by Rabbi Avraham Kotlarsky
The fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel (the Rebbe Maharash), had a chasid who was a successful businessman. Before undertaking any significant deal, he always consulted the Rebbe and followed his instructions.
One time, the chasid was offered a fabulous opportunity. If successful--and most certainly it would be--he would make millions. The deal, however, required that he invest almost his entire fortune. Before the chasid would make such a major move, he set off to the city of Lubavitch to seek the Rebbe's advice.
After hearing the details of the proposition the Rebbe Maharash told him that he should not go through with the deal.
The chasid was stunned. He tried to convince the Rebbe that this was a sound proposal; he described all of the great profits to be made, but to no avail. The Rebbe's answer was final: NO!
A few days later, the would-be business partners came to the chasid. When they heard that he was not interested, based upon the Rebbe's answer, they began to laugh at him. "Certainly you didn't understand the Rebbe's words," they told him. "And anyway, maybe there were some important details you left out that would solicit a different answer. After all," they said, "isn't there a saying that 'according to how you ask, that is how you're answered'? Go back to the Rebbe and make sure to tell him all the details. You'll see, the answer will be different this time."
Back to Lubavitch the chasid went. "Rebbe," he pleaded, "obviously I did not explain myself well enough last time. We're talking about tremendous sums of money. I can become rich overnight and give much tzedaka [charity] as well..."
The Rebbe listened patiently once again, and at the end of the presentation his answer was simple and direct: "No. It's not worthwhile."
The chasid made his way home, thinking about all the money he could have made, if only the Rebbe would have agreed. "The Rebbe doesn't even explain his reasons," thought the chasid.
But his friends and family wouldn't let up. "It's forbidden to lose such an opportunity," they cried. "Go back to the Rebbe again and certainly the answer will be different."
In his third attempt, the chasid tried everything, even begging the Rebbe to let him make the deal, but the Rebbe answered once again: "No."
When the chasid came home, he couldn't stand up to the pressure of family and friends, and contrary to the Rebbe's advice, he signed the deal. He quieted his conscience by telling himself that he would now really give a lot of tzedaka.
Unfortunately, things did not go well. In a short while, the chasid lost all his money.
The chasid realized how wrong it was to not follow the Rebbe's instruction. Full of regret, he made his way back a fourth time to see the Rebbe.
The chasid spent a long time in private with the Rebbe. When he came out, he revealed only one thing the Rebbe had told him.
"There are people," said the Rebbe, "big businessmen among them, who come to ask my advice concerning important matters. Sometimes the issues are quite complex; matters which I have never engaged in, nor did my ancestors. So then why do they ask me my advice, and follow my instructions and counsel?
"There are three answers, each one matching a different type of Jew who comes to me.
"One person thinks, 'It's very simple. The Rebbe has Ruach HaKodesh--Divine Inspiration! The Rebbe is a G-dly man, a prophet. It is G-d's words coming from his mouth and therefore we must follow him, no questions asked!'
"Another type," continued the Rebbe, "is a person who operates on a different level, somewhat more down to earth. 'The Rebbe studies Torah all the time and serves G-d with his entire being. His intellect is totally nullified to G-d's Will. Therefore, everything he says stems from Torah and certainly his words will be fulfilled.'
"The third type," explained the Rebbe, "says, 'The Rebbe meets so many people, from all over the world and from all walks of life. He has acquired an incredibly broad knowledge of worldly matters. With this knowledge and his ability to see things from many different angles, the Rebbe sees what others cannot. Therefore, we must listen to him.'
"Whichever group you might belong to," the Rebbe Maharash concluded, "you should never have gone through with the deal after hearing from me not once, not twice, but three times clearly 'no!'"
* * *
I remember the morning of Gimmel Tammuz 5754/1994, when I walked into the Chabad House for Sunday morning services. One of the people who had come to pray asked me, "What do we do now?"
What do we do now? The Rebbe told us that the Redemption is at the door; that we must prepare ourselves and the whole world for the revelation of Moshiach. It was true that even while the Rebbe was critically ill we believed that G-d would heal the Rebbe; that the Redemption we so eagerly awaited and anticipated would be heralded in with the revelation of the Rebbe as Moshiach, and that he would miraculously lead us to the Holy Land.
What now? Who will lead us on? Was the Rebbe wrong? Is the Redemption, after all, a beautiful dream to take place in another time, another place, but not in this "real" world of sorrow and pain?
Some people see in the Rebbe a great charismatic leader. Others see a Torah genius. Others emphasize the Rebbe's knack for finding the right button to push in the hearts of his followers, his admirers, or any stranger who approached him at Sunday dollars.* Others speak of the Rebbe's organizational skills and his foresight that has put him light-years ahead of prevailing thought.
The final word is that the Rebbe is a G-dly man. The Rebbe is not "us-plus," so to speak, a person who is merely more brilliant, more sensitive, more insightful, more spiritual, and capable of leadership than we. Rather, his teachings and personal life reveal him to be carved from a different substance altogether. His every word--carefully chosen and full of meaning; his every move--calculated, corresponding to Divine Emanations in a world concealed from our sight; someone transplanted from another world, to bring light to a darkened world, to lead the final generation of exile to Redemption.
The Rebbe is revealed to each person as he perceives the Rebbe. Like the three types of Jews who came to the Rebbe Maharash, every individual relates to the Rebbe on a different level.
Not once, not twice, nor three times, but literally hundreds of times--publicly and privately, in writing and verbally--the Rebbe has told all Jews of this generation what we must do in these last moments before the Redemption:
"Do everything you can to bring Moshiach, here and now." (28 Nisan, 5751/1991)
"...Publicize to all people that we have merited that G-d has chosen and appointed an individual incomparably greater than all other people in this generation as the judge, adviser and prophet of the generation to give instructions and advice in both the Divine service and daily activities of all Jews ... up to and including the main prophecy, "Redemption is imminent" and "Moshiach is coming." (Shabbat Shoftim, 5751/1991)
"All the service that was expected of the Jewish people in exile has been completed and perfected and we are now ready to receive Moshiach ... Moshiach not only exists, but is also revealed. All that remains is for us to receive and greet Moshiach in actual fact." (Shabbat Vayeira, 5752/1991)
"Every sheliach [emissary of the Rebbe] must prepare himself and all the Jews of his neighborhood, city, etc., to greet Moshiach through explaining the concept of Moshiach, as discussed in the Written and Oral Torah, in a way that each and every individual can relate to .... Since this is the necessary service of the time, it is self-understood that this is incumbent upon every single Jew, without any exception." (Shabbat Chayei Sara, 5752/1991)
The Rebbe has told us to learn more about Moshiach and the Redemption; to start "living with Moshiach" by increasing our acts of kindness and mitzvot; to share this message with others.
Whatever group we belong to, regardless of how we define ourselves and at what level of faith we may operate, we should listen to the Rebbe.
There is no question that all that the Rebbe said will be fulfilled. There is no question that what the Rebbe said is not open now to reinterpretation. There is no question that we will see the Redemption very soon unfold before our eyes, precisely as the Rebbe said. There is no question what we must do now, for everything the Rebbe has said to us, all of the directions that he has given to this generation, must continue on and with greater strength, with more vigor and vitality.
We are the generation of the Redemption. And we will make it happen. Let us commit ourselves to fulfilling the Rebbe's directives, and then we will be able to see the realization of the Rebbe's most important prophecy, the revelation of Moshiach in the true and complete Redemption.
*. In the years 1986-1992, the Rebbe, every Sunday, personally distributed to each of the thousands of visitors who came to receive his blessings a dollar to give to charity.
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