Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It was Thursday, on the eve of the 28th of Nissan in the year 5751 (1991) – 30 years ago. The Lubavitcher Rebbe went to the resting of his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, earlier that day, and after Maariv he addressed the assembled crowd.

Towards the end of his address (sichah), the Rebbe spoke very sharply about the fact that although people were constantly talking about Moshiach, Moshiach hadn’t come yet. He said, “I did everything I could. From now on, you do everything you can to bring Moshiach.”

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The tone of the sichah was very frightening, and the Rebbe used many sharp expressions. Chassidim were extremely concerned. Was there a hidden message in the Rebbe’s words “I did everything I could?” Was the Rebbe hinting at his departure from this world? Of course no chassid would think that way, but what did those words mean? The sichah shook chassidim to the core.

On the Rebbe’s statement, one can ask a two-fold question: If the Rebbe did everything he could, why didn’t Moshiach come? And if he didn’t succeed in bringing Moshiach, how can we? What did the Rebbe mean when he said he was transferring the job to bring Moshiach to us? These are questions every person should ask himself in the privacy of his soul.

Here is one possible answer: The Rebbe once spoke about a tzaddik who would give you a berachah if you requested something material – health, sustenance, shidduchim, etc. But if you requested a berachah for yiras shamayim, he wouldn’t give it. He would quote the Gemara that “everything is in the hands of G-d besides yiras shomayim.” The decision to fear or not fear G-d is entirely our own. G-d doesn’t take away freedom of choice from anyone.

For Moshiach to come, two things are necessary: First, the world must be prepared. There must be sufficient merits – enough Torah and mitzvos – in the Moshiach “bank.” Second, every single one of us must want Moshiach to come. The Rebbe was able to make sure the first condition was fulfilled, but he couldn’t fulfill the second condition. Only we – each and every one of us – can fulfill it. The freedom of choice to want Moshiach is in our hands.

So perhaps the Rebbe meant to say: “I did my part. There are enough merits in the Moshiach ‘bank’ for Moshiach to come. But now you must complete the job. Every single person must truthfully want Moshiach to come.”

So let us work on ourselves to want Moshiach to come teikef u’miyad mamosh – immediately – and take us out of galus. Not tomorrow morning. Now!

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Rabbi Shmuel M Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at Lubavitchyouth@gmail.com.