October 9, 2016
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #1041, Parsha Thought, Rosh HaShana

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

As we finished the year of Hakhel 5776 and entered 5777, I would like to share some thoughts on the new year.

This year has a very special significance. It is exactly 270 years since the famous meeting between the Baal Shem tov and Moshiach that took place on Rosh HaShana 5507. We all know the letter (printed in Kesser Shem Tov) in which the Baal Shem tov describes to his brother-in-law Rabbi Gershon Kitover his unique Aliyas HaNeshama that took place on that Rosh HaShana.

The things he saw there were so incredible that they are simply impossible to explain.

On his way back to Earth, the Baal Shem Tov stopped off in Gan-Eden-HaTachton, the lowest of the seven levels of Gan-Eden, where he met many different types of souls. The souls immediately recognized the great tzaddik, and together as one they begged him to please help them reach higher places in Heaven. Reb Yisroel saw how happy they were that he had come and how certain they were that he would help them and go up with them to higher places, and therefore he agreed to do it.

However, since Reb Yisroel had never gone so high before, he was afraid that he might be unable to come all the way down again.  Therefore, asked his Rebbe, Achiya HaShiloni, to come with him, for Reb Yisroel felt safer with his teacher at his side. (Achiya HaShiloni was a prophet who had lived from the times of ancient Egypt all the way to the times of King Shlomo; although he had already passed away, he would come to the Baal Shem Tov to teach him Torah.)

The Baal Shem Tov, Achiya HaShiloni, and the souls then began to soar up high into Heaven.  They came to an incredibly high place, and there, before their eyes, stood the heavenly palace of Moshiach, which is where Moshiach learns Torah with all the Tanaim and Tzaddikim who have already passed away.

Reb Yisroel entered the palace and saw that everyone there was very happy about something. He wasn’t sure about what, but was afraid that maybe it was because he had died, and that’s why the Tzaddikim were so happy, because he had come to join them. However, they reassured him that his time to leave the world had not yet come. Reb Yisroel then asked Moshiach, “When are you coming, Master?”

“I will come when your teachings will spread to the rest of the world!” Moshiach answered.

There is a famous farbrengen of the Frierdike Rebbe that took place on Simchas Torah 5690 in which he discussed this unique dialogue in depth. He asks a very simple question: Why did the Baal Shem Tov ask Moshiach when he was going to come if the question and an answer were already asked and answered years before?

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) tells the following story.  R. Yehoshua ben Levi met Eliyahu HaNavi standing by the entrance of R. Shimon bar Yochai’s tomb. He asked him: “Have I a portion in the world to come?”

He replied, “If this Master desires it.”  

R. Yehoshua ben Levi said, “I saw two, but heard the voice of a third.”

He then asked him, “When will the Moshiach come?”

“Go and ask him himself,” was his reply.

“Where is he sitting?”

“At the entrance.”  

“And by what sign may I recognize him?”

“He is sitting among the poor lepers: all of them untie [them] all at once, and re-bandage them together, whereas he unties and bandages each separately, [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, [it being time for my appearance as the Messiah] I must not be delayed [through having to bandage a number of sores].”

So he went to him and greeted him, saying, “Peace upon you, Master and Teacher.”

“Peace upon you, O son of Levi,” he replied.

“When will you come, Master?” he asked.

“Today,” was his answer.

On his returning to Eliyahu, the latter enquired, “What did he say to you?”

“‘Peace upon you, O son of Levi,’” he answered.

Thereupon he [Eliyahu] observed, “He thereby assured you and your father of [a portion in] the World to Come.”

“He spoke falsely to me,” he responded, “stating that he would come today, but has not.”

He [Eliyahu] answered him, “This is what he said to you: Today, if you will hear His voice.”

Since this conversation already took place between Reb Yehoshua Ben Levi and Moshiach, what was the Baal Shem Tov adding with his discussion with Moshiach?

The Frierdike Rebbe explains: The Baal Shem Tov obviously knew of the Gemara in Sanhedrin and was aware that a conversation with Moshiach had already taken place with Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi, and precisely because of that he confronted Moshiach with his own seemingly similar question.

The Baal Shem tov lived many years after Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi. Throughout those long centuries, the Jewish people suffered the travails of exile. There had been terrible decrees, pogroms, expulsions and massacres. Yet, despite all of the above, the Jewish people had remained steadfast in their commitment to Hashem. The Baal Shem Tov felt that the precondition of “Today, if you will hear his voice” had already been fulfilled and therefore he demanded from Moshiach that he should keep his part of the deal and reveal himself in the world.

To this new request and demand, Moshiach answered: “Yafutzu maayanosecha chutza – when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov (which include the ways and customs of chassidus) will be spread forth.”

In two different Sichos (28 Sivan 5746, and Korach 5751) the Rebbe explains the lessons that can be learned from each of these three words “Yafutzu maayanosecha chutza.”

Yafutzu: Firstly, a person must realize that it is not merely his obligation to spread the wellsprings of Chassidus; this mission must permeate his entire being. It is who he is, not just what he does.  Secondly, there should be no limits as to what parts of Chassidus are spread. There may be those that feel that only the simpler parts of Chassidus can be taught to people who have not yet been exposed to Chassidus, but the loftier ideas can only remain with those who are educated in these concepts, those who are on the “inside.” This is the lesson of the word Yafutzu: it must all be spread to everyone, even the most hidden secrets of the Torah!

This is like the famous analogy brought down in the Maamer Basi L’Gani (Chapter 11) of the Frierdike Rebbe: A king is chosen from his entire nation on account of his superior stature. Thus we read regarding Shaul HaMelech: “There was no better man than he among the Children of Israel; from his shoulders and upwards he was taller than any of the people” (Shmuel I 9:2). Such a king has a greater tendency to express his desire for victory, even to go to war, and to triumph. A war may be motivated by the desire for spoil, or simply by the desire to win in a battle of conflicting wills. In the former case, a war is merely a test of strength and courage.  A war of the latter kind will be a battle of wits, if the king is to achieve the kind of victory that will satisfy his will. The desire for victory will be aroused only when the king is opposed by a formidable obstacle; without it, he rules his domain as he pleases.

Once his wishes are challenged, however, then in order to secure victory he will squander all the rare treasures that have been collected year after year, generation after generation, precious resources that have never been used for any other purpose, and that have been hidden and sealed from all eyes.

The reason for this is as follows.  A man’s desire for victory is rooted higher in the soul than his will or his desire for pleasure. Hence the most intense delight that he could ever have from his rarest treasures is meaningless when weighed against his desire for victory.  In fact, he will even risk his very life and take up his position in the thick of battle, because his drive to win is rooted in the very essence of his soul, higher than the soul’s consciously revealed faculties, its spiritual light and life-force. When war breaks out the royal treasure vaults are thrown open. Their resources are entrusted to the commanding officers in order that they should reach the rank and file soldiers, for it is they who will secure victory. 

So too these deepest secrets of Chassidus must be brought to every Jew, no matter his stature, so that we may achieve the victory of bringing Moshiach.

Maayanosecha: Halacha states that wellspring water can purify even if technically a person can immerse in one drop. This shows us the power of Chassidus, that it is connected to the essence, and therefore has the ability to purify even in the smallest amount. Additionally, inside every person is his own “wellspring,” his own essence. When spreading Chassidus, it must come from one’s own essence. Lastly, the chassidus that he spreads must remain connected to its own source, our Rebbeim (See Likkutei Sichos Vol. 4 page 1119 in the footnotes).

Chutza: We must continue spreading Chassidus outwards. Whatever level one may be on, there is always a level that is outside of his level. Every level must be achieved, and every part of the world must be reached in such a way that it is revealed there that the essence of its existence is Hashem.

Through the spreading of Chassidus, may we merit the complete revelation of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, Amen!

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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