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Thursday
Aug082019

1st Stop: 770

Avraham Rainitz describes the moments after the Great Shofar is sounded and thousands of Jews greet the Rebbe in his full glory at 770.

The New York sun beats down on the heads of Chassidim walking on Eastern Parkway near Beis Rabeinu sh’b’Bavel, as they sadly attend the funeral of a distinguished woman. “Oy, galus,” sighs one of the Chassidim, and one can’t help but remember the terrifying reports about the massacre perpetrated by a terrorist the previous Friday night in Eretz Yisrael. Yet another reminder of the terrible galus we are in.

The weather, too, adds to the harsh atmosphere. Choking heat, drenching humidity and high temperatures. Even the green tree in front of 770 that spread out its branches and cast its shade over the building for years was cut down.

The funeral ends and the people disperse. The Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, turns to his office and I follow him, walking up the stairs that border the wall of the Rebbe’s office, leading to the closest place to the Rebbe’s room and the hallway in front of it that Chassidim refer to as gan eden ha’tachton and gan eden ha’elyon.

It is quiet and the pleasant atmosphere of 770 brings me back 25 years to Tishrei 5753 when I entered R’ Groner’s office to submit panim that I was asked to give to the Rebbe. Back then, the passage between the Rebbe’s room to the balcony from which the Rebbe encouraged the singing of Yechi passed near R’ Groner’s office. As I stood there I wondered what would happen if the Rebbe left his room right then … Now too, as I stood on the other side of the door that opens to gan eden ha’tachton, thoughts of the hisgalus came to me …

I told R’ Groner about this and asked whether he had ever heard from the Rebbe any extraordinary statement about the hisgalus. R’ Groner proceeded to tell me a story that happened many years ago in the 1950s:

“I was standing with some ziknei Anash in gan eden ha’tachton and talking. Suddenly, the door to the Rebbe’s room opened and to our surprise, the Rebbe suddenly emerged. When the Rebbe saw us withdrawing in panic, he said: This is how it will be when Moshiach comes. He will come suddenly; Moshiach will come with hesech ha’daas, and everyone will tremble before him.”

Discussing the hisgalus reminded R’ Groner of another story, connected with his job as the Rebbe’s secretary after the hisgalus:

“Once, when I visited the Gerrer Rebbe, the Lev Simcha, one of his aides told me that he had once asked his Rebbe what would become of him after Moshiach came. His Rebbe said: Just as you are around me now, the same will be in the future!

“When I returned to 770 and gave a report to the Rebbe of my visit, I mentioned this question and answer. The Rebbe looked at me with a knowing smile.”

WITH HESECH HA’DAAS; SUDDENLY

“The master will suddenly come to his chamber,” I have no other words with which to describe the following moments, and the truth is that even this prophetic depiction paled in the face of the series of extraordinary events that began in those seconds, which will never be forgotten.

The silence was pierced by the powerful sound of the shofar which grew louder from moment to moment until it could be heard at all ends of the world. At first, I did not understand what this mighty and miraculous sound was. Then it hit me; it’s the shofar of Moshiach! The long-awaited moment which Jews anticipated for thousands of years of galus had finally arrived!

In those magical moments, all were reminded of what the Rebbe said about how “a Jew believes with complete faith that Moshiach Tzidkeinu, ‘a king from the house of Dovid who diligently studies the Torah and is engaged in observing the mitzvos etc.’ and as ‘Moshiach vadai’ (by ‘doing and being successful and building the Mikdash in its place and gathering the dispersed of Israel’) enters the shul now, literally, and leads all the Jewish people within the entirety of the Jewish people to the holy land, to Yerushalayim the holy city, to the holy mountain, to the third Beis Ha’Mikdash …”

A few seconds pass and the wondrous moment in which the Rebbe MH”M enters the shul in all his regal glory arrives and each one points with his finger and says, “hinei zeh Melech Ha’Moshiach ba …”

From every side one hears an emotional shehechiyanu blessing followed by the other blessings that one says upon seeing Moshiach, starting with she’cholak mei’chachmaso lirei’av, which is said upon seeing a Jewish king; chacham ha’razim which is said upon seeing 600,000 or more Jews together or when seeing someone equivalent in  his wisdom to the wisdom of that many people. Now, the bracha can be recited for both reasons. These are followed by the bracha of go’al Yisrael as per the text instituted at the end of the Haggada, “and we will thank You with a new song for our redemption and the redeeming of our souls … boruch ata Hashem go’al Yisrael.”

Immediately afterward, the crowd bursts into the new-old song of “Yechi Adoneinu” and one cannot help but remember those years of exile when we sang “Yechi” before the Rebbe and he encouraged our singing with his nodding; how every encouraging move made the song louder and along with it, the belief and hope that the Rebbe would be revealed already. Then, sadly, the curtain was moved back and the concealment continued… But never again.  Finally, the promise of “And your teacher will no longer be concealed in garb and your eyes will see your teacher,” is fulfilled.

SHOULD WE JOIN THE LINE?

Near me, some mashpiim have convened and are discussing something excitedly. The oldest of the group nostalgically recalls the mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman, who would say that our daily conduct in all aspects of life during galus, would affect what would happen when Moshiach comes. He would always mention the verse (Yeshaya 2:21), “To come into the clefts of the rocks and the hollows of the cliffs, because of the fear of Hashem and because of the splendor of His pride…” And he would say that when Moshiach comes, one who would not learn Chassidus and not contemplate Chassidus and would not prepare properly for his coming would be forced to flee and hide in shame and fear because of the splendor of Hashem that would then be revealed in the world.

“It says that Moshiach will judge by scent,” said R’ Shlomo Chaim. “And when Moshiach will sniff our spiritual state, we will be very embarrassed and have to run and hide in shame.”

One of the Poilishe Chassidim who was listening to the discussion, said he once saw in the name of the holy Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Riminov that “Every single person looks forward to seeing Moshiach but they don’t know that Moshiach’s height is from the earth to the heavens and his whole being is full of holy names, and whoever sees him will tremble so much that he won’t be able to find any place for himself due to his fear …”  On the other hand, it is told that they once asked the holy Rebbe Dovid of Tolna, “Why should we ask for Moshiach when we will need to hide in caves and cellars when he comes so he won’t see us in our shame, humiliated with our sins?”

The tzaddik answered, “You should know that when Moshiach comes, there will be a refinement of minds in the world so that even the lowest Jew will be able to approach and be seen with Moshiach.”

One of the tmimim resolved the debate when he took a Dvar Malchus from the bookcase and loudly read what Melech Ha’Moshiach himself said, “Each of us says to Moshiach Tzidkeinu, ‘Shalom aleichem,’ and he answers each one individually, ‘Aleichem shalom,’ and ‘Aleichem shalom’ to all the Jewish people together.”

THE TMIMIM ARE AMONG THE FIRST TO GREET MOSHIACH

The line to greet Moshiach is long, of course, but the tmimim stand at the head of the line, led by the Rebbe Rashab, founder of the yeshiva, and the Rebbe Rayatz, acting director of the yeshiva. Both of them said, in galus, that they would merit to be among the first to welcome Moshiach and say to him, “See what we have raised up,” and here it is, happening before our very eyes.

In the women’s section are women with tambourines, singing (under modest conditions) and dancing over the true and complete Geula.

The children of Tzivos Hashem also stand on line. I see R’ Shimi Weinbaum, the dynamic director of Tzivos Hashem and I try to clarify whether the children are absorbing what is going on around them. R’ Shimi doesn’t understand the question. “The children are the first to absorb these things!” he exclaims. “While yet in galus, the Rebbe raised them to very high spiritual heights. Imagine, the Alter Rebbe wrote in Tanya that the avoda of tzaddikim is something one can only dream of, that one can only try to attain, but tachlis, the one who receives this level, receives it as a gift from Hashem. Along comes the Rebbe who says that children can sense G-dliness to the point that they can transform their evil inclination to good. The Rebbe demanded that children be on the level of tzaddikim!

“The training of the children while in galus prepared them for this, and now, they are more suited than others to contain the G-dly revelation. It wasn’t for naught that the prophets prophesied that the children will be the ones who will cavort with poisonous serpents. The Rebbe once explained that this refers to the evil inclination which is called the Primordial Serpent. Now, the children are expected to control it and no longer fear it.

“Whoever learned Chassidus during galus understood that the main point of the coming of Moshiach is the revelation of G-dliness in the world, so that the only occupation of the entire world will be to know Hashem. The Rebbe took the children already in galus into this atmosphere of G-dliness and spirituality in daily life.”

BOTH JOY AND LONGING

This mention of the spiritual avoda in the time of galus, suddenly arouses a peculiar longing for avodas Hashem in the time of galus! One of the Hayom Yom entries quotes the Rebbe Rashab as saying that when Moshiach comes, speedily in our days, then we will start to yearn for the days of galus, then we will be upset about why we weren’t occupied with avoda, then we will feel deeply the great pain of lacking avoda. One of the Chassidim standing near me took this even harder. He was pulling his hair out in sorrow over what he lost out on during galus.

This longing is definitely strange … Just a few hours ago, we were there, in galus, and suddenly, everything seems so distant …Even stranger, suddenly, all the years that passed since Gimmel Tammuz and even the thousands of years of galus seem like one small moment, just as the prophet said, “For a brief moment have I forsaken you; but with great mercies will I gather you.” We are actually experiencing how when the “great mercies” are revealed, we feel how the entire long galus was but a brief moment.

But after all is said and done, it is preferable to be in Geula and miss galus than the reverse…

Next to me stands a member of the Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos, R’ Nachman Shapiro. I shared my thoughts with him and he draws my attention to the G-dly light that fills the world and suddenly the world looks altogether different. This light enables us to also look at the past, at the years of galus, and understand the real events that occurred.

Suddenly, all the “concealment” of Gimmel Tammuz 5754 and all the years afterward, seem like one big revelation that we were unable to “get” at the time. Now too, it is still hard for me to digest and again, the feeling of having missed out creeps in, that we didn’t have the sense to see things in the right way. Fortunately for us, we tried to live the Geula and Moshiach, we learned the sichos of the Dvar Malchus; so, we basically knew and believed already that this is only a test and that it is actually another stage of the Geula. But there is no comparing the clear sense I am experiencing now which fills my entire being and the feeling in the time of galus.

I reflect back in time to the sichos of 5751-2 and suddenly, everything is clear. All the questions, lack of understanding, lack of clarity, it all disappears. You simply see one process which began then, in the summer of 5751, when the Rebbe announced “humble ones, the time for your redemption has arrived.” Suddenly, it is clear how that was “the year in which Melech Ha’Moshiach is revealed.” And the years that passed since then were not an interruption of the Geula process but inseparable part of it. It’s just that at the time, we didn’t have the sense to see it…

THE SHOFAR OF MOSHIACH WORKS WONDERS

Events seem to be unfolding at breakneck speed, as if the entire historic Geula process begins to take form in a fraction of a second, with no prior warning.  Everything just seems to happen, here and now, with a complete alignment between the physical redemption process and the spiritual process. It almost seems like there no longer is any border or divide between the physical dimension and the spiritual.

In tandem with the tremendous excitement generated by the sound of the shofar of Moshiach, the heart begins to feel a tremendous yearning to go up to the Beis Ha’Mikdash and to bow in total submission before Hashem. It seemed as if my subconscious reached into my memory and recalled the maamar “V’haya bayom ha’hu yitoka b’shofar gadol,” where the Rebbe explains that the function of the shofar of Moshiach is to awaken the essential desire of a Jew to nullify himself before Hashem, and therefore, serving Hashem with such self-nullification speeds the revelation of the “great shofar.” Who would have believed that all those times during exile, when we managed to internalize, for a fleeting moment, the awareness that success does not result from our personal qualities but from the power that is granted from above, would now ignite such an amazing sense of total self-nullification.

The heart continues to be flooded with spiritual feelings that were completely foreign to me during the years of exile.  Even physical eyes are suddenly starting to perceive the spiritual dimensions of things. The spark of Moshiach within my own soul, which until only moments ago was a purely theoretical spiritual concept, is now beating with such force.  I am not only feeling my own spark of Moshiach. Eastern Parkway is quickly filling up, but my eyes are not only seeing people, but thousands of sparks of Moshiach all joining together into one huge torch of flame that is burning the last remnants of the galus, and is lighting up the world with a tremendous light.

Eastern Parkway has never been so full as in these moments. The New York Police Department has launched a few helicopters into the sky, and all the patrol cars in Brooklyn are announcing the same message: Important message: The Messiah has come now in 770 Eastern Parkway. I repeat: The Messiah is now in 770 Eastern Parkway. The entire area is one big traffic jam and people are simply abandoning their cars and streaming towards 770.

From outside there came a thunderous and rolling roar… something big is happening out there… I stepped outside and with my own eyes I witnessed a heart-stopping sight: a massive building supported by white gleaming clouds, descended from the sky at lightning speed and landed with surprising gentleness on Eastern Parkway.  Towering over the top of the walls of the huge structure, one could see the magnificent Sanctuary of the Third Beis Ha’Mikdash, as it pulled up against and attached itself to the walls of “House of Rabbeinu in Bavel.”

One of the Chassidim standing next to me excitedly explained to his young son a piece from the sicha of “Beis Rabbeinu Sh’b’Bavel,” which the Rebbe published in connection with the building of 770. There he explains that although after the destruction of the Beis Ha’Mikdash the divine presence of the Shechina dwells in every synagogue and hall of Torah study, in every generation there is a singular place where the main presence of the Shechina is located, similar to the Beis Ha’Mikdash. 

This place is the shul and beis medrash of the Nasi/leader of the generation, and in our generation that is 770, the beis medrash of the Nasi HaDor.  In that amazing sicha, the Rebbe revealed that the future Mikdash will first be revealed in the place where “the Mikdash traveled and settled there” (Beis Rabbeinu Sh’b’Bavel), and from there it will be moved to its place in Yerushalayim.” This is based on the words of the Sages that at the time of the Geula “HaKadosh Baruch Hu returns with them from among the exiles.”

Since the main presence of the Shechina is in this place, this is where the redemption of the Shechina has to begin.  And just as the redemption of the Shechina begins in 770, so too, the return of the future Mikdash also begins here, so that is why the Beis Ha’Mikdash first came down here on Eastern Parkway and will soon travel to its place in Yerushalayim.

The Chassid next to me quoted extensively from the sicha to his son, and emphasized that the Rebbe repeated this novel interpretation a few times in the published sicha, likely because it was seen back then as such a radical idea. As he put it, “Back in the time of galus, people had a hard time internalizing the tremendous holiness of 770, especially after not seeing the Rebbe’s presence there for over twenty-five years.  When I would tell my friends what the Rebbe said about the main divine presence in our generation being in 770, and from here will begin the revelation of the Shechina including the descent of the Beis Ha’Mikdash, they had a hard time believing it.  That is, until I would show them the Rebbe’s words, black on white. And now, see how it is all happening in front of our very own eyes!”

***

The huge crowds begin to dance and sing “Nye Zhuritse Chloptzi,” which the Rebbe said is the dance of Moshiach, and suddenly everything begins to spin around us. In another instant, 770 and the Beis Ha’Mikdash that is attached to it lift off upon a massive cloud, along with the tens of thousands of Jews who have managed to make it here on time, straight to the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim.

Further reporting on the events in Yerushalayim – in the fascinating update by Menachem Zigelbaum in this issue.

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