1944. It’s a number of great significance. For many people 1944 marked the year they were deported from their homes and lost their families and loved ones in one of the Nazi extermination camps. But this time we are not referring to that Holocaust, but to one of a different sort, in many ways of greater magnitude than the one we suffered so recently in Europe. We refer to the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which took place on the 9th of Av in the Hebrew year 3828, 1944 years ago.
Since then almost 2000 years have passed and we wait with bated breath for the true and complete Redemption. A Redemption that will bring peace to the entire world, and health and prosperity for all of mankind – a perfect fusion of material and spiritual perfection. But we remain in exile, a state that grows more baffling with each day that passes, for not only are we in exile. G-d is in exile as well, concealed from us, unable to fully express Himself in this world.
Every year the Jewish people fast on the 9th of Av, expressing our pain as well as our faith and longing. Pain over the long exile, over the many souls who were lost; longing for the Redemption and faith that it will materialize at last.
Every generation has shared the same feelings, the same longing. But our generation is different. We have merited to hear the declaration of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the prophecy, that we are the final generation of exile and the first of Redemption.
Our sages have described a number of signs that characterize the end times immediately prior to the Redemption, all of which we have seen fulfilled in our generation: a breakdown of the traditional family; a decline of moral values; disrespect of elders and authority figures; a lack of true leadership; and bizarre weather events.
The Talmud relates that shortly after the destruction of the Temple, four great sages were taking a stroll together: Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Joshua ben Hananya, Rabbi Gamliel the Nasi and Rabbi Akiba. They passed the site of the Temple and suddenly they saw a fox dart out of the hallowed ground that had housed the Holy of Holies. All the sages cried, but Rabbi Akiba laughed. In astonishment, the sages asked for an explanation. He replied that as long as he had not seen the prophecies of destruction fulfilled in their entirety he was unsure whether the Redemption would be fulfilled literally. But now that he saw the embodiment of the prophecy of destruction, he was confident that the positive prophecies would definitely be fulfilled.
This, perhaps, explains why our generation in particular has an especial longing and faith in Redemption. We have witnessed the fulfillment of all the negative prophecies, and then some. It is time that the encouraging prophecies in the Torah be fulfilled as well.
Our generation has an even greater advantage over the previous generations, in that we have heard the Rebbe’s prophecies and witnessed how they were fulfilled. The Rebbe predicted the miraculous victory of Israel in the six-day war and the miracles in the Gulf War; he also predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union. Years before anyone dreamed of this possibility, the Rebbe instructed his chassidim to prepare for massive immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel. The Redemption is already underway; it is up to us to do the final preparations and we will merit to witness the full flowering of this glorious era.