chapter  3
16 Pages

Prophecy: Social Scientific Perspectives and Lubavitch

BySimon Dein

In June 1994 the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, died. For many years his faithful followers had maintained that he was Moshiach, the Jewish Messiah who would usher in the Redemption. The Lubavitch had invested much time and money publicising this idea through newspapers, billboards and radio broadcasts. Not only were they bereft of their spiritual leader but more importantly his ‘unexpected’ death at the age of 92 created a crisis of belief among Lubavitchers: how could the promised Jewish Messiah die? Unlike Christian messianism, it is believed that the Jewish Messiah will usher in the Redemption during his lifetime. Menachem Schneerson’s death should therefore invalidate his messianic status. And in fact, nearly 17 years after his death the majority of Lubavitchers no longer assert that he is Moshiach. However, a small but significant group – the Messianists – maintain that he is Moshiach. For them his death was purely illusory and they proclaim ‘Just open your eyes and you can see him.’