The Rebbe begins this sicha by restating that we are the final generation of exile and, thus automatically, the first generation of Geulah, because “we have already finished all matters of the avodah and are already standing ready for the true and complete Geulah through Moshiach Tzidkeinu immediately.”
There is, however, a question from some quarters: the Geulah is, after all, dependent on the whole world being ready for Geulah, not just one person or a small number of people — but the entire world. The Geulah depends on the gathering of the dispersed Jewish nation from all four corners of the world, and also the refinement of all the nations and all the lands. So they ask: where do we see a change in the world the indicates that the world is more ready for the Geulah today than in previous generations?
The Rebbe proceeds to answer by first reminding us of the purpose of golus: the Jewish nation being scattered throughout the world is, on the outside, a descent. But its inner purpose is that Jews, wherever they find themselves, garb themselves in the ways of that country (as our sages say: “if you go to a place, follow its customs”), thereby refining and elevating the entire land and nation in which they are exiled.
[To note: the Rebbe writes that the dispersal of Israel to different places is for the purpose of “sifting, refining, and elevating (לברר, לזכך, ולהעלות) the sparks found in that place.” At least 7 times in the sicha the Rebbe recalls this phrase, speaking of how France and the world have been refined, however the Rebbe only mentions the “sifting” and “refining”. “Elevation” is not mentioned (except in one place in which the Rebbe speaks of what will (future tense) bring about the true and complete Geulah). For deeper understanding of the meaning of this distinction, see the booklet “Between Golus and Geulah” at MoshiachInDepth.wordpress.com.]
The Rebbe then focuses on the refinement of France (there were guests from France at this farbrengen), reiterating the difficult history of Yiddishkeit in France, in particular the opposition of the Alter Rebbe to Napoleon and the efforts he made to bring about his defeat. France, and particularly the spirit of the French Revolution, was a klipa that could not be refined in the times of the Alter Rebbe and so he preferred the victory of Czarist Russia (the Czars being no friends of the Jewish nation) over Napoleon, and even risked his life to flee Napoleon’s armies in order not to be under his rule in any way. [For the whole story, listen here.]
However, several generations later, the Rebbe Maharash (the 4th Rebbe of Chabad) visited France, indicating the beginning of the refinement of this klipa. This culminated in the Previous Rebbe visiting France and saying several Chassidic Discourses there, and, even more, sending his own family–his daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, and the Rebbe MH”M–to live there for an extended period of time, contributing the “final blow” to this klipah. These efforts sowed the seeds for the tremendous flowering of Jewish life that has taken root in France since that time–to the point where France is not only a mekabel of Torah, but also a mashpia–and which continues to this very day.
Interestingly, the Rebbe points out, “Tzarfas” (צרפת, France in Hebrew) has the numerical value of 770. The number 770 is of course the number of the Rebbe’s shul (770 Eastern Parkway) and is explained as the complete form of the number 7, reflecting the 7 midos. The Rebbe says “we can say that this hints that with the refinement of these countries the refinement of the entire world is finished and completed down to the last detail”! Since France is the lowest place (which could not even be refined in the times of the Alter Rebbe), when it will finally be refined (as the Rebbe says has occurred)–this indicates that everything has been refined.
The Rebbe concludes by pointing out that miracles were generally given minor importance (if at all) by the Rebbeim and the Chassidim over the generations, but despite this it is worthy that the Rebbe devotes an entire farbrengen to discuss France instead of Torah because it is in the category of “publicizing the miracle”. Recognizing Hashem’s miracles and praising and thanking Hashem for them touches upon and contributes to the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu and the true and complete Geulah. (Our sages tell us that Hashem wanted to make Hizkayahu Moshiach, but because his generation did not sing praises to Hashem over the miraculous downfall of the army of Sancheriv, He did not do so.) The instruction for us is:
Since we have already finished everything, and the Geulah has still not come–it is most proper to be involved in ‘publicizing the miracle’, to publicize to himself and to others, and in every place, the miracles that the Holy One, Blessed be He, does for us, [and to do so] with the knowledge that the true and complete Geulah is dependent on this!
This includes, of course, the miraculous transition of the world to a place where Torah and Yiddishkeit can flourish, even places that were not long ago inherently hostile to the spirit of the Jewish faith. Recognizing this, that the world is ready for Geulah, and publicizing it and thanking Hashem for it–this itself brings about the true and complete Geulah through Moshiach Tzidkeinu!
Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu, Melech Hamoshiach, l’olam vo’ed!