The Baal Shem Tov writes that he was once granted a spiritual vision of Mashiach. Unabashed, he asked him: “When are you coming?” Mashiach answered him: “When the wellsprings of your teachings spread outward.”
Two generations later, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism, was imprisoned by the Czarist authorities. He was sending money to the Chassidim who had settled in Israel, and the Russians thought that he was conspiring with the Turks (rulers of Israel at that time) to fight the Czar.
While in prison, Rabbi Shneur Zalman had a vision of the Baal Shem Tov and asked him: What was the real reason for his imprisonment?
The Baal Shem Tov told him that there were spiritual factors involved. Rabbi Shneur Zalman had been spreading Chassidic teachings without restraint, and this had aroused negative forces in the spiritual realms. “The world was not ready,” these forces claimed, “for such a great revelation.” And therefore, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was imprisoned.
“If I’m released, should I change my approach?” Rabbi Shneur Zalman asked.
“No,” the Baal Shem Tov answered. “If you are released, that will be a sign that your approach has been vindicated.”
On the Hebrew date of Yud-Tes Kislev, the nineteenth day of the month of Kislev, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was released from prison. That date is thus celebrated as a festival. For on it was granted the potential for the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings to be spread outward and prepare the world for Mashiach’s coming.