WE NEED TO KNOW “WHO IS WHO”. . .
My Father-in-law the [Previous] Rebbe related (Sefer Hasichos 5704 p. 131) that after the first few times that the Alter Rebbe came back from Mezeritch, when they found out that he is associated with Chassidim, his father-in-law was removed from his honorable position which he held, and, understandably, the persecution of the Alter Rebbe was very great.
Nevertheless, the Alter Rebbe had a minyan who were mekushar to him. Amongst that minyan was Reb Shlomo “lekach macher” (the baker), as this was his livelihood, to bake cakes for the Seudois Mitzva – because in those times it was not the norm to eat cake, only at a Seudas Mitzva – and through this he was acquainted with all the Torah scholars in the city who were invited to the Seudas Mitzva to honor the participants.
This Reb Shlomo related that in the year 5531 (1771) [that means yet during the lifetime of the Maggid] the Alter Rebbe farbrenged with his mekusharim in the shloshas yemei hagbala (three days of preparation). In that farbrengen the Alter Rebbe spoke about what is written in the Torah (Yisro 19,9), that Hashem says to Moshe Rabeinu “Vegam becho ya’aminu le’olam” (“they will also believe in you [Moses] forever”).
The Alter Rebbe asked: that at first glance this seems to be a form of bribery? After Moshe having successfully fulfilled his objective of bringing the Jewish people to Mt. Sinai, Hashem therefore reassures him that “they will also believe in you forever”? The Alter Rebbe quotes the commentary Ibn Ezra who explains that until then the Jewish people were dubious about Nevuah (prophecy). Although it is written (Beshalacha 14, 31) “they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant”, but it does not say that ALL Jews believed, there were those that had their doubts, and in that context Hashem promises Moshe “they will also believe in you forever”.
The RaMBaN rejects the Ibn Ezra’s explanation, because it is difficult to say that the Jewish people were skeptic in their faith in prophecy, and the RaMBaN offers an alternative explanation. However, the Alter Rebbe upholds the Ibn Ezra’s explanation, adding the clarification, that all Jews did indeed have faith in the concept of prophecy, but they were skeptic if Moshe was THE prophet! As the previous Rebbe phrased it: they had doubts “who is who” - thus the promise: they will also believe in you forever.
The Alter Rebbe concluded: The fact that there is a Rebbe everyone believes; so we have to know that the Rebbe was the Baal-Shem-Tov, and in this generation the Rebbe is the [Mezritcher] Maggid. The Zohar (Tikunei Zohar tikkun 69 (114b)) says “Ispashtusa d’Moshe b’chol doro ve’doro” - there is an extension of Moshe continued in every generation. As everything is also found in the revealed part of the Torah, this appears in the Midrash (Esther Rabba 6;2): that there is no generation that does not have the equal of Moshe and our Patriarchs. Everyone who believes in the words of the Sages, take it for granted that this is so, the question is though, “who is who”?
It is clear that in the generation of the Baal Shem Tov it was the Baal Shem Tov; following that it was the Maggid; then the Alter Rebbe etc.until our generation it is the Rebbe my father-inlaw. When the previous Rebbe told this story (in 5704 - 1944) he added that this was “tidings” from 175 years ago. If it was clear then, how much more so now.
When the Rebbe my father-in-law announced in his “Kol Koira’s” (public proclamations) about “L’alter L’T’shuva L’Alter L’Geula” immediate T’shuva (repentance) immediate Redemption, the Rebbe’s chassidim (followers) disseminated these proclamations about the imminent coming of Moshiach, and they added that “the Rebbe is the one”!
An individual then came to a Tzadik of another Chassidic group, complaining to him: how can the Lubavitcher chassidim be permitted to spread the proclamation about Moshiach’s imminent arrival, especially when they are adding his identity - that it is the Rebbe?!
The Tzadik of that chassidic group answered him: “Let us consider” - we all believe that Moshiach will come every day, as many say daily in the “Ani maamin” [13 articles of faith] (some people recite it daily, some think about it - but all believe it) so Moshiach is here! You know it’s not you, I know it’s not me, someone must be Moshiach, so why should you care if it is the Lubavitcher Rebbe!
Similarly, the abovementioned Zohar and Medrash clearly state that there is a Rebbe, there is no one that meets the criterion, so when the question is asked “who is who”, the answer is simple “he is the one”; first the Baal Shem Tov, then the Maggid, the Alter Rebbe etc. until the Rebbe my father-in-law!
(Shabbos Parshas Nasso 5720)