Levi Liberow, Beis Moshiach
A few months ago, I was witness to a conversation that ensued after Shacharis in the shul I daven in.
A Shliach to an American University campus was at a Chabad community for the weekend utilizing his winter break to visit family. He was being “scolded” by a young man for not having “Yechi” as part of his shlichus.
“You are living in a bubble,” the shliach responded to his counterpart. “You guys are living in frum, Chabad communities but you know nothing of what’s happening in the real world, and yet you are passing judgment on what we are doing or not doing.”
He went on to describe some challenging Yiddishkeit and morality situations he needs to deal with on his campus shlichus to prove how much the emphasis on Moshiach — let alone the idea of the Rebbe being Moshiach — is out-of-touch with reality.
I will not repeat them here, but I understand why — from his perspective — Moshiach was an unrealistic bubble compared to the sad spiritual reality he was dealing with.
I couldn’t stay to hear the rest of the debate, as I had to rush out of shul to deal with my reality – taking my children to school. But I left with this question nagging my mind. Is promoting Moshiach awareness really a “bubble”?
His statement was very disturbing. It’s one thing to hear such words from someone who isn’t yet a Chassid, but to hear it from a shliach was hurtful.
He wasn’t saying that the people he deals with in his shlichus are not ready for it, he was saying that we were the ones living in the bubble.
How did we get there? How could a shliach speak that way?
I think it has to do with how we perceive our shlichus to bring Moshiach.
Problem 1: An Unrealistic Moshiach
Firstly, It’s hard to tell people (ourselves included) for almost thirty years that Moshiach’s arrival is imminent. How long could “now” or “very soon” take?
So, the reaction to that is that we revert to Emunah and Mesirus Nefesh to keep trusting the Rebbe and to keep spreading the news. The problem is that by news standards, it is “old news” and no wonder we are perceived as living in a bubble.
And so, 25 years after Gimmel Tammuz, those of us still fighting the good fight, feel like their keeping Moshiach afloat with Mesirus Nefesh. The natural result is that we’re promoting an unpopular Moshiach; a Moshiach that requires Mesirus Nefesh to believe in.
The faith in the Rebbe’s words are and should be the driving force, but for “marketing purposes” it makes it really difficult.
Mesirus Nefesh, in the classical understanding of it, is a window to redemption in the darkness of galus. It’s a person who refuses to give in to galus. But in Yemos HaMoshiach, Mesirus Nefesh is not to be in the minority fighting the status quo but to be the leader of the majority.
We need to make Moshiach popular, and in a world so confused, a message of redemption and clarity will be welcomed with hands open wide.
How do we make Moshiach popular?
When looking back at the Rebbe’s sichos from Nun Aleph – Nun Beis and learning them regularly (in depth, and even superficially) we can come to a realization that the Rebbe is not telling the world anymore that “Moshiach is coming, get ready;” the message is “Moshiach is here, open your eyes.”
The Rebbe’s Moshiach-talk is not focused on a future that is near, it’s describing a reality that is here.
Think of the difference it makes to someone’s outlook on Moshiach when instead of hearing (for almost 30 years…), “Get ready! Moshiach is coming,” he hears, “Open your eyes! Wake up to reality!”
But we need to back that up with educating those we reach out to with a proper understanding of the world, and most importantly, how our (and their) microcosmic reality can also change.
Problem 2: An Unpractical Moshiach
“Open Your Eyes” is a personal message, especially when we study the many personal benefits from “living with the times” of Yemos HaMoshiach.
That deals with another “hurdle” we need to deal with when it comes to Moshiach awareness. The classical understanding of “get ready for Moshiach” focuses on the individual getting ready for something big that will happen to the world.
A side-effect of that is the feeling that “it will happen without me also,” and it takes less practical meaning.
Using examples marketing world again, the best way to get a person to buy into something, besides making it current, is to make it appeal to him. “Get ready for Moshiach” can be mistakenly understood as a message to “the world” at-large, allowing the recipient to phase out; “Open your eyes” has a precise address you can’t ignore – you.
I can’t help it, but to retell a story we all know from the illustrated Machanyaim book about how the famous Tanna Onkelos became a Jew.
When news of his conversion reached his powerful uncle — the Roman emperor Adrianos, he sent a troop of soldiers to arrest him. Non came back. Onkelos taught them all Torah, and the Gemara uses the expression “he drew them near,” (We’ll get back to that soon) and they all became Jews.
Adrianos sent another group, warning them not to talk to him about philosophy, and then another battalion, warning them not to talk to him at all. But Onkelos made them Jewish too.
The answer is given in what he told his Uncle Adrianos when he finally gave up and sent a message to his delinquent nephew asking him to come to him, promising that he won’t harm him.
“I acted on the advice that you, my uncle, gave me: I took something degraded by everyone and sold it for a profit by bringing out its qualities.”
Onkelos mastered salesmanship. He took an unpopular Torah and made it popular.
What’s the trick to making something popular?
You need to find the point in it that appeals to the person you want to interest with it; what he will gain from it; how he will benefit from it.
Onkelos connected the soldiers to Yiddishkeit by “drawing them near,” he told them about a G-d that holds a torch for them, about a G-d that stands outside their doors and protects their families.
Are you surprised that all of them became Jews?
When we talk about Moshiach to people, are we appearing to them as though we’re in a bubble detached from their reality, or are we talking to them about their life?
Are we telling them that “soon” help will come and hold on tight in the meantime — in other words implying that if they can find a quicker way, they should, especially since our solution got stuck on the road for 30 years…
Or are we telling them that help already came and there is a Moshiach in the world we could connect them to who will improve their life?
Yes. It’s selfish, but Bittul to Elokus requires first that a connection to something greater first be established.
And no, it’s not dishonest. Peace of mind and happiness is the adult version of candy growing on the trees.
When I was typing the word “bubble” in the title of this piece, I hit the “I” key instead of the “U” (their neighbors on the keyboard…) spelling “Are we Living in a Bible.” It is OK to sometimes live in a bubble if it comes from the Torah.
So, teach about Moshiach whether you feel like Noach in the Mabul and invite people to hop on to your floating bubble, or burst the bubble and discover a new world.
Either way, don’t stop talking about Moshiach.
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