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Jun232019

THE ANTI-MOSHIACH

If our eyes are lying and nothing has changed since Gimmel Tammuz, if the laws of nature do not apply to such a tzaddik, how can he be said to have self-sacrifice?! * More than anyone, the Anti-Meshichist wants to see redemption unfold in a way that is truly compelling, tangible and overt – and with the Rebbe as Moshiach at our lead.

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur


A semi-circle formed around me, a flash mob of so-called Anti-Meshichistim. This was the Crown Heights kollel, some 20-plus years ago, not long after Gimmel Tammuz 5754. A debate ensued – about Moshiach, of course – during which I mentioned the Rebbe’s “self-sacrifice in appearing on the balcony…”

“Why do you guys insist,” their ringleader cut me off, “that the Rebbe had self-sacrifice in appearing on the balcony of 770?”

Ok, to say that is just weird…

Or is it? What motivated this bizarre interjection? I passed it off at the time as simple grubkait, but it always bothered me that it was a very intelligent and well-connected yungerman who had this complaint. Think about it. What bothered him so much? What was he really complaining about?

Cynicism breeds on failing to see integrity in authority. Once role models are dethroned and debased, everything genuine appears as a potential sham. Simple naivete and devotion is deemed childish and immature, unsophisticated. Cynics are often vociferous and confrontational to justify their jaded position. In that murky world, G-d forbid, tzaddikim could be wrong (after all, they’re only human!) or the generation might not have been worthy, etc.

With that in mind, it is clear what this kollel yungerman was protesting. Here he was speaking to a “naïve baal t’shuva,” who apparently jumped on the bandwagon of faith at speeds this cynic just wasn’t comfortable with, so he called him out:

If you believe the Rebbe is perfect and G-dly in a way that seems to defy mortality itself, why do you ascribe to him self-sacrifice? He is beyond nature! By your own description, we are not talking about a venerable man in his 90s, so why speak of mesirus nefesh? He is totally beyond human suffering! In other words, if our eyes are lying and nothing has changed since Gimmel Tammuz, if the laws of nature do not apply to such a tzaddik, how can he be said to have self-sacrifice?!

Trust me this cynic wants to be convinced. He is desperate to see this paradox resolved to infuse himself with newfound faith. More than anyone, the Anti-Meshichist wants to see redemption unfold in a way that is truly compelling, tangible and overt – and with the Rebbe as Moshiach at our lead. The main thing to him though is that it should go well with his concept of reality, with the rational, natural world he is so entrenched in and so much wants to be excavated from.

***

Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin was whisked out beyond the prison walls to learn of the spectacular and totally unexpected news of his immediate release from prison, gained by nothing less than presidential maneuverings. Rubashkin insisted, however, to return to prison to bentch in the place where he was koveia seuda. The warden couldn’t fathom what he was talking about. Saying Grace in prison when you are a free man?! You really want to go back there?!

Reb Sholom Mordechai recently told this story at a banquet. All kinds of Jews packed the venue in a show of brotherhood and solidarity. Hearing how Rubashkin willingly walked back to the lion’s den, a Misnagdishe rav stood up and declared: “I am a rav and I pasken that it was forbidden for you to go back to the prison to bentch!”

The Rebbe says the same thing about the redemption of Gimmel Tammuz: “The Rebbe Rayatz had mesirus nefesh even for matters that several Torah giants held that we must not have self-sacrifice” (Likkutei Sichos 28, pg. 127).

The mindset that led to the Rebbe Rayatz’s unfathomable insistence to stay in prison until after Shabbos emerged from his “firm resolve not to be affected at all” by the regime that held him and not to accommodate their disregard for Judaism in any respect. Here the Rebbe speaks unequivocally about his father in-law’s suffering: “As a result of this approach, the Rebbe was beaten, etc., and stricken with bodily suffering, rachmana litzlan.” Indeed, the Rebbe defines Gimmel Tammuz as a day that is synonymous with self-sacrifice:

This approach of uncalculated self-sacrifice is seen in the Rebbe Rayatz’s general conduct, and especially regarding the redemption on Gimmel Tammuz. In fact, the very date of Gimmel Tammuz (in connection to the redemption) is synonymous with his self-sacrifice. (pg. 125)

***

So a Rebbe can suffer, G-d forbid, but his main concern is surely his mission. The Rebbe Rayatz’s very mission was at stake if he provoked and enraged his captors, giving rise to the possibility of further incarceration or the reinstatement of the death sentence against him, G-d forbid. His lifework was at stake!

Yet in a sense, the Rebbe’s integrity trumped even his mission. People might not be privy to all the Rebbe’s calculations in determining whether or not he can travel on Shabbos, etc. Appearance in this sense, the way events seem to unfold in the public eye – that is what gives rise to an even greater concern: whether or not the Rebbe’s example will serve as a kiddush Hashem. A true leader knows that his own example and personal integrity is his top priority. It is the true lifeline of Judaism that a Rebbe seeks to extend to the Jewish people.

Our Rebbes are people who suffer real consequences, but in addition to the G-dly resolve they have towards their mission, first and foremost they are living examples of what it means to be a Jew. The Rebbe was not going to bow to the Communists in any way, to illustrate how a Jew can transcend any obstacle.

In connection with self-sacrifice for being a kiddush Hashem, the Rebbe clearly underscores here the importance of appearances. The Rebbe knows how Gimmel Tammuz 5754 looks to the world, yet with obvious mesirus nefesh he appeared on the balcony of 770 to show a personal declaration of faith and pride in the truth of his message to the world: The true and complete redemption is imminent and I will not fail you!

 

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