furthest reaches of the world was never as attainable as it is in our day and age.
2 – On the other hand, it also sets the stage for passivity. When a Jew lived in Communist Russia and was persecuted for keeping Torah and mitzvos, his neshamah cried out and forced him to go on mesiras nefesh. However, living in a free country where we can freely engage in Yiddishkeit, no mesiras nefesh seems to be needed. A Jew won’t necessarily feel the urgency to spread Yiddishkeit and Chassidus to others, and he will be content with the world—and himself—remaining in its current state.
This is the task of the Rebbe. A person on a higher spiritual plane has higher sensitivities; the Rebbe feels pained—kasis—from the fact that Elokus has yet to be revealed in every corner of the world, and that Moshiach has yet to arrive.
Only through our connection to the Rebbe, could we feel pained, not by a lack of Torah and mitzvos in our own avoda, but by the very fact that Moshiach hasn’t arrived; by the lack of gilui Elokus in the world. If a single non-Jew in a far flung corner of the earth is not fully cognizant of the Master of the Universe, then the true spirit of Moshiach has not yet arrived to the world, and we know that we still have work to do.
“העצמות היבשות, שמעו דבר ה, dry bones, hear the word of Hashem….”26
Yechezkel Hanavi famously once came upon a valley filled with countless dry bones. The Aibershter commanded him to deliver a prophecy commanding the dead people to arise, and lo and behold, the bones gathered together, formed flesh and skin, and arose to life.
Who were those individuals, and why were they lying there for so long?
They were a group of individuals from Shevet Efraim, Rashi explains, who calculated a ketz for galus Mitzrayim, and decided to travel to Eretz Yisroel on their own. When they reached the city of Gas, they were attacked by the local inhabitants and were slaughtered in battle.
In a reshima, the Rebbe makes a fascinating point about this story:
“Their mistake wasn’t that they went against the directives of Torah, chas veshalom, rather, that they were a tziyur [mold] for themselves (i.e. they lacked bitul), without a Rebbe, without Moshe Rabbeinu, and therefore, they made a mistake.”27
In a footnote, the Rebbe adds:
“In the letter of [Rebbetzin] Freidke, daughter of the Alter Rebbe, to the Mitteler Rebbe, [she explains that] the idea of a ketz is the ketz-end of all physicality [i.e. even physical matter will experience the most sublime levels of bitul]. Therefore, it is possible to say that especially this matter [the geula] cannot be accomplished without the dedication and complete bitul to a Rebbe…”
1. Shemos Rabbah 12.3.
2. See maamar Basi Legani 5711 seif 2-3.
3. See maamar Eicha Yashva Badad 5731 seif 1-3.
4. Keser Shem Tov, siman 1.
5. See Kuntres Inyana Shel Toras Hachassidus seif 4. Lekutei Sichos vol. 16 p. 199. And many more.
6. Sicha Shabbos Nachamu 5745, Hanochos Hatmimim pg. 35.
7. Brachos 61.2
8. End of Hilchos Teshuva, end of Hilchos Melech Hamoshiach.
9. 15 Adar I.
10. Based on Sichas Shabbos Chayei Sarah 5713, Toras Menachem 5713 vol. 1 pg. 180.
11. Referring to the years 5408-09, when an uprising of Ukrainian peasants against their overlords, led by Bogdan Chmielnitzky, was turned against the Jewish communities, and thousands of Jews were mercilessly killed by the hordes, decimating the Jewish communities of the day.
12. Likutei Sichos vol. 3 page 874.
13. Ibid. vol. 9 pg. 159
14. See for example ibid. vol. 25 p. 349.
15. Ibid .vol. 46 p. 269.
16. Toras Menachem 5744 vol. 3 p. 1745-6.
17. Ibid. 5746 vol. 1 p. 574.
18. See the Rebbe’s letter, http://Chabad.org/lxygmh.
19. For more on this topic, see 12 Tammuz 5724, Simchas Torah 5747, U’lkachtem Lachem 5739, and much more.
20. 21 Kislev 5750, Toras Menachem 5750 vol. 2 p. 16
21. Nidah 61.2
22. For a further elaboration on this topic, see 12 Tammuz 5711.
23. Basi Legani 5711, os 3.
24. Kuntres Inyana Shel Toras Hachassidus seif 20-21.
25. Shabbos Parshas Shemini 5718.
26. Yechezkel, Perek 37.
27. Reshima 176, pg. 435.
28. Shabbos Parshas Pinchas 5745.