The Rebbe once said to a Gerer Chasid namedRabbi Neiman, The world says that I am crazy about Moshiachand they areabsolutely right!
Indeed, if there is one thing that the Rebbe and Chabadin general are known for, it is their fervent belief in the imminent arrival ofMoshiach. This teleological driving force was at the root of everything theRebbe said and did. But what does this actually mean, and what does it have todo with the Rebbes Positivity Bias?
Without getting too deep into the finer points of Jewishphilosophy and prophecy, Moshiach is the main developing character, bothperpetually absent and potentially present at all times, throughout our storyof Creation and Redemption. His inevitable arrival will signal the ultimateredemption and goal of history, when the world will be made right and truthwill be as clear as day for all to see.
The Rebbes belief in Moshiachas the culmination of the Divine/human drama gave him and all those he inspiredmore than a hope, but rather a vivid faith in the ultimately positive outcometo all of the worlds bitter exiles and alienations.
A foundational aspect of this is that we all have ourwork cut out for us in order for it to occur; we are charged with spirituallypreparing ourselves and the world for redemption. From this perspective,history has been a millenia-long crash-course on bringing Moshiach into ourmidst from out of the hovering realms of pure poetic potential.
It is this very combination of belief in Gds ultimategoodness and in our own personal power to positively impact the world thatforms the basis of the Rebbes Positivity Bias.
The Rebbe believed that we are living in Messianic times.From when he was a small child, the Rebbe dreamed of that imminent great day,and despite the immensely challenging times he lived through, he never stoppednursing that dream. In a letteraddressed to Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, the second president of Israel, the Rebbe wrote:
From the time when I was a child attendingcheder, and even earlier than that, there began to take form in my mind avision of the future redemptionthe redemption of Israel from its last exile,redemption such as would explain the suffering, the decrees, and the massacresof exile.
In many ways, this dream is what made the Rebbe uniqueamong other towering Jewish figures of our time. Most leaders see their lifeand impact in terms of their specific generation, but the Rebbe viewed his rolethrough the wider lens of history in its entirety. He saw his generation as awhole, while at the same time also as a small but critical part of a muchlarger super-structure and meta-process.
Therefore, wherever you look in the Rebbes teachings,there it is: the dream of Moshiach. Sometimes implicit, but more oftenexplicit, in almost every one of his talks and letters, the Rebbe reveals theaspiration that is closest to his heart: A burning desire to see our imperfectworld enter into an era of peace and wholeness, devoid of war and suffering,replete with revealed goodness and the pursuit of Gdly knowledge.
Indeed, the Rebbe most clearly articulated the contoursof this dream on the very night he assumed the mantle of Chabad-Lubavitchleadership, 10 Shevat, 5711 (1951), in his discourse entitled Bati Lgani.
In this, his first public teaching as Rebbe, he citescenturies of Midrashic history, revealing this worlds ultimate importance toGd as His garden and most-desired abode, as well as its simultaneousspiritual vacancythe Shechinah (the DivinePresence) is in exilewaitingto be welcomed back home. And this is where we come in. As Gds entrustedgardeners, it is our job to maintain and cultivate the world for Gdseternal residence.
In the words of the Rebbe on the very night he assumedthat name, after thousands of years of baby steps and quantum leaps, going allthe way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it is up to us to completethe job and usher in the final redemption.
There it is: The Rebbes world-redeeming dream. Nothingless than bringing humanity across the finish line of history and ushering inthe Messianic era.
One of the axiomatic teachings regardingMoshiach that the Rebbe would often share is that Moshiach willnot come to change reality; rather, he will expose reality for what it trulyis.
In support of this idea, he would often say that theHebrew word for exile has the same letters as the Hebrew word for redemptionexcept for the addition of the letter alef. Alef is the very first letter in the Hebrewalphabet.
Numerically, alef equals oneand therefore represents the Divine Oneness inherent within all of reality.
Paradoxically, the word elef,spelled the same as alef, means one thousand,implying multiplicity. Furthermore, the letter alef isessentially silent, having no sound of its ownmerely giving breath to vowelsand voice to movement.
Alef, therefore, represents thesilent presence of ultimate unity concealed beneath the surface of the strivingand suffering world of multiplicity, just waiting to be revealed. Moshiach willempower us all to hear and see the silent and invisible alefin exile, thereby transforming it into redemption, once and for all.
In this seemingly simple word-play, the Rebbe is pointingout a powerful paradigm shift in our understanding of Moshiach.
Moshiach does not mean the articulation of a totallydifferent word or world. The letters or infrastructure of our lives and theuniverse will fundamentally stay the same, except that the alefwill be revealed, quietly smiling at us out of the tumult of our experiences,revealing the garden of oneness within.
The Rebbe was once asked: If you could chooseany era in history in which to live, which would it be?
This one, he answered immediately.
Throughout his myriad spiritual teachings, his inspiringpersonal interactions, and his bold public outreach projects, the Rebbespiritually developed and actively expressed the idea that we are the lastgeneration of exile and the first of Redemption.
We are thus living on the transitional cusp of anunfathomable evolution of consciousnessa spiritual revolution. This is both anunbelievable privilege and an awesome responsibility, as our individual andcollective lives are literally and metaphorically laying the final stones forthe bridge between exile and redemption.
Based on this eschatological understanding of where weare in the process of history, the Rebbe saw the signs of Moshiachs imminentarrival everywherefrom world events to social trends, and advances intechnology and medicine. From his inaugural address, and on thousands ofoccassions thereafter, the Rebbe declared it his mission to empower others tosee the world through a similar lens, to understand and appreciate the natureof the miraculous and meaningful times we are living through, to get a glimpseof the hidden alef within the world and eventsswirling around us.
Traditionally, the vast multitude of Biblical propheciesrelating to the redemption have been viewed through a supernatural lens, andwere thus considered as being irreconcilably removed from our daily reality andexperience. They were understood as miraculous aberrations, and therefore asclear signs of Divine intervention.
Today, however, according to the Rebbe, many of theprophesied miracles pertaining to the Messianic era have begun to come intoexistence at varying degrees of actualization. As such, the fulfillment of thewords of the prophets no longer requires a wild imagination or blind leap offaith to behold. According to the Rebbe, it is more a matter of opening oureyes to see beneath the surface of natural events and advances, in order torecognize the Hand of the Creator at work in history.
The Rebbe saw in the rise of feminism the beginningstages of Jeremiahs prophecy: For the Lrd has createdsomething new on the earth, a woman shall rise above a man.
In many countries and cultures the world over there hascontinued to be a general shift in the direction of including and advancingwomens voices, issues, and rights. Today, women are increasingly gainingpolitical power and make up more than a fifth of members of national parliaments,and counting.
Similarly, as we have explored, the Rebbe saw in theemergent counterculture of the 1960s, many examples of prophesiedsocio-generational shifts and conflicts that would occur leading up to thearrival of Moshiach; for example, the words of Isaiah that theyouth will be insolent and rebellious towards their elders.
Rather than interpreting those words apocalyptically, theRebbe chose to focus on the potential positive outcomes of such radicalexpressions of youth, and thereby sought to validate them and strengthen theirgood points.
The Rebbe, along with various other Chasidic leaders,including his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, felt what they considered tobe the beginnings of the birth pangsof Moshiach in the various cataclysmic events of the 20th century, particularlyWorld War II.
In related fashion, the Rebbe sawthe Six-Day War, and the corresponding mass spiritual awakening and immigrationof impassioned Jews moving to Israel, as a symbolic nod to Isaiahs prophecythat It will come to pass on that day that the great shofarwill sound. The prophecygoes on to describe the in-gathering of Jews lostand dispersed in exile, as they return to Jerusalemin the final redemption.
With the appearance of various communication technologiesover the course of the 20th centuryfrom the phone to radio to television tothe beginnings of the internetthe Rebbe saw the potential, not for morediscord and confusion, but for more communication and connection. Additionally,with the introduction of the World Wide Web, by making all informationaccessible to the furthest reaches of the globe, the groundwork has been laidfor the world to be filled with the word of Gd,literally!
This redemptive view of the world is the ultimateexpression of the Rebbes Positivity Bias. Wars, revolutions, uprisings, rapidshifts in consciousnessas unsettling as these things may be to our lives inthe moment and to the established order of the dayare ultimately leading ustowards a more perfect union, a higher system of truth and harmony. This wasthe unyielding faith of the Rebbe.
The Time is now! The world is ready formore light!Are we?
Can we keep our composure and direction amid what appearsto be the madness of a new world being born? Can we hold on to the promise ofgoodness and Gdliness revealed? Can we see through the brokenness and not losehope? This takes work and faith. The work of developing and maintaining apositive outlook to keep moving toward the light. We need faith that the sparksreally are there, waiting to be acknowledged and uplifted.
Indeed, despite what the pessimists will have us believe,we are actually living in unprecedented good times. Rather than regressing,which is what it often feels like, our world is progressing, and at breakneckspeed. But it often takes the cultivation of a positive and expansive outlookto see the resplendent forest through the smoldering trees.
In January 2018, Time Magazine welcomed Bill Gates as its first guest editor inits 94-year history. Gates designed the edition around a mindset that he hadendorsed for years: optimism. He then invited the worlds greatest minds andexperts on world progress to share their findings. In an interview he gaveexplaining why he decided to edit an issue of Time,he explained:
Reading the news today doesnt exactly leave you feelingoptimistic. But many of the awful events we read about have happened in thecontext of a bigger, positive trend. On the whole, the world is getting muchbetter.
This is not some naively optimistic view; its backed bydata.
According to Swedish economic historian named JohanNorberg, who wrote an important book on the topic called Progress:
If someone had told you in 1990 that over the next 25years world hunger would decline by 40%, child mortality would halve, andextreme poverty would fall by three quarters, youd have told them they were anaive fool.
But the fools were right. This is truly what hashappened.
And not just that:
For most of human history worldwide, life expectancy wasaround thirty years. Today, in most developed parts of the world, it is overeighty. By 2030, it will reach over ninety years in certain parts of the world.
In the 1990s there were more than 60,000 nuclear armsaround the world, but by 2018, that number had fallen to approximately 10,000nuclear arms.
Two hundred years ago, 90% of the world lived in extremepoverty; today that number is 10%.
Indeed, according to the prominent Israeli publicintellectual Yuval Harari, more people die today from eating too much than fromeating too little.
Through too many medical advances to count, today thelame are dancing with the aid of prosthetics, the blind can see, as 80% ofvisual impairment has already been cured,and through stem cell research scientists are well on their way to curingdeafness,bringing to life the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah: Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deafunstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer.
As pointed out by the Rebbe in one of his talks,even the UN, despite its many intrigues and imperfections, channeled thisMessianic energy of the time when it decided to prominently display theprophetic words of Isaiah: And then they will beat their swords into ploughshares, andnations will learn war no more in the entrance hall, expressing anintention to work towards the redemptive cause of lasting international peace.
The list goes on. And each new miracle reveals thefulfillment on some level of yet another prophetic vision related to thedawning of the Messianic age of Redemption according to our prophets of old.
Gates concludes his interview: This issue of Time [is] a crash course in why and how the world isimproving. I hope youll be inspired to make it even better.
On a cold Tuesday night in February, 1992,just two years before passing away at the age of 92, the Rebbe could be seenstanding at the front of Chabad Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway for hoursand hours on end. Personally greeting the thousands who had lined up, the Rebbehanded each person a freshly printed copy of what would be the very lastdiscourse he edited and distributed before his passing.
Opening with the verse (Exodus 27:20) VeatahTetzavehAnd you will connect/commandthis discourse has come tobe considered the Rebbes last ethical will and testament.
Along with his first public discourse, Bati Lgani, it provides a kind of bookend to the more thanforty years of his transformational teachings.
In it, among many other things, the Rebbe acknowledgesand articulates certain unique historical and spiritual aspects of Jewishexperience in the current day and age. The Rebbe cited the well-known rabbinicmetaphor comparing the Jew to an olive, because his inner oil and light areonly revealed when he is crushed. The Rebbe then states that historicallyspeaking, the Jewish People were most productive and pious when they werecrushed through harsh decrees, oppressions, and massacres.
These externally-imposed conditions activated asuper-rational dimension of the soul, which allowed our ancestors to stubbornlyand miraculously hold fast to their Jewish traditions and faith in the face ofdeath, disgrace, and ostracization.
But we are all familiar with the saying, It is easier tofight for ones principles than to live up to them. According to the Rebbe,this is precisely the existential situation in which contemporary Jews findthemselves. For now, with the disappearance of the vast majority of daily,systematic threats to the Jewish ways of life, the modern Jew is faced with aneven bigger challenge: To find the inspiration within to be willing to live asa Jew, and not just to be willing to die as one.
Additionally, following the European Enlightenment, thegeneral societal trend in the Western World has been a decrease in organizedexpressions of religiosity and a corresponding increased slide towards secularhumanism. While outwardly this may appear to many as a sign of spiritualdegeneration, the Rebbe recognized it for the opportunity that it was. For thisis but another way in which the Jew of today is free of many of the externalpressures to engage and express his commitment to Jewish faith and identitythat prevailed in the past. The modern Jew, according to the Rebbe, isincreasingly left to his or her own devices to connect with their Jewishcommunity, heritage, and tradition.
The Rebbe saw Jewish history through the lens of a humanlife. Like a baby, whose first steps and development require constant hands-onattention and reassuring affection, the Jewish People in their national infancyduring Biblical times required overt miracles and revealed Gdliness to helpthem learn to walk out of Egypt. This spiritual caretaking continued as Israelgrew up through Divine revelations, and under the wing of priests and prophets,judges and kings. But as time passed, the Jewish People continued to maturespiritually, and along with this maturation the revealed presence andprovidence of Gd diminished correspondingly. This journey has created the conditionsfor us to grow into our own faith and develop a connection with Gd and aspiritual worldview that comes from within, without external pressure or evenrevelation. This has given us the exceptional opportunity to manifest theultimate, deepest, and highest level of faith.
For so long as a Jews compliance with the Will of Gdis externally motivatedhowever commendable such motivation is in itselfit isnot yet quite complete, said the Rebbe in 1991.
Indeed, it is clear from many public talks andpronouncements during this period, that the Rebbe was very consciouslypreparing his followers and future admirers for his departure. Through it all,one radical message consistently rings loud and clear: We all must becomeself-starters. We cannot rely on help from without, not even throughfaith-awakening hardship, let alone external positive support, constantguidance, and new teachings. We must find that eternal light within our ownsouls and ignite it, not once, but over and over again, through good deeds, thecultivation of a positive and providential perspective, and passionateexpressions of holiness and faith.
What else can I do so that all Jewish People shouldagitate, truthfully cry out, and effectively bring Moshiach in actuality. Weare still in exile. and more importantly, in an internal exile with regards toserving Gd, cried out the Rebbe in the spring of 1991. The only thing I cando is give it over to you: Do all you can to actually bring our righteousMoshiach, immediately and directly. I have done my part, from now on you mustdo all that you can.
Perhaps, in statements such as these, the Rebbe wasalluding to the fact that the time had come, and we were now ready, for each ofus to become a tzaddik and reveal the Rebbe within.
In the winter of 1992, around the same time as thepublication of Vatah Tetzaveh, Gabriel Erem, the CEOand publisher of Lifestyles Magazine, approached theRebbe as he distributed dollars. On the occasion of your 90th birthday, Eremtold the Rebbe, we are publishing a special issue What is your message to theworld?
Ninety, the Rebbe replied, is the value of the Hebrewletter tzaddik. The meaning of the word tzaddik, is a truly righteous person, [the highestspiritual attribution]. And that is a direct indication that it is in the powerof every Jew to become a real tzaddik, a righteousperson, and indeed they should do so for many years, until 120 (for the restof their life).
This message, the Rebbe added, applies equally tonon-Jews as well.
Traditionally, the word tzaddikhas been applied exclusively to saintly leaders of exceptional spiritualstature, but in this instance, and increasingly towards the end of his life,the Rebbe applied it to everyone.
It is no longer enough for an elite caste of holy leadersto tend to Gds garden. We must, each and every one of us, accept Gdsinvitation to play our role in the final phase of the meta-historical drama ofworld redemption.
This democratization of Divine responsibility isprecisely the paradigmatic shift the Rebbe sought to inspire and strengthenwithin each individual, the Jewish People, and humanity as a whole.
From the redemptive dream of a precocious child to adaring vision of cosmic renewal, the stories and teachings explored throughoutthe course of this book all in some sense culminate in the Rebbes clarion callto action:
Our generation is uniquely positioned to calibrate theconditions for monumental shift. The future is up to each one of us. Become thetzaddik you already are. The world is Gds garden;we are each its humble gardeners. Care for it and beautify it in the way thatonly you can.
We are no longer waiting for Moshiach, Moshiach iswaiting for us!
A new day is approaching; lets awakenthe dawn.
Read the original:
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