Well, here is a recounting of this prediction, from a Chabad site:
A Jewish US Army Chaplain passed before the Rebbe on his way to his assignment in theVery impressive, given that the war ended on erev Purim. However, to throw a slight monkey-wrench into this, I would point out the following:
Middle Eastand 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).
This is indeed perplexing. If the Rebbe told this army chaplain that the war would be over, why did he not know that it was over? Did he not trust his own prediction?
I would add that the Rebbe then discovered his error and had them not publish this portion of his sicha, saying od chazon la'moed, which was later taken by his Chassidim to mean that his own prophecy would be fulfilled, when American troops entered Basra 10 years later. The alternative, which I think is more likely, is that he was referring to Yeshaya's prophecy, which he was darshening at the time in the sicha as referring to present events.
I'll add more to this. We should examine this prediction by the Rebbe that the war would end by Purim. He admittedly does say something of the sort, but not explicitly, and not exactly what you would expect. We can identify the particular army chaplain, and even have his picture, and he debunks this particular story that the Rebbe predicted it would end on erev Purim. From the Jewish Homemaker:
|The army chaplain, |
Rabbi Jacob Goldstein
And so, context is key. If there was a video of these predictions, it must be noted that the Gulf War had not yet started. And they were not talking of his going to Iraq, but to Saudi Arabia. And he was spared from needing the megillah in Saudi Arabia and having to use it there because of the start of the Gulf War, not the end of the Gulf War. And since he was stationed in Eretz Yisrael, it didn't matter to chaplain Goldstein when the war ended. He was covered at any rate. And, as he notes, at no point did the Rebbe tell him that the war would end on Purim.
Still, it does seem uncanny how the Rebbe's predictions came to be.
But let us consider the time-line, if I can figure it out correctly based on this article:
Tuesday, August 7, 1990 - Operation Desert Shield -- US troops sent to Saudi Arabia as a defense against invasion by Sadaam.
Sunday, December 2, 1990 - Iraqi troops invade Kuwait.
Wednesday December 12, 1990 - first night of Chanukkah.
This was when chaplain Goldstein arrived at Fort Dix, with orders to go to Saudi Arabia for a half-year, presumably as part of Desert Shield.
Sunday December 16, 1990 - first visit with the Rebbe, who tells him he will have, but won't need, the megillah.
Within that week -- chaplain Goldstein receives revised orders, to deploy to Saudi Arabia for a year.
Sunday December 23, 1990 -- second visit to the Rebbe, who tells him mashiach will come before he has to go to Saudi Arabia.
Tuesday, December 25, 1990 -- "the war began" -- chaplain Goldstein is told he will be sent to Israel.
The aerial assault begins on January 17, 1991.
As I see it, there are four possibilities to explain the Rebbe's uncanny prediction:
- inside knowledge / publicly available knowledge
- messianic delusions
1) Prophecy -- this has already been covered, but the idea would be that the Rebbe knew something he could not have otherwise known, by receiving messages from On High. Call this prophecy, or call this ruach hakodesh, if you like.
2) Knowledge -- Eizehu chacham, haroeh et hanolad -- who is wise? he who can figure out consequences. And chacham, einav berosho -- a wise man, his eyes are in his head.
It was common knowledge that if the US would attack Iraq, Iraq would attack Israel:
And he knew, due to the invasion, and the way that diplomacy was not working and the way the coalition was forming from various nations, that an attack on Iraq was imminent. It was just a matter of time, as the situation was coming to a head. And in such a situation, the US would want a presence in Israel, as indeed it did. And if so, it would need their chaplains there. So the Rebbe merely assessed to situation of the world as it stood at that time.
The Iraqi government made no secret that it would attack Israel if invaded. Prior to the start of the war, Tariq Aziz, Iraq's English-speaking Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, was asked in the aftermath of the failed U.S.-Iraq peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland by a reporter. “Mr. Foreign Minister, if war starts...will you attack Israel?” the reporter asked. His response was, “Yes, absolutely, yes.”Five hours after the first attacks, Iraq's state radio broadcast a voice identified as Saddam Hussein declaring that "The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun. The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins." Iraq responded by launching eight Al Hussein missiles into Israel the next day. These missile attacks on Israel were to continue throughout the six weeks of the war.
I don't know how long it was until the good chaplain was to deploy, but let us say it was a month. The Rebbe thus calculated and figured that he would not be deploying to Saudi Arabia, and expressed this as that mashiach would come first.
Another possibility, along the same lines, is that the Rebbe was privy to secret information from human beings. He was not some random rabbi living in Crown Heights. He sent shluchim all over, and presumably had friends in high places. They might well have let the Rebbe know that a war was imminent. If so, any highly placed politician who could put 2 and 2 together could have told the chaplain the same thing.
3) Influence -- if he indeed had friends in high places in the US government, he could have called in a favor at the Pentagon on behalf of a Lubavitcher shliach. This is outside the realm of possibility for common folks like you and me, but as the leader of an influential group of voters at the national level? Then he could reassure this chaplain with some level of confidence.
4) Messianic delusions -- the Lubavitcher Rebbe's words lend themselves to this interpretation, so I will float this theory. Yet I find it unlikely.
Recall that this was at the height of messianic fervor. The Rebbe believed that his deceased father-in-law was the mashiach. And possibly that he was the mashiach.
In the time of mashiach, Chazal say, all holidays will be nullified except for Purim. But this may mean that the joy will be equivalent, or that the redemption will be Purim-like. So the Rebbe would be saying that though the chaplain had the megillah, he wouldn't need to read it.
And as a follow-up, the Rebbe told the chaplain that mashiach would come before he was deployed to Saudi Arabia. If a typical person said this, it would be the equivalent of "heck will freeze over before you are deployed to Saudi Arabia." But perhaps the Rebbe's intention was absolutely literal, that the chaplain was due to be deployed to Saudi Arabia on day X, but before day X mashiach would have arrived. And that would prevent any deployment. He could believe that if he assessed that the situation in the Persian Gulf was leading to the World War III, that is, the war of Gog and Magog.