How is the subject of Moshiach approached in our camp?
As we know, the Rebbe, right from the start of his leadership, spoke frequently and forcefully about Moshiach and how his arrival is imminent. Over the years, he spoke about it even more often and in stronger terms, with many explanations of the last two chapters of the Rambam and other places in the Torah that deal with the subject. Starting especially in the 1980’s, the subject became a regular feature of his public addresses, and most particularly after the famous sicha of 28th Nissan, 5751 (1991), when he declared with deep-felt emotion that he was giving the task of bringing Moshiach to us. Throughout the almost a year following until his unfortunate stroke on 27th Adar I, 5752 (1992), he regularly spoke about the imminence of Moshiach’s coming, urging us to study subjects of Moshiach and the Geula as they appear in Torah sources and in his own Likkutei Sichos. Doing so, he said, enables us to “live with Moshiach” and become closer to life as it will be after Moshiach comes.
Clearly, such a central concept of Jewish belief, particularly one emphasized so strongly by the Rebbe throughout his leadership, not only cannot be ignored but by necessity must be an integral thread permeating everything that happens in camp. As the Rebbe often urged, we prepare ourselves both by learning these subjects and also by increasing acts of goodness and kindness, especially by increasing our Ahavas Yisroel towards all other Jews.
This emphasis isn’t new, of course. Ever since Chabad camps started during the 1950’s, the subject has always played a central role in every camp’s program – as we see also in the earliest camp songs, which are still sung. One song is “We want Moshiach now,” which the Rebbe enthusiastically embraced and adopted as his own, so to speak, even defending it against attacks from various quarters.
During the early years of the first Chabad boys’ camp, a well-known head of a non-Chassidic yeshiva sent his son there. The Rebbe himself visited there and spoke a sicha to the campers. When the father later came on visiting day, his son was very excited. “The Rebbe told us Moshiach is coming soon!”
“Isn’t that what I’ve always been telling you?” said his father.
“Sure, Tatte.” said the boy. “But he means it!”
Does the emphasis on Moshiach cause discomfort to campers not used to it until now?
On the contrary, we work hard to make sure every camper should feel as comfortable as he would at home. The subject of Moshiach is not “pushed” on anyone, but is taught as an integral expression of Yiddishkeit and the Rebbe’s teachings. No camper is compelled to participate in any activities to which he is unaccustomed, including in saying “Yechi…,” which most campers (following widespread Chassidic custom) say at especially holy times such as after the Torah reading, after all prayer services, and after saying the “12 P’sukim and Maamorei Chazal” that the Rebbe urged all children to learn by heart.
The many years of our camp have consistently shown how children tend to revel enthusiastically in this beautifully encouraging message of hope and prayer for a wonderful future, free of all troubles presently besetting our world. This message of hope raises their sense of confidence, giving them a positive view of life, an experience they come to love.
But no camper is ever penalized in any way for not participating, nor does he lose points for his bunk, nor do we tolerate other campers pestering those who don’t participate. And our counselors are carefully trained not to allow any child to feel uncomfortable for any reason while at camp.