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Dreams of Redemption

A “Poetry in Motion” display in the New York City subway is titled “Heaven,” and it begins,

“It will be the past …

“Not as it was to live

“but as it is remembered.”

Is that how we imagine heaven? A trip back to the nostalgic past?

Our view of the past is colored by our experiences and perceptions. We don’t remember it as it was but as we would have liked it to be. We filter out the negative and remember only the beautiful parts.

Many people similarly think about Moshiach as a trip back to the past. Each day in our prayers we say, “May the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days.” There was a Holy Temple, two in fact, and they were destroyed. Moshiach will come and rebuild the Temple, and we will all go back to Israel and relive the glory days of the past.

But is that all?

Did we have to go through all this time in exile just to get back to the starting point?

Studying Chassidus makes us realize that the future Redemption is not about going back at all.

In a letter to Israeli president Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi, the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes:

“From the day I went to cheder and even before that, I began to weave in my mind an image of the future Redemption—the Redemption of the Jewish people from its final exile, a Redemption in such a manner that all the suffering and persecution of exile will make sense… It will be in such a manner that we say wholeheartedly and with complete understanding, “On that day it will be said, ‘I thank you, G-d, for You have been angry with me.’”

The Rebbe did not envision Moshiach to come and fix his or the world’s problems, or restore the world to a previous state of perfection. The Rebbe desired something much more than that.

He wanted a Redemption that would make us thank G-d for the exile. A Redemption that will make us say, Yep, I get it now. I see how none of this could have happened without the years and generations of pain that came before it.

And the Rebbe did not just dream about it. He made it happen. He sent out emissaries and set up a network of institutions around the world with one mission—to prepare the world for Moshiach. He charged all of us with the task of spreading goodness, to do one more mitzvah, to brighten someone’s day and thus bring light to the entire world.

And he made us desire Moshiach with the same longing and intensity that he himself experienced. He communicated his passion to us with such urgency that we could not help but be caught up in it, to be as driven as the Rebbe himself is to bring Moshiach.

When we approach the third of Tammuz, the day the Rebbe’s physical body was concealed from us, many are seized with longing and nostalgia for the past. We badly want to hear the Rebbe’s voice, receive his guidance and advice on both personal and global matters.

But the Rebbe does not want us to dwell on the past. Not now. We have work to do. We need to channel that longing into action—purposeful deeds that will bring about the complete revelation of Moshiach. We don’t want the past—we want to go towards the future, which will be incomparably greater than anything we’ve experienced thus far. It will have all the benefits of the past plus something more—and that “something” is our effort, the efforts of all the Jewish people since the beginning of time. Rebbe, we are ready.



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