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The Rebbe is a rare blend of prophetic visionary and pragmatic leader, synthesizing deep insight into the present needs of the Jewish people with a breadth of vision for its future. In a sense, he charts the course of Jewish history--initiating, in addition to reacting to, current events. The Rebbe is guided by inspired insight and foresight in combination with encyclopedic scholarship, and all his pronouncements and undertakings are, first and foremost, rooted in our Holy Torah. Time and again, it has been demonstrated that what was clear to him at the outset became obvious to other leaders with hindsight, decades later.
(From The Lamplighters)
Recently the Rebbe's ability to accurately ascertain what the future holds has become all the more evident recently. For, in the past few years, even before we have been able to settle back into our daily routines, yet another cataclysmic event shakes the very foundations of our understanding of what the world is all about.
Before the Gulf War, on the second night of Sukkot (October 5), the Rebbe began to quote the prophetic Yalkut Shimoni: "In the year that Moshiach will be revealed, nations will challenge one another. The King of Paras will challenge the King of Aram... and the entire world will panic and will be stricken with consternation... Israel will also panic and will be confounded."
The Rebbe went on to explain that the King of Paras refers to the present day Iraq. The King of Aram refers to the world's super-powers (for Aram is related to the word "rom" which means "uplifted")
This ominous situation, however, contains the potential for good, indeed, the ultimate good, as the Midrash continues:
[G-d] will tell them: "My children, have no fear. Whatever I have done, I have done only for your sake. Why are you afraid? Have no fear; the time for your redemption has arrived!" Moshiach will stand on the roof of the Holy Temple and proclaim, "Humble ones: The time for your redemption has arrived!"
Way back in November of 1990, when U.S. Army Major Yaakov Goldstein went to the Rebbe for "dollars" on his way to the War Zone, the Rebbe told him that the Gulf War would be over by Purim. And indeed it was.
On December 29, just weeks before the official declaration of war, the Rebbe stated unequivocally, that there is no safer place in the world today then the Land of Israel. He went on to say that no one living in the Holy Land should think of leaving at this time. On the contrary, whoever is planning to visit the Holy Land, should go without fear and should let others know of his trip as well, for this will raise the confidence of the Jewish people throughout the world.
The Rebbe, of course, as he always does, based his words on the Torah. In particular, he quoted the verse in Deuteronomy, "It is a land constantly under G-d's scrutiny; the eyes of G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to its end."
The Rebbe meant what he said and his words of encouragement and inspiration were repeated time and again on Israeli radio and in the newspapers. And the Rebbe included everyone in his call to continue with plans. In fact, more than one Lubavitcher family asked the Rebbe if they should switch the location of upcoming weddings from Israel to New York, but the Rebbe was adamant that everything should go ahead as planned. The weddings took place in Israel as planned amidst much rejoicing.
But, though it is only recently that many have begun to appreciate the Rebbe's ability to foresee future events, this capacity of the Rebbe's is not a new phenomenon.
THE SIX-DAY WAR
On May 28, 1967 a giant Lag B'Omer parade and rally of tens of thousands of children from all over the New York area took place at World Lubavitch Headquarters. Among other things, the Rebbe spoke about the tense situation in the Middle East and explained to the children what they could do to increase G-d's protection of the Holy Land. Barely a week later, on June 5, the "Six Day War" broke out.
In his address, the Rebbe told the children about the lesson to be learned in connection with the state of affairs in the Holy Land. They are presently in a situation where G-d is protecting and bestowing His blessings and His deliverance upon them in an increased measure so that they may emerge--and they will emerge--from this situation with success.
The Rebbe told the children that they could help by learning an extra verse of Torah, by doing another mitzva and yet another, and not letting any opportunity slip by in the fulfillment of mitzvot. He also encouraged the children to influence their friends and family to utilize all their opportunities to increase Torah study and mitzva observance.
As a consequence of the children's efforts, the Rebbe said that we should see the fulfillment of the assurance in the Torah portion read the previous day, "And you will dwell securely in your land... and I will give peace in the land."
A casette of the Rebbe's talk was rushed off to Israel where copies were made and it was listened to by people all over the trembling country.
In addition, on the Shabbat before the war broke out, the Rebbe launched the by-now famous "tefilin campaign," as a safety measure for the Jewish people in general, and Jewish soldiers in particular. This campaign, too, is based on the Torah, for the Torah declares concerning tefilin, "And they shall fear you"--specifically relating to the fear that is instilled in the hearts of the enemies of Israel as a result of the observance of this mitzva and particularly upon defenders of Israel to vanquish the enemy in the course of battle.
Before and during the war, every soldier--observant and non-observant--put on tefilin. And every newspaper in Israel carried the Rebbe's telegram sent just days before the war began: "To the leaders of Kfar Chabad and the Head Rabbi who are privileged to find themselves among tens of thousands of Jews in the Holy land where 'the eyes of G-d are constantly upon it' and certainly, most assuredly 'the Protector of Israel does not sleep or slumber,' 'G-d is on our right side' and G-d will guard them and all of the Jewish people from now and forever. I am awaiting good news, good in a recognizable and revealed manner, soon."
THE YOM KIPPUR WAR
In the summer of 1973, life in Israel couldn't have been better. To most, it seemed like the best of times.
Israel was at "peace" with Egypt and the financial situation in Israel was the best it had been for a long time.
So when the Rebbe started speaking about a great danger that was threatening the Jewish people, everyone was confused. The Rebbe quoted the verse from Psalms, "Out of the mouths of babes and infants You have established strength... to destroy the foe and avenger," and issued a call for all Jewish children to receive a Jewish education. The Rebbe declared that this was of utmost importance and must be implemented immediately. He asked that more day-camps be opened all over the world and gatherings for children be organized everywhere.
On three separate occasions during the ensuing months the Rebbe urged there to be gatherings at the Western Wall. And in the Rebbe's annual letter of the Sixth of Tishrei, addressed to all Jews all over the world, the Rebbe added a footnote before it was published. The footnote, which seemed to come from nowhere, read: "The Metzudat David [a commentary] explains that the Jewish hand will be superior."
And then came Yom Kippur, 1973. Anyone who was more than a mere toddler at the time will never forget Yom Kippur of 1973. On the Sunday after the war began, when two Chasidim asked the Rebbe what would be, the Rebbe answered, "There will be a great victory, a victory greater than was in the previous war."
When the war was over, Israeli papers were emblazoned with the headline, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe saw the war and its outcome." The Rebbe, in his humility, answered with a verse from the Prophets, "I prophesied but did not know what I prophesied."
When Soviet Jewish emigration increased in the late 1960's and early 1970's, the Rebbe arranged that new Chabad settlements in Israel be founded to accommodate them. In 1987, the Rebbe began to speak once again about the need to establish settlements to accept the tremendous influx of Russian immigrants who would soon be arriving in Israel. "It is proper for all Jews to participate in building dwellings in Jerusalem for the Jews from Russia who will soon be coming out. Those who have already been appointed to head this project should do so with great haste and energy, and this should be the main point in their lives from now on. In June of 1987 the Shamir neighborhood in northern Jerusalem was born. Within the Shamir neighborhood SATEC--the Shamir Center for Advanced Technologies--was established. It is a commercial enterprise that allows highly-skilled Soviet Jewish scientists and engineers to find high-level jobs.
This the time, people were surprised. Emigration of Jews from Russia was just a trickle. But the Rebbe foresaw the flood of immigration and put in motion projects that would be able to help the new immigrants both materially and spiritually.
THE COLLAPSE OF COMMUNISM
Well before the advent of the year 5750 (September 1989 through September 1990), the Rebbe announced that the Hebrew letters whose numerical equivalent equals 5750 are an acronym for "This will be a year of miracles."
Indeed, the Rebbe spoke many times throughout the year about the miraculous nature of 5750, including the collapse of the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the freedom granted to Russian Jews to emigrate to Israel.
Our Sages relate that miracles can occur to a person without him even realizing that they have taken place. Though some might have the audacity to conclude that the breakdown of Communism and subsequent emigration of Russian Jews was not miraculous in nature, they could hardly say the same for the events of the following year.
THE GULF WAR
As the world floundered in panic and consternation over the events in the Persian Gulf, the Rebbe served as a source of confidence and quiet optimism for people from all walks of life, from all over the world. Drawing on the depths of our Torah heritage, the Rebbe gave assurance that this would be a year when "I will show you wonders," that miracles would transpire and, moreover, that G-d would take pains, as it were, to reveal them to the Jewish people.
As the SCUDs flew overhead most Israelis were calm. Not because they sat in sealed rooms or wore cumbersome gas-masks. But because over and over again they heard the message of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the radio, "Israel is the safest place in the world because the eyes of G-d are always upon it." Thirty-nine SCUDs fell on Israel with miraculously little damage sustained. But when a single SCUD fell on Desert Storm troops in Saudi Arabia the damage was devastating.
For some people, it takes a crisis to identify a genuine leader. Others do not have to wait so long.
In either case, the Rebbe is showing us stage by stage how to recognize the miracles that are happening here and now. As we watch these events unfold, we can wholeheartedly say: Thank G-d for the Rebbe's foresight and vision. And, as the Rebbe enters his ninety-first year, may G-d grant him the health and vigor to proceed from strength to strength with his clear-voiced leadership. For the ultimate wonders are yet to come.
From the works of Maimonides
"I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets are true."
It is a foundation of our faith to know that G-d grants prophecy to man.
Such prophecy can only be attained by a person who has very great intelligence. He must have strong character, and not be overcome by his impulses in any way. He must also have constant control over his emotions and have an outlook that is both very broad and very firm.
Sometimes a prophet experiences prophecy only for his own alone, with the purpose of broadening his outlook, increasing his knowledge, and helping him to learn more about certain lofty concepts.
At others times, a prophet may be sent to a group of people, a city, or a national government. His roll then is to prepare and instruct them, or to keep them from committing some type of evil that they are involved in.
When a prophet comes and claims to be sent by G-d, it is not necessary that he perform miracles like those of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, which actually violated the laws of nature. All that he must do is accurately predict the future.
What is therefore required for an individual to be fit for prophecy, is perfection in his relationship to G-d. Furthermore, he must not teach us to add or subtract from [the Torah], but only that we serve G-d according to His commandments.
We might find that astrologers and fortune-tellers also predict the future, but there is a vast difference between them and a true prophet. Even though a fortune-teller might predict the future, he cannot do so with unerring accuracy. Some predictions may come true, but many others do not. We thus find (Isaiah 47:13), "Let now the astrologers, stargazers and fortune-tellers stand up, and tell you something of what will come upon you." They can only tell you something, but not everything.
One of the main tasks of a prophet is to tell us the future and predict such things as bounty and famine, war and peace. Even the needs of an individual may be revealed to a prophet. Thus, when Saul lost something, he went to a prophet, who was able to tell him where the object was.
These, then are the main tasks of the prophet. He does not come to start a new religion, or to add to or subtract from the commandments of the Torah.
Once a prophet is established and his predictions come true time after time, it is forbidden to suspect him or think that this prophecy is not true. As long as he follows the ways of prophecy, it is forbidden to test him unduly.
We therefore do not continually test a prophet. The Torah says (Deut. 6:16), "You shall not test the L-rd your G-d as you did at Massa." [It was at Massa that the people doubted the prophecy of Moses and asked for a further test,] saying (Exodus 17:7), "Is G-d among us or not?"
Once it is determined that an individual is a prophet, we must know and believe that G-d is among us and not disparage this prophet. We thus find [that G-d told Ezekiel], "[When it comes true--and it will come true--] then they will know that a prophet has been among them."
(From Maimonides' Principles: The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith translated by Aryeh Kaplan)
Based on a talk of Rabbi Shloma Majesky
A basic principle pertaining to the Rebbe, in terms of the spiritual capacity of a tzadik, is the concept of ruach hakodesh--a G-dly spirit. It is through ruach hakodesh that a tzadik has the ability to perceive that which is concealed. The tzadik can see what the ordinary eye and the ordinary mind cannot. This includes things which pertain to the future, or which are being decreed in Heaven, whether regarding an individual or the world in general. Through ruach hakodesh the tzadik also has the ability to see a person's past.
Many people think that this concept--a tzadik's ability to perceive the concealed--is something Chasidim established and attributed to their rebbes. But this is not true. One of the Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith as cited by Maimonides relates to ruach hakodesh. The sixth principle states, "I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets are true." Ruach hakodesh is of the same nature as prophecy but on a lower level.
How does one develop ruach hakodesh? According to Maimonides, any person who devotes his or her entire life to G-dliness, lives a pure, G-dly life--in thought, in speech, and in action--can raise himself to a higher spiritual level. A G-dly spirit of prophecy can descend and dwell on this individual, and the person can become a prophet.
Maimonides elaborates on this belief in prophecy, stating that a prophet can foresee the future, know what is being decreed in Heaven, know things that happened in the past, and so on--everything we mentioned before concerning ruach hakodesh.
Many people, however, are under the mistaken impression that prophecy applied only in Biblical times and that it is no longer relevant. This perception probably stems from the statement in the Talmud that after the destruction of the First Temple the era of prophecy ceased. The language of the Talmud is very exact. The era of prophecy ceased--in other words, prophets are no longer as common as they used to be. But there are still exceptional people even today who are prophets. And, even though prophets are uncommon in the modern age, ruach hakodesh is something which occurs even today so many years after the destruction of the Temple.
Maimonides writes that even though there were many people who achieved prophecy, there are different levels of prophetic vision because in the spiritual, G-dly realm, many levels exist.
A prophet is a person who, because of his way of life, has raised himself to a higher spiritual plane which allows him to see things on a higher spiritual level. But which spiritual level are we talking about? There are actually hundreds and thousands, or perhaps infinite levels of spiritual depth and spiritual existence. Therefore there are correspondingly many levels of prophets. In fact, Maimonides writes that it was not the function of every prophet to announce the future. The essence of prophecy is not necessarily proclaiming future events. The essence of prophecy is spiritual perception, spiritual vision. Certain prophets used this ability for their own spiritual growth, while other prophets functioned to make things known to the Jewish people. The fundamental and essential quality of every type of prophet was his or her ability to reach a deeper spiritual understanding of G-d, the Torah, and of everything happening in the world.
Today, after the destruction of the Temple, it is not extraordinary for individuals to have ruach hakodesh. Prophecy, however, is only found in the most exceptional individuals. This principle, that ruach hakodesh exists even after the era of prophecy has ceased, was not established by the Chasidic movement. On the contrary, it is stated clearly in the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, (known as the AriZal) who is considered the greatest authority on the teachings of Kabbala in the last 2,000 years. There are also incidents recorded in the Zohar about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his colleagues which clearly indicate that they had ruach hakodesh.
Ruach hakodesh, as exhibited by the Baal Shem Tov and other Chasidic rebbes, was a way of bringing to light and revealing to the masses of people a revelation of G-dliness in the world and of heightening their consciousness and awareness of G-d's greatness.
There are many stories in which people were shocked to find that the Rebbe could read their minds and know exactly what they were thinking. The ability to do this is the evidence of ruach hakodesh, which is within the spiritual capacity of the tzadik.