TEL AVIV (Aug. 20)
Jews have nothing to fear from the present crisis in the Persian Gulf, because it fulfills a midrashic prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, according to the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
The 87-year-old rebbe, quoted Monday in the Jerusalem Post, spoke of the armed confrontation in the Persian Gulf, saying, “The events do not have to disturb the spiritual and physical peace of a single Jew, because they are a preparation and preface for the actual coming of the Messiah.”
The rebbe cautioned against panic in his weekly Shabbat homily from Lubavitch world headquarters in Brooklyn, assuring his 25,000 followers worldwide that since Jews have nothing to fear, there is no need to be concerned with obtaining gas masks for protection against an Iraqi poison gas attack.
Many Orthodox Jews have asked their rabbis if it is permissible to shave off their beards in order to wear the masks.
Last Friday, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, issued a ruling that religious Jews should start carrying scissors with them at all times so that they may cut off their beards on short notice if necessary to don masks and thus save their lives.
Eliahu reminded Orthodox Jews that saving one’s life takes precedence over the biblical injunction against shaving.
The Lubavitcher rebbe’s approach, however, interpreted the events of the past year, especially the Gulf crisis, as a realization of the midrashic prophecy concerning the year the Messiah will appear.
The midrash, written between the 4th century BCE and 11th century C.E., is an exposition of the underlying significance of biblical texts.
Schneerson said the midrash tells of a great agitation involving many nations that will culminate in a confrontation in the Gulf.
The cataclysm is said to herald the coming of the Messiah, who will stand on the roof of the Temple and announce to Israel, “The time of your redemption has come,” the Post quoted the rebbe as saying.
Orthodox Jews believe the coming of the messiah will be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead and the establishment of the kingdom of God for the righteous all over the world.
The Lubavitcher rebbe urged his followers to help hasten the day by increasing the number of public Torah-study sessions.