The Time Moshiach Almost Came…
August 8, 2019
Beis Moshiach in #1177, Moshiach & Geula

– PART I –

We anticipate his coming every day, but there have been special times in which the anticipation of the Geula rose to new heights, when everyone could sense, almost touch, that Moshiach was here, about to appear.

One of the times when the anticipation became tangible was in 5600/1840, and even before that. 179 years have passed since then and it seems as if those who recorded the events of those days did not fully capture the intensity of the spirit of Geula that beat in the hearts of tens of thousands of Jews, especially in Poland, Lithuania and Russia.

Why was the anticipation for the Geula heightened in 5600? The holy Zohar on parashas Vayeira is what increased their excitement:

In the six hundredth year of the sixth [millennium] the gates of wisdom will be opened above and the fountains of wisdom below, and the world will be prepared to be elevated in the seventh [millennium]. Just as a son of man prepares on the sixth day as the sun declines to be elevated on Shabbos, so too here.

The Chassidic greats, Admorim and leaders of thousands, believed that these words of the G-dly Tanna were a hint that in 5600 the gates would open, the gates of wisdom, and what greater wisdom was there than the wisdom of Melech Ha’Moshiach?

The belief in the revelation of Moshiach in that year was so entrenched in the people and their leaders that in Warsaw, the community council set up shifts of people who walked the streets at night to be on the alert to the arrival of Moshiach. It wouldn’t be nice if Moshiach would suddenly appear and walk about the streets of Warsaw until people got out of their warm beds. The shifts were to immediately announce Moshiach’s arrival and all would go out to greet him.

The belief was so powerful that many Jews sold their property for a pittance since it meant nothing to them anymore, for Moshiach was practically here and very soon they would go to Eretz Yisrael.

Those who recorded the events of those days point out that in certain towns even the gentiles were swept up in the fiery faith and were sure that that year, their neighbors, the Jews, would be redeemed. Gentiles stopped attacking Jews lest the redeemer take revenge on them. It is told that even the cruel Russian Nikolai freed Jewish soldiers from the army so as not to waste training and food on them.

Not only the leaders of the Chassidic movement believed this to be so. Many leaders of the Misnagdim believed that Moshiach would come in 5600. The Vilna Gaon, who passed away forty-two years earlier, hinted to his students that 5600 is when Moshiach would arrive, “The sound of the dove [spelled tav-reish which is 5600] is heard in our land,” hinting to the Geula. Many of his students sold their homes and moved to Eretz Yisrael in the famous migration.

The tzaddik Rabbi Avrohom Dovid Wahrman of Buchach, who wrote dozens of sefarim in Torah and halacha, waited and yearned for that year to be revealed as the year of Geula and salvation. He saw in a vision that Moshiach would come in this year and he was filled with joy and hope.  The belief in the coming of Moshiach was so compelling to him that he kept a set of white clothing and a shofar near his bed, in order to be able to immediately go and greet Moshiach and announce his arrival to all the Jews.

He hired a special assistant to remain awake all night, in order to able to rouse him immediately upon the arrival of Moshiach.

 – PART II –

Four great tzaddikim went to the court of the Shpola Zeide for Rosh Hashana. They were: R’ Leib, “the mochi’ach [lit. one who rebukes] of Polna’ah,” R’ Leib Ha’Kohen of Berditchev, R’ Zushe of Anipol, and R’ Mordechai of Neshchiz.

These Chassidic greats sat and discussed Moshiach and the Geula with tremendous longing for the coming of the redeemer, their deepest passion.

R’ Zushe said to R’ Leib the mochi’ach, “You Leib are more to blame than the all of us for Moshiach’s delay because you reprove the Jewish people. Why don’t you rebuke them with such great rebuke until they genuinely repent?”

The Shpole Zeide stood up and said, “Master of the universe, I give you my word that the Jewish people will not improve through rebuke and suffering, so why torture them for nothing? You see ahead of time what will happen at the end of generations. So we ask that you be good to Yisrael and as a father has compassion on his son, even though he does not behave uprightly, so too, You should have mercy on us and all Yisrael.”

The Shpole Zeide burst into sobbing and they all joined him. It took half an hour before they all calmed down. Then the Shpole Zeide rose again and said, “The truth is that I have seen gedolim who wrote about the end of time and the coming of Moshiach, this way and that way. But I can only say this, that the Chamber of Moshiach is closed with a great and terrible lock, and even the angels are amazed by the size of the lock.

“However, in the year 600 of the sixth millennium the holy Zohar says that the gates of wisdom will open and then this lock will also open and it will be possible to open the gate of the Chamber of Moshiach, but I see no one to open it except Hashem Himself as it is written (Yeshaya 63:4,5), ‘For a day of vengeance was in My heart, and the year of My redemption has arrived. And I looked and there was no helper, and I was astounded and there was no supporter, and My arm saved for Me…’

“In these verses is hinted the real time of the Geula but it is forbidden to be revealed. The tzaddikim who will be in the world in 5600 and on, although of smaller stature, will still be able to teach great Torah teachings as well as secrets of the Torah more than the great tzaddikim now, because they will be living in the time after the opening of the gate of wisdom. But they will be of lower stature so that they themselves will not understand the depths of the Torah they will innovate, and these chiddushei Torah will come to their minds through the power of a light from above.  Come and let us pray for them so they will understand what they will say.”

 – PART III –

Among those who held the view that the year 5600 would be the year of the Geula was included the Saba Kadisha of Radoshitz, R’ Yissochor Ber.  Word of the opinions of his fellow Chassidic masters and the belief of hundreds of thousands of G-d fearing Jews reached his ears, but he did not reveal his position on the issue. However, it seemed obvious that he concurred with their view.

Most of the year 5600 had already passed, when hundreds of Chassidim from near and far arrived in Radoshitz for Tisha B’Av.  Like this year, Tisha B’Av fell out on Shabbos, when the fast is deferred to Sunday.  A strong belief nested  in the hearts of the Chassidim that specifically on this day, the day of the birth of Moshiach, the long awaited Geula would finally come after almost two thousand years of anticipation.

As is the custom in many places, the third meal would be held earlier in the day since, if in the worst case, Moshiach did not arrive before evening, the meal had to be finished in time before the fast began, and then the Chassidim would go home to switch into weekday clothes before the evening services.  The Chassidim assumed that the same would be on Tisha B’Av of that year.

The Third Meal – ra’ava d’ra’avin – Tisha B’Av 5600:

The Saba Kadisha of Radoshitz sat at the head of the table as he did every Shabbos.  His holy practices were also conducted as usual; no difference could be discerned in his demeanor.  The eating was hurried somewhat in order to finish in time, but he did not make any of the normal preparations to get up from the table in order to daven Maariv and read Eicha and the Kinos. Quite to the contrary, an unusual aura of joy shone from his holy face. He sat at the head of the table with hundreds of Chassidim around him, thirstily taking in his words.  His talk went on, his words pouring forth in a stream, moving from topic to topic, with the central theme being the redemption of the Jewish nation. 

He described the coming days of the Geula in full color and in the most tangible terms, to the point that they all thought that – as those present later testified – they were sitting in Eretz Yisrael and the kingdom of the House of Dovid was reinstated and the Beis HaMikdash was standing in all its glory.

It was late into the night, long after nightfall, when the tzaddik finally fell silent and signaled to his assistants to commence the bentching, then to daven maariv and read Megillas Eicha.

Afterward, the Chassidim approached their Rebbe in order to part from him, but even as he took their hands, instead of offering parting wishes, he began to speak again.  He spoke about Eretz Yisrael, its homes and cities, about the glorious Geula and the “End of Days” when “the House of Hashem” will stand tall on the mountaintops  and all of the nations of the world will be drawn there.  The Saba Kadisha went on speaking for hours until he finally sent his Chassidim off with parting words.

The sun had already begun to shine over the rooftops of the city of Radoshitz, the morning of Tisha B’Av delayed.

With hearts filled with pain and hooded eyes, the Chassidim walked through the city streets to their homes. They tried to stay off the main roads, since they were still dressed in their Shabbos finery with their shtreimels on their heads, and today was after all a day of fasting and mourning.

***

The tzaddik of Buchach, Rabbi Avrohom Dovid still continued to believe that even if Moshiach was not revealed on Tisha B’Av, an auspicious day, there were still almost two months left to the special year.

As the days passed, his heart became ever more fearful and worried. He therefore dispatched a messenger to the holy Reb Meir’l of Premishlan to ask him, “The year 5600 has almost ended, and why is his honor silent and still?” Reb Meir’l sent back a reply that “we have a tradition from our holy father, not to stick our heads into such lofty matters.”

When Erev Rosh Hashana 5601 arrived, he saw that his vision had not come to pass and his hopes had been dashed.  He became crestfallen and despondent.  He became very weakened from all the pain and aggravation, and three weeks later on Shemini Atzeres 5601, he fell ill. Not long after, his holy soul departed from his body.

The tzaddik of Uhely, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, author of Yismach Moshe and one of the founding fathers of the Chassidic movement in Hungary and the progenitor of the dynasty of Sighet-Satmar, was also one of those who had been caught up in the tremendous anticipation of that year. When the year passed and Moshiach did not come, he also passed away in the following year after falling ill from pain and aggravation.

***

Endnote: As with all kitzin, this one too ­­— while not materializing in the hoped-for physical manner — was not lost and wasted, G-d forbid. The Rebbe, in a famous sicha (Likkutei Sichos vol. 15. p. 42 on Parshas Noach) explains that this particular year marked a great outpour of “wisdom from above” ­— Chassidus, and l’havdil “wisdom from below” — great scientific breakthroughs (known as the industrial revolution), which both served as a major step on the way to the Redemption.

May we merit to witness the end of this lengthy process, today.

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