The Moshiach Controversy

A level-headed examination of the major questions plaguing Lubavitch

A Treatise on the Moshiach Controversy

Introduction

Over the past few years, I’ve done some research on the many questions about Moshiach and Rebbe and Dor Hashvi’i that have been buzzing in Lubavitch since Gimmel Tammuz. More recently, after having some discussions/debates with others about these very issues, I thought it would be worthwhile to record my findings and share them with others, for the benefit of myself, and you, the reader.

While being aware that these issues quickly bring up a lot of passion on both sides of the spectrum, I hope that you’ll be able to remain calm and see this subject as I see it. I like to hope I’m an intellectually honest person; if you bring up a valid point or source that I may have missed or misinterpreted, I will openly admit I am wrong and revise my views accordingly. I am simply a young Chossid searching for the truth: the truth of Moshiach, the truth of the Rebbe, and the truth of what he taught us.

An important note: historical perspective is relevant in any conversation, but especially in this one. There are a great many occurrences that transpired in the last few years before Gimmel Tammuz which have not been published. It is imperative to discover these things and verify them, while at the same time realizing how little we young people know about what happened in those years, “behind closed doors”. Nevertheless, while there are others who have taken an historical perspective on the issues at hand, I’m approaching the subject from more of an academic perspective, examining the relevant sources and determining what holds up to scrutiny and what doesn’t.

I hope you will find this blog to bring a little more honest truth and discovery to these issues. Please join the discussion in the comments. Just remember to keep it civil, and more importantly, productive. If you have nothing intelligent to add to the conversation, don’t bother commenting.

* * *

Table of Contents

Part I: Saying Yechi
A. The Rebbe as Moshiach
1. The Rebbe was a very good candidate for the job.
2. “It is the belief of every Chossid that his Rebbe is Moshiach.”
B. Did the Rebbe want us to say Yechi?
1. “This is a specific and general war against me!”
2. “They tear me to pieces!”
3. “I should get up and leave!”
C. Did the Rebbe change his mind?
1. The “Non-Answers”
2. The 5753-4 Era

Part II: Is the Rebbe Moshiach?
A. The Jewish (and Chassidic) view on identifying who is Moshiach
1. Who is Moshiach?
2. Moshiach from the Dead
B. Can Moshiach come from the dead?
1. The Gemara and Commentaries
2. The Rebbe’s Explanation
C. But isn’t it still possible that the Rebbe will be Moshiach?
1. The Rebbe is “Alive”
2. “The Least Among You Can Resurrect the Dead”
D. What did the Rebbe say?
1. Didn’t the Rebbe Say the Frierdiker Rebbe is Moshiach?
2. “Every Chossid believes with complete faith that his Rebbe is Moshiach”
3. Moshiach’s Name

Conclusion: Our Beliefs and Behavior Today

Advertisements

Part I: Saying Yechi

In this section, we will examine the Rebbe’s stance on publicizing that he is Moshiach. Please note that this entire discussion is about (publicizing and) saying Yechi before Gimmel Tammuz (in Part II below, we will address the post-Gimmel Tammuz era).

A. The Rebbe as Moshiach

At the time (before Gimmel Tammuz), it was the accepted belief among Chassidim that the Rebbe is Moshiach. There are a few reasons for this:

1. The Rebbe was a very good candidate for the job.

In Hilchos Melachim ch. 11, the Rambam lists the qualifications that someone who is Moshiach would have, and, save for a little interpretation, they fit the Rebbe well. The Rebbe is a descendant of Beis Dovid; the Rebbe was a leader (not exactly a “king”, but who is a king nowadays?); the Rebbe obviously fulfilled the condition of toiling in Torah and Mitzvos; the Rebbe was bringing many thousands of Jewish people back to Torah (=”forcing” in a nice way); and as for “fighting the wars of Hashem”, first of all we can forgive one condition (“wars of Hashem” doesn’t really even exist nowadays, right?). And secondly, the Rebbe was politically involved in actual wars, as well as disputes for the sake of Hashem, so maybe that’s close enough.

In short, according to the identification method that the Rambam set forth, it seemed acceptable — appropriate, even — to assume the Rebbe was Moshiach.

2. It is the belief of chassidim that their Rebbe would be Moshiach.

[There are many hints among the Rebbe’s vast works that he could be considered Moshiach, starting from his very first ma’amar, basi l’gani 5711. However, I won’t go into those; why do we need hints if it’s stated explicitly?]

In his sicha of Parshas Naso, 5720, the Rebbe told a story of when the Frierdiker Rebbe came out with his announcement “l’alter l’teshuva l’alter l’ge’ulah”, and the Chassidim publicized this with the addition that it was referring to the (Frierdiker) Rebbe himself (i.e. that he is Moshiach).

In the sicha of the 5th night of Sukkos, 5747, the Rebbe said: “Chassidim in every generation believed with complete faith — and had we merited, it would have actually happened physically — that the Rebbe of his generation (like the leader of our generation) would have actually been Moshiach, had we merited it.”

In Kuntres Beis Rabeinu Sheb’bavel par. 5, the Rebbe writes, “…the leader of the generation is also the Moshiach of the generation… as is known that in every generation there is ‘one who, by his piety, is fitting to be the redeemer, and when the time comes Hashem will reveal Himself to him and will send him [to redeem the Jewish people]….’ And it is reasonable to assume that this refers to the leader of the generation, as the Gemara makes clear with regard to R’ Yehudah Hanassi: ‘Rav said… if Moshiach is of those who are currently living, it is definitely Rabbeinu Hakadosh,’ [i.e.] the leader of the generation.”

[Interestingly, it is apparent from these sources that the idea of the Rebbe being Moshiach is an idea of chassidim/talmidim. We sometimes find a completely different perspective from Rebbeim, for example R’ Akiva believing that Bar Kochba was Moshiach; or the Alter Rebbe saying that Moshiach must be a non-chassid; or in the Rebbe’s case, when in response to many who addressed their letters to “the Rebbe Melech Hamoshiach”, the Rebbe said, “when he will arrive I will give it to him.” (However, see Sanhedrin 98b, where R’ Nachman claims himself to be Moshiach.)]

For a discussion on Sefer Hasichos 5751, Tazria-Metzora footnote 67; as well as Gemara Sanhedrin 98b, see below, Part II D4 and B1 respectively.


B. Did the Rebbe want us to say Yechi?

Before we begin, it must be emphasized that nowhere, at no time, did the Rebbe ever instruct or tell anyone to publicize that he is Moshiach. This is simply an indisputable fact. Stated in other words, this movement of publicizing that the Rebbe is Moshiach was started by Chassidim, without the Rebbe’s instruction or consent, neither orally, in writing, or even hinted. Consequently, the only question here is whether or not the Rebbe eventually supported this movement.

The Rebbe’s stance on this issue couldn’t have been more plain. For this discussion, it is imperative to read this document on Publicizing the Identity of Moshiach. It is a comprehensive collection of sichos and answers (many well-known by anyone who was around at the time) that the Rebbe said about publicizing that he is Moshiach. From the entire collection, the Rebbe’s position is abundantly clear that he was adamantly against anybody publicizing that he is Moshiach. Of them, there are three pieces that stick out in my mind:

1. “This is a specific and general war against me!”

In the month of Iyar, 5744, Rabbi Wolpo wanted to print his book “Yechi Hamelech,” in which he attempt to demonstrate, with numerous hints, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach. After he sent the Rebbe the book’s proofs, he immediately received the Rebbe’s answer, written in the Rebbe’s handwriting, and read over the telephone by Rabbi Hodakov. The Rebbe’s words were:

“Telephone him in my name the following:

“It is apparent that he is feigning as though he doesn’t understand what I already answered before, that it is possible to do much damage to Chabad, rachmana litzlan, and to the spreading of the wellsprings, through writing on this theme – and my intention was mainly to him; enough said.

“Now I warn him that he must stop speaking, writing, and how much more so, publicizing, especially in print, anything pertaining to Moshiach – whether in his own name, under an assumed name, through an intermediary or the like – with whatever kuntz he may concoct, and in whatever format or manner that may be. And if, chas v’sholom, he goes ahead and does anything in this regard, he should know clearly that this is a specific and general war against me.

“Obviously the above includes any interpretations of matters regarding Moshiach in the Rambam or other Seforim, Chassidic discourses and anything of the like.”

It may seem astounding that the Rebbe would tell someone not to talk about anything related to Moshiach, but in Rabbi Wolpo’s case, such a measure was necessary. (This is also evident from the fact that he did not listen to the Rebbe, but still kept talking in this manner as before, and asking the Rebbe again multiple times (!) to “rethink” his answer.)

The Rebbe said something similar publicly in a sicha on Shabbos Parshas Bereishis, 5745:

“Therefore, let it be known: Anyone who continues with these activities – is an opponent who fights against Chassidus Chabad, against Nosi Doreinu, the Baal Shem Tov, and even Malka Moshicha… who wants to come… but [can’t, because this person] is furthering people from Chassidus, rachmana litzlan!”

The Rebbe is saying that someone who makes it his business to publicize that the Rebbe is Moshiach, is waging a personal war against the Rebbe. The reason for this is simple. The Rebbe worked his entire life toward one goal: to bring an unprecedented number of Jewish people back to Yiddishkeit, by creating a worldwide network of Shluchim who would spread Yiddishkeit and Chassidus throughout the entire world. However, publicizing that the Rebbe is Moshiach has the effect of alienating people from Yiddishkeit and Chassidus. It follows, that someone who publicizes that the Rebbe is Moshiach is destroying everything the Rebbe worked for all his life.

In simple terms: those who publicize that the Rebbe is Moshiach (including saying Yechi), are literally fighting the Rebbe and everything he stood for. Can someone like that really be called a chossid of the Rebbe?

2. “They tear me to pieces!”

During the yechidus of Rabbi Tuvya Floss, a Chabad activist from Israel, the Rebbe, among other things, spoke strongly and sharply of Chassidim in Israel (even mentioning names) who go around in the streets announcing the Lubavitcher Rebbe is King Moshiach. The expression the Rebbe used to describe how he felt about this was:

“When they do things like this they tear me to pieces!”

After hearing this, how can any chossid of the Rebbe allow anyone to say Yechi, let alone say it himself?! Even if there was a doubt of a doubt that a chossid could be causing this to his Rebbe, he should be trembling!

3. “I should get up and leave!”

On Shabbos Parshas Noach, Mar-Cheshvan 4, 5752, Chassidim started the farbrengen by singing the “Yechi… Melech HaMoshiach…” [most reports say it was “chayolei adoneinu”]. When they finished singing the Rebbe said:

“This is extremely absurd. Here a song is sung with such words, while I sit here at the table… The truth is that I really should get up and leave!

“As for why I am not leaving – first of all, whether I do or I don’t, it anyway would not help; and secondly, it would upset the goal of ‘sheves achim gam yachad’ (‘brethren sit even together’) – for if I leave others too will leave, and automatically this opportunity for ‘brethren sit even together’ would be lost. Everyone knows how important this is – as the Rashbi elaborates in the Zohar…”

Can you imagine what would have happened had the Rebbe left the farbrengen? Would he have ever held another farbrengen for chassidim again? Would he have ever said another sicha to the Chassidim after that? What would us chassidim have had to do to regain the Rebbe’s favor? The implications of such a thing are unimaginable.

So consider this: every time someone says or sings Yechi, the Rebbe gets up and leaves. Now let me ask you: would you want to be in a room within which the Rebbe can’t bear to be? In my estimation, if Yechi is sung anywhere publicly, every chossid should be compelled to promptly stand up and leave.


C. Did the Rebbe change his mind?

Notwithstanding the very clear position the Rebbe took in this matter, there were — and still are — many Lubavitchers who believe that the Rebbe “changed his mind” about this issue. This notion itself, chutzpadik as it is, is also baseless, seeing as how the Rebbe consistently stood steadfast in his stance that nobody should publicize him as Moshiach. So where does this notion come from?

As stated above, the Rebbe never explicitly supported publicizing him as Moshiach. As such, all we have are non-explicit (neither orally nor in writing) “hints”, that, if interpreted a certain way, may indicate that the Rebbe supported the movement.

It is self-understood, however, that something the Rebbe said explicitly multiple times — both orally and in writing — in the strongest of terms, can’t be overturned by “hints”, which are neither explicit orally nor in writing. This is an essential problem with any and all of the so-called proofs for saying Yechi. That said, let’s still bring these proofs and see why they can’t be accepted for other reasons as well.

1. The “Non-Answers”

In the last few months before 27 Adar, there were a few times that the Rebbe didn’t specifically say not to publicize him as Moshiach. One example:

In the month of Shvat, 5752, Rabbi Bernard of South Africa asked: In the past the Rebbe expressed his will strongly against calling him Moshiach, but was this still against his will? The Rebbe answered:

“It depends on the conditions in the place it is done. It is up to your local Chabad leadership to decide.”

Some people take this as a “proof” that the Rebbe started allowing chassidim to publicize him as Moshiach. However, besides for the obvious problem mentioned above (that non-answers can’t overturn clear answers), there is another fundamental problem with this proof, and the others like it: At the very same time that the Rebbe gave these answers, and after the Rebbe gave these answers, he still held steadfast (in other answers) to his adamant position against publicizing him as Moshiach (— sometimes to the very same people), as evident from the document referenced above.

But if that’s the case, why did the Rebbe leave it up to the local Chabad leaders? If he was still against the movement, why didn’t he answer as such, as he did all other times? A possible, very simple explanation: The Rebbe had — for close to 10 years — made his position as clear as he possibly could, and now he wanted us to get the message. He wanted chassidim to stop pestering him about their mistaken ideologies, and finally accept the Rebbe’s position in this matter. This is evident from the answer the Rebbe gave to N’shei Chabad:

In Adar I, 5752, the management of Neshei Chabad Organization of New York wrote to the Rebbe about their plan to publicize throughout the world that the Rebbe was Moshiach. The Rebbe answered:

“The job of every management, the aforementioned included, is to manage in the way it understands, and not to ask me to mediate on every subject, that I should be the manager. A notice [to me] is enough, and this should be obvious.”

It’s obvious that in this answer the Rebbe wasn’t encouraging or discouraging publicizing that he is Moshiach. It wasn’t even about that. The Rebbe here is scolding the management of N’shei Chabad for turning to him at every juncture. As he says, “not to ask me to mediate on every subject, that I should be the manager…” The Rebbe is a busy man, and shouldn’t have to deal with every time someone gets it into their head that “maybe the Rebbe changed his mind.” The Rebbe’s position was clear, and he wanted us to finally get on the same page as him.

Let me give you a mundane example: suppose my 3 year old daughter wakes me up at 5:00 am every morning by walking into the bedroom, and I want that to stop. So I sit her down a few nights in a row and explain how sleep is important and ask her to play quietly outside the bedroom until we wake up. At the same time, I lock the bedroom door to ensure she won’t come in. It goes on like this for a few months, until one night, I knowingly leave the bedroom door unlocked. Now, as an objective observer, what would you automatically assume: that a) I have changed my mind, and I now allow and even want my daughter to come in and wake me up every morning; or that b) by now I trust my daughter and don’t think she’ll come in even if the door happens to be unlocked?

Sometimes, all we need to do is take an objective look at something to see the truth of it.

2. The 5753-4 Era

For a year and a half beginning in Tishrei 5753, the Rebbe would be brought to the window, and later onto the balcony, above the shul in 770. There, he would encourage the singing of the chassidim, which for the most part consisted of Yechi.

This, in addition to alleged answers that the Rebbe gave (through nodding or shaking his head), led chassidim to believe that the Rebbe had now changed his position, and that it was now appropriate to publicize that the Rebbe is Moshiach. (It’s important to note that during that time, the Rebbe also gave answers against publicizing he is Moshiach.)

However, there are serious problems with this proof:

1. The same question could be asked as above, whether this encouragement of singing Yechi (a “hint”) in and of itself could overturn the Rebbe’s clear and oft-stated policy not to publicize him as Moshiach.

2. The Rebbe already explained why he didn’t leave the farbrengen at which chassidim were singing Yechi: because it wouldn’t help! In other words, the Rebbe knew that no matter what he did or didn’t do, chassidim wouldn’t listen to him; they would still sing Yechi. So what difference would it have made to the Rebbe if he sat still or waved with his hand; the chassidim did whatever they wanted anyway… (see below.)
[Additionally, the Rebbe also explained that he didn’t leave because it would be counterproductive to the goal of “sheves achim gam yachad.” The same logic could be applied here, that sitting together with his chassidim and communicating with them in some way is a loftier goal than disabusing them of their erroneous ideology.]

However, notwithstanding the baselessness — and sheer chutzpah — of the claim that the Rebbe changed his mind, that doesn’t bother me, as it could be forgiven as a mistake. What really bothers me about this “proof” is the audacity and insensitivity to remember this era (5753-4) for anything good. Before any knee-jerk reactions kick in about what I’m claiming here, please allow me to explain:

Well before 27 Adar, most chassidim knew very well the Rebbe’s position on publicizing him as Moshiach (which included singing Yechi), as illustrated above. Everyone had heard about the extremely sharp answers quoted above, and they knew about the times when Yechi and “chayolei adoneinu” were sung in front of the Rebbe, and the Rebbe’s responses to them. Nevertheless, chassidim consistently (and very audaciously) persisted to sing Yechi in front of the Rebbe (before 27 Adar), and ask him if they should publicize him as Moshiach, all for the sole purpose of seeing whether or not the Rebbe “changed his mind” this time. But regardless of how many times he was asked, and how many time the Rebbe said “no!”, the Rebbe still had to disabuse the chassidim of this notion each and every single time (and if he didn’t say it in the strongest of terms, it would be (and was indeed) seen as a “green-light” by many of them). And so, the game went, with the chassidim pushing the Rebbe to his limit, and the Rebbe attempting to keep chassidim under some modicum of normalcy.

And then 27 Adar happened.

The Rebbe physically couldn’t continue playing his part of the game. One would hope that the chassidim would stop provoking. But instead, the first time the Rebbe came out to the chassidim, what did they do? The very first thing they did was put him through the same nightmare he had to endure for the previous decade. Only this time the Rebbe couldn’t do anything, besides for doing nothing. And that’s exactly what the Rebbe did: nothing. In fact, it took a few weeks of singing Yechi (incessantly) before the Rebbe even acknowledged it (specifically, they started singing Yechi when the Rebbe came out for the first time on Rosh Hashanah 5753, and the Rebbe began responding on Simchas Torah, during the fourth hakafah).

[According to some reports from that time, it seems that in the beginning not everyone sang Yechi. Instead, there were two factions which were singing two different songs simultaneously, one being Yechi, and the other being a different chassidishe niggun. The Rebbe would encourage the niggun that wasn’t Yechi, until everyone was singing that other niggun. (However, I’ve also heard contradictory reports.)]

But we (— at least the majority of us) kept at it. No matter what the Rebbe did — or didn’t do — we kept singing that song, waiting for the Rebbe to finally “change his mind”. What was left for the Rebbe to do? What could the Rebbe do? In my view, all that was left was for the Rebbe to enjoy a few moments with his chassidim, even audaciously rebellious as they were being.

Looking back at that saga, proponents of publicizing the Rebbe as Moshiach view it as a “victory”, or redemption of sorts, for their ideology. It’s not bad enough that we put the Rebbe through this nightmare, pushing him until there was absolutely nothing left for him to do. No; on top of that, we also celebrate this time and use it as the basis for our new way of thinking, as if we finally “beat” the Rebbe and got him to “change” to our side, rachmana litzlan!

You know what I think? (I know; you don’t really care. But still:) I think every single chossid, whether or not we participated in singing Yechi, regardless of whether we were even there, should bury our heads in shame for what we did to our Rebbe in that time. That entire period after 27 Adar should be considered the darkest time in Chassidic history, and remembered only for mourning. Not mourning for the Rebbe, but for chassidim. It should be remembered as the time when chassidim rose up against their Rebbe and didn’t let up, until there was absolutely no other choice…

[On a similar note, I was present recently as someone asked Rabbi Manis Friedman, that in 5753 the Rebbe allowed the printing of a sefer with “Admo”r Melech Hamoshiach” in the Rebbe’s title, which would seem to prove the Rebbe wanted us to publicize him as Moshiach. Rabbi Friedman answered (in Yiddish) that by that time “Chassidim [had] stopped listening (חסידים האבן אויפגעהערט צו פאלגן)…”]

Part II: Is the Rebbe Moshiach?

Everything we’ve said so far about publicizing the Rebbe as Moshiach — with all the proofs and answers — applies before Gimmel Tammuz. However, when approaching the era of post-Gimmel Tammuz, another problem arises. Being that the Rebbe passed away (physically etc., per Igeret Hakodesh s. 27 and many more), we now have to re-examine our very first question of whether the Rebbe is Moshiach. If we conclude that the Rebbe still remains the appropriate candidate, then everything we discussed in Part I applies. If however, we discover that the Rebbe cannot anymore be Moshiach, then the entire discussion above is moot.

Now again, before any knee-jerk reactions: I understand that this is a very controversial topic that stirs up immediate passion from many people. Nevertheless, the only way to discover what is true and what is not, is to approach the subject level-headedly, examine all the relevant sources, and see what comes up. I ask you, for the betterment of all, to please hold your instinctual rejection reflexes, and only square-off with me (if you are so inclined) on a rational and intellectual level.

A. The Jewish (and Chassidic) view on identifying who is Moshiach

1. Who is Moshiach?

Before we even go into the questions of whether or not the Rebbe could be Moshiach after Gimmel Tammuz, whether or not Moshiach can come from the dead, and so on, we need to first understand the logic — “rules”, if you will — that establishes who can and who can’t be Moshiach.

For example, am I Moshiach? Are you Moshiach? Is Moshe Rabeinu Moshiach? How do we know what makes someone a Moshiach-candidate? What disqualifies someone from being Moshiach?

As you probably know, the Rambam establishes these rules very clearly:

ואם יעמוד מלך מבית דויד הוגה בתורה ועוסק במצוות כדויד אביו, כפי תורה שבכתב ושבעל פה, ויכוף כל ישראל לילך בה ולחזק בדקה, ויילחם מלחמות ה’–הרי זה בחזקת שהוא משיח: אם עשה והצליח, וניצח כל האומות שסביביו, ובנה מקדש במקומו, וקיבץ נדחי ישראל–הרי זה משיח בוודאי

We see that there are two levels of Moshiach candidacy, and multiple requirements to reach each (we’ll dwell on the first). The first level of Moshiach candidacy is “chezkas Moshiach”, or probably Moshiach. In order to qualify, one must:

  1. Be a king from the Davidic dynasty;
  2. Learn Torah consistently and practice Mitzvot like Dovid himself;
  3. Force (or coerce) all Jews to follow the Torah, and strengthen the Torah’s presence;
  4. Fight the “wars of G-d.”

Someone who fulfills these four requirements can be considered (probably) Moshiach, while someone who doesn’t, can’t. And this even applies to someone who had been fulfilling the requirements and then stopped, no matter the reason.

This explains why I can’t be Moshiach, for example, because I fulfill none of these requirements. Moshe Rabeinu didn’t fulfill the first requirement. Many false Moshiachs didn’t fulfill the second requirement, or they stopped fulfilling it at some point, and therefore they couldn’t be considered Moshiach (any longer), and so on.

2. Moshiach from the Dead

Taking this to the logical next step: based on the above, it is obvious that someone who is not alive can’t be considered Moshiach, even if he may have been considered Moshiach during his lifetime. In a deceased state, one cannot fulfill any of the requirements necessary, so they are just as far removed from being considered Moshiach as I am (and possibly more so).

This is the plain meaning of the subsequent words of the Rambam:

ואם לא הצליח עד כה, או נהרג–בידוע שאינו זה שהבטיחה עליו תורה, והרי הוא ככל מלכי בית דויד השלמים הכשרים שמתו

Everybody dwells on the words “or [if he was] killed,” to somehow prove that just plain dying doesn’t exclude someone from being Moshiach. But (in addition to the fact that this interpretation is clearly denied in the very next sentence), in doing so, they miss the whole point. The Rambam is saying that if a person ceased doing the things required to be considered Moshiach — regardless whether he’s alive or dead — he cannot be considered Moshiach any longer. He may be (or he may have been) the greatest man who ever lived. But if he’s not fulfilling those requirements, then we can’t (anymore) consider him to be Moshiach.

All of this is very basic in our beliefs, and is well known. And, incidentally, this is also the fundamental principle that separates the way we identify Moshiach, with the way other religions (l’havdil) do. In other religions, there is a specific individual who is identified as the “messiah”, regardless of what he is doing (or not doing). Even if he is entirely dead, he can still retain the title “messiah”. But for us, a person only retains the title “Moshiach” for as long as he is fulfilling the requirements.

What emerges from this principle — related to our discussion — is twofold:

  1. It is unacceptable to apply the title “Moshiach” (let alone “Melech Hamoshiach”) to someone who is currently deceased (this precludes the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach). To be sure, one will never find such a notion suggested anywhere in Torah.
  2. Similarly, it is unacceptable to believe with certainty that a specific deceased individual will definitely become Moshiach (this precludes the belief that the Rebbe will become Moshiach). In this case as well, one would be hard pressed to find such a belief suggested anywhere in Torah.

[To expand on point 2: if one were to believe with certainty that a specific deceased individual will definitely become Moshiach (to the exclusion of everyone else), then he is obviously basing his criteria for identifying Moshiach on something other than the requirements listed by the Rambam. Even worse, he is determining the identity of Moshiach regardless of the individual’s actions (or lack thereof), which contradicts the fundamental principle stated above. Therefore, this belief is necessarily negated by the Rambam.]

B. Can Moshiach come from the dead?

From all the above, we already know that a deceased person can’t currently be considered Moshiach. We also know that it is unacceptable to believe with certainty that a deceased individual will become Moshiach. All that’s left to ask, then, is: is it possible for a deceased individual to become Moshiach? And that is what we’ll address here.

1. The Gemara and Commentaries

The foremost source brought to support the view that a deceased individual can become Moshiach is in Gemara, Sanhedrin 98b. There it says:

אמר רב אי מן חייא הוא כגון רבינו הקדוש אי מן מתיא הוא כגון דניאל איש חמודות

Before we make up our own interpretations to explain this Gemara, let’s have a look at Rashi, generally considered the most straightforward of commentaries:

אי מן חייא הוא כגון רבינו הקדוש. אם משיח מאותן שחיים עכשיו ודאי היינו רבינו הקדוש דסובל תחלואים וחסיד גמור הוה… ואם היה מאותן שמתו כבר היה דניאל איש חמודות שנדון ביסורין בגוב אריות וחסיד גמור היה

Taking a close look at the precise wording that Rashi uses, we find something extremely peculiar. In the first sentence Rashi writes in the present tense: “If Moshiach is from those who are alive now, it is definitely Rabeinu Hakadosh…” But in the second sentence he writes in the past tense: “And if he was from those who already died, it was Daniel Ish Chamudos…”, implying that Daniel cannot be considered Moshiach being that he is not alive. This Rashi, then, strongly supports our principle.

[The intent of this Rashi will consequently become slightly difficult to determine. We might explain Rashi’s intention to be similar to the opinion of R’ Hillel (next amud), who says King Chizkiya was Moshiach and there won’t be any other (rather, Hashem Himself will redeem us -Rashi). Admittedly, this is my own explanation of this Rashi, but that has no bearing on the fact that Rashi says היה multiple times, intentionally. I’ve encountered people who remain unimpressed by the way this Rashi is worded, and I’m not sure why.]

However, be this Rashi as it may, there is definitely a way to learn this Gemara that suggests that Daniel could, in fact, become Moshiach. We find this stated by a commentary on a similar passage in Talmud Yerushalmi Brachot 2:4 (also appears in Eicha Rabbah 1:57):

רבנן אמרי אהן מלכא משיחא אין מי חייא הוא דוד שמיה אין מי דמכייא הוא דוד שמיה

The rabbis said about king Moshiach: “If he is from the living, ‘Dovid’ is his name. If he is from the dead, ‘Dovid’ is his name.”

The Pnei Moshe enlightens this cryptic passage:

אם מן החיים הוא יהיה שמו דוד ואם מן המתים הוא יהיה דוד בעצמו

If he is from the living, “Dovid” will be his name. If he is from the deceased, it will be Dovid himself.

[Notice the choice of words: “If [Moshiach] is from the dead, it will be Dovid himself.” In other words, right now, Dovid (who is deceased) is not Moshiach, which is concurrent with our above-stated principle.]

2. The Rebbe’s Explanation

We now know that it’s possible for a deceased person to become Moshiach. Along with that, it’s obvious that in order for the currently deceased person to become Moshiach, he must first come back to life. The question then becomes, when does he come back to life? This is the very question that the Rebbe deals with on this subject.

The Rebbe, in Likutei Sichos vol. 35, p. 206 footnote 6, has a fundamental piece that teaches us how to learn this Yerushalmi, and consequently, our Gemara in Sandhedrin. In this footnote the Rebbe says (free translation interspersed with my own elucidation; you’re encouraged to look in the original):

Seemingly, we must say that King Dovid himself can’t be Melech Hamoshiach… because the initial accomplishments of Moshiach will be before the redemption, as explained in Rambam, and definitely before Techiyas Hameisim (even of those tzadikim who get up immediately, as the sages say (Yoma 5b), “Moshe and Aharon [will come] with [arrival of Moshiach]”).

(In other words: Dovid Hamelech can only feasibly become Moshiach once he comes back to life, as we said before. Presumably, this will happen at the time of Techiyas Hameisim, when all the deceased will rise from their graves. However, this scenario would not allow for Dovid to be Moshiach, who, according to the Rambam, begins his “Moshiach work” way before that time. Even were we to assume that Dovid will rise immediately upon Moshiach’s arrival, as we find some tzadikim will, that would still be too late, because even that would already be well after Moshiach must begin his work. Therefore, it would seem from this Rambam that Dovid can’t become Moshiach.)

However, see Yerushalmi Brachot and Eicha Rabbah [about] King Moshiach, [that] “If he is from the living, Dovid is his name. If he is from the dead, Dovid is his name” (If he is from the living, Dovid will be his name; and if he is from the dead, he will be Dovid himself. -Pnei Moshe)… And in Yefei Anaf on Eicha Rabbah ibid., he explains that it goes according to the opinion that Moshiach’s arrival will be after Techiyas Hameisim…

(In other words: Contrary to what we just said according to the Rambam, that Dovid can’t become Moshiach, we find in the Yerushalmi and Eicha Rabbah, that Dovid can become Moshiach. How do we resolve this discrepancy? One answer is given by the Yefei Anaf on Eicha Rabbah (brought by the Anaf Yosef), that the question of whether Dovid can become Moshiach is connected with an argument about the timing of Techiyas Hameisim. One opinion — and this is how we rule halachically — holds that Techiyas Hameisim will happen after Moshiach comes. The other opinion holds that Techiyas Hameisim will happen before Moshiach comes. According to the latter opinion, Dovid can become Moshiach after he gets up in Techiyas Hameisim, before the arrival of Moshiach. However, the Rebbe rejects this answer because it doesn’t explain the Yerushalmi according to Halacha.

[It’s even possible that the Rebbe rejects the answer of the Yefei Anaf entirely: The source of the opinion that Techiyas Hameisim will occur before Moshiach is Yoma 5b, which we brought above. Generally, we learn this Gemara to mean that in addition to the regular Techiyas Hameisim that will occur after Moshiach arrives, “essential” tzadikim will get up from the dead immediately upon his arrival. However, the Yefei Anaf interprets it as saying that all dead people will rise before Moshiach’s arrival, which then creates a new opinion on the sequence of events. It’s possible, then, that the Rebbe here is rejecting this interpretation completely, and he holds there is no opinion that states Techiyas Hameisim will occur before Moshiach’s arrival, thereby negating the possibility of Dovid becoming Moshiach altogether.])

We can suggest that the intent here is that the soul of King Dovid will vest itself within Melech Hamoshiach, similar to the concept of “Moshe is the first redeemer and the final redeemer” — even though Moshe is a Levite and Moshiach [will be] from the tribe of Yehudah — and the intent is that the soul of Moshe will vest itself within the final redeemer.

(In other words: The intent of the Yerushalmi which says Dovid can become Moshiach, is not that Dovid himself will actually become Moshiach; rather, that Dovid’s soul will vest itself in the body of Moshiach (as will the soul of Moshe).)

Elsewhere (Likutei Sichos vol. 13 p. 197), the Rebbe quotes a similar answer from the Yave”tz, and applies it to the Gemara in Sanhedrin as well.

It becomes clear from this, that the only way a deceased person can become Moshiach is if he is resurrected before the era of Moshiach begins. However, according to the Halachic sequence of events, Techiyas Hameisim occurs after the era of Moshiach begins. According to Halacha, then, it is impossible for a deceased person to become Moshiach. The only possibility is for the soul of the deceased to enter the body of Moshiach, and this, then, is the intent of the above passages.

It is important to realize that every source supporting the idea that a deceased person can become Moshiach (see Yeshuos Meshicho, Iyun 3 ch. 1 and S’dei Chemed P’as Hasadeh ma’areches 1 os 70), originates from these passages. Consequently, they will all end up at the same point: either Techiyas Hameisim happens before Moshiach (which is against Halacha), or the intention is that the soul of the deceased will vest itself in the body of Moshiach (Abarbanel, for example, explicitly states the former).

C. But isn’t it still possible for the Rebbe to be Moshiach?

So far, we have concluded that:

  1. A deceased individual cannot presently be considered Moshiach.
  2. It is against Jewish thought to believe that a certain deceased individual will definitely become Moshiach.
  3. Halachically, there is no way for a deceased individual to ever become Moshiach.

According to this, it is Halachically untenable for the Rebbe to currently be considered Moshiach or for the Rebbe to become Moshiach in the future. That notwithstanding, there are a few theories out there which attempt to explain how the Rebbe can become Moshiach — even within the parameters of Halacha.

1. The Rebbe is “Alive”

We won’t be addressing the crazy fantasies harbored by the fringe extremists (sorry to disappoint). Rather, the gist of this theory suggests that by virtue of the Rebbe’s Shluchim and Chassidim continuing the legacy and life-work of the Rebbe, by the will and word of the Rebbe, we might still consider the Rebbe himself as fulfilling the Moshiach-requirements by proxy. In this way, the Rebbe could remain Moshiach according to the Rambam, even in death. However, there are some fundamental problems with this theory:

  1. What is the source that one could fulfill the necessary requirements by proxy?
  2. Much more importantly: The Rebbe saw himself as the successor of his father in law, and merely continuing his legacy and life-work. At the very same time, we Chassidim didn’t assume the Frierdiker Rebbe was Moshiach by proxy, rather, we believed the Rebbe to be Moshiach (by virtue of the very same fact: that the Rebbe succeeded his father in law). Using this same logic, the conclusion of this theory would necessarily be that the Shluchim (and Chassidim) who carry on the Rebbe’s legacy are Moshiach.

2. “The Least Among You Can Resurrect the Dead”

This theory attempts to stretch the definition of possible. It asks: Isn’t it possible for someone to randomly be resurrected (after all, we find many resurrection stories in Gemara and Midrash)? And if so, isn’t it possible for the Rebbe to be resurrected? And if the Rebbe is then alive, isn’t it possible that he will begin anew (or continue where he left off) in fulfilling the Moshiach-requirements and becoming Moshiach? Therefore, isn’t it possible for the Rebbe to become Moshiach?

That’s the theory in a nutshell. But before we continue, I want to make clear once again: even if it is indeed “possible” for the Rebbe to become Moshiach, that still doesn’t give us the right to believe that he will become Moshiach. As we said above, identifying someone as Moshiach regardless of his present qualifications is against Halacha and normative Jewish thought.

Back to the theory. The main problem with this theory is that it is pure insanity. To demonstrate, imagine you’re sitting with a young, recently widowed woman, and you’re trying to get her to think about her future. She says, “Isn’t it possible for my recently-passed husband to be resurrected presently? I want to wait for him to come back. Can you imagine what would happen if he came back to life only to discover I’m married to another man?!”
Now, any normal person would suggest she see a doctor. But we chassidim know better: she’s absolutely right! It is possible for him to come back to life, and it makes perfect sense for her to wait…

Okay, so it’s obvious that we don’t accept the “possibility” of someone to be resurrected for any purpose. Why should this case be different? Why should we suddenly begin entertaining the idea that it’s possible for the Rebbe to be resurrected and then become Moshiach?

Because of this fundamental problem, the proponents of this theory attribute it to the Rebbe (implying, I guess, that while they wouldn’t suggest such an insane idea themselves, the Rebbe would…). The first ma’amar of the Rebbe famously ends with a wish that the Frierdiker Rebbe come back down “into a body… and he will redeem us.” Two days later (printed in Likutei Sichos vol. 2 p. 517518), the Rebbe explained his statement:

I was asked: How can I say that… the Rebbe will lead us out of exile — the order, after all, is: Moshiach’s arrival and the era of Moshiach, and only a while later will Techiyas Hameisim occur. It is brought this way in Chassidus as well.

The answer for this: Although generally the order is Moshiach’s arrival, building the Beis Hamikdash, ingathering of the exiles, Techiyas Hameisim, nevertheless, the resurrection of individuals has occurred and will occur before as well. As is known the many stories in Gemara and Midrashim and of tzadikim who resurrected the dead. And like the passage of the sages, “[even] the least of you [is able to] resurrect the dead.”

The proponents of this theory argue as follows: Firstly, didn’t we conclude that someone who rises in Techiyas Hameisim — even in the initial resurrection — can’t be Moshiach? Secondly, in order to prove a resurrection will occur before Techiyas Hameisim, the Rebbe could have brought the oft-quoted Gemara in Yoma (brought above), which states that certain tzadikim will rise when Moshiach arrives. Why does the Rebbe bring a random story of resurrection from Avodah Zarah?

It must be, they argue, that the Rebbe was taking into account the conclusion of the footnote we brought above, that someone who rises in the early resurrection of tzadikim is still too late to be Moshiach. Therefore the Rebbe brought a random story of resurrection to indicate that resurrection is generally possible, and that it is therefore possible for the Frierdiker Rebbe to become Moshiach by being resurrected (randomly) even before the early resurrection, and indeed, before Moshiach comes.

Ironclad, no?

No.

Here are some of the major flaws in the way they learn this sicha:

  1. Most fundamentally, the Rebbe is not talking about the Frierdiker Rebbe being Moshiach, rather leading his own generation during the era of Moshiach, as the Rebbe himself indicated, and will be demonstrated below (D).
  2. The Rebbe says that this resurrection will happen earlier than Techiyas Hameisim. How could the Rebbe be so sure that a random resurrection —before and separate from Moshiach’s arrival — will certainly happen? (Proponents of the theory push it even further to “prove” from here that Moshiach will definitely come from the dead (?!)). Rather, the Rebbe is obviously referring to the resurrection of select tzadikim that we know will happen upon Moshiach’s arrival.
  3. The fact that the Rebbe is referring to the resurrection of tzadikim upon Moshiach’s arrival can be simply proven by the instances where the Rebbe says the Frierdiker Rebbe will rise during the resurrection of tzadikim (for one example, see Sefer Hasichos 5752 p 298).
  4. As for why the Rebbe didn’t bring the Gemara in Yoma to prove this here: It doesn’t say in Yoma that every tzadik will rise in the early resurrection. It says that Moshe and Aharon will rise upon the arrival of Moshiach in order to teach us how to properly do the work in the Beis Hamikdash. In other words, those tzadikim who are essential for the fulfillment of Judaism in that time, will rise early. This doesn’t guarantee in any way that the Frierdiker Rebbe will rise in the early resurrection. (It’s noteworthy that in the above sicha (where the Rebbe says the Frierdiker Rebbe will rise with the tzaddikim immediately upon Moshiach’s arrival), the Rebbe doesn’t reference the Gemara in Yoma either. Rather, he references a Zohar.)

However, possibly the biggest problem with this theory is: If there is a (legitimate) way for a deceased individual to rise early and then become Moshiach, why couldn’t the Rebbe use this explanation (in the above footnote) to answer the Gemara in Sanhedrin, the Yerushalmi and the Midrash? Why did we have to explain the Yerushalmi to mean that the soul of Dovid will vest itself in the body of Moshiach? Why couldn’t we learn simply, that Dovid (or Daniel) can become Moshiach if they are brought to life randomly before Moshiach comes, and then become Moshiach naturally?

We must say, then, that this theory, imaginative as it is, doesn’t make the cut for ideas that are acceptable in Torah dialogue/Jewish thought.

[Some bring a similar sicha from Shavuot 5710 where it says that “certain privileged people will rise before Moshiach comes,” to prove the Rebbe specifically means before Moshiach comes. However, please note that this is an unedited transcription. Every mesivta-bochur knows unedited sichot may not be interpreted exactly as written (see below for a perfect example of this principle). Moreover, in the face of a very similar sicha that was edited, and the fundamental questions posed above (which apply just as well to this sicha), it would be borderline irresponsible to learn anything from the wording here. (I’ve seen it said that the original transcripts of the sicha showed no trace of this entire subject…)]

D. What did the Rebbe say?

The “proof” that is most often brought that the Rebbe can be Moshiach comes from the perception of Chassidim that the Rebbe believed the same about the Frierdiker Rebbe. This perception was born from the many times the Rebbe seemingly expressed that the Frierdiker Rebbe is or will be Moshiach, or will redeem us, beginning in his very first ma’amar, as mentioned above. In truth, however, were we to take a look into the context of what was stated, or pursue the references the Rebbe makes, we will find that the Rebbe never, ever, said any such thing.

In fact, on the 5th night of Sukkot, 5747, the Rebbe implied fairly clearly (starts around 34:55) that he used to believe the Frierdiker Rebbe to be Moshiach, but doesn’t believe so any longer (presumably due to his passing on 10 Shvat 5710.) Below is the translation from the audio:

Chassidim in every generation believed with complete faith — and had we merited, it would have actually happened physically — that the Rebbe of his generation (like the leader of our generation), would have actually been Moshiach (— had we merited).

[Note: My original intention was to bring the printed version of this sicha to prove that a chossid could believe his (deceased) Rebbe will become Moshiach. However, after listening to the audio of the original sicha (the relevant part begins at about 34:55), it is clear that the editors of Hisva’aduyos made a grave mistake in their transcription, possibly leading many chassidim to a false belief. Please compare them for yourself.

As a result, instead of this being (in my opinion) the single possible legitimate (albeit shaky) source for chassidim to believe their deceased Rebbe will become Moshiach, it turned into the greatest proof that the Rebbe did not believe the Frierdiker Rebbe could become Moshiach after his passing.

From the transcription (bold appears in original):

This name (Tzemach Tzedek) expresses the belief of chassidim, as every chossid believes with complete faith that the Rebbe of his generation — for example the leader of our generation — he is the Moshiach, and if we would only merit it, it would happen in a revealed way, seen with our eyes, Moshiach revealed.

There are two differences:

  1. The Rebbe never said that every chossid believes his Rebbe is Moshiach, rather that every chossid believed that had his generation merited, his Rebbe would have been Moshiach.
  2. The Rebbe was clearly talking in past tense (chassidim believed / had we merited / he would have actually been Moshiach), which is the greatest proof that the Rebbe did not believe the Frierdiker Rebbe was Moshiach at the time of this sicha! This small matter gets lost in the transcription…

I am especially appalled that the editors not only added the words “he is Moshiach”, but then bolded those words as well (as if the Rebbe said them with emphasis), when in truth, the Rebbe never said them at all. Let this serve as a lesson: just because it seems like (or you heard) the Rebbe said something, it doesn’t mean he actually said it.]

1. The Meaning of the Terms

Before we bring any specific examples about what the Rebbe said, we first must understand the concepts of Moshiach (as in, “he is Moshiach”) and redemption (as in, “he will redeem us”) as the Rebbe taught them to us. Besides for the traditional meaning(s) of the title “Moshiach”, there are more intimate meanings as well. In order to truly understand what the Rebbe meant in the various places, we first need to discover how the Rebbe himself understood the terms he used.

Regarding the concept of redemption:

Second day of Shavuos 5711

Regarding the passing of Moshe, we find in the Midrashim that the reason he stayed outside of Israel, is because he wanted to remain with the people of his generation, in order to take them and lead them into Eretz Yisroel [in the final redemption]…

The same is true with regard to my father-in-law, the ‘Moshe of our generation’: The reason he has remained to date outside of Eretz Yisroel is because he does not want to part from the Chassidim with whom he is bound. Therefore he remains with them, so as to take all of them — those who were completely devoted to him and even those who had any connection to him — together with him to Eretz Yisroel to the complete and true redemption.

In other words, the one who takes people out of exile (or, “redeems” them), is not necessarily Melech Hamoshiach. Like Moshe, every generation-leader will take his generation out of exile, to Eretz Yisroel, to the redemption.

Regarding the concept of Moshiach (again, in addition to the traditional meaning):

Kuntres Beis Rabeinu Sheb’bavel (brought above)

…the leader of the generation is also the Moshiach of the generation… as is known that in every generation there is ‘one who, by his piety, is fitting to be the redeemer, and when the time comes Hashem will reveal Himself to him and will send him [to redeem the Jewish people]….’ And it is reasonable to assume that this refers to the leader of the generation, as the Gemara makes clear with regard to R’ Yehudah Hanassi: ‘Rav said… if Moshiach is of those who are currently living, it is definitely Rabbeinu Hakadosh,’ [i.e.] the leader of the generation.

In other words, there is a category, called “Moshiach of the generation”, which describes the one person who, during his lifetime, is/was the most appropriate choice to be Moshiach at that time. And were Moshiach to come while that person was living, he would become Melech Hamoshiach. The Rebbe learns from Rav’s passage that it is “reasonable to assume that this refers to the leader of the generation.”

Presumably, these two concepts are related: the leader of the generation is the Moshiach of the generation (meaning that he is the one prepared to become Melech Hamoshiach when necessary). If the leader of the generation doesn’t end up being Moshiach, and passes on with the rest of his generation, he (chooses to be buried among them, and then) leads them to the final redemption when it occurs.

Now that we know and understand these different concepts and their terminology, we are able to determine the meaning of the Rebbe’s words in the various places. When the Rebbe says “he will redeem us”, it’s possible he’s referring to Moshiach, and it’s possible he’s referring to the leader of the generation (who will not be Moshiach). When the Rebbe uses the term “Moshiach”, it’s possible he’s referring to Melech Hamoshiach, and it’s also possible he’s referring to the “Moshiach of the generation”. But now that we’re familiar with the terms, it will be easy to see which ones the Rebbe said where.

2. “He will redeem us”

In the Rebbe’s first ma’amar, Basi L’gani 5711 (and many other times), the Rebbe says:

We should merit to be with the Rebbe down here in a body… and he will redeem us.

What does the Rebbe mean here: that he will redeem us as Moshiach, or that he will redeem us as the generation’s leader? In order to steer us in the right direction, the Rebbe leaves a little footnote on the bottom, pointing us to Bamidbar Rabbah 19:13, where Hashem instructs Moshe to remain in the desert with his generation, and come with them (to Eretz Yisroel) when Moshiach arrives. This is the reference in the footnote on these words. So, what do you think the Rebbe meant?

Along these same lines, we find many times (even before this ma’amar was said) the Rebbe saying that the Frierdiker Rebbe will lead us toward Moshiach (see for example Toras Menachem vol. 1 p. 16, 21). How could the Frierdiker Rebbe be Moshiach if he’s leading us toward Moshiach? If anything, this is the greatest indication of the Rebbe’s intention, that the Frierdiker Rebbe will redeem his generation as their leader.

As well, if you were to comb through all the sichos of the Rebbe, you wouldn’t find a single place where the Rebbe says the Frierdiker Rebbe will redeem all the Jews of all generations, i.e. as Moshiach. Rather, you will see that the intention of the Rebbe was simply that the Frierdiker Rebbe will lead his generation out of exile. This is the way the Rebbe understood the words as he said them, and this is the way we should understand them as well.

3. Moshiach of the Generation

There are many times in the works of the Rebbe where he refers to the Frierdiker Rebbe as Moshiach. However, in every single last one of these instances, he always appends “of the generation” to the word “Moshiach”. And I challenge you to find a single time he doesn’t.

A famous example is the night of Simchas Torah 5746, where the Rebbe said the Frierdiker Rebbe is Moshiach, and he won’t mind if chassidim take it literally. Let’s see what it says there:

The leader of the generation is Moshiach… and I won’t have any problem if one would interpret “Moshiach” literally, Moshiach Tzidkeinu, because that is the truth — the leader of the generation is Moshiach of the generation.

Simply explained: the idea of every leader of the Jewish people in his generation is, that he is the Moshe Rabeinu of his generation… And being that Moshe Rabeinu is also Moshiach Tzidkeinu (“the first redeemer is the final redeemer”), it turns out that the leader of the generation (the Moshe of the generation), is also the Moshiach Tzidkeinu of the generation.

Is there someone that can honestly read this and then claim that the Rebbe meant the Frierdiker Rebbe to actually be Moshiach?! Similarly, in every single instance that the Rebbe says the Frierdiker Rebbe is Moshiach, the Rebbe always appends the words “of the generation”, and possibly even a lengthy explanation of how the leader of the generation is the Moshiach of the generation. See also Kuntres Beis Rabeinu Sheb’bavel ch. 5, brought above.

4. Moshiach’s Name

In Sefer Hasichos 5751, Tazria-Metzora footnote 67, the Rebbe brings the Gemara in Sanhedrin 98b, where students of various schools claimed Moshiach’s name to be that of their teacher (Rebbe), with support from a pasuk. Afterwards, the Rebbe makes the same claim about the Frierdiker Rebbe, also with support from pesukim. At first glance, this proves that the Rebbe believed the Frierdiker Rebbe to be Moshiach.

However, here too the Rebbe appends a reference to steer us in the right direction. He brings a Likutei Levi Yitzchak which says that the various opinions of Moshiach’s name are not arguing. Rather, each one is describing a different element of Moshiach and relating that element to their Rebbe. (It is worth mentioning that this interpretation is advanced even by classic commentaries, for example see Maharsha.)

Once that is established, the Rebbe’s meaning is clear: we, as chassidim of the Frierdiker Rebbe, should say the same about our Rebbe: that his names are related to Moshiach as well. It is obvious, however, that the Rebbe never meant to claim the Frierdiker Rebbe actually is (or will be) Moshiach.

[Incidentally, the same could possibly be said about other places where the Rebbe says about Moshiach that “Menachem is his name”. See Sefer Hasichos 5752, Mishpatim ch. 13 f. 148; Yisro ch. 11 f. 96.]

5. The Final Argument

There are some people who, even after all this is proven to them, still argue that the Rebbe meant the Frierdiker Rebbe was Melech Hamoshiach. They argue that the Rebbe would never lead us astray, and would never plant any false ideas in our minds, even indirectly. From the fact that the Rebbe mentioned the Frierdiker Rebbe in this context so many times; and from the fact that what the Rebbe said sounds so similar to saying that he is Melech Hamoshiach; and from the fact that the Rebbe has ruach hakodesh and must have known that chassidim would interpret it that way, it must be that the Rebbe actually meant that the Frierdiker Rebbe is actually Melech Hamoshiach. To this argument I have two answers:

1. If the Rebbe wouldn’t have put those references or given that context in even a single instance out of the tens of times he mentioned it, then I would agree with you. But, think about the fact that every single time the Rebbe brings this idea, he always qualifies it. The Rebbe took pains to make sure that his words were qualified every single time. If the Rebbe would have truly believed his father in law to be Moshiach, why go through all that trouble?

2. This is how I see it: from your argument it is obvious that essentially, you agree with me. You agree that the Rebbe qualified and gave context to his statements every single time. You agree that the Rebbe went through pains to ensure he didn’t leave even one instance which states he believes the Frierdiker Rebbe to be Melech Moshiach without qualifications. Yet, you still blame your opinion on the Rebbe’s words, even though you know that’s not what he said. And your excuse? “It’s the Rebbe’s fault — after all, he knew I would interpret it this way…”

Conclusion: Our Beliefs and Behavior Today

It must be said that this entire discussion, as involved and intricate as it may be, is utterly unimportant. Arguably the biggest problem with this whole thing is the amount of attention we’ve given it over the past 20+ years. It really doesn’t make a difference who is Moshiach. And, contrary to others’ claims, it definitely doesn’t bring Moshiach faster if we spew erroneous views all over everybody we meet.

In the meantime, we really lost view of what’s important. The Rebbe wants us to know what the era of Moshiach will be like, what it means to have a Dirah B’tachtonim. The Rebbe wants us to imagine a world perfected over thousands of years of work, in which Hashem resides in a revealed fashion. And then, the Rebbe wants us to figure out what is necessary to be done in order to reach that state.

That said, for the sake of completing this topic, below are my conclusions from my findings in this discussion.

A. The Rebbe Being Moshiach

1. The Rebbe is not Moshiach. Saying that the Rebbe in his current state is Moshiach is simply against Torah, and could possibly be considered heresy, because the only place we see this belief legitimatized is in a different religion. (Those who say not to daven in a minyan with others of such belief may not be so far off…)

2. The Rebbe will not necessarily be Moshiach. Saying the Rebbe will definitely become Moshiach is essentially the same as saying he is currently Moshiach, see 1.

3. Halachically, it is not possible for the Rebbe to ever become Moshiach. Furthermore, it is highly questionable if there is any legitimate source supporting a view that says it’s possible for the Rebbe to be Moshiach, even not Halachically.

4. If you believe that it’s possible for the Rebbe to be resurrected separately from Techiyas Hameisim (even the immediate one) in order to become Moshiach, you are possibly suffering from some form of mental illness (maybe related to Separation Anxiety Disorder), and should see a doctor as soon as possible.

B. Saying Yechi

Saying Yechi before Gimmel Tammuz was bad enough: it “tears the Rebbe to pieces”, is a personal war against the Rebbe and everything he stood for, and chases the Rebbe out of the room. If a chossid were to hear Yechi announced in a public place, short of berating the announcer (which wouldn’t help in any case (as the Rebbe keenly observed)), his blood should boil, and he should get up and leave.

But now, after Gimmel Tammuz, saying Yechi is simply against Halacha and against Torah. The words of Yechi (specifically “Melech Hamoshiach”) are antithetical to Torah and are possibly heretical in nature. No frum Jew should associate himself with anyone who believes these words of Yechi to be true.

But here, it is prudent to make an important distinction:

Most Lubavitchers today who believe these words of Yechi to be true, and who believe the Rebbe is or will be Moshiach, are generally misinformed. They are not aware of the Halacha or the Torah sources, and therefore may be excused on some level for their erroneous beliefs. Even though it says that ignorance is not an excuse for learned people, and there is therefore no excuse for many Lubavitchers not to know these sources thoroughly, nevertheless we believe that Hashem definitely forgives people for their mistakes.

C. Making Moshiach a Reality

Even though this is all very harsh, it is high time for Lubavitch to wake up from our collective stupor and come to our senses about our reality. We have shirked the responsibility that the Rebbe entrusted us with for far too long. The Rebbe told us it’s up to us to make Moshiach a reality. What have we done towards this end? And even as much as we’ve done, it’s obviously not enough.

So here is an interesting exercise, which will hopefully drive home what it is the Rebbe meant for us to do: Take 10 minutes to sit down and concentrate.

Ask yourself: If I were the one in charge of the world right now, and therefore had to present a plan for making the world a Dirah B’tachtonim, what would that plan entail and how long would it take? Even better: If I had to present a plan for making my own home a Dirah B’tachtonim, how long would that take, and what would it entail? What about making my workplace a Dirah B’tachtonim?

Ask yourself: Do I even know what a Dirah B’tachtonim looks like? How does one build something when he has no idea how it’s supposed to look? What does Dirah B’tachtonim even mean?

Anyone who is seriously considering these questions, and is actively pursuing their answers, well, he is on the right path.