The first and foremost application of connecting to the Rebbe is loving the Rebbe with a profound, heartfelt love, “An abundance of water cannot quench the love” of a chasid for his Rebbe. However, the goal is our actions, and true connection is expressed by concrete actions that penetrate the entire stature of the chasid who is connected.
Five Levels of Connection
We will see how connection is expressed through two general aspects, which divide into five individual aspects. The first general aspect is to fix our eyes on the Rebbe and to learn from him, and the second is to follow his instructions.
The first aspect, learning from the Rebbe, divides into three parts:
- Learning from his revealed actions and attempting to emulate him;
- Learning from his attributes, sensing the Rebbe’s positive attributes, particularly the boundless love for Jews that he projects, as Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe taught that loving all Jews is the pinnacle of loving God (i.e., loving what the beloved loves).
- Learning his Torah teachings and his philosophy.
The second general aspect – practicing the Rebbe’s instructions – is a different type of connection. The Rebbe referred to his instructions as “campaigns”―a military term―from which we can learn that these instructions are oriented in particular to revealing the power of self-sacrifice in the Jewish soul, like a faithful soldier who is prepared to sacrifice his life for his cause. The regular type of connection to a Rebbe is like a “school” in which one attaches oneself to his revealed personality and studies it, but later, as one matures and steps out into the world, one reveals that it is actually living by following his instructions that brings the deepest powers of the soul into effect. Setting out to accomplish one’s life’s assignment (shlichut) is what bonds the emissary to the innermost dimensions of the one who sent him, through one’s inner self-annulment to him, so much so that “An emissary is like the one who sent him.”
The connection achieved with the Rebbe by carrying out his orders further divides into two categories:
- The first category (the fourth from the beginning) relates to all of the campaigns up to but not including the Mashiach campaign – i.e., spreading Judaism as far as possible, “And you shall burst forth” (ufaratzta). At this level, disseminating the wellsprings, spreading the Torah’s inner dimension “to revive an abundant populace” takes precedence over everything else. Yet, even when we deal with spreading Judaism without relating directly to Mashiach, even then the inner objective is Mashiach, both when learning the Torah’s inner dimension – since then we deal with portraying the ideal that lays in store for us and we awaken our desire to reach it at long last – or even when we deal with reinforcing mitzvah observance and Jewish lifestyle, since every mitzvah brings the redemption closer, and bringing any Jew closer to the Torah and mitzvot accumulates to a critical mass that will eventually become fertile ground to receive tidings of the redemption. Nonetheless, the issue of Mashiach still remains relatively hidden, and our innermost soul is not yet “extracted” to connect to the Rebbe’s inner essence and to his life’s vocation.
- This is why there is an even higher level of connection – joining the Mashiach campaign (the fifth and messianic level). Ever since this subject was brought to the fore (by the Rebbe himself), it has become the main issue, and only through it does connecting to the Rebbe become an intrinsic and essential connection, to the extent of connecting to the actual Divine part of his soul (the yechidah). Obviously, the Mashiach campaign influences all other campaigns, lending them a clear purpose.
Messianic Activities and Identifying Mashiach
It is our opinion that after Gimel Tamuz, our acts to bring Mashiach need to move on to a different level, utilizing a different method.
The Rebbe began the Mashaich Campaign with two general topics: messianic activities and identifying Mashiach. At first, an emphasis was placed on messianic activities, even with the objective of suppressing the question of who the figure who best complies with the messianic qualities is (the Rebbe reasoned then that the time was not yet ripe and explicitly said that at this stage identification would sabotage disseminating the wellsprings, which he saw as the principle route by which to advance redemption). Then, one could surmise that the Rebbe, who led the entire process, was the best known candidate currently on earth, and one could surmise that the Rebbe kept the precept of “In a place where there is no Mashiach, attempt to be Mashiach” to paraphrase the Mishnah, but this attempt was only a matter of acting as a substitute, and not self-appointment to the post.
However, later there was more and more emphasis on identifying Mashiach, and it became clear that the Rebbe expected everyone to search for and to find the individual most suited for the post, and to devote themselves to him.
But today, after Gimel Tamuz, it’s not enough to say that there has been a descent for the sake of an ascent, rather, we need to meditate on what an ascent really means. It is also not enough to say that the way we acted before Gimel Tamuz must now be implemented with greater fervor. What we need to say is that the descent for the sake of ascent is that the Rebbe has vacated his strong, revealed presence in order to “shake out” our own messianic traits.
This means to say that anything that is accomplished following the Rebbe’s direct instructions, without any inner, essential arousal to do it, is relatively a service of self-coercion (itkafya) and does not yet stem from one’s inner essence. This is what the Rebbe complained about on the 28th of Nisan, 5751, when he said that we shout, “How much longer?!” (ad matei?!) but it doesn’t stem from an inward identification with our cry, but only because that’s what the Rebbe instructed us to shout. The Rebbe vacated the scene (the Kabbalistic concept of “contraction” is not to be taken literally, as we know) in order that we rouse ourselves to proceed proactively, specifically at a time when there is no iron bridge to walk across. In fact, readiness to leap into the unknown, from “something” to “nothing,” in the certainty that the current situation is no longer bearable, is a primary messianic quality.
Only once this level has been achieved – i.e., accomplishing messianic activities through total identification with Mashiach, so much so that we are prepared to get up and act of our own accord – can a new dimension of identifying Mashiach begin to appear. We need to be aroused to identify who Mashiach is from the arousal of the spark of Mashiach in each and every one of us. Our efforts must be concentrated on doing messianic activities, so much so that from our efforts in this direction the spark of Mashiach in every Jewish soul will be roused – the same spark that gave us the power to do such activities – and it will identify the genuine Mashiach who is outside, just like the concept in Jewish law that “one species finds its own” (מָצָא מִין אֶת מִינוֹ).
The two levels that existed before Gimel Tamuz – messianic activities and identifying Mashiach – must reappear in a new dimension following Gimel Tamuz. Then, they were like “the revealed things [are for us and for our children],” meaning that the Rebbe said and taught explicit ideas, therefore it required “self-coercion” (in total rational clarity), but now these two levels will eventually reappear as “the concealed things [are for Havayah, your God].” Wherever the depth of the soul identifies with Mashiach of its own accord, and does not merely selflessly devote itself to him, that is a completely new level (it’hapcha).
The Five Fields of Messianic Activity Today
Let’s now contemplate which “Messianic activities” we must accomplish in the spirit that the Rebbe imparted us, and in which areas and directions we should act, in the belief that we can and should move on and redeem all of reality (not just “biting off” and saving individual parts of it).
Five general matters can be identified from the Rebbe’s teachings: saving the Jewish People and the Land of Israel; reinforcing Jewishness, repentance from love, “A new Torah,” and rectifying the world with God’s sovereignty.
The Wholeness of the Land of Israel
Activities on behalf of the Land of Israel are messianic because they are the crux of the difference between introductory acts to bring Mashiach and Mashiach himself. Mashiach means beginning to tackle reality, and he does activities that can no longer be ignored by the media. The activities that took place before then were relatively acts to prepare the way for an in-camp revolution, in a way that the world could “allow itself” to remain composed while ignoring them.
Anyone who contemplates all that the Rebbe went through until Gimel Tamuz, will see that the messianic enthusiasm began together with the Rebbe’s involvement with what transpired here in the Holy Land, and the developments that concluded on Gimel Tamuz were closely related to his distress about what was happening with regards to the Land of Israel. Anyone who wishes to “revitalize” the Rebbe, must first be galvanized into redeeming the Land.
After our involvement in safeguarding the welfare of the Jewish population in the Holy Land, our attention now turns inwards to our closer circle of acquaintance. This circle should continue to expand, accumulating more and more souls, but our principal plane of influence is to crystallize them all around a central axis, in a way that offers mutual support that prevents “disintegration” without becoming exposed to the threat of the empty reality that lurks outside.
At this stage, our attention is turned towards rectifying life in practice without changing the state of consciousness, under the assumption that a different way of life creates an “alternative world” in which a new consciousness can later flourish. The current assumption is that rectifying the world is dependent on a correct beginning, by forming a stable “hard core” that is united as one, whose repentance has the power to bring redemption to the entire world.
Repenting with Love
Indeed, despite the thoroughness of reinforcing the walls of mitzvah observance, it can be rather infuriating. Not only is one’s attention turned towards a small circle, but it is also involves rejecting and building a barrier against anyone who remains beyond that circle. However, “God is all and all is God,” therefore the ultimate purpose cannot be to merely constrict ourselves within the circles of “our comrades.”
Someone motivated by messianic “ambition,” is concerned about the state of the entire Jewish People, and their first perception is that they can never come to terms with intermarriage, which is a very tangible danger today – not only abroad but even amongst the Jewish population in Zion.
Yet, since the process of intermarriage is (usually) by consent of all parties involved, argumentative “military” action is not effective. Instead, we must respond with repentance through love, and it is our way to interpret this love primarily as loving Jews. A heartfelt love of all Jews that beats with concern for everyone, will eventually remind them all where they belong, and gather them home together with abundant compassion.
A New Torah
All activities mentioned so far – the battle to save the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, reinforcing Jewishness, and loving every Jew in a way that diminishes intermarriage etc. – are all just direct reactions to superficial problems that have arisen. However, there is also a genuine sense that as long as we only react to problems, our efforts will be in vain.
Therefore, messianic activities that are infused with the joy of innovation mean turning to the wellsprings of the Torah’s inner dimension and the ability to disseminate it without focusing it and what results from it at any particular tangible achievements. This new light – “A new Torah will exude from me” – will eventually become “A charitable sun with healing in its rays.” Withering souls will eventually flourish and not even the one offering the advice can gauge the extent of new life that will burst forth when the buds open.
Rectifying the World
Mashiach’s objectives are unlimited; he wants to rectify the entire world. Bursting forth from the borders of the Jewish People is a genuine desire for a “time of peace.” Tending to ourselves alone fosters alienation and hatred amongst the gentiles and enormous frustration amongst ourselves. There are many Jews who constantly ask themselves what type of truth is this if it has nothing to offer the current state of mankind? And why, instead of benefitting everyone, as is our hearts’ inner desire, must we constantly must occupy ourselves with defending ourselves against the threat that we sense lurking beneath the surface. The messianic spirit is one of faith in the Jewish People and the Torah and their relevance to the entire world, in fact, that is their only chance. The superficial reason why the non-Jews hate us is because we disturb the status quo, but the inner reason for their hatred is because we have not yet succeeded in penetrating their world to redeem them.
In this context, messianic activities mean disseminating the seven Noahide laws, and the parts of the Torah’s inner dimension that are relevant to all of mankind. Non-Jews cannot invent a new religion (as Maimonides holds), but this does not mean that they are not allowed to develop and express a religious way of life. However, they need to do so by drawing it from the Torah as much as they are able to receive.
Connecting to A Messianic Rebbe
These five levels of connection to the Rebbe correspond to the abovementioned five fields of messianic activity: the righteous acts that we learn from the Rebbe are very close to his activities and his precision with regards to reinforcing Jewishness. Love of the Jewish People that we learn from the Rebbe is very similar to his own love of the Jewish People by power of which he acted tirelessly to save people from intermarriage. The Torah and philosophy that one learns from the Rebbe are like a new Torah that exudes from him.
The two highest levels of connecting to the Rebbe – going out on an assignment (shlichut) and doing campaigns in general, and the Mashiach campaign in particular – are now perfectly united as one, since everything one does is now infused with the light of Mashiach. It is connecting to the Rebbe’s messianic quality that arouses us to approach mundane reality, “saving the People and the Land” and fighting for them, and similarly, it arouses us to turn to rectify the entire world.
Adapted from “Connecting after Gimel Tamuz” by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.