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May 24, 1991 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-05-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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64

FRIDAY, MAY 24, 1991

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DEBRA NUSSBAUM COHEN

Special to The Jewish News

A

fervor has gripped the
Lubavitch commun-
ity.
With the gleam of divine
promise in their eyes, mem-
bers of this Chasidic move-
ment report that Messianic
redemption is imminent.
Around the clock, in
yeshivot around the world,
Lubavitcher men gather to
study the laws of the Mes-
sianic age.
Some, known all their
lives by secular names, have
assumed more traditional
Jewish names, citing the
legend that the Jews in
Egypt merited redemption
in part because they refused
to adopt Egyptian names.
Posters in storefront
windows throughout the
Crown Heights section of
Brooklyn, where the move-
ment is based, advertise
speeches devoted to the su-
ject of Messianism.
A full-page advertisement,
signed by 20 Lubavitcher
and other Chasidic commun-
ity leaders, ran last week in
several New York English-
and Yiddish-language Jewish
newspapers.
"We must sincerely realize
that the Gulf war and its ac-
companying miracles mean
the imminent arrival of
Mashiach (the Messiah),"
the ad, under the headline
"An Urgent Message,"
stated.
The sense of mission which
ordinarily fuels the
Chasidim's efforts has in-
tensified. The ante has been
upped.
In a recent address to his
followers, the Lubavitcher
rebbe, Menachem Schneer-
son, exhorted his followers to
study Jewish law, to do good
deeds, and to do everything
they can to hasten the ar-
rival of the Messiah.
"What more can I do to
motivate the entire Jewish
people to clamor and cry out,
and thus actually bring
about the coming of Mes-
siah?" the rebbe cried out.
"All that has been done un-
til now has been to no avail.
"Now do everything you
can to bring the Messiah,
here and now, immedi-
ately," he said.
For his followers, in Crown
Heights and around the
world, it was a call to action.

Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a
reporter for the Jewish Tele-
graphic Agency.

One Crown Heights Chasid
said it was "like a fever
sweeping through here, like
a brush fire."
The revered rebbe's plea
was the latest indicator that
the day of redemption is
near, say his followers, the
latest in a series of signs
which began with the out-
break of the Persian Gulf
war.
Chasidim point to the
Messianic prophecies of
Isaiah and to the 13th-
century midrash, Yalkut
Shimoni, which foretells
that in the year of the Mes-
siah's arrival, the ruler of
Persia (interpreted by
Lubavitch to mean Iraq) will
clash with the king of
Arabia.
The Lubavitcher rebbe
himself has said, as his
followers are fond of re-
peating, that this is a year of
great wonders.
Expectation of the Messiah
is a tenet of Jewish faith,
and this is not the first time
that the day of his arrival
has been awaited so expec-
tantly. Earlier generations
of Jews, in their fervent
desire to witness the
redemption, have followed
men who proved to be false
Messiahs.
Among the most famous
was Shabbtai Tzvi, the 17th-
century Turkish kabbalist
who proclaimed himself the
savior, attracting large
numbers of followers
throughout the Near East.
He later converted to Islam
but, despite his apostasy,
many followers did not lose
their faith.
The movement survived,
and was transmuted into
messianic Frankism in mid-
18th-century Poland at the
hands of Jacob. Leibovicz
Frank, who ultimately
began posing as the newly
arisen Jesus, appointing 12
apostles before being im-
prisoned by order of the
papal court.

Today nearly every member
of the Lubavitch community
agrees that the rebbe has that
potential to be the Mashiach.
Some even say, privately, that
he is the Messiah. But they
hesitate to do so publicly.

"Is he the most likely can-
didate? Can he be (the Mes-
siah)? Most certainly,"
asserted Rabbi Avrohom
Hecht, president of the Rab-
binical Alliance of America.
"I can't think of a more
likely candidate," agreed
Rabbi Friedman. ❑

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