“The Rebbe was Disappointed with Us”




    Shifra Vepua

    “The Rebbe was Disappointed with Us”

    On the 28th of Nissan 5751, the Rebbe charged us with the mission of bringing Moshiach for real • Rav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Mara D’asra of Crown Heights, was then learning in Crown Heights. In an interview, he provides background, insight, and food for thought on how to bring the message down from the realm of studying the words of the Rebbe to really feeling it and into the realm of action • By the Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    In the “famous sicha”  that the Rebbe said on the eve of 28 Nissan 5751, he expressed great surprise that despite it being an especially auspicious time, it wasn’t being used to bring the Geula. Can you please describe the period leading up to this sicha so we can understand what was so special about those days?

    First of all, throughout the sicha, the Rebbe explains what is so special about this time: the year, 5751: T’hei Shnas Arenu Niflaos – May it be the Year of I Will Show Them Wonders; the month, Nissan, about which Chazal say “in Nissan they will be redeemed,” and the day of the month, from the perspective of the sefira count, etc.

    In general, in the Rebbe’s sichos of that time, it seems that the end of that month of Nissan was such a meritorious time for the Geula that even afterward, the Rebbe mentioned these days as a unique point in time, as we see that in the months following the sicha the Rebbe said that if we had merited it, the Geula would have come in Nissan.

    In Iyar too, in the sicha of Tazria-Metzora, the Rebbe said “in these very days (with the conclusion of the month of Nissan of “May it be the Year of I Will Show Them Wonders) all end-points have concluded in the most literal sense;” and in the sicha of Naso the Rebbe said, “Ever since then (especially in the month of Nissan, the month of Geula) we are already standing in “the time that Melech Ha’Moshiach is coming.”

    In general, the Rebbe always emphasizes the special quality of the time we are in. It is rare for the Rebbe to explain in Iyar or Sivan the quality of the previous Nissan! Here, the Rebbe brings us back to Nissan and speaks to us about the topic of Geula, which was a particular emphasis of that previous time!

    Looking with a broader perspective, this sicha came after an entire year in which the Rebbe pointed out time and again that this was a special year in which the wonders of the Geula will take place (the Rebbe began talking about “I will show them wonders” back in Iyar 5750!); and after the Rebbe established several times that this is “the year in which Melech Ha’Moshiach is revealed” (as quoted in the famous Yalkut Shimoni); and it was after the previous month, when the Rebbe produced a series of “general letters” in which he stated that the miracles of the Gulf War were greater than the miracle of Purim, and that we are entering into a time period directly connected with the Geula.

    Even without getting into the question as to whether there really is a process that is gradually progressing from stage to stage or everything was already here from the start of the nesius (except that we were not ready), which is a topic for itself in the Rebbe’s teachings, it is abundantly clear that the month of Nissan 5751 followed on the heels of a peak period, filled with revolutionary new developments.

    Furthermore, just two days before the famous sicha, on 26 Nissan, the Rebbe said a special sicha in which he spoke at length about the miracles and said that a Jew “is not ashamed to break out into dancing because of the open miracles, since he does not convince himself that there is no reason to dance and make a tumult over the miracles that Hashem shows us, but to the contrary…”

    They said in 770 at the time that one of the “spokesmen” was interviewed by the media about the Gulf War and he said, “We thank G-d for the great miracles He showed us, but we are not going out into the street to dance about the miracles, since there were people who were killed and injured in the war.” Then came the sicha.

    What was the reaction of the Chassidim to this amazing sicha? Unfortunately, they did not yet grasp the extent of the revelations. I remember that just a few bachurim went outside to dance in the yard of 770. The Rebbe said not to be ashamed to go out and dance, so “they obeyed orders” and went out and danced.

    After all that, we can understand what the Rebbe tells us in the first part of the sicha. The Rebbe talks about the special time, “I will show them wonders,” alluding to what he had just proclaimed two days earlier, and yet everybody is calm. Nobody cares. Nobody feels the need to bring Moshiach now.

    The Rebbe laments this in the sicha: “Based on what was said before, about the emphasis on Geula (especially) at this time, this raises the astonishing question: how is it possible that despite everything, they still haven’t accomplished the actual coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu? This is completely not understandable!


    Today, when we learn the sichos and “general letters” of Adar-Nissan 5751, we realize that it was a turning point in terms of the Geula. Were matters not understood that way at the time? Did people not feel the beating of the wings of history?

    The truth is that we were living in a time of such abundant riches that people did not fully recognize the great treasure that was being revealed here. Today, we can appreciate the magnitude of that period since we see the whole panorama, we see all the details and everything that was said in one unified picture. But those who were in Beis Chayeinu back then, heard and absorbed one thing, and another thing, and did not get what was happening.

    In addition to all that, routine has an effect. When you hear the same amazing expressions again and again, the animal soul gets used to it and stops getting excited …

    Ironically, it was because of the abundance that the Rebbe showered us with at the time, from all directions, that we did not sufficiently regard every term and phrase that the Rebbe said with importance. Most of the expressions of the uniqueness of the time were said at farbrengens on Shabbos that were edited by the Rebbe and published in booklets titled (in Hebrew) “from the sichos of Shabbos parashas such-and-such.”

    If we only learned those sichos, surely we would have been more conscious of the greatness of the time, but every week the weekly Likutei Sichos were also published and every few weeks an edited maamar was produced, and those were deep maamarim.

    Now, think of the average Chassid who has to complete the daily Chitas and Rambam on top of all this abundance. Many learned the likut, then delved into the maamar, and then went over the sichos. We did not devote enough quality time to it and didn’t learn it in depth.


    I understand this for someone who wasn’t in Beis Chayeinu and his only source was the edited sichos, but you who were there at the Rebbe’s farbrengens and heard the extraordinary expressions during the farbrengen, did not get what was going on?!

    Just like there was an abundance of edited sichos, in the sichos themselves each Shabbos there was an abundance of terms that, because of the great “revelations,” were not assessed properly as to their significance.

    In general, the style of the sichos in the latter years was different. Before that, we were used to sichos of explanations in Nigleh, Rashi sichos etc. Suddenly, the Rebbe stopped saying Rashi sichos (to the extent that on Shabbos Bereishis 5751, the Rebbe said a Rashi sicha and it was a big surprise. I remember that the Rebbe said that he has complaints against himself, why he wasn’t saying Rashi sichos … And so the Rebbe said the sicha on Rashi “in order to continue throughout the year (bli neder)”).

    A typical sentence in those years was “as was said several times,” and “as was said at the previous farbrengen.” At first, we searched through the immediately preceding farbrengens; then we realized that it might be from a sicha from the early years and that actually, from 5710 until 5752 was one long farbrengen!

    Another amazing turn of phrase employed was when the Rebbe said, “hut men” – we have. Many things that the Rebbe mentions in a sicha “hut men.” If the Rebbe spoke about “melech,” which is an acronym for “moach, lev, kaveid” – then “we have” the brain, “we have” the heart, and “we have” the liver. What does that mean? What does it mean to “have” the word just mentioned in the sicha?

    It’s an amazing thing. The moment the word left the Rebbe’s mouth, we have it; the Rebbe drew down and revealed that point!

    There are many more expressions particular to the Rebbe, and in those sichos in particular – referring to the point made in the sicha as something that we just said in davening or we read it in the Torah-reading and the blessing before and after, and we said “amen,” and therefore this was drawn down and impacted the world… Whereas in earlier sichos we had many explanations in Nigleh, now the Rebbe was revealing “hamshachos” in the world.

    Despite all the amazing revelations, Chassidim did not quite get the magnitude of the time. We can say all this in hindsight in that when we learn the edited sicha today all the unique terminology appears with more developed explanations, but when we heard it at farbrengens, it was all spiritual “hamshachos.” The Rebbe said a word and it was connected to another word and the next word to another word and the sicha was full of concepts and topics. Even the chozrim found it hard to grasp and repeat the sichos in this style, all the more so was it difficult for the average Chassid.


    Getting back to the sicha of Chof-Ches Nissan, how did that sicha grab those who were present?

    Before responding to your question, the sicha of the night of Chof-Ches Nissan was in general, a big surprise. It occurred after an entire year of the Rebbe hardly saying sichos on weekday nights (from 28 Nissan 5750 until 11 Nissan 5751, aside from the usual times and one exception, on 25 Tammuz 5750). We didn’t even hear a sicha from the Rebbe on Yud-Tes Kislev and Yud Shevat! We felt like there was a real “dormancy.”

    I was a student in Oholei Torah and by divine providence I got permission to go to 770 and daven mincha-maariv with the Rebbe upon his return from the Ohel; although on the day the Rebbe returned from the Ohel, the rest of the bachurim remained in Oholei Torah and listened to the broadcasted sicha. I heard the sicha in 770. I remember that I forgot who I was and where I was; we were thunderstruck.

    Despite the marvels of the sicha, to a certain degree, the initial reaction of the Chassidim to the Chof-Ches Nissan sicha was similar to that of 26 Nissan, i.e. they dutifully began crying out “ad mosai.” In essence, the Rebbe had actually said not to cry out “because of the command,” and they followed this instruction as well and cried out “not because of the command.” One might phrase it thus, “because of the command that it not be because of the command.” In light of this, we can understand what the Rebbe said immediately afterward to R’ Zalman Gurary, “it made no impression.”

    Yet despite that, you could feel in the air that the sicha changed something. The Rebbe had dropped a bomb. There is no question that at that moment, everyone felt that this was something else entirely.

    The sicha was replayed and replayed all night. At every farbrengen, they spoke about it over and over. The next day, Friday, when the talmidim arrived to learn Chassidus in the morning and the zal was not full, I remember that the mashgiach literally yelled (to those who had come) – how was it possible that after a sicha like that, not all the bachurim had shown up on time!

    The mivtzaim that Friday were different. They rented a mitzva tank, which was unusual, and on the report to the Rebbe about this, they received this unusual answer: “v’hazman grama v’ha’inyan” (and the time is a causal factor, and the matter). This was not a familiar phrase and I think it was the first time that the Rebbe used it, but later on, many of the Moshiach activities were responded to with this wording, “v’ha’inyan,” “v’ha’inyanim.”

    The following Shabbos too, 770 was in an upheaval. People were talking about the sicha. For the next week or two, this was the constant topic of conversation. There was a commotion.

    A few days later, on erev Shabbos 5 Iyar 5751, a group of us bachurim got permission to go on shlichus to Australia. I remember that when we arrived in 770 Friday night, everyone said to us, “You will be the first group that won’t actually go on shlichus …” That was the feeling in the air; it was clear that Moshiach is coming.

    After Shabbos, on Sunday 7 Iyar, the Rebbe came out very late for shacharis. We stood and waited for the Rebbe for 50 minutes. What could we do during that time? Obviously, learn a sicha on inyanei Moshiach and Geula.

    The feeling was that we must at least be the beinonim of Tanya. How could we be otherwise when we had to bring Moshiach!


    Let us discuss in more detail those days following the sicha. During the period that followed, we heard other sichos in which the Rebbe continued to address the topic of the day – bringing Moshiach. How was this received by the Chassidim?

    On Shabbos Parshas Shemini there was a very intense farbrengen. Before the farbrengen, one of the elder Chassidim got up, stood on the farbrengen bima in the Rebbe’s place and announced – I don’t remember the exact words, but he asked that everyone proclaim “Yechi” or “ad mosai” or something like that. Well, the crowd did not necessarily cooperate and when the Rebbe walked in, they sang some niggun or other. But the atmosphere was charged.

    Afterward, the famous scene took place that was described in diaries afterward, when R’ Itzke Gansbourg asked the Rebbe to pasken that the Geula will come and “a tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills.”

    What the Rebbe answered him is known and printed, i.e. the Rebbe said he knows on his own what to do – “regarding individual matters like asking for a bracha, I bring the note to the tziyun of the Rebbe, my father-in-law Nasi Doreinu, and he will surely fulfill the bracha in the best way, whether in a manner of ‘a tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills’ or another way, as he wants.” [By the way, this is an interesting point, for the Rebbe is basically revealing that he has many other ways of effecting the desired response from Hashem, not only “a tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills…” Later, a maamar was published in honor of of Yud-Tes Kislev 5752, Pada B’Shalom 5726, in which higher levels than “a tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills” are explained].

    Also regarding bringing the Geula, the Rebbe clarified that he himself knows what he needs to do, but the responsibility for this is on us – and the Rebbe went on to detail what our job is: “to learn Torah and do mitzvos b’hiddur in a way of shemini, shmoneh, shmeina” … And here, the Rebbe continues the sicha as usual. The Rebbe goes from answering R’ Itzke back to the sicha which was about “ shemini, shmoneh, shmeina.”

    The next week, there was a demonstrably greater response to the sicha of Chof-Ches Nissan: the “Matte Ha’Olami to Bring Moshiach” was founded and there was a big assembly. At that gathering, 770 was packed. There were speakers who spoke strongly on the topic. Afterward, papers were given out and people were asked to write down the area they were suited to work on, in order to be contacted and included in the activities that would follow.

    A special gift was distributed at this gathering, an index to the topics in the sichos on inyanei Moshiach and Geula that was edited by one of the tmimim, Menachem Dubroskin. He had the zechus to hit the nail on the head.

    Right after that, the Rebbe moved on to a new stage in the process. He spoke at a farbrengen on the following Shabbos, Tazria-Metzora, and said “the direct path” to bring the Geula is by learning inyanei Moshiach and Geula. Afterward, when Rabbi Chaim Gutnick of Australia sent the Rebbe a letter in which he pleaded to be able to come up with a solution to what the Rebbe meant on Chof-Ches Nissan, the Rebbe sent him the “practical application” of that sicha of Tazria-Metzora about learning inyanei Moshiach and Geula.


    You mentioned the answer to Rav Gutnick. He probably wasn’t the only one. There were many more who struggled to find a solution and tried to understand what the Rebbe meant in that sicha.

    Yes. People sought out all sorts of ideas. When the Rebbe gave out dollars for tzedaka, many people proposed ideas to the Rebbe about how the Rebbe could bring the Geula. There were ideas like Kever Rochel, partial fast days, a hunger strike …

    In general, we see that in the sicha, the Rebbe demands that “one, two, three” come up with a plan of action, in contrast to his call for “ten stubborn people” to take action; but in reality the contrast is reversed and there are maybe one, two or three who are doing and there are way more than ten advice-givers …

    On a simple level, the Rebbe emphasized again and again what the way is to bring Moshiach – learn Torah and do mitzvos. I remember that in 770 they spoke in connection with the sicha of “shemini, shmoneh, shmeina,” that the Rebbe was saying: This is the way to bring Moshiach. First, you simply need to listen to the Torah-reading eight times!

    This is also the feeling when you see the sequence of the sichos of Shemini and Tazria-Metzora, that the Rebbe means what he says on the most the simple level. The Rebbe says, why ask me what to do? The Rebbe said to come up with a plan and this is our job to do; and the path is also clear. For forty years, the Rebbe told us exactly what to do but when we were stubbornly insisting on being told, the Rebbe said to us, as it were, I’ll give you something: the “direct path.”


    Moving on to today, 28 years after the sicha. What now?

    Before we talk about how we should relate to the sicha now, perhaps we should ask a general question – what happens when we learn a sicha of the Rebbe, any sicha that it might be? Usually, a sicha has a practical application, something that needs to be done. Do we want to do the hora’a or do we skip it?

    There is a concept called “cognitive dissonance.” A person encounters something that clashes with his worldview up to that point. If he takes it to heart, it will shake up his life completely. Our animal soul is constructed in such a fashion that allows us to take the matter lightly and move on. We will rationalize that the hora’a in the sicha is not quite meant literally and then we can sleep soundly …

    You know what? A child took things all the way. This child attended a Chabad camp and what he heard about Moshiach grabbed him to such an extent that he nearly went crazy in his excitement about Moshiach. R’ Rami Antian reported this to the Rebbe and received the famous answer, “This is my argument.” This is what the Rebbe is waiting for, for everyone to take it as seriously as this boy.

    We can learn the sicha of Chof-Ches Nissan, review it again and again and focus on the wording but this is missing the point. The entire argument, demand and plea, of the Rebbe is that we really get into it!

    This was also the Rebbe’s demand a few weeks later, on Shabbos Parashas Balak, that we contemplate the fact that we are at the entrance of Yemos Ha’Moshiach. It’s not just about in-depth learning; not just to analyze the wording of the sichos, to draw comparisons between the sources and even to farbreng and tell stories on the topic of Moshiach. All that can be done like a good balabus who leans back comfortably in an armchair in the middle of a good meal and studies in comfort. Some may even try to recall inspiring memories, maybe there is another special story from those “Geula’dike” years …

    But the Rebbe is demanding “hisbonenus” (meditative contemplation), which means that the learning should change me. I should truly feel that we are at the onset of Yemos Ha’Moshiach and ask myself: What does this require of me? What do I need to do differently? When I feel and “live” where we are at this time, my way of relating to the topic is completely different!


    So where does the difference lie? How should we learn the sicha in the right way, to accurately intuit what the Rebbe wants?

    It’s very simple; the Rebbe wants it to be mine; something I care about.

    The Rebbe spoke in the 80s, when there were people who did not understand the need to cry out “ad mosai,” and claimed that the belief in and anticipation for Moshiach “every day that he will come” means “whenever he comes.” The Rebbe said that if they had a sick person in the house, G-d forbid, when saying the prayer of “refa’einu,” they surely would not think that Hashem should heal him “whenever.” They would plead and cry incessantly that he should be immediately cured, that he should have a quick and immediate recovery. That is obviously clear, because here they really care about it!

    Or, for example, after Chof-Zayin Adar 5752, we didn’t need to learn the sichos in order to understand that something happened that affects us. Chof-Zayin Adar was definitely my personal issue! The same for Chof-Zayin Adar 5754 and Gimmel Tammuz … I don’t need explanations; I myself feel that something is amiss.

    To the Rebbe, every moment that the Geula has not come, is like that. Like Gimmel Tammuz 5754 for us. Obviously, when something is amiss he is broken and shaken up and the Rebbe tells us that each of us can also be kassis (crushed); it makes no difference what his material and spiritual state are.

    When we contemplate and live with inyanei Moshiach, the concept of being “crushed” is not simply another ideal to strive for, to try and be “kassis.” There is no such avoda; it’s simply the state that a person is in. This is something real to me – every moment that goes by and Moshiach has not come I am not calm; it constantly bothers me.

    Note the connection in the sicha – the Rebbe wonders how it is possible that “ten Jews” gather and don’t “make a tumult,” about the Geula. Why did those ten Jews gather anyway – to daven mincha and maariv …The Rebbe is demanding then, that whenever a group of Jews gathers, whether to daven or for a siyum ha’Rambam, a N’Shei Chabad gathering or even a chess game, it is not possible for this to happen without talking about Moshiach. And it’s not enough just to talk; we’ve gotten used to mentioning the Geula at every gathering, with the proclamation of “Yechi,”but the Rebbe is demanding more: to make a “ra’ash,” a commotion about the Geula!

    All this is intensified when we are in this special time, with all the revelations of 5751 and 5752. In fact, specifically because of this. We can see, for example, in the sicha of Mishpatim 5752, such an unusual sicha with amazing revelations and expressions about Moshiach, and it is specifically there that the Rebbe says how ludicrous it is that we are in galus, “great is the pain and confusion… to the point that due to the great anguish one should not go on at length about this on Shabbos.”

    Let us imagine a Chassid who never went to the Rebbe, who never attended the hakafos on Simchas Torah with the Rebbe, in contrast to a Chassid who did go and is facing the Rebbe during hakafos, close enough to touch all of the amazing revelations, but someone is blocking his view. Who will be more upset? We see clearly that the one who is blocked is the one who is truly “crushed” by the experience, and will go completely out of his mind.

    That being the case, then the “kassis” needs to be far greater! We are the ones who are literally in Yemos Ha’Moshiach and we just need to open our eyes; we are closer than ever. Our joy should be far greater, along with the feeling that it is out of the question for us to be in galus one moment longer.

    The main thing is that the Rebbe should ruin our plans and instead of reading this interview, we should be studying in depth the new sicha from 5779, when we will not only learn and analyze; we will live it and see it.


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    1. Boruch Hoffinger

      Todah Rabbi Braun and ‘ Beis Moschiach Magazine.’

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