The following is a transcript of the Rebbe’s remarks given in a private meeting on Av 5, 5727 (August 12, 1967), shortly after the Six-Day War, as recalled by Rabbi Chaim Gutnick of Melbourne, Australia, and published (in Hebrew) in Kfar Chabad Magazine, issue no. 806:
…Three times in our generation, G-d has granted us an opportunity for the beginning of the Redemption. But these opportunities were missed, and it is the Jewish leadership which is to blame.
The first opportunity was in 1948. You know that I have a particular enthusiasm for Rashi’s commentary on the Torah. Well, Rashi says regarding the waters of the Flood that, at first, G-d brought down “rains of blessing” upon them and waited to see if they would repent; only after they failed to do so did this turn into the very opposite of “rains of blessing,” G-d forbid.
In 1948, G-d sent “rains of blessing.” This was a time when even the Russians supported the Jewish people against the British, who had attempted to annihilate the nation of Israel. This was a time of opportunity. But the Jewish leaders stood by and debated whether or not to make mention of G-d’s name in the “Declaration of Establishment.” Thus the Redemption was put off by fifty years.
The second opportunity was the Sinai Champaign [of 1956]. If the Jewish people would have believed that their salvation would come from G-d rather than from French MIGs and British warplanes, all would have been different.
But never has there been an opportunity such as this one. This was a war won by Torah and mitzvot. There can be no doubt of this. A Jew in Moscow recited Psalms, and a Jew in Buffalo, New York, put on tefillin, and this helped the Jews defeat their enemies in the Land of Israel.
If the Jewish leaders would have utilized the opportunity to rouse the people to the observance of Torah and mitzvot, our situation today would be entirely different. Think about it: a young man in Israel was summoned, handed an Uzi, and told: “Leave your wife and children at home and go to El-Arish to fight.” In every war there are draft-dodgers; here, no Jew, not even one for whom the word “Jew” is nothing more than an appellation, refused to fight. It was a time when the entire people of Israel were in a state of “We shall do and we shall hear.” When this young man fought at El-Arish, his Torah and mitzvot fought for him. The Shechinah (Divine Presence) came down into the trenches to assist the soldier fighting on the borders of the Land of Israel.
If the Jewish leaders would have told that soldier to utilize the reserves of faith and courage that were revealed in him during the war toward a commitment to Torah and mitzvot, with the same “We shall do and we shall hear,” he, and the entire Jewish nation, would have responded, and everything would have been different. But again the leaders were silent, and the great opportunity was lost. They were too timid to tell the Jew the truth: that this is the time for a return to Torah.
The very first chapter of the first section of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) begins not with Maimonides’ “Thirteen Principles of Faith,” but with the Rama’s ruling that “One should not be intimidated by mockers.” Why? Because when one does not fulfill this rule, one is prevented from fulfilling the entire Shulchan Aruch. Perhaps I speak too sharply, but the Jewish leadership is bankrupt. They avoid me because they know that I will demand of them to speak the truth. Their timidness to speak the truth, contrary to the rule, “One should not be intimidated by mockers,” is holding back the Redemption.
Jews must be told to keep Torah and mitzvot. I initiated the tefillin campaign—this is only the beginning. My hope is that through the mitzvah of tefillin, the Jewish people will be brought closer to other mitzvot—to keep kosher and Shabbat, and ultimately the entire Torah. My aim is that millions of additional hands should become tefillin-wearing hands.
The Jewish people will respond when spoken to about Torah and mitzvot. Not only teenagers—also forty-year-olds, people advanced and established in their lives, are ready to hear the truth, if only their leaders will speak it to them.
We still have not lost the opportunity. It’s still not too late. Now it is August. If we will do our job, if the sheluchim will do their job and tell the world the truth, we can bring the Redemption..
. Rashi on Genesis 7:12.
. The Israeli “declaration of independence,” adopted on May 14, 1948. Most of the 37 signatories opposed any mention of G-d in the document. In the end, they compromised by including an oblique reference to “the rock of Israel” in its last paragraph.
. Cf. Exodus 24:7.
. I.e., only two months after the war.
. “Emissaries”—the men and women dispatched by the Rebbe to Jewish communities in every part of the globe to encourage the observance of Torah.