Too Many Messiahs – Aryeh Pelcovits

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The Rebbe took in a deep, startled breath. He was lying on the grass, his hat crushed beneath the side of his head acting as a makeshift pillow. It was his first time coming back to life and it was taking a bit of getting used to. He took a few more gulps of air and felt his breath return to normal. He lay there enjoying the oxygen saturating his lungs while the world of the living came into focus around him.

He remembered dying vividly and then a break with nothing to fill the gaps before waking up right now. He took in his surroundings and quickly realized that he was in a cemetery, rows of tombstones surrounding his awakening body. More than that he knew precisely which cemetery he was in. There was a large concrete structure sticking out amongst the graves, one he had visited countless of times when alive. It was where his father-in-law was buried, and where he was pretty certain he would have been buried as well.

Abeshter, please! Was my neshame only just with you? Why am I here, what has transpired?” The Rebbe closed his eyes and tried to remember, tried to return his mind to wherever it just came from. “Was I ever truly dead?” The Rebbe thought. “Perhaps I am misremembering, perhaps I have wondered off and they are looking for me right now at the hospital.”

He propped himself up on his elbows and looked around to see if anyone was there.
Maybe someone had seen his arrival, falling from the sky or erupting from the earth below.

No one was in sight. The cemetery was empty, the morning light reflecting off the ohel that covered his father-in-law’s grave. He looked down at his own body and found that it resembled himself from his later years. His hands were wrinkled and cracked, his beard grey from time and age. He was wearing what he wore most every day; a black suit and a white button shirt, the jacket closed around his waist by a thin black rope tied around his body, the same gartel he wore for the last thirty five years of his life. He got up and stood still for a moment, making sure he didn’t fall over. He walked slowly towards the ohel, careful not to step anywhere above a buried body. When he was only a few steps away from the entrance he changed his mind and walked off down a path in the opposite direction. If his intuition was right than his own grave was inside that building and it seemed wrong to go visit just yet. Out of habit his legs led the way to the cemetery’s entrance, out onto Springfield Boulevard.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu why?! Why have you sent me back? What is my mission for You
here?” The Rebbe wondered aloud.

The Rebbe took a left onto 120th avenue and walked alone in the early Cambria Heights’ morning. He pleaded for some sort of insight, some hint as to what he was doing back on earth. With none coming to mind he allowed his lips to move in a familiar pattern, reciting the words of The Zohar from its beginning. When looking for inspiration the Rebbe would often turn back to mystics of old, hoping their words would ignite ideas of his own. He allowed his feet to lead and his lips to speak, his mind open to whatever God would deliver to it. He walked like this for over an hour when finally he had a thought, one he had often forced from his mind when he was still alive.

“Were they right?” The Rebbe wondered. “Am I the messenger Hashem has chosen to bring in messianic times? Am I the moshiach?” This was a rumor that surrounded the Rebbe throughout his life, and most strongly in the days just before and after his death. Many of his followers believed wholeheartedly that the Rebbe, their dear leader, was the messiah. The day he died they danced in the streets, joyously awaiting his prophesied return. It was a belief the Rebbe would not condone nor oppose. He could not believe he had merited such an honor and yet there were more than a few moments when even he believed it himself. Whether he was the messiah or not, he knew that once people saw he had returned they would have no more doubt. Even those diametrically opposed to the idea when he was alive would find it hard not to believe now that he was back from the dead.

Another hour went by before the Rebbe realized where his legs were taking him.

It was over eleven miles away from the graveyard but he was already a third of the way to 770 Eastern Parkway, the headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch, the home of his followers. He thought about stopping, finding a place where he could rest and wait for a clearer message. He had no money though, no ID or change of clothes. It wasn’t entirely clear, but, if God had wanted him back in the world of the living, then certainly his mission would require returning to his home headquarters.

As he got closer to his destination and the sun rose higher in the sky he was surprised to have yet to run into a single person in the traditional Lubavitch garb. He passed several men in jeans and t-shirts, and a few children that pointed and laughed when he they saw him walk by. It wasn’t unheard of to have children laugh at his outfit, even he would admit he looked like a man from a hundred years before. By the time he died though, most people in the surrounding area had grown used to the men in suits and black fedoras. It was close to a four-hour walk but he had no money and he didn’t feel himself grow tired. When he was only a few blocks away, the lack of Hasidic Jews became a great concern. He had no way of knowing how long he had been dead and he couldn’t stop but wonder if his people had somehow moved on from this location.

It must have been close to midday by the time he reached the building’s front entrance.

The house, built decades after the Rebbe was born, but years before he arrived in America, originally served as a medical center. It would later be purchased by the Chabad Lubavitch movement and serve as the headquarters of their religious community, up to and after the Rebbe’s death. If not for its constant use it could be mistaken for an old mansion, a remnant of a time past. When he reached the front door he pulled it open confidently doing his best to prepare for the frenzy that would erupt when he entered. What greeted him though was silence, cold and raw. The building was entirely empty.

The main entrance opened off into several offices, none of which were currently occupied. The Rebbe walked through them one by one, looking for any hint of human life. There were pages covering the floor and, like the cemetery, the Rebbe tried not to step on anything holy. Tears streamed down his face as he entered the main sanctuary. Countless days he had spent here, the pews filled with his followers, listening to a speech he was giving or singing along in prayer. Never could he imagine it with such little life. Half the seats were torn out, prayer shawls piled in corners amongst trash and rubble. The Rebbe even ventured up into the women’s section. Much like below it was uninhabited, the seats no longer occupied.

“Is this the world I am supposed to redeem?” the Rebbe wondered. “What has become of my talmidim? How have they allowed our temple to crumble?”

He walked around his old abode, picking up pages of scripture as he went. The books of prayer now gathered dust on the floor and shelves, no longer assisting its readers in ushering in the Shabbat eve. The Rebbe stayed there for several hours, unsure of where he should go next. He picked up a dirtied tallit and wrapped himself in it, saying the morning and afternoon prayers. Nothing he could remember ever dealt with the requirements of a newly reincarnated soul but he spoke to God as he had grown use to in life, and as in life the all mighty was silent in response.

The room was darkening now, the sun setting outside the building’s many windows. The Rebbe was just ready to leave when he heard a rustling back near the entrance. He jumped to his feet quickly, not wanting to miss whomever it might be that was sharing the building. He listened closely for signs of where the intruder might be.

“Sir! Wait sir, please!” A man in a large down coat was just getting ready to exit the building. He turned around at the sound of the Rebbe’s voice, startled to find another inhabitant in the building.

“I can take what I want! No one else can have it!”

The Rebbe quickly realized that this man was not in the best of shape. He had the lines and scraps only living on the street can give you, his coat and clothes were several sizes too large for his body. The Rebbe looked into his eyes and smiled, trying to impart a sense of calm and gentleness to this stranger. It seemed to work, the man lowered his arms and unclenched his fists.

“Hey, wait a minute. You’re all dressed up like the lot that used to come here. I haven’t seen one like you in over a year.”

Over a year! The Rebbe couldn’t believe it. How had the Holy One Blessed be His Name waited so long to send him? The moshiach, he remembered, was meant to arrive when the Jewish people had either elevated themselves to a level deserving his presence or fallen so low that they needed his saving. The Rebbe had hoped it was the former but found it hard to imagine it wasn’t the latter after hearing what this gentleman had to say.

“Sir, if you would be so kind as to tell me. Where did they all go?”

The Rebbe took a step closer, feeling a piece of wood splinter under his right foot. He looked down and saw that he had crushed a mezuzah, one that must have framed the entrance to one of the offices. He thought of the Holy Scripture that was housed within and new tears began to form, his beard barely dry from the ones he had shed before. The man across from him was moved by the Rebbe’s emotion, although did not understand why the holy man was crying.

“What’s got you so sad?”

The Rebbe looked up, wiping the tears from his cheeks and placing what was left of the mezuzah on one of the shelves that lined the hallway. He looked around and pictured the building as it once was: the offices loud with conversation and the hallway congested with people lining up to see him.

“I remember this place from when it was alive.” And from when I was alive, the Rabbi added to himself.

“What was it?”

“A house of God.”

“Ha! Figures as much.” The gentleman grabbed the bag of supplies he had placed momentarily on the floor and turned around to leave. The Rebbe thought for a moment about stopping him but realized that he needed to be alone. The explanations would come later, but for the time being all he wanted was to spend a night of study once again in the temple of his life.

He searched the offices as well as the main sanctuary and grabbed several books to keep him company through the night. He remembered where the supplies were kept for Shabbat and was ecstatic to find that the candles and matches were still there. He didn’t think it was actually Shabbat, but he set up the candelabra and used the light to read once the sun had finished setting. In his lifetime the Rebbe had been known to go long times without food, drink, or sleep. This was different. He had walked over ten miles today but felt wide awake and completely satiated, his eyes never fading and his stomach never growling. The Rebbe sat by the candlelight all night long, turning the pages one by one as he delighted in the word of God.

Morning came quickly. It was a long winter night but still the sun was rising before the

Rebbe expected. When the room was mostly filled with light the Rebbe began to wonder if perhaps he had been mistaken in thinking he had been reincarnated. Could this not be his afterlife, endless nights and days to study the words of God with no need to break for food or sleep? For some it might sound like hell but for the Rebbe it was basically heaven. If it wasn’t for the state of the building surrounding him he could have convinced himself to never leave. In his heart though, he knew this was not the case. He put the candelabra away and left his old headquarters, determined to discover his true mission.

When he exited back out onto Eastern Parkway he was surprised to find the street busier than the day before. There were many more people rushing down the sidewalks, all in a hurry to get somewhere, though the Rebbe couldn’t figure the location. Again he caught several of the pedestrians eyeing his clothes, a few even bold enough to stop and take a picture.

“Hey you! Yeah you with the hat and the beard. You are not allowed in there.”

A police officer was yelling at him from across the street. He had seen the Rebbe exiting the building and was now coming across the street to have a word.

“Buddy, how many times do we have to tell you? No one is allowed in that building. It’s not safe.”

“I’m sorry officer, but I didn’t know. Have we met before?”

“No, but I know your type. I catch one of you guys every so often sneaking in. I figured by now the word had gotten around and you’d all know to keep out.”

“One of you guys?” the Rebbe thought. Despite the state of the building this must mean there were others nearby who still followed the ways of Chabad, who believed it important to come back and enter 770.

“I’m sorry officer I am in from out of town,” the Rebbe almost never lied but he figured this could be one of those moments he would make an exception, “Do you know where the others who dress like me congregate now?”

The police officer gave him a disbelieving look. It was the same excuse every jay walker and litterer gave as well: out of towner. It wasn’t worth his time though to write this guy up for trespassing.

“Yeah, around the corner a few blocks. There’s a deli where I usually see ’em. Just don’t go sneaking in there anymore.” He gave the Rebbe a little wink, wanting him to know he hadn’t just pulled a fast, and walked back across the street.

The Rebbe almost ran in the direction the police officer had pointed and turned left at the first intersection. He walked several blocks, passing dozens of more people on what he had now realized must be their morning commute. Most likely yesterday, the day of his resurrection, had been Sunday, and he was simply witnessing a normal Monday morning. He kept his head down and continued in the direction the police officer had pointed. After several more blocks, when he had began to wonder if he had passed wherever the cop was referencing, he almost walked right into the statue marking his destination. There, on a Brooklyn sidewalk, was the statue of a small, stereotypical Jewish man with a big nose and curly side-locks, holding a metallic tray filled with money. It looked like something out of a Shalom Aleichem story, a money collector as imagined by a late 1800s anti-Semite. It was guarding the entrance to what had to be the deli the police officer referenced. A sign above the door read “Mendy’s,” but it was not illuminated. It was closed, but the hours posted on the door said they opened at 11. The Rebbe couldn’t imagine why any of his talmidim would be congregating here, a place with such offending taste so publicly on display. He found a bench across the street and sat down waiting for the restaurant’s inhabitants to make themselves known.

This time the Rebbe found it hard to concentrate on any Torah, the mystery of what had happened to his Chabad dynasty, what he was doing back in the earthly realm, and what took place inside this restaurant keeping his mind occupied. The hours ticked by slowly and for the first time since coming back to life he might have started to feel a little tired. Eventually a light came on inside, and about thirty minutes after that the Mendy’s sign was illuminated. The Rebbe gave it a few more minutes just to make sure they were in fact open and then made his way back across the street to the restaurant’s entrance. He gave the small Jewish man a long stare, thought about giving it a kick, but held back when he realized he had never been a man to resort to force or violence.

“Gootin Morning! How can we — um, sorry can I help you?”

The restaurant was larger than it appeared from the outside. The entrance was narrow like the storefront but past the maître d stand the room opened up into a wide seating area, enough space for fifty or sixty people to sit comfortably. A man greeted him just after walking in, a man dressed quite similar to the Rebbe.

Bachur, tell me. Have I come to the right place? Do you know who I am?”

The gentleman squinted at him in confusion. “Who did you say you are looking for. Bakore?”

The lad greeting the Rebbe did not appear to recognize him. He had on a black suit and a black fedora, much like the Rebbe, and long side locks curling down from under his hat. He was probably in his early twenties and since the Rebbe didn’t know how long he had been dead he didn’t know if he and this young gentleman could have ever met. The boy was confused, clearly startled by the Rebbe’s appearance. On closer inspection, the Rebbe began to notice that certain things seemed wrong about the man’s appearance. The fedora on his head was much too small, a fashion not reminiscent of the time in Europe he and other ultra-Orthodox Jews replicated. His suit, the pants in particular, looked more like a uniform than the man’s actual clothes. And he couldn’t be certain but he had his suspicions about those side-locks, too curly for the rest of the straight hair that poked out from under the hat.

“770, do you know what happened to it?!” The Rebbe didn’t know what this place was but it had to have some answers.

“770? Wait is this some kind of prank? Jim! Hey Jim! Get out here will ya. I’m not falling for another one of your gags.”

There was noise from a room coming off the entrance area, perhaps an office or storage area. “What gag Alex? I didn’t set anything – Jesus! Wow! You look exactly like him!”

A short man, Jim seemingly, had come out from the back room and had nearly fainted when he first saw the Rebbe. He wasn’t dressed like Alex, wearing just grey slacks and a green button down, but he was clearly more familiar with the Rebbe than the man dressing up pretending to be one of his followers. The Rebbe felt hopeful for the first time since entering 770 the day before.

“Ha! Gosh, scared the shit out of me for a moment. So, who sent you? I didn’t think we had any special dinners or functions scheduled for tonight.”

“You know who I am? You recognize me?” The Rebbe needed Jim to say it, needed someone else to identify who he was.

“Okay sure I’ll play along. Yeah you are the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.” The Rebbe felt weightless, another soul uttering his name confirming his existence. “How long have you been doing impersonations? I mean can’t imagine it’s such a high paying gig?”

“Impersonation?”

“Who’s he suppose to be?” Alex asked.

“Don’t worry about it Alex, just get back to managing the door.” On cue a couple walked in and Alex stepped over to greet them (Gootin Mornin!) while Jim led the Rebbe back into the office from where he came. It was a small messy room, a table in the corner covered in loose paper and a wall lined with boxes filled with black hats and fake side locks.

“Alright, you can stop with the act. Someone coming today for a special occasion, or just an enthusiast of the culture who wanted the odd thrill of having lunch with a look-a-like?”

“I don’t understand. Look-a-like? What is going on here? Why would you think someone was pretending to be me?” The elation from a moment ago was gone, The Rebbe suddenly afraid and even more confused.

“Dude, seriously. I don’t have time for this. Just tell me where you need to set up or whatever and I’ll see what arrangements I can make.”

The Rebbe looked around the room trying to make sense of where he was. On a corner of the desk he saw what looked like a pamphlet, the name Mendy’s written across the front. He walked slowly over to the table and picked it up, opening it with extreme caution as if it might explode if not done with precise care. It turned out to be a booklet of coupons, lunch deals and dollars off various soups and specials. On the first page there was a short description of the restaurant:

Welcome to Mendy’s! The only restaurant where you can experience the old world flavor that used to permeate these very streets. Our waiter’s will serve you all the classic Jewish favorites: matzoh ball soup, cholent, and roast beef, all while dressed like the hasids who used to live here! Just because they are gone, doesn’t mean their food needs to leave with them.

He read the paragraph again and then a third time. He noticed the past tense, the reference to a people who no longer existed. Was this all that remained, a caricature of what he had dedicated his life towards? Had God sent him back as a punishment, to show him how he had failed? For the second time in so many days the Rebbe cried.

“Shit man. What’s up with you?” Jim took a step back from the Rebbe, concerned now that he had let a mentally unwell man into his restaurant.

“It’s a fake. The whole restaurant, the outfits, all a fake. Is there anyone left?” The

Rebbe could hardly get the words out afraid of the answer he was suspecting.

“Any who, man?”

“The yiddim! My people! Please HaKadosh Baruch Hu tell me you didn’t send me back to a world empty of Your holy people!” The Rebbe was longer addressing Jim but the one he believed responsible for bringing him back to life.”

“Wait, you’re not just fucking with me? You actually believe you’re him?” Jim took a step closer and looked at the Rebbe’s face, the details of his beard and sunken eyes, looking for anything that might give away a disguise. He then walked towards the boxes, moving several out of the way until he found the one he was looking for. He pulled out a picture and held it up next to the Rebbe’s face.

“Shit.” An exact match. Jim had pulled out a photo of the Rebbe, one from later in life when his beard was white but the photograph was in color. The man standing next to him was unmistakably the man in the photo. That or his identical twin brother.

The Rebbe collapsed on the floor, crying into his hands and shouting incoherently between sobs. Jim helped him up into the only chair in the room and ran off to get him a glass of water and some tissues. When he came back he gave the Rebbe a minute to wipe away his tears and take a drink of water before asking him to tell his story. The Rebbe did just that, always the excellent storyteller. He described waking up in the cemetery, his last memories being the moments of his death. He told him, foolishly he now felt, that he had thought he had returned as the messiah, and had walked to his old headquarters on 770 Eastern Parkway to usher his people into a new era. He filled him in on the rest as well, the state of the building at 770 and eventually finding his way here this morning.

“And so here I am now, mistaken for some type of impersonator.”

“I don’t think that anymore.” Jim had listened intently, pushing aside some paper and taking a seat on the edge of the desk.

“You don’t? Why not?”

“Well, if you are one than you are really taking it seriously. The tears, the story. I mean bravo. But no, I don’t think so. I think you really believe you are him.”

“And you, do you believe?”

“Ha. Man, had you asked me that question a few years ago I would have told you not for a second. But now, I mean it would make sense.”

“What would make sense?”

“You, coming back like this. Like all the others.”

“The others?”

“Right, right. Should have realized you wouldn’t know. I mean even if you are just crazy you probably have blocked all that shit out. Well Rabbi, let me tell you a bit of bad news. You aren’t the first messiah to come back to life.”

 

*******

 

He could have blamed it on exhaustion but he knew that would be a lie. He had fainted from the shock, from hearing a sentence he never in his wildest of dreams could have imagined.

“Feeling any better there?” The Rebbe was lying on the floor now, his feet up on the seat of the chair. Jim was sitting on the floor next to him, an ambulance on its way.

“I just, I mean I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“You’re not the only one to feel that way Rabbi.” Jim filled him in on what he had missed since his death. It had been nearly thirty years since the Rebbe’s passing. Jim told him that at first his movement flourished, his death acting as a catalyst for new recruits and stronger efforts.

Jim himself grew up in the area and remembers how the demographics changed even from when he was a kid. 770 was even busier after the Rebbe died. Five years ago though, everything changed, not just for Chabad or the Jews but for everyone.

“The Mahdi was first. He showed up in Saudi Arabia, back from the dead and ready to lead a spiritual and, if necessary, physical crusade across the world. Obviously, most of the world didn’t even know who he was, and even most Muslims didn’t believe it was really him. But slowly his influence spread, word of miracles and predictions coming true helped galvanize a large majority of the Arab and Asian Muslim world. Everyone thought a religious war was coming when, as if choreographed, who shows up? None other than Jesus Fucking Christ!

“He was met with some skepticism as well but not for long. With the rising Muslim nation, most of the fanatical Christians felt this fit perfectly into their apocalyptic fantasies.

The moderates were soon to follow, and if a religious war was likely before it was all but sealed in stone now. The Muslims though, they weren’t ready to fight. You see a lot of us westerners didn’t know this but apparently they believe in Jesus too! Convenient right? Not just him but a whole lot of other prophets from Christianity and Judaism. Sorry Rabbi but I don’t think you made the cut.”

Jim stopped for a moment, laughing at his own joke. The Rebbe urged him on, afraid to hear how his people had met their end amongst this war.

“So yeah, they had a big meeting in Rome or somewhere like that, the Muslim leaders and maybe even the Mahdi himself trying to convince Jesus and all his new apostles that they were on the same side. It might have worked for all I know but before we could find out more of them started to show up. Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, a new incarnation of that Hindu god Krishna, and a bunch of others. I mean every fucking religion had someone, some even more than one. Don’t worry the Jews had some too, like Shabbetai Zevi, but by the time they came the whole “messiah” thing was old news. The people, us, we got smart to it all. We realized that God, or whoever was doing this had some sense of humor. Kind of a big middle finger to the human race. It was a few more years but eventually the whole religion thing, it seemed pointless. The messiahs kept proselytizing, trying to convince their respective groups that this was all part of a grand test, that each and every other messiah was a false savior. No way man, not working on us.”

The Rebbe was speechless. “How could Hashem have done this?” He thought. “What purpose did it serve to send us all back? And could his people really have given up that easily?

Thrown their entire religion away?” The Rebbe was still lying on the floor, trying to make sense of everything Jim had just told him when several people burst through the door into the office. It was the paramedics, three of them rushing in ready to save the day. The Rebbe did his best to protest but the group demanded that they take him into the emergency room at least to get checked out. They lifted him onto a stretcher and loaded him into the ambulance once they were outside.

In the Brooklyn Hospital Emergency Department they gave the Rebbe some IV fluid and ran a few tests. It became clear pretty quickly that he was entirely fine so after a few hours they discharged him, never uncovering that he believed he was a man who had died thirty years in the past. At this point, the Rebbe had nowhere to go. He still had no money so he thought about returning to 770, spending another night amongst the torn pages and fallen chairs. He was concerned though, that the police officer might see him entering the building again and didn’t want to risk having to explain himself. He wandered the streets outside the hospital, passing a construction site, the barrier covered in posters and advertisements and stopped when he saw a photo of himself in the corner of one of the signs.

Tonight, come and join those of us who believe! The Fort Greene Community Center will be hosting Jesus Christ for a special lecture on the days of redemption, followed by a question and answer session. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Rebbe burst out loud in laughter. An elderly couple walking past him crossed the street quickly, trying to avoid the odd cackling man alone on the sidewalk. In his life, the Rebbe had rarely spoken badly of other religions. He worked closely with the local and state government, often interacting with people who weren’t Jewish. Jesus though, he had rarely, if ever, even mentioned by name. He had never read the New Testament or been on an interfaith panel. And yet, right now, reincarnated and alone, the most logical place it seemed to go was to hear Mr. Christ give a speech. He looked back at the flyer and found the address as well as the time. He wasn’t entirely sure where it was but he figured, by asking a few helpful strangers he could get there in one piece.

It took more than just a few people, but after several wrong turns, the Rebbe eventually made it to the community center. He must have been late because there was no one collecting tickets at the entrance when he got there.

He followed signs for the lecture and ended up outside a room with large, closed wooden doors.

He pressed his ear up against them and could hear the faint words of a man preaching. He pressed down on the handle slowly, opening the door as quietly as he could. When they were just wide enough apart to squeeze his body through he slipped in between them.

He closed the doors gently behind him and was relieved to see that he had entered the room from the back. Not only that, but there was a good fifty feet between where he entered and where the lecture was being given. It was a large room with tile floors and high vaulted ceilings. It looked more suited for ballroom dancing than a lecture on the End of Days. Most of the floor was empty but across from where he entered there were several rows of chairs set up facing a podium where a man was speaking. The seats were sparsely filled, no more than ten people in attendance, but the man lecturing didn’t seem to notice the Rebbe’s disturbance.

He was a tall slender man, dark olive skin and long flowing brown hair spilling out of the turban trying to contain it. He was animated while speaking, his arms moving in all different directions.

The Rebbe thought about leaving, listening to Jesus speak most certainly forbidden by Jewish law. He took a seat in the back row though, hoping but not realistically expecting to keep a low profile.

“And so our roles now, the purpose of our existence has not changed. We are still here to be good, to do good. Love one another like we would want to be loved. The messianic age does not change this. But when the world is ready to accept that we are in a new time in existence then God above will make himself known.”

Jesus walked to the center of the audience, looking at each member in attendance one by one. When he and the Rebbe made eye contact Jesus gave him an almost imperceptible nod.

“Thank you all so much for coming. Please spread the word and most importantly be kind to one another.”

Jesus bowed towards the crowd and walked back to the front of the room. The Rebbe’s fellow attendees slowly got up from their chairs and left the hall after mingling amongst themselves for a few minutes. The Rebbe stayed behind, dishearteningly waiting for he and Jesus to be alone so they could have a moment to speak. Once it was just the two of them the Rebbe tentatively walked forward unsure of how to begin.

“Rabbi Schneerson. When did you arrive?”

The Rebbe was shocked, unprepared for Jesus to know who he was.

“I walked in just before you finished. I was hoping not to – “

“No not to the lecture Rabbi. When did you arrive back to this world?” Jesus had his back to the Rebbe but now turned around to face him, his kind expression no different than the one he wore during his speech. His voice was softly accented, a Middle Eastern precision declaring the end of his sentences.

“Oh, yes of course. I guess just yesterday morning.” The Rebbe couldn’t believe it had been less than 48 hours. “How do you know who I am?”

Jesus smiled a knowing smile, as if the Rebbe were a student asking a question Jesus had heard several times before. “Rabbi Schneerson, by your presence here I can only assume you have been made aware of the events that have taken place over the past several years.”

The Rebbe listened closely, assuming Jesus had further insight into his predicament. “So as you can imagine, us messiahs, we have gotten to know each other a little bit. The more well known of our group even tried preaching together, hoping that if we put aside our differences God might have mercy on us and our mission. It didn’t work as you can see.” Jesus spread out his hands in the direction of the seats that were now entirely empty.

“And so we went our separate ways, some giving up their mission entirely and simply enjoying their time back in this world.” The Rebbe thought about the night he had spent in 770, the comfort he had found with just a candle and a book to read. “I still give my sermons, still hope the world will repent. Every so often another one like you shows up, a messiah back from the dead only to discover he or she is not alone in this role.”

The Rebbe tried to imagine others like himself walking through those doors, encountering this man once known as the savior. “And the world, our people, they have stopped listening?”

Jesus thought about this for a moment, considering how to answer the Rebbe’s question. “I am not sure if they have stopped listening or if we have stopped speaking their language. Rabbi, I wonder sometimes if even the messiahs need some saving. If one day God will come down and redeem us all.” Tears welled up in Jesus’s eyes but he quickly wiped them away.

“So what do we do now?” The Rebbe heard the consternation in his own voice and wondered again how he found himself in this moment, pleading with Jesus for answers.

“Rabbi Schneerson,” Jesus placed a hand on his shoulder, “Now we do what our followers have done since our passings. We wait.”

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