THE PERSIAN GULF WAR of 1991 has a unique significance in the unfolding of the Messianic Redemption.
Throughout history, it has been common for people to be suspicious of, disbelieve, ignore or deny words of prophecy. Prophecy can be intimidating. People naturally fear the unknown and they fear for the worst. This is especially understandable in the case of a Prophecy of doom. What about a favorable Prophecy? What if it originates from someone with a flawless publicly demonstrated and divinely confirmed track record? And what if we are to participate in its fruition? Do we not stand to gain more by taking a look at it than ignoring it? Let us examine one such case.
Yalkut Shimoni is the name of a Jewish Sacred Work written under the prophetic experience. It is a work which comments on the Jewish Bible. It was written centuries ago by a broadly accepted and renowned Torah Sage. In this work the following information was conveyed as an explanation of a passage from the Book of Isaiah, the Jewish Biblical Prophet. Paraphrased in part it states thus:
In the year that Moshiach will reveal himself, the Kings of the nations will contend one with the next; The King of Persia will war with the King of Arabia...
Regarding this conflict, the Yalkut Shimoni Prophecy conveys numerous facts, including:
1) A war that troubles international leaders will occur
2) This war involves the ruler of Persia challenging the ruler of Arabia, with the latter appealing to a superpower for help.
3) The nations and especially the Israelis will be afraid and uncertain as to what to do and where to go.
4) The year in which this war occurs will be the same year that Moshiach will reveal himself
5) During this war, G‑d will announce to the Jewish people that they have nothing to fear and that it will turn out to their favor.
6) During this war, Moshiach will announce to the Jewish people that the time of the Redemption has arrived.
These prophecies have all materialized in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Compare with 1-6 above.
(1) Dozens of nations were directly involved.
(2) Iraq is at the heart of ancient Persia. The invasion of Kuwait posed a direct threat to the whole region, and Saddam went on to threaten Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia appealed to the world's superpower, the USA for help.
(3) The UN Security Council recognized the risks but could not agree on a course of action. There was also fear and confusion among Israelis regarding how they should respond. For instance, in the event of an attack should they keep low in underground bomb shelters or as high as possible in sealed rooms to be best protected in the event of a chemical attack?
(4) (5), and (6) The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated unequivocally that the Persian Gulf War of 1991 is the war prophesized in the Yalkut Shimoni. He announced that this was the year of Moshiach's revelation. He made the announcement attributed to G‑d in the Yalkut Shimoni prophecy. He also made the announcement attributed to Moshiach in the Yalkut Shimoni prophecy.
Knowing that some people may be incredulous at his announcements, he carefully framed them in a lengthy discourse outlining how the Jewish Legal definition of prophecy is a practical law for today and that Moshiach attains this level of prophecy even before the final redemption.
Thus, The Yalkut Shimoni Prophecy, fulfilled by the Persian Gulf War, and confirmed by the Rebbe, is a message from G‑d. It's just that simple. What is the message? That Moshiach and Redemption are here and now.
"We must publicize to all people of the generation that we have merited that G‑d has chosen and appointed a human being, one who possesses free choice, to fill the role of judge and advisor and the prophet of the generation to issue directives and give advice ...
"Including the most essential prophecy, 1 "To redemption immediately" and in immediate actuality "Behold this Moshiach coming."
The Rebbe's Talk of Shabbos Shoftim, 5751-1991 Ch.ll
A story tells it best. The preceding paragraphs provided a Torah perspective, but did not convey the highly charged events of the Gulf War as they unfolded. Following is an outline of the events of the Gulf War including the ongoing commentary of the Rebbe and the experiences of the Jews in Israel.
On the morning of August 2, 1991, without warning or provocation, the army of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded its oil-rich neighbor, the Emirate of Kuwait. In a matter of hours, Radio Baghdad reported control of the entire country.
Instantly, the world was simmering. The UN Security Council agreed that the situation needed quick attention since Saddam showed no signs of restraint, and the threat of a major regional or even global conflict loomed large. Stock markets plunged and oil prices soared. Saddam threatened Saudi Arabia and announced his intention to carry his campaign all the way to the Land of Israel. Israelis began to fear for their lives.
Meanwhile frantic negotiations were taking place between the United States and the NATO countries. President George Bush warned Saddam that the invasion of Kuwait constituted a flagrant violation of international law, which the world powers would not accept. "If the Iraqi army does not retreat, there will be no choice we will have to weigh the military option." Over the following days, country after country announced their agreement to send forces to join an international force. War seemed inevitable.
That very week, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was repeating his reassurances that the Yalkut Prophecy is being fulfilled, that all the commotion is just a sign of Moshiach and Redemption, and that there was actually nothing to fear. Chassidim the world over jumped for joy at the news. Chabad emissaries conveyed the Rebbe's call for calm faith in the protection of G‑d. They reminded Jews about the Rebbe's prophecies regarding the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973. The Rebbe was saying explicitly that there would be no chemical attack.
In Israel however, fears were mounting. The media continued to sow anxiety with speculation about impending disaster. Israelis were putting all their money into food as shelves emptied throughout the country. Rabbi Yosef Ralbag, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem conveyed to the Rebbe the concerns of thousands of religious Jews regarding the hoarding of food, etc. The Rebbe's response was to believe in G‑d's watchful protection and to avoid hoarding food because "it is an outrageous practice, as it leads to unwarranted price hikes in the Holy Land."
At this time, the Israeli Police Minister, Ronnie Milo, visited the Rebbe for a dollar and a blessing, and when he commented on how serious the situation in Israel was, the Rebbe shrugged it off saying the opposite was true. As the Rebbe's words to Milo were being broadcast in Israel, the Rebbe's secretary, Rabbi Laibel Groner was also being interviewed. He conveyed again the Rebbe's message that there is nothing to fear, no need for gas masks and that the redemption is coming "quicker than anyone realizes."
As the weeks wore on and international tension mounted, the Rebbe's assurances only strengthened. "There is nothing to fear. Israel is the safest place in the world," the Rebbe repeated this to all comers, whether it was an American Jew with a child studying in Israel, or an Israeli wondering whether to leave, or a celebrant wondering whether to cancel their plans to hold a wedding or bar mitzvah in Israel.
But the Israeli Army was operating on the basis of Military Intelligence, not rabbinic assurances. Letters were sent to every resident advising them where and when to pick up their gas masks. Civil Defense workers taught children how to put on the thick black rubber masks. Instructions were given as to how to seal a room. The mask kit even included a dose of atropine in the event of exposure to mustard gas.
By this time, the mounting Allied forces were even being joined by Arab nations like Syria and Egypt who also committed troops to the cause. Finally the UN Security Council concluded that force must be used. President Bush announced, "We will protect world peace even at the price of war." Saddam heedlessly continued to raze Kuwaiti cities and villages with relentless force and cruelty.
Bush was pressuring the Security Council to issue an ultimatum: Withdraw or else. The US armed forces were sent en masse with the latest in weaponry to stations in the Arabian Desert. Israel went on high alert. Military Intelligence revealed an Iraqi SCUD arsenal trained on Israel. In light of Israeli insistence on gas masks, the Rebbe allowed his followers to obtain them so as not to create a scene.
Bush: If you do not leave Kuwait by January 15th, the forces of peace, the international coalition forces, will attack with all their might.
Saddam: I shall not retreat from Kuwait.
The Rebbe: There is nothing at all to get excited about.
A Jewish US Army Chaplain passed before the Rebbe on his way to his assignment in the Middle East and told the Rebbe that he was taking a Torah scroll and a Megilla, a scroll version of the Book of Esther, traditionally read on the Jewish Holiday of Purim, which typically comes out in March. The Rebbe told him, on videotape, that he need not bring a Megilla since if anything does happen, it would be over by Purim (which it was).
As the ultimatum deadline approached, Ben Gurion Airport in Israel was constantly crammed with hundreds jostling for scarce tickets out of the country. Yet in the midst of all this, hundreds of faithful Jews, mainly Chassidim and students, flew to Israel to demonstrate in front of the entire world, their faith in the Rebbe's promises of safety. These visitors were celebrities of hope for the anxious Israeli public. Nonetheless, January 15th, 1991 was the ultimate in anxiety for millions of Israelis, as well as half a million allied troops poised for war in the region.
The next day, the first sketchy reports of an American attack deep into the heart of Baghdad finally arrived: "The BBC has just reported that an attack has taken place ..." The next morning details raised everyone's spirits. The attack had begun close to midnight. Waves of US F-15 Stealth Fighters dropped payload after payload directly on targets deep within Baghdad. Ships at sea fired more direct hits. "The American planes are right on target. All planes have returned safely," reported CNN live from a Baghdad rooftop.
General Schwartzkopf was pleased at the good start but warned, "We do not know why the Iraqis are not responding. We must be carefu