The messianic temptation
By MATI WAGNER
'Long live our master, our rebbe, the king messiah forever," shouted hundreds of Chabad hassidim at the end of the evening prayer in the courtyard outside Beit Menachem, the main synagogue in Kfar Chabad, the town across the road from Ben-Gurion Airport, which serves as the Lubavitch movement's Israeli headquarters.
Inside the synagogue, a bulky TV perched on a cabinet showed old videos of the movement's revered sage, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994.
Messianists, known as mashichistim, also believe that the dissemination of the idea that Schneerson is the messiah helps prepare the world for the messianic era.
"The rebbe said that learning and teaching about the days of redemption help bring it closer," says [Rabbi Yigal] Pizam. "Understanding the concept that the rebbe is mashiach helps prepare a Jew for the messianic era, which is coming any minute now. Knowing that he is the mashiach makes the idea of redemption that much more real and, therefore, brings it closer."
Yet in addition to the evening's decidedly messianic message, there was another theme: "We express our protest against the government's dangerous policies in the Holy Land," read the flyer advertising the rally.
Unlike mashichistim, mainstream Chabadniks acknowledge the death of the rebbe, although many do not rule out the possibility that he could still be the rebbe once he is resurrected. But more importantly, unlike the mashichistim, mainstream Chabadniks tend to avoid talking about Schneerson's role in end-of-days redemption unless asked directly.
Aggressive Greater Israel activism seems to go hand in hand with rigorous messianism: mashichistim tend to be the same men in black suits and hats blocking roads, passing out anti-disengagement flyers and attending demonstrations. The way they see it, strong messianic beliefs go together with taking the disengagement struggle to the streets.
(Via Bible and Interpretation News.)