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:
- Be a king from the Davidic dynasty;
- Learn Torah consistently and practice Mitzvot like Dovid himself;
- Force (or coerce) all Jews to follow the Torah, and strengthen the Torah’s presence;
- 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:
- 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.
- 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).)
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:
- A deceased individual cannot presently be considered Moshiach.
- It is against Jewish thought to believe that a certain deceased individual will definitely become Moshiach.
- 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:
- What is the source that one could fulfill the necessary requirements by proxy?
- 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. 517–518), 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.
Here are some of the major flaws in the way they learn this sicha:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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:
- 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.
- 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:
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…”