Black and white picture of a Jew wearing tefillin and a prayer shawl in synagogue

What did the Lubavitcher Rebbe mean, when he said there would never be another holocaust?

One day, Rebbe Nachman was walking along with a group of his students, when they happened to walk past a home where someone had just passed away. The bereaved family members were crying and shrieking, and beseeching God in a very distraught way. Rebbe Nachman turned to his followers and told them:

“What they are doing at the end, I want you to do at the beginning!”

It’s human nature to want to stick our head in the sand, and to avoid all the unpleasantness and the scary things going on around us. Why think about it? Why worry ourselves?

But Rebbe Nachman made many statements where he urged his followers to do the exact opposite.

“Why do we allow God to bring evil decrees to the world?!” he once said to them.

We should be praying, and beseeching, and clapping our hands, and dancing, and making the teshuva required to really sweeten these decrees!

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Right now, we can still do something about the ‘scary stuff’ we can see looming in the future, and that every single one of us can feel lurking under the surface. 

God doesn’t want us to put our heads in the sand and pretend everything is A-OK, and that people can continue spitting in God’s face in a million different ways but it’ll still all end up being fine and dandy.

How can that be?

God created the world according to certain rules, and one of the biggest is the concept of reward and punishment. There are real consequences for bad behavior, sometimes very big consequences. If a person continues to go against what God really wants for them, and how He really wants them to be living their lives – and they don’t wake up and make some sincere teshuva – then they will have to deal with the consequences of their bad behavior.

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In the meantime, putting our head in the sand is not helping anyone – not even ourselves!

God wants us to be crying out to Him, and making teshuva, and realizing that unless we are really holding firm to the Tzaddik of the generation, we could honestly get flung a million miles away, as God continues to shake the world.

“Regarding the Messianic age it is written: ‘To grasp the ends of the earth and shake the wicked from it.’  However, one who is attracted to a True Tzaddik can grasp hold of him and not be cast off. Holding on to the Tzaddik, he can remain firm.”[1]

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Rabbi Berland isn’t telling us about the thousands of rockets pointed at Eretz Yisrael because he wants to pointlessly scare the pants off us.

He’s just pointing out the obvious – the bleedingly obvious – to rouse us to really start praying, and working on all the bad middot and teshuva we need to make to get these harsh decrees sweetened.

That’s why I get a little frustrated when I read emails like this:

“I’m keeping up with all the world news, craziness and all like always but I try to bring myself away from the doomsday stuff. It’s so scary when it’s so close to the end. The words Rav Berland is sending out now are really making me nervous. It makes me daven harder but I can’t imagine Hashem taking out anything on his children at this point. We just passed כ סיון which I learned all about recently. So many horrors have happened to us, I just can’t see anymore happening. Too many earlier tzaddikim like the Lubavicher Rebbe said it will be with rachamim and all Jews will be ok, I am trying to keep calm with that. I know what the autistics are saying but I am hoping Hashem will only fulfill the good.”

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Do I understand that all this stuff is scary, and that we’d for sure all prefer things to come the sweeter way with no more bloodshed and suffering?

Of course!

Is the ‘sweeter way’ going to happen, if we don’t make every effort to do all the things I keep pointing out again and again and again, namely:

  • Praying our socks off – and making every effort to join in with Rabbi Berland’s prayer gatherings, however we can manage it.
  • Making some real teshuva, including working on our bad middot and ‘getting real’ about just how imperfect we actually are. 
  • Hanging on to the true tzaddik of the generation – whoever that guy might be – and telling other people about him, too?

Nope, it isn’t.

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Which brings me to another point of clarification.

Over the years, I’ve read so many comments from people who are convinced that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z’tl, (who was unquestionably a giant Tzaddik and probably the Moshiach of his generation) apparently said that the geula  is only going to come totally the sweet way, with no more death or suffering.

Even my correspondent, above, mentioned this:

“Too many earlier tzaddikim like the Lubavicher Rebbe said it will be with rachamim and all Jews will be ok.”

(Incidentally, apart from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I don’t know of the other tzaddikim who have said anything like this. If any reader wants to share me some sources, I’d be very grateful.)

Now, I’ve been trying to track down the statement, or statements, that the Rebbe actually said, to give people this impression, and so far, this is what I’ve turned up (with some help from my friend, C.A. – ta!)

Before we continue, let me just point out that wherever possible, I’ve been trying to track down verifiable statements that were made by the Rebbe himself, and not just other people’s explanations of what they think he was saying.

There is certainly a time and a place for interpreting our Sages words, but the starting point has to be a clear explanation of what they actually said to begin with.

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What the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about ‘no Jew being left behind’ when geula comes:

“Leah, ‘for now my husband will be united with me.’ In an ultimate sense, this verse refers to the unity of the Jewish people with G‑d. That unity will be revealed in the Messianic age, when all the Jews will leave the exile; not one Jew will remain. In the redemption from the Babylonian exile, many Jews, among them the Torah sages and the Levi’im, remained in Babylon. However, in regard to the future redemption ‘a great congregation will return,’ ‘you, children of Israel, will be gathered one by one,’ no Jew will remain in exile. Thus, in preparation for this redemption, efforts must be made to increase Jewish unity as explained above in regard to the Ushpizin related to the present evening.”

From here:

5th Night of Sukkos, 5745 (1984)

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What the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about every THING being redeemed:

The redemption will involve freeing all the elements of existence that have been subjugated in the exile. Nothing will be lost.2 On the contrary, everything will be redeemed. Every single Jew will be redeemed. We will leave “with our youth and with our elders… with our sons and with our daughters.” And “their gold and silver will accompany them.” All the positive activities and achievements of the Jews (and also the non-Jews) in the exile will not be nullified. What will be nullified is the concealment of the world’s true inner being which is brought on by the material substance of the world and the subjugation to the rules of nature that exists at present. But all the positive aspects of the exile will remain, and indeed will be elevated.”

From here:

Shabbos Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim, 13th Day of Iyar, 5751 (1991)

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe on the holocaust:

I also found this news report from December 31st, 1990 on the JTA website, which quoted the Lubavitcher Rebbe as disagreeing with a statement made by the late Rabbi Schach, z’tl, that the holocaust came about as a form of Divine retribution because of the millions of Jews who had thrown off the Yoke of Torah and Mitzvot. Rabbi Shach also said that something similar could happen again, God forbid.

This is how the Lubavitcher Rebbe was quoted as responding to those statements, in the report:

“[Rabbi] Schneerson was especially vociferous in his attack on the notion, expounded by [Rabbi] Schach, that further retributive suffering might befall the Jewish people if they fail to abide by Jewish law.

“This suggestion is unconscionable,” the rebbe declared, without mentioning who had made it. “The future bodes only well for the Jewish people. There will never be another Holocaust. There will be redemption and joy.””

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It makes for interesting reading, doesn’t it?

If this last news report I brought was accurate, then the Rebbe does seem to be clearly saying there will never by another Holocaust. Let’s take each part of this last statement and explore it a little more closely:

The future bodes only well for the Jewish people.

 Who can argue with this? The principles of emuna state clearly that God is doing everything, and that everything that God does – even the bad, apparently yucky stuff – is ultimately for our own good. And of course, the ultimate ‘future’ is redemption, Moshiach, world peace etc.

But the Lubavitcher Rebbe is NOT saying that there won’t be any more suffering or death before we get there.

There will never be another Holocaust.

Amen, let’s really hope so.

Rabbi Berland has said on a few occasions that if you look through Jewish history, you see there was some sort of terrible destruction, pogrom or holocaust every 70 years or so.

A big part of why he went into exile and willingly took so much disgrace upon himself was to prevent this next ‘holocaust’ from happening. And that effort is continuing today, with the prayer gatherings, and all the terrible physical suffering the Rav is going through with his non-stop serious illnesses.

A couple of months ago, he also stated that unless more of Am Yisrael get with the program and start doing our bit to help sweeten the harsh judgments on the horizon, he may well have to take yet more disgrace and exile on to himself, and that it will be much, much harder even than what came before.

The mind boggles as to what that could actually mean.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was an enormous Tzaddik, and he overlapped with Rabbi Berland.

He certainly knew about Rabbi Berland, and he could see what was coming.

(It’s a side note, but my Lubavitch friend told me that the Rebbe always used to get very upset when people referred to him as being Moshiach. Even though the Rebbe often said that the Moshiach was here, he NEVER said that he himself was the Moshiach. It’s just more interesting food for thought, that I’m putting out there to mull over.)

Is it too far-fetched to say that the Rebbe could see there would be a Tzaddik 30 years in the future who would sacrifice himself totally for the Jewish people, in order to prevent an otherwise ‘inevitable’ holocaust from happening again?

Or to put it another way, both Rav Shach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe were right.

But we only get to avoid the ‘inevitable’ holocaust if we’re take the threat of it very seriously, and cry out to Hashem and making the appropriate teshuva. Sticking our heads in the sand and kind of hoping for the best just isn’t going to work.

Lastly, we have:

“There will be redemption and joy.”

Again, who can argue with this? Amen and amen and amen.

BUT – that doesn’t mean there won’t also be more suffering and people dying.

In the 29 years since the Rebbe first made this statement, has there only been ‘redemption and joy’? Has there been no suffering?

Since 1990, Israel has gone through three Intifadas, and a number of wars.

Since 1990, so many people have lost their loved ones in tragic circumstances.

So many marriages have gone to the wall. So many people have lost their faith, or their minds. So many people have had to deal with challenges of an enormous magnitude.

It just isn’t realistic to sit there saying “all Jews will be OK” without qualifying that statement by adding but only if they make the necessary teshuva. Only if they stop destroying the world and spitting in God’s face. Only if they get close to the true tzaddikim.

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Otherwise, how exactly is this meant to work?

That a totally unrepentant Mr Rainbow-Chasing-Chazer-Eating-Haredi-Hater with the worst middot in the world also gets the red carpet rolled out for them, to come and have a VIP tour of the Beit HaMikdash and personal meeting with Moshiach?

Really?

When the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that every single Jew will be redeemed, and that no Jew will be left behind, we need to remember that the same could be said of the Exodus from Egypt.

Every single Israelite who made it through the plague of darkness alive, was redeemed.

But four fifths were lost, before things even got to that stage.

There’s a scary midrash that “predicts” only 700 Jews will live to see the coming of Moshiach and the Temple being rebuilt. Now THAT is a scary thought, even for me.

But what if the geula coming b’rachamim just means anything over 700 people make it through to the finish line?

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Like I said, the point of this post isn’t doom or gloom.

Rather, it’s to snap us out of all the unhelpful and unrealistic wishful thinking about geula, to make the point that until and unless more of us wake up, start joining in the prayer gatherings, start rallying more Jews around the flag of the real tzaddikim and start working on the enormous bad middot that are preventing us from really doing what’s required, here, the geula coming the sweet way j- with no more suffering – just isn’t going to happen.

Rav Avigdor Miller noted something similar about what occurred just before WWII. He said that God didn’t want to bring the harsh decree of Hitler and the holocaust, but He was waiting for the Jews to band together, make teshuva, and to start crying out for mercy, the same way they did at the time of Haman.

Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Why not? According to Rabbi Miller – the secular Jewish media and Jewish atheists were to blame. They wasted an ocean of ink denouncing Hitler, but couldn’t spare a single drop to encourage the Jews to rally around their true tzaddikim, and return to God.

God forbid, that should happen again.

[1] #22, His Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, published by the Breslov Research Institute

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UPDATE:

A reader just sent me a translated Kuntres apparently written and edited by the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s own hand, with the following message:

“Regarding your most recent blog of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, there is unquestionably evidence throughout the Rebbe’s sichos where he indeed strongly hinted that he could be Moshiach. Several places he said that that Nosi HaDor is the Moshiach of the Dor. There is an entire kuntres called Beis Rabeinu Shebebavel , entirely edited by his own hand, with this concept, where he explains the uniqueness of 770, among other things it being Beis Moshiach. Anyone who learns this kuntres, it’s hard to arrive at any other conclusion besides the Rebbe hinting that he could be Moshiach. Here it is, in the original, and with an English translation, if you would like to take a look for yourself:”

You can download it as a PDF here: Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Kuntres on Beit Rabbenu

(The last link ‘broke’, so this is a PDF that will automatically download. I found it very interesting reading.)

There’s a lot of confusion about this subject, but I want to stress that the sources talk very clearly about their being TWO moshiachs, Moshiach ben Yosef, and Moshiach ben David.

In the post I wrote about who’s holding up the geula, I brought the following quote:

In Kol HaTor Chapter 2, Section 2, Letter bet, the Vilna Gaon says the following:

 “The general purpose of the two moshiachs, Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David, throughout all the generations has been to protect and fight against the three ‘heads’ of the klipot (evil husks): Eisav, Yishmael and the Erev Rav…..

“….the Erev Rav is our greatest enemy, the one who separates the two moshiachs. The klipah of the Erev Rav works only through deception and roundabout ways. Therefore, the war against the Erev Rav is the most difficult and bitterest of all. We must strengthen ourselves for this war, anyone who does not participate in the battle against the Erev Rav becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the Erev Rav, and was better off not being born in the first place.”

It’s important to understand that these two moshiachs are not in ‘competition’.

It’s not a case of ‘my Rebbe is bigger than your Rebbe’.  The two Moshiachs are on the same side, and trying to work together, to bring the geula, but they both have different approaches and achieve different results. Rebbe Nachman explains this concept in a beautiful way in one of his stories, which I covered in this article: Moshiach ben Yosef vs Moshiach ben David.

I think maybe the time has also come to take a closer look at whether it’s possible for a Moshiach to come from the dead.

This is a very sensitive topic, I know. But I think it needs airing out respectfully, and with as many sources behind it as possible to see what conclusions our Sages came to, and how they got there.

A big part of the problem is that so many people have ideas about ‘Moshiach’ and geula that aren’t at all rooted in Torah sources. For example, there is a discussion in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) that closely examines the idea of whether the Moshiach can come back from the dead. It’s not a ‘lunatic fringe’ issue, like it’s so often made out to be, it was a serious question that was debated by some of the biggest Sages that ever lived.

The ultimate conclusion is ‘no’, but if you follow the debate, you can see it’s not at all as black and white as it’s often portrayed to be.

BH, I will put together as many Torah sources on the subject as I can over the next few days, and we will learn about it together. As much as possible, it’s time to build some bridges, to put all the ‘hysteria’ to one side, and to take a calm, gentle and measured look at this topic.

With an awful lot of help from Hashem.

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