One of the basic foundations of Chassidut is to be connected to a tzaddik, a spiritual leader and guide, who through personal example inspires all around him to be actively involved in the rectification of both the individual self and the world at large. In this way all become leaders in their own right. Our ability to have a vision of Mashiach is due to each person having a spark ofMashiach deep within. We can have a vision of the future because it is already contained in the present. The leader simply fans the already existent spark.
According to tradition, there is one individual in every generation who has the potential to be the Mashiach. He encompasses the total, inclusive consciousness of all the myriad sparks of Mashiach present in his generation. He awakens and enlivens within as many individuals as possible a vision of their true spiritual potential, which in turn affects the entire world. Thus each generation makes its unique contribution, paving the way for the ultimate redemption. It is the tzaddikim of every generation who keep the flame alive, warming the heart of the nation.
The vision of an enlightened future contains a very powerful therapeutic energy for a sometimes less than perfect present. Considering the many traumas of Jewish history, the promise of redemption has served to not only heal the wounds of countless tragedies, but to give strength and a sense of purpose to our mission as a people. In this way, the future already sweetens the present in a real and tangible way.
It was said among the students of the eighteenth-century Chassidic leader, Rabbi Mendel of Vitebsk, that the “air” of Mashiachwas already present in his study hall. Similar sentiments were shared by students regarding many of the Chassidic masters of the last three centuries.
One of the greatest Chassidic figures was Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the great grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov, who began telling allegorical stories laden with deep meaning and symbolism towards the end of his life. One of his most famous was “The Seven Beggars,” a tale of two poor orphans who marry and are blessed during each of the seven subsequent days of rejoicing by a beggar who has some physical disability. Each beggar reveals that his apparent defect is only superficial and in fact is a source of such great strength that he blesses them to be like him.
The fifth beggar, a hunchback, tells a story of a group of people who are searching in vain for the way to paradise. Their lack of success was due to the fact that the redemption they were seeking lay in another dimension and coordinate altogether. Therefore no matter which direction they chose to pursue, it turned out to be fruitless. The beggar shared with them that he wasn’t really deformed at all, rather his hunchback functioned to carry his whole generation on his back. By blessing them to be like him he revealed that they too could carry the world on their backs.
Ultimately, each person is responsible to do all he can to ignite his own inner spark of Mashiach. If he merits, he will inspire others as well, carrying them to new heights of awareness. A leader of the generation attempts to unite everyone together, taking upon himself the awesome weight of responsibility of the entire people. According to the merit of the generation and if G-d wills it, the potential Mashiach receives Divine spirit from above to accomplish at least part of his holy mission. An individual and generation will arise in the future that will merit great compassion from above, so much so, that finally the entire Messianic task will be completed. Only then will we understand the total historical process; how each person, generation and particular leader contributed their unique part to the overall puzzle, till the final, complete picture emerges in all its pristine grandeur.