(ספר השיחות ה'תשנ''ב, pp. 110-111).
"Emissaries have for long now disseminated chassidic wellsprings. In fact, the Previous Rebbe declared this - a mission accomplished! *
"But because the Era of Redemption still hasn't dawned, it means something remains to be done! *
"We know every generation contains a potential Moshiach (מגילת רות ברטנורא), one whom Hashem will appoint when the time is right.
(see refs. of חתם סופר ; שדי חמד)
"According to the Previous Rebbe, who is the only emissary of the generation and the only Moshiach of the generation, all work to bring Moshiach has been completed. Thus we've reached the stage that begins with "Please send with whom You originally meant to redeem them" *
שלח נא ביד תשלח (Ex. 4:13).
"In other words, the only mission that remains is to actually accept the countenance of Moshiach - which will effectually enable Moshiach to proceed and redeem all Jews from exile!" *
* A chassid now has a more important mission to discharge!
* Normally the Rebbe would here insert the instructions that "remain to be done". Instead, he first discusses Moshiach's identity - for only thereafter can he deliver his intended instruction!
* When Moses beseeched God to let Moshiach take the Jews out from exile to their ultimate redemption.
* Note that this is a KEY requirement without which Moshiach is stuck in an inoperative mode!
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Until that Motzei Shabbath (Chayei-Sarah 1991), Jewry had Maimonides to guide them on how to prepare for Moshiach. A Jew, he wrote, must "... believe in Moshiach ... he will come any day, and even if he tarries, ... still await him." But now the Rebbe ratcheted up this preparedness from a dormant, inactive state to one that calls for action. The Rebbe in effect said, "awaiting" Moshiach is over! From now on, he said, "Your task is - to receive the countenance of Moshiach!" (לקבל פני משיח)
Whereas Maimonides just mentioned the bare word "Moshiach", the Rebbe spoke of the "Countenance of Moshiach". Maimonides used the passive verb to "wait for"; The Rebbe, in contrast, used the active verb "to receive" (or "to accept"). He transformed preparing for Moshiach from hopefulness to a pursuit.
As the Rebbe once said to Chief Rabbi of Israel, Mordechai Eliyahu, ע''ה, in 1992, "The redemption stands at the door's threshold and awaits for every Jew to open the door and drag the redemption in!" Dragging is much more than sitting with arms folded and waiting.
Intuitively, for those who regard the Rebbe as Moshiach, and not just as a peak-profile personality, the Rebbe's words resonate clearly. To them it means - acknowledging the Rebbe as Moshiach! As if to say, "The only thing remaining for Jews to do is to accept Moshiach for who he is!"
Had the Rebbe simply said our task is "to receive Moshiach" (לקבל משיח), omitting reference to countenance (פני), there would have been no point to it. How can we "receive" or "accept" someone we don't know? To just say "receive Moshiach" removes the identity factor! It would make no sense asking his followers to receive a generic personage.
On the other hand, the Rebbe would never just come out and say "I am Moshiach" (explained here). Instead, he used an indirect figure of speech to say the same thing! To ask Jewry "to receive the countenance of Moshiach" is an ingenious way to say the same thing!
Countenance (פני) in Hebrew means "face", as if to say "accept him - he whom you recognize". It can also mean "inner essence", as if to say "accept him - and what he stands for". Or, a 3rd meaning of לקבל פני is "to greet someone", as if to say "prepare to greet him". All meanings fit the Rebbe's agenda.
The overall impression the Rebbe left on those who would deny he meant himself is, on its own, not bad. They felt he meant that emissaries (and all Jews whom they can influence) shift their yearnings for Moshiach into high gear and imbue the enterprise with more vigor. How? By delving into Moshiach literature and anticipate the imminent Era of Redemption. Furthermore, this attitude and expectation should infuse us with gusto to prepare for Moshiach's arrival. And while Chabad itself was already percolating with this expectant energy, especially in the latter years, it must now trickle down to embrace and galvanize all of world Jewry. While this is a glorious agenda, the identity of Moshiach is safely sidelined, and therefore NOT what the Rebbe meant!
The Rebbe never used words that lacked precision. The above identity-free understanding of "receiving Moshiach" cannot comprise the entire sweep of the Rebbe's words. He meant something of earth-shaking import because his whole speech served to initiate a new mission - and to retire previous priorities. He demanded all his emissaries to adopt a new mindset from which to project from now on. No matter what their activities had been until now, from now on a new mission supersedes all previous protocol. The emissary must reconfigure his approach to imbue first and foremost this new approach the Rebbe here set forth. In fact, said the Rebbe, if this new approach cannot permeate every interaction and aspect of an emissary's functions, that emissary will have failed his mission!
It stands to reason this new agenda means to get everybody on board to accept the Rebbe as Moshiach. This new mission does not invalidate former duties of an emissary; Instead it becomes the essence of all duties, the axis that traverses through all other activity to bind them collectively into a new, vital perspective. As the Rebbe himself said it, this was "the gate through which from now on all outreach activity must pass through".
Where else do we use the phrase "accepting the countenance"? We find it in the Jewish custom of making a "reception of countenance" (קבלת פנים), the final formality before the bride and groom enter under the wedding canopy's ceremony. After the hall is rented, the kesuva (כתובה) has been written and signed, the flowers, food and drinks are in place, the band and photographers, and the guests, have arrived and are waiting; Everything is prepared! The last function before the wedding, therefore, is - the קבלת פנים.
Similarly, by use of this phrase, the Rebbe hints to us that everything necessary for the Era of the Final Redemption is in place, ready to go. Only one final קבלת פנים is necessary - namely - accepting the Rebbe as Moshiach - so he can do his job - for, as he often reminded us, there can be no king without a people. In other words, it is incumbent upon Jewry to appoint the king for the king to be able to do his job. As the Rebbe said, in the above excerpt, only that acceptance "... will effectually enable Moshiach to proceed and redeem all Jews from exile!"
We also find this term (קבלת פנים) as we greet the Shabbos in song (לכה דודי) Friday night (פני שבת נקבלה). Shabbos, in essence, symbolizes the utopia for which the world was created in the 1st place, that Era of Ultimate Redemption Moshiach wants to usher in now, if only we accept him as the living King Moshiach!